solo seat and canoe oars

Am seeking advice on where to locate the seat for solo canoeing and where to locate the oarlocks in reference to this seat. I have a 15’ square back light weight aluminum canoe that I would like to oar and use for fishing. Suggestions please.

You may have to remove the center
thwart, because your rowing seat will need to be very near the center. Because your legs will be stretched out toward the stern, and because you won’t be leaning back severely when working the oars, I would say that the seat will be just a bit toward the bow from the water-balance point of the boat.

Have you looked at the Spring Creek offerings? They will probably give you some latitude for adjustment. I also recommend that you provide some sort of positive location for your feet, rather than just letting them lay any old where in front of you.

The canoe should be trim
Put the canoe on a level surface. The easiest way to do it is in the water on a perfectly calm day when the water is flat.

Stand beside it and put a piece of tape a inch or two above the water line on one side of the bow and the stern. Make sure both pieces are the same distance from the water line.

Then have some one watch as you sit in the seat somewhere near where you are going to place it.

Tell them to let you know when both pieces of tape are equal from the water line, and move the seat either forward or back until you get you and the canoe level.

Mark it and that is where it should be mounted.

You will probably have to end up moving the center thwart which is easy to do with a wooden thwart and plastic or composite canoe, but might be trickey if yours is welded. If it is, think new thwart out of aluminum tubing with angled ends rivited to the gunnels or sides.

If you are interested in speed, I would put a sliding adjustable seat, so you can keep it trim as you gain or loose weight.

I can’t help you on the oar lock hole placement, but I’ll bet if you used the measurements of a regular row boat you would be right on.



Rowing setup
For boat balance place the seat as mentioned above or place it three inches behind the thwart and put your pack in bow.

Sometimes I set up a boat with two rowing stations and use a movable seat. My best movable seat was a throwable float cushion on top of a 4 inch thick box. Two cushions work well also. Tow rowing stations are ideal for carrying a passenger without any other gear. You sit near the bow and row while facing your passenger while she feeds you strawberries or fishes.

For proper reach mount the oar lock sockets 7 to 8 inches behind the edge of the seat.

You want the height of the sockets so that the oars are at your belly button height when held parallel to the water. If you plan on a lot of rough water rowing you may want the oars a bit higher or the seat a bit lower.

For the all important foot brace, start by using a 2X2 boat about 12 inches wide with a rope at each end. Tie it to the seat and adjust the lenght until it feels right. Even with fixed seat rowing you need a foot brace to apply any real power.

thanks for the cool tips
Thanks, Frank. I like that impromtu foot brace.

solo seat and canoe oars
Thank each of you for the information. It was exactly what I was looking for. What a great site this is for information as well as fun and games.

a few more questions

  1. I got a seat that I believe came out of a Grumman canoe. It is the same construction as the front seat on my 15’ square back. I will probably have to remove the center thwart to install this seat. Since is aluminum and sturdy, I believe it will act the same as the center thwart for stiffness. That is more of a question than a statement.

  2. Putting the oarlocks directly on the gunwales does not seem to give enough leverage for the pivot points of the oars. Spring Creek has a rowing piece that extends the oarlocks out beyond the gunwales. It looks like about a 8" extension from the picture. This makes sense. I am wondering if there are any suggestions for a homemade (cheaper) construction.


My experience is that the center seat will provide enough strength to replace the center thwart, However it will be harder to carry the canoe without the thwart as the seat is lower and your head me hit the bottom of the canoe. In this case you’ll want a temperary carring thwart that you can lash to the Gunwales to make things esier to carry.


If your canoe is 36 inches wide, then you can mount the oar locks directly to the gunwales and do pretty well with 6 to 6.5 foot oars. I’d try this first as it is really easy. has cheap plastic oarlocks and sockets that are super strong. If your canoe is narrower than 36 inshes it will be a fast rower but youwill need to make or buy outriggers. I really like the ones I made up from strap hinges for my converted seakayak. You can fing pictures on my yahoo group at Roughstuffrowing at yahoo groups. It is easy to join. Ideally you’ll want no more than 40 to 44 inches between oarlocks for 7 foot oars.

If you want to go to the bother of a sliding seat rig then you’ll want a 60 inch spread and oars over 9 feet long. I’d stick with fixed seat rowing unless you have a racing canoe of atleast 18 feet. As they say you’ll get more miles pewr flapjack in a fixed seat boat. Also fixed seat rowing is really the best way to go in rough water.

What great experience
you have. This is very helpful. I had already bought Zinc Plated Clamp-on Oarlocks and Zinc Plated Side Mount Oarlock Sockets from a local fleet store. I will get the ones you mentioned if you think it would be wise.

I also joined your group but have not had time to look at pics yet.

Thank you so much for the help.

Oarlock placement

– Last Updated: Jun-08-06 1:59 AM EST –

Placing oarlocks 8 or 9 inches behind the edge of the seat will only work with very short oars, or at least only if the inboard length of the oars is very short (otherwise the handles will hit you in the stomach before you even pull much past the center of your stroke), and even then you won't get the optimum stroke efficiency. When the oars are sticking straight out to the sides, your arms should be well extended, and your hands should be roughly in the center of your overall pulling span. This probably will mean you place the oarlocks about the same distance forward as a "comfortable" forward reach while sitting straight up, so you can reach quite a bit farther forward by leaning forward, but still pull quite a bit backward by flexing your arms a bit and leaning back.

I'd have to take measurements on my boats to tell you what works for me, but it involved no customizing, though the seats can slide forward or back a bit for the right fit. If I had to estimate off the top of my head where the oarlocks are, I'd say they are at least as far forward as my knees. I'll check that later tonight and update this post.


Okay, a quick measurement on both rowboats shows the oarlocks to be roughly 22 to 23 inches behind the center of the seat. I measured to the center because if I use a seat that has greater front-to-back width, the center point gets positioned in about the same place, but the rear edge would be a little closer to the oarlocks.

I'm 6'2", and shorter person would probably want to sit a little closer to the oars than I do, but it wouldn't need to be a whole lot closer for an average-sized person.

Please Do Guidboatguy!
My guide boat came with 7.5 foot oars that are unusable for fishing or rough water. The 9 inch overlap isn’t too bad once you get used to it but there is no good wat to let the oars drop as they’ll poke you right in the gut. Maybe the 10 inch measurement on this boat is too short. It works fine with shorter oars of 6.5 feet so I really hope you’ll measure yours so I can learn something new.


See my previous post, now updated.

Wow What a difference!
Thanks for taking the time to measure. I’ll have to admit that I’ve never measured from the center of the seat before as I’ve always read it was done from the aft edge. I’m going to look into the article that Jim Michelak wrote about it and post a link here. I basically remember he said to set it up so it feels right.

Here’s an excellent link
Here the trial and error method that works best. I never thought of this before but seat high plays and important factor as well.

Many thanks

– Last Updated: Jun-08-06 5:08 PM EST –

for the fine guidance. I have done the deed.
To level the boat I used both the tape method suggested above and with the boat in the water, I put a level at the center thwart. It was level. Then with a person in the boat sitting on the center thwart both the tape method and the level indicated this was the place. So the seat went there.
For the oarlocks, I used a variation of the C-clamp suggestion at the URL above. I clamped the oarlock sockets where I had guestimated it would be right and took it out in the water. Just right. So while still clamped I drilled my holes and set the sockets in place. The distance between the center of the seat and the center of the oarlock sockets is 20.5".
Made the foot brace out of a 2x4 with two holes drilled into it and a rope out of each hole to the seat. All works well.
Thank you all for your time and information. A happy camper here.

I think if I measured to the front edge of the seat which is currently installed in my guide-boat, it would be about 17 and one-half inches.

In case this needs to be pointed out, this measurement and the one I posted above are horizontal measurements parallel to the axis of the boat. In other words, this is not a diagonal measurement forming a sloping straight line directly between the oarlock and the seat, but a horizontal line connecting imaginary vertical planes through the seat and through the oarlocks. Of course, a diagonal measurement would be longer.

outriggers for rowing.
I row my 17’ coleman canoe by mounting 10" heavy duty gate hinges on the sides as out riggers. the short rectangular side is mounted on the inside of the boat and bolted through the rail. I found reinforcement is needed as other wise the aluminum rails flex too much. on my dads 15’ coleman I bolted square aluminum tubing to the outside of the rails that ran from the aft bolts on the front seat to the bolts on center thwart.

On my new 17’ coleman I will be using aluminum angle mounted on the inside of the rail as the ends of the tubing were in the way for paddling on my dads canoe intil I modified them with a hammer.

the long part of the gate hinge lays across the canoe rail and supports the oarlocks. I mounted my oarlocks upside down on top of the outrigger to raise the oar enough to clear the gate hubge hinge wich sticks up above the canoe rail. these outriggers do not flex at all back an forth only slightly up and down. I also drilled a hole through the gate hinge hinge and put a small pip pin through to keep the hinge down when braking with the oars, as other wise the outriggers will tend to rise up when trying to stop. I have used this setup for the past 3 years without any problems on my dads canoe and just installed it on my own 17’ canoe, the reinforcemnt to the rails is needed to stop the rail from flexing and not letting me raise the blades enough on the return. I row with very long 9.5’+ oars, homemade by ripping a 2x4" in half and cutting a slot for a 1/4" blade in one end, simple cheap and not pretty, but they work great.

to paddle or dock the canoe you simply flip the outriggers into the boat and they are completly out of the way.

As for oarlock placement, unless you have very long or short arms the best length (and I measured this on many “real” rowboats) is 16" from the aft edge of the seat. I use the aft edge as this is usualy where you will be sitting. other wise sit on the seat with your legs straight and feet braced at a 90 degree angle to them, with your back straight up and down, extend your arms so your elbows are straight, lay your oar across the boat rail at a 90 degree angle to the boat keel and level, hold the oar handle in your hand, now mark the rail where the oar shaft is on it. (you’ll probably find this to be 16") this is where you want your oarlocks.

I can send pictures of the outriggers to anyone who wants to see my installation ideas.