Thumbs Down to Kneeling Thwart

After I bought my Bell Morningstar canoe, I reviewed

suggestions on the web and on this board re: what to do about soloing in the Morningstar. I couldn’t simply flip it around and paddle from the bow as the canoe is assymetrical in design, so I took the advice of many and installed a walnut kneeling thwart from Bell. Perhaps this was a good idea for those who spend most of their time paddling from the kneel, but I was doing most of my paddling while fishing and found that I was sitting on the kneeling thwart most often. After doing this for a year and a 1/2, the edge of the thwart really became a severe pain in the coccyx, so much so that I could no longer sit at my desk in comfort. Finally I decided despite the extra expense to remove the thwart and replace it with a center cane seat, extra high so that i can kneel and paddle when needed. This has proven to be much better for me and should be strongly considered if slightly increased weight is not an issue

The kneeling thwart is just what it says. It’s not a seat and not intended to be used as one. A center seat is a good solution.

you’re right, I misjudged whether
I would be spending more time sitting and fishing or kneeling and paddling. I like the new setup now, and wanted to post this for others trying to decide which setup to install.

It’s always an individual decision

– Last Updated: Jul-08-10 1:23 AM EST –

Fishing or paddling, it depends on the individual. I'm glad you found a system that works for you, but I really must point out that no matter how strongly you believe that your current advice about using a seat for fishing "should be strongly considered" by people facing the same decision that you did with your boat, the fact is that everyone is different. I fish from canoes too, and I kneel very close to 100 percent of the time, both when paddling and when fishing, so if I'd have followed your current advice when I was a newbie I'd probably have ended up being just about as disappointed a year-and-a-half later as you ended up being trying to sit on a board all this time. To me, there's no discomfort at all related to kneeling as long as I occasionally straighten one leg for a couple of minutes when needed. Sitting requires more exertion of the lower-back muscles so the fatigue level is substantially greater when in the boat all day (unless you just can't kneel all day), and sitting doesn't give me the secure boat control or upper-body mobility that I prefer for all things related to fishing. Again, everyone SHOULD consider how their own body works rather than take anybody else's advice about "what do do" when it comes to sitting or kneeling. I suspect that a slanted seat setup properly for kneeling would be more comfortable than a kneeling thwart, even for full-time kneelers like me though! Anyway, that's part of the appeal of canoes: It's easy to futz around with them and make them "yours".

Making them yours…
Absolutely no reason why a paddler couldn’t have the best of both worlds. In other words; have your canoe set up to accept either a kneeling thwart, or a seat.

Change over as required…

No way should the changeover from kneeling thwart to seat or vice versa take more that 20 minutes after the canoe was properly outfitted to accept either.


This is true, but now I have scars on
the wooden gunwhales where the holes were drilled for the kneeling thwart and I get the benefit of having a seat instead so I can sit when I want to and its set up perfectly angled and high so that I can use it as a kneeling seat without a problem. I can foresee serious knee problems if you are kneeling the length of time that I iusually fish, which is 6-8 hours.

I don’t ever plan to use a kneeling thwart. What is the advantage of a kneeling thwart, other than slightly more room and slightly less weight, over a high angled seat? With an extra seat an extra person can fit comfortably in the canoe as well.

The kneeling thwart is used
for paddling a tandem solo with the boat heeled over and the paddler tucked into the bilge on their knees. A seat makes you too centered for paddling. With such a wide station your strokes will have a strong sweep component.

And a seat may interfere with your carrying a pack on canoe trip portages.

In your case paddling is secondary to fishing.

So the seat is the right tool for you. But it may not be for the next guy.


– Last Updated: Jul-08-10 4:30 PM EST –

If I were you, I'd try to find the old post in the archives where you sought advice about kneeling thwarts. If the post is still there, you'd have the names of those paddlers who suggested the kneeling thwart in the first place.
With some dedication on your part, you might be able to locate those miscreants. Hunt em down, kidnap em, and keelhaul the s.o.b.'s. Some of those guys thinks it's so damn cute suggesting a kneeling thwart; knowing you won't like it, and will mess up your canoe's wood trim.

They got me too, and I hate those damn holes in my gunwales.

I tracked one of them down in North Carolina.
Followed him downstream on a whitewater river; he dumped, and got caught in a bad hydraulic. I sat in an eddy nearby & watched. Just before he went down for the last time I hollered to him, "Drown you kneeling thwart recommending bastard"!

Evidently his buddies have short memories.......


Hey I guess I had to try it for myself before I could figure that it wasn’t going to work for me anyway


– Last Updated: Jul-08-10 6:36 PM EST –

In my caving days, novice cavers used to ask:

Bob, do you know how far that passageway goes?


Well, how far does it go?

Find out for yourself.

A lot about canoes and paddling is like that.
If you don't try; you never know for sure.
Books, films, websites, other's personal experiences & opinions can only take you so far.


Wide, curved center seat
You can get wide center seats, some of which have curved shapes and even slanted front lips. These allow you to kneel, sit, or scoot over to either side for heeled paddling.