Solo paddling an OT Discovery 174?

We purchased a used OT Discovery 174 in great condition on CL to use as a family canoe. We’ve had it out on the water as a family and really enjoy it. The weekend after next is going to be a bachelor weekend for me as my wife and daughters travel to Disney World without me. Unfortunately, I’m out of vacation time otherwise I would be joining them.

Anyway, I plan to spend my bachelor weekend out on the water. After inviting out all my canoeing friends, it looks as though it is going to be a solo adventure as everyone else already has plans. I’ve never had the Discovery 174 out by myself and am wondering if it is going to be too unwieldy for one person to solo paddle? I’m 6ft, 171lbs, and 40yo. I know for a fact it’s not too much for me to load/unload by myself as I do it all the time. But I’ve never paddled it solo other than when my wife or older daughter rests their paddles while we’re out as a family.

I’m planning to take it out on purely flat water; either a still lake or very slow-moving river. Do you think I should be okay paddling this boat alone or should I just consider picking up a smaller kayak or canoe strictly for solo paddling? Although, if that’s the better option, it’s very unlikely to happen as I’d probably be in the doghouse if I brought home another boat. So, I guess my only options are to solo the 174 or stay on land. I REALLY want to be out on the water! Thanks.

Rent one?
That is going to be a pig to solo. Any rental places that may have solo canoes or a kayak near by?


Since you can’t …
swing another boat. Drop in a center seat, put on some oarlocks and row. With oars you’ll have no problem handling it solo.

Good advice but, …

– Last Updated: Sep-16-14 5:24 PM EST –

... keep in mind that to row a canoe using oarlocks mounted to the gunwales, the seat needs to be very low (probably no higher than 6 inches off the floor), and there may be a thwart in the way. You need a totally clear area all the way to your feet (you'll be reaching almost that far to start your power stroke at times). You will also need a foot brace, but there are ways to add that without altering the boat.

To row from a higher seating position, like the height of normal canoe seats, you'll need extra hardware, such as outriggers, to mount the oarlocks at sufficient height so that the oar handles don't need to be recovered at a level lower than your legs just to make the blades clear the water and waves. At least one company makes a combination drop-in seat and outriggers, all as a single unit. Mount the oarlocks high enough and any thwart that's in front of you (rearward of you in terms of boat orientation) may not be in the way.

Is the Disco 174 really that bad?
Had no idea it would be such a pain to solo. Figured all I would have to do is turn it around and sit backwards on the bow seat. Maybe throw some ballast in the front to trim it out. I know it’s a heavy boat, which doesn’t bother me, but is it really THAT bad to paddle this thing solo?

Good points

– Last Updated: Sep-16-14 8:09 PM EST –

My answer was an oversimplification. I did exactly what you describe in my Penobscot and it works great.

Not to steal the thread, but I'm seriously considering becoming a "guideboatguy" myself. Any advice?

I was going to suggest trying that
But you already planned on trying it.

Put a cushion on the sea.

Jack L

Been there done that…

– Last Updated: Sep-16-14 7:44 PM EST –

Can it be done?
Absolutely it can. I've done it on quite a few occasions with enough gear on board to stay out for a week.

Will it be ideal?
Absolutely not.

Will it be fun?
A lot depends on your paddling skills, and you're willingness to suffer some.

There will be a tendency for the bow to be affected by the wind, even if you have some ballast in the bow. That will require extra effort on your part, and some skill with correction strokes to maintain control & keep making forward momentum.

Your river reading skills will also be important; 17 foot of canoe, with little rocker, will require some prior planning to dodge any obstacles. If you capsize, it will be a giant hassle to get that canoe to shore without assistance.

The experience will be a great learning tool.
I'd suggest trying to find a cheap, used, dedicated solo in the future. I'd also suggest that you don't attempt any lengthy trips until you have some experience.

Again, it can be done.
Good luck,

Yes what Bob says
I am certain that it is doable. I paddled a Old Town Discovery 164 solo by sitting backwards in the bow seat on many river trips including some class III drops. The 164 although only one foot shorter than the 174, is a much better solo canoe. It is a plastic version of the Penobscot. I also solo paddle an 18.5ft Old Town Columbia which is a joy. The 174 is also about 10lbs heavier than the 164 with less rocker. Later as you hopefully progress in your paddling career, you will obtain a dedicated solo canoe and see the difference. Night & day! In the meantime just enjoy what you have as much as you can. Just convince your wife that you had a horrible time and you really need a solo canoe. I only have three solo’s but Bob has even more. Right Bob!?

You can definitely do it
Personally, I’m not a big fan of sitting on the bow seat – especially with a 17’ boat. The front of the boat is going to be out of the water like a drag racer, and that is not a particularly stable position. If you can stand it, try kneeling in the center with the boat heeled over “Canadian Style”

I’ll usually paddle my Mohawk Whitewater 16 that way. The Whitewater 16 is another big boat that is tough to paddle solo on flatwater. Neither are ideal boats for this style of paddling, but you don’t need to get the gunwale to the water for this style of paddling to work. With the boat heeled over you can only paddle on one side, but it is easier to get a good power stroke.

Give it a try. You may hate it. You may take a swim. Who knows, you might like it.

The 174 is similar to the OT Tripper.
A very small friend campaigned the Tripper on WW with great skill. I soloed a Tripper on ww, and it worked quite well except on very windy days. But it does take experience and leverage.

Not too many rental companies…
I checked for places to rent a solo kayak/canoe around me, but most every business that was there is gone now. There’s one outfit nearby the rents, but their website is bare bones minimal and doesn’t give any information on what they offer. From what I can tell, they rent kayaks/canoes for self-guided tours, but the itineraries are pre-planned and rigid. However, I may give them a call to get more info if I decide soloing my 174 is not ideal.

Thanks for the replies, everyone.
I’ve still got a few feelers out to see if I can get a paddling companion for that weekend. However, if I can’t find any takers, I still plan to get out on the water somehow. I’ll either rent from the one place that I found, take out my 174 solo, or keep my eye open for a really inexpensive solo kayak/canoe on Craigslist.

If I decide to solo my 174, I’ll either paddle her backwards sitting on the bow seat. Or I will just kneel in the center behind the yoke. Any thoughts on if I’d be better using my single paddle in this situation or picking up a double somewhere?

decide for yourself
I solo my penocscot from the bow facing foward all the time, but that is a lighter more nimble boat. wind on open water can be brutal, gear foward helps a lot but there have been time when crossing open water with a beam wind was all but impossable. haveng said that I love soloing the penny. give your boat a try and hope that the wind is light, then you’ll know,

yep plus
Got a friend paddling 3000-miles solo right now in almost the same canoe and he never canoed in his life until the day he departed. Check out keith’s paddle from Montana to Dallas texas at

Another friend paddled similar canoe solo from Canada to New Orleans and by friend Bill N. paddled one solo 8000-miles around the Great Eastern Loop trail…circumnavigating the eastern USA>


174 Discovery
This is the best paddling tandem of the Discovery series. But it is a big boat and has a couple design features that make it tough to solo. The rotomolded seats don’t lend themselves to sitting backwards. The hull has flare in the ends and a straight sided middle; no tumblehome. It was originally designed to be a kit canoe, shipped in multiples with the hulls nested and the trim boxes loaded inside the top hull. Thus the angled stems and flare. It is also asymmetric. I have paddled one solo with a load on a Scout trip using a sling seat hung behind the yoke. It was a tough reach for a 5’9" paddler, but the boat tracks well and I had no trouble keeping with the slower boys. It won’t win any races as a solo, but it is very seaworthy and will haul a ton of stuff without becoming a total slug.


Disco 174 seats
My 174 has cane seats, not the rotomolded plastic unidirectional seats. So, it would be no problem for me to paddle it backwards from the bow seat.

Solved my problem
Thanks again to everyone for their input. I was able to talk my better half into letting me pick up a small, inexpensive kayak. My guess is she was feeling sympathetic about me not getting to go on their upcoming trip. Oh well, whatever works!

I just placed my order for a Pelican Trailblazer 100 from a local big box sporting goods store. I used their “Buy Online Pick Up in Store” option. So, I’ll be picking it up tomorrow after work. I realize this isn’t a high-quality kayak, but it got pretty decent reviews here on for such a cheap kayak. I don’t really need anything fancy and high-falutin’ at this time anyway. I’m new to the sport and just needed something small for those one-off times I won’t be paddling with the family.

have a great paddle
and don’t forget to wear your PFD, your wife wants you to be home when she gets back

Back to square one!
Just got an email from Dick’s Sporting Goods stating they cancelled my order due to product availability!!! Well, jeez, if your store doesn’t have a product available, don’t list it as available on your website!!!