Solo WW Outfit Wenonah Prospector

I just picked up a Wenonah Prospector 15 and am looking for ideas on how to best outfit it for some whitewater paddling. Specifically, I’m looking for seat & yoke modifications. I have aluminum gunwales, and it seems that they make it impossible or difficult to move the seats.

I’d really like to see any pics folks have of what they’ve done with their Wenonahs.


One easy seat modification

– Last Updated: Jun-14-11 12:35 AM EST –

Does your boat have seat hangers made of wide bands of aluminum sheet metal, with an "L"-bend supporting the seat? I used to have a Wenonah Vagabond, and to set it up for kneeling, I simply installed a wooden wedge on top of each L-bend, simultaneously raising the seat and tilting it to a comfortable angle. I bolted the wedge to the vertical part of the sheet metal too, and that was a little tricky to accomplish, but only minimal strength is needed for that attachment so one little bolt was enough (use a bolt with just the right length and put the nut between the hanger and the hull).

You may have other ideas in mind, but since setting up the seat for comfortable kneeling is a likely first step, I thought it worth mentioning. To move the seat forward or back if you have sheet-metal seat hangers, you'd need to drill out rivets, then re-drill and re-rivet (or use bolts). I don't know what other seat-hanging method Wenonah might use, but others will.

what sort of whitewater?
The vast majority of open boaters paddling whitewater use a pedestal (made of minicell or sometimes Ethafoam) mounted to the bottom of the hull. The problem is that a pedestal glued to the hull bottom may be in the way if you are using the canoe as a tandem, especially if you are carrying gear.

North Water makes a minicell pedestal that is removable, mounting to “daisy chain” vinyl strips bonded to the bottom of the hull.

A second problem is that the Prospector 15 is a wide boat for solo use, nearly 36" wide at the gunwales. A lot of folks who paddle this boat in rapids use a Canadian style technique ala Bill Mason. A pedestal fixes you in position amidships, however, and would not allow you to slide toward one gunwale.

Probably the simplest option is to mount a kneeling thwart just aft of center. This is a solid thwart about 3 inches wide suspended a few inches below the gunwales and canted so that the front of the thwart is lower than the back at about a 12-15 degree angle. You can buy kits to mount a kneeling thwart like this one:

You would also want to glue minicell foam kneeling pads to the hull bottom. If you really object to having pads glued in, you could use a large, removable kneeling pad, or wear knee cups.

Mount the kneeling thwart so that when you are in the kneeling position sitting upright, your navel is at the center position of the boat. This will place the front of the thwart at least 5" or so behind center, depending on how much of the thwart you use to support your butt.

Some folks don’t like kneeling thwarts because of a concern that the boat could pin on a rock and fold in such a way that your ankles could become trapped between hull bottom and the thwart. I personally think they are fine for mild whitewater paddling and have used them quite a bit.

A kneeling thwart will allow you to slide over toward the gunwale if you want to. You can also sit on a kneeling thwart and stretch out your legs, but it isn’t as comfortable as a seat.

If you mount a kneeling thwart or a pedestal just aft of center, you will probably need to remove the center thwart/yoke. A suspended kneeling thwart will not provide as much stability and strength to the canoe as a yoke mounted just below the gunwales, but it will provide some. But if you remove the center yoke and place a kneeling thwart, I would also buy a new thwart and mount it just behind the bow seat. Make sure it won’t press against the back of the bow paddler when paddling the boat tandem. In that position, the new thwart won’t be in your way when kneeling and paddling the boat solo.

If you plan to paddle whitewater, you should put some flotation in the boat. If you retain the tandem seats, you will only have room for a small bag behind the stern seat and a larger back in front of the bow seat. It will be enough to float the boat in case of a swim, however. You can drill holes through the hull just below the gunwale line to thread nylon parachute cord through to construct a “bag cage”. There have been quite a few threads here on flotation bag installation so try a search.

Lots of other things you could do including installation of footbraces and thigh straps, but that may be overkill depending on your planned use.

Ain’t a Prospector… but
Here be wat ah’ done ta a tandem OT Appalachian ta make it solo.


the entrapment issue, whether it’s from a kneeling thwart or a bench type seat, is not just if the boat tacos.

If you get pinned, even lightly, facing upstream, while kneeling with your feet under the thwart/seat, the current can force you back enough that it is difficult to impossible to get out of the boat.

Been there, done that, got lucky. My head was not under water so I had time to reach forward and grab both gunnels. And the current was not that strong so I was able to pull myself forward and get my legs out from under the seat.

A pedastal eliminates that sort of entrapment.

But as Pete notes a pedastal is less than perfect for paddling a wide boat.

Metal Seat Hangers
You can easily drill through the rivets holding the hangers in. Replace rivets, then put the seat bracket where you want, re-drill and rivet in. I like the seat/yoke made by Ed’s Canoe in my boat . I don’t do whitewater, but paddle Class I-II rivers in my tandems turned solo. Pete, et al make good points about possible foot entrapment. Here’s a few pictures of a Mad River Explorer 15 and a 16’ Esquif Mistral I turned into solo boats. I actually converted an old yoke into a nice thwart on my Mistral. Hope these ideas help. WW

Can I make the boat narrower?
Thanks for all the replies!

I paddled some mild white water this weekend (Nantahala River in NC), and the width of the boat didn’t seem to impact my ability to perform cross strokes. I have a long reach, so that definitely helps. However, I recognize that moving the paddle 37" to cross the boat takes more effort and time than moving it over 35" of boat. I also understand that placing the paddle in the water for a good stroke parallel to the hull is very difficult if I’m having to extend myself to clear the gunwales.

Would it be practical to shorten the carry yoke to bring the center width in a few inches?

Also, my seats are hung with L brackets. Am I understanding correctly that all I need to do is drill out the 2 rivets above the seat on each side and I can remove & reposition the seat? I’d really like to take out the L brackets and drill vertical holes in the gunwales to give me multiple mounting options using dowels or some other option that would allow me to hang seats, thwarts, or yokes in multiple configurations.

This weekend, I paddled the boat backwards and installed minicell knee pads directly beneath the carry yoke. I also put down some outdoor grip tape in lieu of foot pegs. This setup seemed OK, but I would really like something to put my rear on while kneeling. In the current setup, I’m either sitting on the seat, or I scoot forward about a foot and enter the kneeling position. I felt like I had decent control of the boat while kneeling, but not having anything to rest my butt on while kneeling quickly exhausted my thighs.

I’ll occasionally use the boat for tandem trips, but 90% of my use will be solo whitewater running and canoe camping. My whitewater paddling will be daytripping. My camping config will likely be to paddle the boat forwards, and place my gear in the front to keep the keel in the water for better tracking.

Thanks again for the feedback, and please send me pics of your favorite tandem to solo adaptations!


I like that Mistral
Thanks for the pics.

Is the Mistral a Twintex hull? My other boat is an Esquif Zephyr, and the material looks the same.

Does the Ed’s seat come with the arched mounts?


What do your tug eyes do?
I first thought it may have been an ejection port for a pump system, but then saw that your carry rope would go through it. I just drilled the holes for my rope, but haven’t put any type of grommit in. Did you use them to protect the rope, or is there a reason to protect the hull with these?


Yup! Ed’s do make arched mounts.
Dis be an Ed’s seat an’ mount…


Kneeling Thwart
I’m paddling Class I-III WW.

See my message below on how I’ve currently outfitted my seat. In addition, I drilled lacing holes just under the gunwales and am able to carry 3 floatation bags. I placed a 32" bag on the short end, a 72" bag on the long end, and a center bag between the yoke (in front of me), and the seat. It gives me good coverage, but I’d love to be able to remove that rear seat (front seat when I’m paddling the boat solo, in reverse) to make room for another 72" bag.

I’m very interested in either a kneeling thwart or moving the seat closer to the center. If I went the route of using the kneel thwart, I’ll have my rear on it most of the time, right? Do you find it to be uncomfortable after long paddles? I think it would be easier to get my heels out from under it easier than it would be to free them from underneath a seat, but are there any other reasons to use a kneeling thwart over an angled seat?

Also, if I remove a seat, I assume I need to replace it with a thwart to maintain structural integrity of the boat. Should I replace the seat with 2 thwarts, or is a single thwart adequate to replace the support provided by seats mounted with L brackets?

Thanks for your great response!


Holes fer linin’ ropes…
Usually yer try ta put dem a few inches above de cutwater so yer don’t torque de boat over while linin’ (yer want ta have de pull point as close ta de keel as possible). De homemade “Tug Eyes” (electrikal couplings fro’ de hardwaar store - 35 cents apiece) are connected by a hose ta prevent water fro’ comin’ in.

Here be a sequence o’ daguerreotypes dat ah’ use ta install dem.


one thwart is fine
A single thwart mounted at the underside of the gunwale probably provides more rigidity than a seat with two cross members suspended from the gunwales.

Thwarts are not terribly expensive. In your case, if you remove the tandem seats and the center yoke, I would mount one thwart using the same holes through the gunwale that secured the rear cross member of the bow seat frame, and one through the gunwale holes that secured the front cross member of the stern seat frame.

The main advantage of a kneeling thwart is that it is easier to extract your feet and ankles. When kneeling your heels are usually behind the kneeling thwart so they are not cramped under anything. I also think that a kneeling thwart provides a little more rigidity than a seat, but some would argue with that.

pulling in gunwales
I have pulled in the gunwales on a number of canoes up to 2 inches. Theoretically, pulling in the gunwales can decrease the rocker of the canoe but I have observed only a slight measurable reduction in rocker that I didn’t think was significant.

There is a thread going on right now at as to whether pulling in the gunwales has any significant effect on rocker and opinions are divided. I have observed a significant change in flare and the cross-sectional contour of the hull that I feel is more more likely to change the handling of the boat than any miniscule change in rocker. Based on my experience, if you removed the tandem seats and the center yoke, mounted 2 new thwarts and a kneeling thwart and pulled in the gunwales 1 3/4" to a gunwale width of 34" you probably wouldn’t effect the handling of the boat drastically.

In whitewater in which any real maneuvering is required when paddling solo you need to be close enough to amidships to be able to get your paddle blade significantly forward of the pivot point of the boat to be able to utilize any bow correction strokes (like Duffeks, cross Duffeks, bow draws, cross-bow draws, or C-strokes). The pivot point may be about 1/3 of the waterline length aft of the bow when underway, well forward of the center of the boat. If you can’t get your paddle blade forward of that, you will be limited to stern correction strokes like J-strokes, stern prys, stern draws and stern rudders to maneuver the boat. This works up to a point, but might not work for technical rapids in which crisp eddy turns are required.

I too have a long reach for my height and have paddled canoes about 34-35" wide solo without great difficulty. If you don’t find the width of the boat burdensome, you might consider using a removable minicell foam pedestal.

I used to paddle an OT Tripper in
whitewater, 37" beam. If you get your solo paddling position just back of the balance point of the canoe, you will not be jumping across a full 36" to do cross strokes. I encourage you to use a light paddle (I use slalom paddles) of good length. A really light paddle is much easier to use for cross strokes.

On pulling in thwarts to narrow the beam, we just had a little controversy about that on, though we were arguing about the opposite, widening the center thwart to increase rocker. One boat designer and a few OC-1 paddlers cited cases where increasing thwart length did not increase rocker. But I and some others had been successful at increasing rocker. It appeared that the way some Royalex boats are creased along the sides may stiffen them considerably so that they resist widening. Simpler hulls are more easily modified.

I believe the 15’ Wenonah Prospector is one such simpler hull. If you pull the thwarts in, the rocker will decrease. That will make the boat cruise better, but it may be less maneuverable in whitewater. Also, depending on the hull design, you may have to shorten all the thwarts to get what you want. I suggest trying for no more than a two inch beam reduction, maybe less. Assess the effect thoroughly before trying for more.

I widened the center thwart on my Tripper, but also braced the bottom against the center thwart with a foam pedestal. The result was a Tripper that had a wonderful flattish center section, making it much easier to turn the boat in whitewater and for poling.

There is a risk that by pinching the boat, you would reduce underside flattishness in a way that would make ferrying and spinning less effective. If you do have a good reach, you may find that you can deal with the beam in whitewater by developing a preferred side and biasing your body weight that way. On flatwater, changing boat lean a bit, Canadian style, can cut the reach down.

Unless They’ve Changed the Design…

– Last Updated: Jun-14-11 7:59 PM EST –

....I've moved those aluminum L hangers on both Mohawk and Wenonah canoes easily. The Mistral IS Twintex, like your Zephyr. Seems to be holding up to the abrasion and abuse of paddling rocky Ozark streams. I took out two seats, added a thwart and center seat. I pulled in gunnels between an inch and an inch and a half by shortening thwart length and seat length. I agree with g2d, I think 2" would be the maximum I'd want to pull the gunnels in. I opted for less, unsure how the Twintex would respond to such manipulation. Hope that helps! Take care. WW

A Few More Ideas For You
Just remembered that this site has some reviews and might give you a few outfitting ideas. WW

this thread

– Last Updated: Jun-15-11 7:20 AM EST –

Shows a Wenonah Prospector 15 in which a kneeling thwart has been placed. You can see that the wide thwart is suspended and canted and placed about 8 inches aft of the center point. The owner has also glued foam hip blocks (the gray things) to the top of the kneeling thwart allowing him to slide over towards the gunwale, but not all the way to it. This position is shown to good effect in the photos showing him paddling the boat.

He has retained the tandem seats using short 3 D solo end bags in front of the bow seat and behind the stern seat. The center yoke has been removed but a new thwart has been placed just aft of the bow seat. He has used a wide thwart for this purpose, but it wouldn't need to be that wide. You can see that when paddling he has plenty of knee room between the kneeling thwart and the forward thwart.

If you remove the aluminum seat hangers and hang the tandem seats from the gunwales using wooden hangers and stainless steel machine screws that go through the gunwales you could easily change the boat from a solo to tandem configuration. For solo use remove the seats and hangers placing a short thwart through the gunwale holes that suspend the front of the stern seat and the back of the bow seat, remove the center yoke, and place the kneeling thwart and its hangers. It would take about 10 minutes to switch back and forth.

Kneeling thwart - definitely needed
After last weekend’s paddle in this boat, I was amazed at how sore my thighs were from kneeling. After reading your response, I got my boat out and kneeled in it, resting my rear on the carry yoke. I had no idea how much difference it made to have something other than my thighs to support my full weight. I’m going to look at installing a thwart, and will possibly also look at a removable pedestal.

I have a question on placement of the kneeling thwart relative to the stern seat (when paddling the boat backwards). In determining placement of where I would need the thwart so I could rest on it while kneeling in the center of the boat, I figured out it will go about 3 inches in front of the seat, between the seat and the yoke. It seems like I may even be able to use the seat, extending my legs over the kneeling thwart, if I wanted a more comfortable perch while paddling. For those who have installed kneeling thwarts, would you recommend just removing them when you want to use the seat, or is it practical to install it close enough to the seat so you can use the seat and not be obstructed by the thwart?

Thanks for your input!

Kneeling thwart
I’ve done much as pblanc pointed out on my Blue Hole. If I had my camera it would be much easier but I’ll try to describe what I had to do.

The seats on the Blue Hole are more designed for kneeling than sitting. They are high, narrow(6.5") and are positioned a little farther back than what I consider normal since you are a little more forward when kneeling. I replaced the aluminum/plastic front seat with a ash web seat and wood hangers attached thru the gunnel’s. I kept the front of the seat in the original position so the back edge of the wider seat sits back a couple more inches. 1" behind the new seat I installed a 3" kneeling thwart. Over all I moved my kneeing position 7.5" closer to center and the edge of the thwart is 16" from the center thwart which I would consider minimum if you want to keep the center. The new thwart is still close enough to the seat so I can still use the seat in flat/easy water.

I do install a 10lbs jug of water in the front (or back depends which way you are looking at it now that it’s going backwards) to get perfect trim on flat water but on moving water I wouldn’t worry about it.