Solo / Tandem: Any suggestions?

Ok, so I’m a kayak guy. But I want to take my nearly 7 year old on some day trips. Since I prefer moving water to flat, not to mention they’re usually 10-16 miles, I’m neither comfortable putting him in his own boat, nor would he be able to paddle that far. The other problem is that I’m not interested in an 80# tandem kayak for $800-1000.

So, canoe-wise, is there a decent (read, neither great nor terrible) canoe on the market that I could occasionally paddle solo, occasionally paddle tandem with a 60# kid, that doesn’t weigh more than he does?

For details, I’m 210#, my son’s about 60#. I paddle slow to moderate moving rivers, never above class 1. I don’t do multi-day tripping or camping, so gear storage is usually a dry-bag of clothes and lunch for the day.

I also don’t want to spend over $1000. I’m willing to look for used, and be patient if needed. And I don’t want a barge to paddle, as I’ll have to keep up with solo canoes and kayaks.


Last option (probably least desirable): Dick’s has a 14’ Adventure by Mad River. It’s 80#, and worthless, but it’s also $399. I owned the 16’ version, so I know the upsides (it’s comfortable) and the downs (everything else). At least I could get him on the water cheap that way . . . .


common question

– Last Updated: Jul-08-08 8:52 PM EST –

This has come up a lot here. The most common recommendation in your price range is the Old Town Penobscot 16 RX. It's around 60 pounds in Royalex and paddles very nicely. List price is over 1K but you should be able to find a used one or a deal for well under that. This year there's also a poly version that's cheaper but 15 pounds heavier.

There's one in the classifieds here:
(IN) Old Town Penobscot 16FT Green Royalex material New, Never used 2008 model. Purchased for trip that that was canceled. $999

Wenonah now makes the Solo Plus in Royalex, which might also be a good choice.

Another possibility is the Bell Morningstar RX or Yellowstone. I've got a Morningstar that I solo from a kneeling thwart -- it's more maneuverable and more stable than the Penobscot, but not as fast.

A Novacraft Bob Special is almost exactly what you described. It’s a Tandem that paddles well solo, not too big. If not the Bob Special, the Prospector 15 or 16 would be a good choice.

From Mad river you have the 14TT, Explorer 15. Both are fine for solo work, but originate as small tandems.

Great to paddle with the kids

– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 5:11 AM EST –

Did a lot of tandem paddling with my daughter when she was that age. She’s now 13 and paddles her own kayak. Enjoy it – they grow up too fast.

I don’t think it matters what boat you use – any 16’ to 17’ tandem should be fine. Find something used. I have a 17’ Wenonah Spirit II that we paddled on flatwater, and an old Mohawk Whitewater 16 that we paddled on rivers. I found that moving the front seat forward did a lot to help trim the boat, and made it easier for my daughter to get the paddle in the water. My Spirit has a sliding front seat – great feature if you can get it. For my Mohawk – I cut down an old seat and extended it in front of the seat hangers on a couple of pieces of wood.

Stick to the kayak when you are paddling solo, or invest in a solo canoe. I know there are a lot of people who paddle tandem canoes solo, but I don’t think its much fun.

I second the Penobscot


The Novacraft Pal in royalex is under 60#,narrower(34") enough to be a real nice solo when leaned and small person strokes can reach the water easier and avalible on sale at around $1000.It’s not as capible in real big water as the Prospector,but lighter and better for solo,and less a problem in the wind.I have owned a Prospector,paddled a Bob,and now have a Pal which is also the fastest of the 3, and really like it.I havn’t paddled a Penopscot,have to try one sometime.Good luck.


solo or tamdem
I found an Old Town Hunter on e-bay a couple of years ago. I don’t think this boat is still made but if you can find one, it’s a really easy boat to paddle either solo or tamdem. It’s just under 14’ long, royalex and has wood/cane seats. I had to replace the seats and yoke (rotted) and when I did, I used that opportunity to drop the seats down a little lower. Works well for when I solo, I just sit(actually kneel) in the forward seat area and face the other way. With two people the boat paddles very nicely, no matter if the front person is a child and I’m doing all the work (just make sure you add something up front to even out the weight). My husband (6’4") has one of those Mad River 14’ “things”. He likes it because it’s like a barge. I can’t stand it and refuse to paddle it.

Good Suggestions all
A buddy of mine had an Old Town Hunter. It would be good for what you want now but IMO it’s too small for two large adults.

Something else to consider since you are so much heavier than your kid.

When I used to take my tiny daughter out in my 16’ Explorer I would turn the boat around making the stern the bow and sit on the bow seat while she sat on the stern seat. That put me near the center and her way up in the (new)bow so the boat trimmed pretty well and she could reach the water easily. Molded seats and thwarts close to the seats would make that difficult.

MRC Explorer 15 or Bell Angler
I own both but have only soloed so far in the Angler. Also the Bell Northwind works well solo the few times I’ve tried it that way. WW

couple of options
Wenona Heron is a symmetric hull. Just paddle from the bow seat facing the stern solo- this is what my uncle does in his saranac. they also make the solo plus for this purpose. I have a dagger reflection 15 that would be great for this as well. It has IQ gunwales installed but I put a permanent yoke in so that rules out a drop in center seat.