Solo paddling tandem canoe

Would a competent paddler in a 16’ Old Town Pebonscot canoe be able to keep up with average skilled kayakers on small, twisty rivers. Would be using bent shaft paddle or double blade paddle, sitting in bow seat, boat turned around backwards with weight in front to keep canoe trimmed.

If sat on a canoe “saddle” near center

is there any way to keep my feet from aching when feet are bent back with soles facing up. I’m sure age must be a factor (57 yr). Thanks

It depends on the kayakers and the

A friend of mine twice won the Southeasterns cruising downriver class solo paddling a 16’ Penobscot. He can easily keep up with most kayakers on whitewater rivers, unless water gets so heavy that he has to dump or bail a lot. But in whitewater, the relative speed of canoes and kayaks is strongly affected by how much they’re stopping to play.

I think you need a minicell pedestal, maybe bought from Mohawk, that allows you to kneel or sit. The ankle flexibility will come with time, and you can put some little foam support blocks under your ankles so they don’t have to lie flat. Your pedestal should be placed so that your canoe is just slightly bow up when you are kneeling. Once you get good paddle technique, you will be able to keep up better.

Or, you could ditch the yakkers and finds some noble canoeists.

P.S. Tell us where you are so we know
what conditions you’re facing.

solo paddling penobscot canoe
Paddling strictly flat water. Small rivers and creeks which empty into Atlantic near Charleston, SC.

Do you “need” to hold your feet that way
You say you’d position your feet with the insteps down, and soles facing up. If that position bothers you, how about putting the balls of your feet against the hull so your soles face toward the rear of the boat (just like most people would do when kneeling on the ground). In a canoe with a high-enough seat I often position my feet that way, so they kind of get wedged between the hull and the seat, but I’m comfortable with my feet positioned either way.

Kayaks matter, too
Given equal paddlers, a Penobscot will walk away from something like a Keowee or an Otter (I sometimes challenged folks in the otters to race, as they felt like they were going fast as they made lots of waves). A long, thin , touring kayak will easily beat the canoe on most flatwater. Of course, if you are all friends, it might not matter who can go fastest.

People sometimes say canoes are slower than kayaks (thinking of a standard recreational canoe vs a sea kayak), Obviously, this is not true. It all depends on design and the paddlers involved.

pool noodle
some folks put a pool noodle under their ankles when they kneel to keep the bend in your ankle less severe

you might also go barefoot or wear really thin booties to help make sure that your shoes aren’t forcing you to bend your ankle excessively

the Penobscot can spin on a dime so for the twisty part you won’t give up anything to any kayak except a whitewater kayak…for cruising speed a strong paddler in almost any kayak could pull away from you if they really want to, if everyone is relaxed the match should be fine

Most people? People have been
flat-kneeling for millenia. Nobody knelt for long periods with their feet dorsiflexed.

And of course, none of us decked c-1 paddlers kneels that way, because the feet just don’t fit in the boat.

“Spin on a dime” is really an
exaggeration. It’s a 16 foot lake boat.

Keeping up
Your Penobscot must weigh 60-70 pounds or so; I believe the average kayak is noticeably less, plus the water drag on the canoe will be more than a kayak, due to it’s larger contact area. Paddling with a double blade or oars is more efficient than any single blade technique. Kayaks will also be more maneuverable, especially on narrower watercourses. If your friends in the kayaks wanted to leave you behind they would probably have little difficulty doing so. Group etiquette calls for putting the slower boats at or near the front to help set the pace.

As for your feet and legs, you have the option of paddling kneeling in the bottom, using a saddle, sitting on a center seat if you have one, or kneeling with your butt on the center thwart. All I can suggest is change position every once in awhile, use good knee pads and a boat cushion or pfd to pad your butt. I’m 65, a competent paddler, who also has arthritis and that’s what I have to do.

Penobscot is a superb creek boat
I had a Penobscot and I’ve had it on creeks and it can easily spin within it’s own length when heeled over even though it has minimal or zero rocker. It’s as friendly as any boat I’ve ever paddled in terms of bringing the rail to the water.

I think it was originally designed as a downriver boat…but regardless anyone that has owned one will verify it’s ability to turn.

Keeping up
P.S. I rigged my 16’ Mad River Explorer with oars so it will move right along. Main difficulty with that is I have to keep looking over my shoulder to see where I’m going in small waters.


– Last Updated: Jan-22-09 9:48 PM EST –

Hardly a point worth arguing, but more people have ankle-extension issues than flexing issues, so I thought it was worth a try. I never said anything about "for long periods" when it comes to kneeling on the floor, but was thinking more in terms of kneeling down for a minute and getting up again. That part of the foot is just tougher, and having the ball of the foot down is the first postion you end up in when kneeling down, so it's also perfect for standing up again - just up you go. I think the choice of whether to kneel instep-down or toes-down depends on how "low" you need your body to be, which isn't a factor when kneeling in a boat since the seat or pedestal will dictate your height, but when not in a boat it also depends on your shoes. When wearing normal shoes, which most people do most of the time, kneeling instep-down is awkward because the toe section of the shoe won't flex back far enough, forcing the ankle more firmly into its extended position and putting the shoe heels right into your butt. The shoe is MADE to flex the other way so the ankle need not do anything it wasn't designed for. I'd say try it yourself for proof, but the condition of your knees is known to everyone here. Trust me though, for most people, when wearing shoes, it's easier on the ankles to kneel with the ball of the foot down than with toes back and the instep down. I realize that some people can comfortably pigeon-toe their feet in that position to turn the shoes a little on their sides and also get the bulky heels out from beneath their butt, and that helps. When I practiced tae-kwon-do in graduate school, the first day of class when we were "taught" how to kneel, nearly everyone did it wrong until shown the proper way (which was insteps down, butt right on the heels). The instructor was off-the-boat Korean and had written a book for his American students, in which he said westerners comnmonly find the correct kneeling position to be uncomfortable until they've been doing it a long time.

Oh, and when you install toe blocks in a whitewater boat, aren't they positioned behind the ball of the foot so that foot pressure forces your thighs into the straps, and releasing foot pressure lets you escape?

It’s gonna depend a lot on the wind.
And water depth, if you can stand up and pole it.

I never needed toe blocks, but they
can be cut low so that they block rearward movement of the tips of the toes. In a shallow decked c-1, or in an OC-1 playboat where the pedestal has to be cut somewhat low, kneeling with the ankles bent is just not possible.

There are people who suffer for decades, kneeling with their feet dorsiflexed. My feet are bigger, and my ankles uglier, than yours, but precisely because I could not kneel with my ankles dorsiflexed (it compressed my knees too much), I quickly learned to kneel like a native. That was in 1973.

Big Bruce
Attach the Take a look bicycle mirror to your glasses when you row. It really helps.

I think it on of the links on the yahoo roughstuff rowing site:

I do both
In my flatwater boat, I usually knee with my feet flat and toes back. I do find this to be the most comfortable position, although it took a while to get the ankles stretched out. Use one of those big “T” shaped kneeling pads.

In my WW boat, I kneel with the toes down on footpegs - put in a taller pedestal so its comfortable.

A lot of people recommend putting support under the ankles when kneeling flat, but I don’t find that to be comfortable - seems to increase the pressure on the ankles.

To each his own.

You should be fine
I’d use a single blade straight shaft paddle. If you want to sit closer to center add some kind of seat rather than a pedestal.

BTW, I wouldn’t put the seat exactly center. I’d put it 8" to 12" aft of center. You’ll probably find, however that the bow-seat-backwards thing isn’t too far off from that.

Experiment on the Water
I had the same concerns with my W-Vagabond solo and all local paddlers (all ages) with yaks. Spent a good bit of time on the water with them past months and found a nice cruising pace for me (66yrs and moderate shape, with a borrowed, bit too short, Greeland paddle even) was also a nice crusing pace for them so all is fine. Great reason to get some yak friends out on the water to experiment.

No, it was designed as a lake boat,

– Last Updated: Jan-23-09 10:06 AM EST –

and a Blue Hole OCA will easily outmaneuver it.

There was an unofficial poll on whitewater maneuvering capability at the Southeastern slalom and whitewater races, back in the 80s. I was boat inspector through that period. I inspected an occasional Penobscot for the whitewater downriver, which requires little maneuvering. But for the slalom events, solo and whitewater, I inspected many 16' Blue Hole OCAs, for both solo and tandem slalom. I never inspected a 16' Penobscot. Everyone, including my friend who won downriver in a Penobscot, knew that the Penobscot was not a maneuverable boat. My friend raced slalom in an OCA.

If you are pleased with the maneuverability of your Penobscot, that's as it should be. But I don't want to see anyone buy a Penobscot to go "creeking." Today, even the OCA is regarded as too piggy for whitewater creeks. I do not know of any canoe as relatively fast as the Penobscot that is considered maneuverable enough to qualify for serious whitewater use.