solo canoe single blade

I’ve got a couple of questions on flatwater paddling. Took the gps on an 8 mile day paddle yesterday and tried to see which provided more speed, sitting and using footbrace or kneeling. Using a ZRE bent shaft in a Bell Merlin2.

I have been weaning myself from the kayak paddle and just using the single blade. Since no one I know paddles a canoe can’t get advice locally. My max speed was 3.5 mph and that was with some effort. Mostly it was 3 mph no difference between kneeling or sitting. What is an average speed for a solo canoe in flatwater minimal winds, coastal? Any advice on technique for sitting or kneeling that would help. Is trim important in minimal wind conditions?

I don’t have much help, but take heart,

– Last Updated: May-01-07 12:22 AM EST –

... I just got a Merlin II and can't make it go as fast as I expected I'd be able to. I haven't had it out many times, and mostly not in conditions favorable for checking speed with the GPS, but the one time I did try it, I was paddling harder than I'd choose to do for any length of time to hit speeds slower than I thought I could go. I hesitate to say how fast I measured my speed at, because I don't yet know if those speeds are representative of what the boat will do in normal conditions with deep enough water, but holding it near 4.5 mph was not exactly fun, and even 4.0 mph was less than easy. Going 3.0 to 3.5 mph as an average speed is pretty normal, so it sounds to me like you are doing fine.

Are you sit-and-switching, or paddling on one side? I kneel and paddle on one side, switching sides only as needed to even-out the exertion on my body or to use whichever is the best side for a particular crosswind. I only have a few tips for speedier one-side paddling. One is to learn to flip that "J" at the end of the stroke the right amount and not resort to dragging the paddle like a rudder after the stroke. Avoiding the rudder-drag method allows a faster cadence, and that will increase your speed.

Ample torso rotation is also good because it makes it possible to keep the paddle closer to being vertical (as viewed from the side) over a longer stroke. Avoid making overly long strokes, which overdo the degree and time that the paddle is away from vertical. If you kneel, you should be able to take a significantly longer stroke than when sitting, but racers who sit make up for their shorter stroke by recovering quickly and using a faster cadence.

Keep the blade close to the boat. Sometimes I tuck the blade well under the edge of the boat to increase power by minimizing the need for correction, but that's a minor once-in-a-while adjustment, not something I normally do for more than a few strokes in a row, and though it makes a stroke more efficient, muscle use is probably less efficient (and I wouldn't be able to do this to much of any degree when sitting). However, the point of this is that keeping the blade close to the boat helps you go faster by reducing the need for correction, so don't "paddle wide" unless you need a sweeping action on that side.

I'll probably think of other things later, but those tips pop into my head right now.

By the way, I'm no expert, but people do seem to think it "looks" like I know what I'm doing, so take this for what it's worth.

Might be the boat?
I don’t GPS so I can’t give hard numbers but 3 MPH sounds about right for cruising speed in my Swift Osprey. It moves quite easily at that speed but if you want to go much faster you really have to push. I assume that’s because I’m hitting hullspeed.

I would expect longer straighter boats like the Voyager and Shockwave might cruise a bit faster since the hull speed should be higher? I’m not clear on how much effort is required to get them there.

I’m not clear on the benefits of sitting vs. kneeling. Maybe the racers can enlighten us?

The benefits of switching vs J stroking are clear. All power strokes with no corrections moves the boat right along. I do prefer the J and variations when I’m not in a hurry.


I can get my Merin, at 15’8" to cruise over 4 in smooth conditions. with a little concentration on rotation and drriving the paddle down alittle faster. With a lot of concentration on rotation and legdriving in synce with paddle driving I can get it up close to 5.9

when I am in a J boat it is much faster…

EricNyre on this board is a great coach.why not video your stroke and have him of the Plaid paddler critique it?

Trim is important
If you are paddling northwoods style (paddling on same side for extended periods), the bow deflection you experience will be held to a minimum on each paddle stroke in a well trimmed boat and therefore the amount of effort you put in to correcting this deflection is minimal. Think of correction strokes as wasted effort. The result of a well trimmed boat is more of your energy input converted to speed. In my voyager I comfortably cruise for hours at 4 mph paddling northwoods style. If I want to go faster sit and switch will give me 5mph or more, but I don’t enjoy paddling sit and switch as much as northwoods.

Leg Driving?
Do you use your legs to get more rotation?

I’m a mechanic trying to understand the advantage of sitting vs kneeling.



Legs and torso rotation

– Last Updated: May-01-07 9:05 AM EST –

I've been watching a canoe marathon racing video to get some tips on technique. I am trying the sit/switch style and have a footbrace in the canoe. No J stroke just 4 strokes each side and switch with bow rudder for quick turns as they do. Watched it again last night and think I am using my arms more than allowing for rotation which looks very minimal compared to a kayakers forward stroke rotation.

I also noticed no one uses seat backbands on solo canoes and I find myself pushing with legs (a la kayak)on the footbrace and sliding back on the seat. My seat is slanted forward and 4" low using the bell 4" drops still allows for kneeling.

The kneeling position allows so much more control over the hull than sitting in the Merlin is one thing I've noticed.

We are not talking
about the Merlin but the Merlin II. Different boat.

Theoretical hull speed=1.34 times the square foot of the waterline length. That would be less than 15 feet, how much less depends on waves.

Actually a slow boat is great workout boat. The Merlin II is narrow enough for you to get a good vertical plant

For hull speed in miles per hour,…

– Last Updated: May-01-07 11:52 PM EST –

...use 1.54, not 1.34. The hull speed of a Merlin II is a little less than 6.0 miles per hour. My guide-boat is 15 feet long, and I can push it to 6 mph, but that's a completely different means of propulsion. Anyway, at the speeds we are talking about, the Merlin II is going significantly slower than it's theoretical hull speed.

Okay, I was having doubts so I just checked this to be sure.

Hull speed in knots (nautical miles per hour) = SQRT of the waterline length x 1.34. But, show me a canoe paddler who measures his/her speed in knots. Us inland boaters have no clue what knots and nautical miles are without consulting conversion tables.

Hull speed in miles per hour = SQRT of the waterline length x 1.54.

that sounds better

– Last Updated: May-01-07 5:55 PM EST –

I GPS my Rob Roy all the time and average about 4.5 mph and hit 5.8 mph during sprints. Similar waterline and length to the Merlin II. That's with a single ZRE on 1-hour plus runs. But the Rob Roy is a different hull and is obviously decked. I can get anywhere from 4 to 10 strokes per side before switching, depending on wind, waves, current, etc. No backband, but I do have a sliding bucket seat. Your numbers sound a little slow, but it can take YEARS to develop a really solid forward stroke. Good luck.

yeah, eric
video yourself and post it. :slight_smile:

As for wind,a cover will tame most of
that problem.

I have sprinted my Voyager to 6 mph ,sustained 4 mph for a few miles, and easily sustain 3-3.5.BUT,it is made for speed .

Theoretical Hull Speeds
The formulas for displacement vessels may be accurate for big oceangoing ships, but in small craft like canoes and kayaks, i think they are better for conversation and ad hype than real world speed figures. There is a lot of above water influence that may not mean beans in a 50,000 ton ship, but is a major factor in paddlecraft. We aren’t in the same deep displacement as ships; canoes and kayaks are much more on top of the water; not planing, but very shallow displacement.

That said, a speed of 3-4mph should not be pushing anywhere the limit of the Merlin II. if it were, the Merlin II would be a big step back from the original Merlin. 6 mph is more of a real world speed for a Merlin pushed by a good paddler. Baldpaddlers strip built Merlin will do 6mph and Bell has claimed all along the Merlin II is a big improvement over the orginal. I personally do not find it faster, but the 6mph still sticks as a reasonably max speed. 4mph should be a very easy cruising speed to maintain. Anything slower definitely requires an examination of the paddling style and technique.

A cane seat is not ideal for sit-n-switch; not a solid anchor for your butt. And a foot brace with a cane seat should have foot loops or stirrups to keep your feet against the brace. The thrust your blade develops against the water is transferred to the canoe thru your body. And its transfer points are your butt and feet when seated. Some from thigh contact along the gunwales if the hull is narrow. If there is any "squirm’ when you paddle, energy is lost.

The floor mounted adjustable bucket seat did not find its way into so many solo canoes because it was more pleasing to look at, or less expensive than a hung cane seat, but because it promoted more efficient paddling.

There are solos that look fast on paper, narrow, great length to width ratio, etc., but can’t be paddled fast due to outfitting limitations. Kneeling may be your answer in the Merlin II. It was in the one I test paddled.


High kneel, kneel, sit
We can get more power out of our bodies high kneeling by using more of the torso and legs. We can reach farther forward too. The catch is 2 feet in front of the front foot and the paddle stays square to the stroke all the way to the rear, down, knee, over three feet effective stroke isolated far bowward, which torques the hull less.

The downside of high kneeling is the balance issue and the pain, so it tends to be used for sprint races that are over in a couple minutes.

[Howie LaBrant and partner high kneeling the entire 500 mile Lake Bemidji to Minneapolis race in the late 40’s was an abberation.]

When we keep our knees down but rest our fannies on a seat or thwart, we lower our Center of Gravity, reduce our torso and leg muscle use and lessen our reach, effectivelly shortening the paddlestroke and moving it somewhat aft along the boat compared to high kneeling. Catch is maybe 30 inches in front of the knee and the stroke comes past square at the knee, whereupon it should be taken out of the water. About sixteen inches of effective stroke; effective for those powerful strokes needed to pull the hull into an eddy.

That said, we become way more stable and comfortable. But there is a limit to kneeling comfort. Ninety minutes seems to be a workable time limit for kneelers; after that, they want to get out of the boat for a while.

If you’ve got to paddle all day long, you’re going to want to sit. Torso and leg power is further reduced and we generally use a bent paddle that squares to the stroke withing the limited range we can reach forward, maybe a foot past the knee; and the stroke needs to end mid thigh, where the blade levers past 10 degrees off 90 dg to the stroke.

With low seat and footbraces or pegs to get bone to boat contact and engage the legs a little, stability is not greatly less than kneeling. The short stroke would seem ineffective, but speed comes from faster cadense, so the short, quick stroke works wonderfully well for long distance racing.

did DY design the Merlin2 as a kneeling boat or sit/switch boat?

Don’t listen to these phenoms
3 to 3.5 is a perfectly reasonable cruising speed for us mortals in most solo canoes.

I use my Merlin II
for multi week trips in Wabakimi where overall speed is dependent on portage speed on non portages( some of them have been discontinued since fur trade days).

I have the cane seat and paddle kneeling most all day. Its big water there north of the 51st parallel. I find most days I do 35 km with about 2km of unimproved portage.

I think the proper figure is 1.34 from John Winters literature.

Sorry for the interruption, I find not much oriented to wilderness tripping which is where this boat shines.

Hull Speed

– Last Updated: May-01-07 9:50 PM EST –

I'm not sure why you'd say theoretical hull speed probably doesnt mean much without offering any concrete reasoning, especially when you go on to say that the maximum speed of the Merlin II SHOULD be about 6 mph, which is within a couple of tenths of a mile per hour of its theoretical hull speed. One thing that is true, is that with enough power you can exceed hull speed, but there's definitely a huge increase in effort that is needed at that point which is way out of proportion compared to any incremental speed increase up to that point. Some on these boards have stated that that out-of-proportion increase in effort occurs less abrubtly for boats that are extremely narrow (in other words, they don't "hit the wall as hard" as boats of more typical width). The way boats "hit that wall" at hull speed seems like pretty good evidence to me that hull speed is "real". In both of my rowboats, the maximum speed that I can maintain is within one-tenth of a mile per hour of the calculated hull speed (I can't measure the speed that accurately anyway since power is applied in spurts). One boat is 12 feet long, the other 15. Neither boat is narrow enough to be in the realm of those skinny boats having a less-abrupt "wall" as increasing speed meets hull speed, so exceeding hull speed seems just about impossible for a person of my strength. In other words, when either of those boats reaches the calculated hull speed, nothing I can do will make it go any faster, and that is true in spite of the fact that I CAN pull the oars MUCH harder than what it takes to reach that speed in the first place.

– Last Updated: May-01-07 10:58 PM EST –

....You can really shorten up the canoe stroke...get the blade out of the water as it approaches your hips.

*You've probably heard all of the (enclosed) following...
Plant the blade into "cement" and get that "catch", then pull your back & hips up to it...with your shaft arm relatively straight & somewhat stiff(but not "locked")...and letting your torso twist over to that side will be as to use your shoulder & back as much as possible.
Also, holding the blade in a somewhat "closed face"(~30-45%)...thru the beginning 30% of the forward stroke...from time to time, will help reduce the number of needed J-strokes later in the stroke.

*..don't grip the paddle tight at all, especially with the top "grip" hand...and keep the breathing constant.
*Trim...very important...if INTO..of course a little forward is better than bow-light.


DY and Merlin 2
Both. It seems happy with bent sitting and straight shaft kneeling. It, like Hemlocks Peregrine, is basically and advanced, entry level, hull that does everything pretty well.

As skills advance, paddlers will probably prefer Wild or Flash, depending on size and burden, for moving water and Magic or Rapidfire for long distance travel.