Solo in a tandem canoe

I’m not the best paddler by far but not the worst either. I’ve paddled tandem canoes and kayaks before.
My question is: Is it possible to paddle, or advisable to paddle, a tandem canoe as a single. I have an old alumacraft 17’ tandem. I only tried it once as a solo and found it quite difficult. Are there tricks to paddling a canoe like this as a single or shouldn’t it be done? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Your boat will be a handful in the wind because it rides so shallow in the water solo so it’s easily blown around plus the wind forces are higher due to it’s size. But it could be ok for downstream or quiet ponds and lakes. First try paddling the boat backwards sitting on the bow seat so you’re closer to the center of boat. You can also try sitting on a small cooler towards the center of the boat and if you like it then you can figure out a more permanent solution. I ran into one guy in a big aluminum tandem that used a kayak paddle and I was amazed at how well he could drive that boat with that paddle.

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Haven’t tried your suggestions yet but will next time I take it out. Thanks.

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Most, if not all 17 foot Alumacrafts have a thwart right behind the bow paddler’s seat which will make paddling the boat stern first sitting backwards on that seat very difficult or impossible.

You could try paddling the canoe “Canadian Style” which is kneeling close to the center of the canoe with your body well over towards one gunwale with the boat heeled toward that side. You can do a google search to find out more about this technique.

Paddling Canadian Style usually requires you to kneel low down sitting on your heels which most people might not find too comfortable for any length of time. If you really want to paddle this big boat solo I would probably try to improvise some sort of a seat. This could be fashioned out of some type of foam material. I have even seen an inverted polymer milk bottle crate used for this purpose, duct-taped to the hull bottom with some type of pad taped to the top surface.

Ideally you would want your body center of gravity to be at, or very slightly behind the longitudinal midpoint of the boat. This would require your “pedestal” to be placed a bit behind the center of the canoe.

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I paddle a 14’7” tandem as a solo 100% of the time. I removed both or the seats and the center yoke and added additional thwarts to replace it. I added a center seat back and a few more thwarts to secure gear. Mine had heavy blow molded seats and the hickory yoke was not light and the canoe was heavy to start and I wanted to keep it the same weight or lighter as a solo.

The suggestion on keeping the trim as level as you can get it by where your weight is located is key with even a slight breeze on open water. If ether end is high it will spin you like a top.

In your Alumacraft 17 I think there is a center thwart and you may need to take that out and its strength could be replaced with a center drop seat in its place. I would put the front edge of the seat right on the center line of the length of the canoe. Making just that one change you could use it as both a tandem and a solo or even get 3rd person as a passenger in it.

I was unable being seated in the center to paddle it very well with a single blade canoe paddle because of the width and found a standard kayak paddle worked ok but it dripped a lot of water into the boat. The perfect solution was a 260cm kayak paddle. That is about a foot longer than most rec-kayak paddles you see around. I made a 1’extension, but you can order 260cm online. The double blade and a shallow angle stroke works very well in our river that is some places quite shallow at times. :canoe:

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Personally, I’d be looking at rigging up a way to row that big of a boat for going out solo. I only own tandem canoes, and I paddle some of them solo regularly, but some tandems are better for that than others. IMO, old 17’ Alumacrafts wouldn’t fit the “better than” category.

I have been paddling tandem boats solo for 40 years. It is not that hard on overnight trips to trim out the boat with dunnage to make it level. I use my dog to fine tune the trim.

Paddling backwards from the bow seat is a step in the right direction for day trips. Often it is best to kneel behind the center thwart. For paddling into the wind, in my Guide 18, the best plan is to kneel in front of the center thwart. I use sleeping bags, dry bags and bed rolls to make kneeling more comfortable

Nothing wrong with using a kayak paddle in a big canoe when going solo.

There are some tandem canoes in that length that come with a third center seat.

Here is a clamp on third seat.

You could try it just in front of the center thwart and see how that works. You might need to add a couple jugs of water in the stern to trim it out.

I don’t know if a seat like that would provide the support to the canoe it would need if the center thwart were removed. If it is just riveted in you could take it out and move it back a foot or so and reinstall it.

You just need a grandkid to balance it out. :slight_smile:

In a pinch you could drill holes in the gunnel trim and use bolts to hang a 2x8. It would be high, maybe a 2x8 with spacer blocks. IMO hanging it inboard of one of the two outer thwarts would be preferable. No way my canoe paddle will reach that far though.

In the granddaughter picture I think that would be fine on a small lazy creek with high banks to block the wind. With that much of the bow out of the water my Old Town would spin on a dime on open water with a little breeze.

First time I took mine out on our dam paddling from the bow seat facing the stern I was fine going out and when I turned to go back about a half mile the wind kicked it around and I ended having to kneel more to the center. I used to be able to spend 8 hours sitting on my heels now 15 minutes and I can hardly move the next day.

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I use a single step, fixed stool as a center seat when I paddle my tandems solo. I often paddle with my butt on the stool and my knees on the floor, right beneath the center thwart, just because my weight is more centered in that position. For comfort, I duct-taped some foam on the step about ten years ago and it is still hanging in there. The foam would keep the stool from sinking if it were ever to swim.

The trimmed-light end of the canoe will always have a tendency to be blown downwind by the wind. So, if you are having a trouble making your canoe aim into the wind, either turn the boat around or move the stool in front of the center thwart so the heavy end of the boat is pointing into the wind.

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Close to 50 years ago now, my first canoe was a Grumman 17’ aluminum canoe, in the lightweight model that was available at the time. My wife and I used it with two kids and a dog for family canoe tripping.

But I also paddled it solo. My favorite place to go was a large lake that happens to have its long length aligned with the prevailing wind. The launch beach is on the protected end. The interesting end is often in full wind, at times making it difficult to paddle back to my car.

The bow thwart prevents sitting and paddling it bacwards from the bow seat. But by judiciously placing the weight of my gear to trim the canoe reaonably level, I could easily single blade paddle it from the stern seat.

I learned a great deal about how to handle such a beast with a canoe paddle in the wind, to the extent that I had at times to spent extra nights on the far end of the lake, unalbe to fight the wind to get back. My wife knew enough to not panic if the day was windy. Of course cell phones and PLBs did not exist back then. I always made it out safely and with a lot more skill than when I went in.

Seems like more often than not, I would go in on calm wind cloudy days, but the weather would clear to a bright blue puffy cloud windy day on the day of return.

Try setting in the center to distribute your weight or add weight up front at the bow to level your boat. Your high bow catches the winds and moves the boat in ways that make it more difficult to get to your objective…more paddling on one side tires the arm pretty fast.

Chuck Guy
Roy, Utah