Trouble with Sawyer Summersong tracking

I’m only getting about 3-4 strokes per side in my Sawyer Summersong. I’m using a Sawyer Manta bent shaft. I think that I should be able to do better than that. I don’t get any better results using an otter tail straight shaft and little or no improvement using J strokes. I admit to being a relative amateur with the single blade paddle. I haven’t played around much with trim because my boat has rudder pedals instead of the adjustable foot brace. It seems that the bow is deeper in the water with this boat than that of my Mad River Slipper, in which I commonly get 3-5 strokes per side. I’m sure I’m not doing something right, but I not sure what. The Summersong is much harder to turn than the Slipper, so I’d expect it to also be easier to paddle straight.

I’ve only paddled by myself in this boat, so I haven’t had anyone to view it from the side to see how the trim looks. I also haven’t tried pouring a little water inside the boat to see which way it flows.

I thought that I was doing better in this boat a month or so ago before I bought my Old Town Castine kayak. In the last month I’ve mostly paddled my Castine and Slipper. Maybe I just have to relearn the Summersong. I’m 5’6" and 150 lbs. Am I too light for the Summersong?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

trim and technique
The two things that will affect the tracking the most are trim and technique. Play around with the trim a little bit and see if you can find a sweet spot where it tracks to your satisfaction. Most of the boats I’ve paddled that have minimal or no rocker have a definite seat location where they behave more to my satisfaction that they do with the seat elsewhere. If you are paddling sit-and-switch, stick with the bent shaft and work on your technique. Shaft vertical, paddle in close to the side of the boat, don’t bend the lower arm (at least not much), drive down with the top arm/shoulder, don’t try to carry your stroke past your hip, and don’t bounce the boat around too much.

If you want to see a good video on sit-and-switch paddling technique, the one by Mike and Tanna Fries is really good. I think I gave you the link to J&J Canoes in another post They carry the tape and a really good book on canoe racing. I believe the same book and tape are available on the Zaveral website

you said it yourself
You’re not too experienced with a single blade, so that probably has alot to do with your frustration. Hard to give advice without actually watching you paddle. My advice would be to take someone experienced out with you & have he or she watch what you’re doing. (or not doing) They can also check the trim for you. My guess is it’s your technique, not the boat. Nice boat BTW.

Thanks for the tips and links c2g.
I’ll experiment some more with the trim. Setting the seat position should be easier once I pick up one of the spring pinch clamps that you directed me to in the other thread. The seat sliding rearward really messes with technique.

I was doing better in this boat a few weeks ago, but was having difficulty moving the seat, so I lubed the slide tubes a little before putting it back on the car last week. I didn’t need a seat stop before I applied the lube. This is the first boat I’ve had with a sliding seat.

Be sure you aren’t horsing each stroke
too much. You should be reaching reasonably forward for the catch and releasing for the recovery before your lower hand reaches your hip. Your stroke rate in a Summersong will be relatively high even when you are just cruising.

I rechecked my own technique after a recent thread on how far to pull through, and I found that I was easing and removing the blade when my lower hand reached my knee. Granted, this is kneeling with a straight shaft, but I am able to paddle a 15’ whitewater boat for ten to twenty strokes with no correction at all.

Thanks for your suggestions Eagleii.
I have a request posted on a local paddling web site for someone experienced to help me with both those issues. I don’t think that web site has too much traffic, so it may take a while for me to get a response. There are many more solo kayakers and tandem canoers in this area than there are solo canoers.

Until I find an experienced paddler to help out, I’ll experiment a little more with trim and try to find the sweet spot that c2g referred to.

I have much more experience in kayaks than canoes and used the double blades in my canoes also until this summer when I got some decent single blades and a boat (the Summersong) which seems to like the single blade.

Man, I need a lot of work on technique
if you can get that many strokes on one side in a whitewater boat without needing corrective strokes.

I was out yesterday with the new pinch spring clamp installed on the slide tubes to keep the seat from sliding backwards when not desired and I still couldn’t get more than six or seven strokes per side and could only get that at a higher speed. At slow speeds, three strokes was about as good as it got. I’d like to try a good straight shaft paddle to see if I do better with that than a bent shaft. I would like to be able to paddle straight at a relaxed pace rather than working hard all the time and not have to excessively use corrective steps to achieve that. Using an off-side heel did seem to help get more strokes per side when going faster, but not as helpful at slower speeds. I was out for about two hours and was definatley doing better at the end than at the beginning, but still didn’t impress myself.

I couldn’t find a sweet spot for the trim. My impression was that the bow was still a little deep in the water even with the seat all the way back. Hopefully I’ll have someone to verify my actual trim sometime soon so I’m not just guessing about it.

Maybe I’ll break down and buy some paddling videos if you guys & gals feel that they are helpful.

Maybe I’ll sell the Summersong to someone who can better get her to do what she was designed to do. I could get enough money out of the Summersong to pay for about 9 months garage rental to store the rest of my boat out of the elements. All of my boats are currently stored outside. I won’t rush into that too fast because the Summersong is a great birdwatching boat with the rudder down because I can steer the boat with my feet to keep the boat pointed at the birds while having both hands on my binoculars. The rudder also allows me to paddle as many strokes on each side at a relaxed pace and without balance gymnastics for heeling the boat etc… Paddling equal amounts on both sides is important to me because of many years of back, shoulder and neck problems, I try to keep muscle development and range of motion balanced on both sides.

Happy paddling.

six or seven is good
Six or seven strokes per side is pretty good. There aren’t very many solos that will give you more than four or five.

try a “C” stroke
you said that you wanted to go straight, at a relaxed pace – have you tried the C-stroke? It is what I use, rather than hit and switch, and you may find that it is easier to maintain a course with the C-stroke as compared to hit and switch. Use a straingt shaft, at least to start with (I don’t like a bent for this).

Don’t Sell Your Summersong
These are the only canoes I own which I wouldn’t sell (in some particular order).

Sawyer Summersong in Kevlar

Bell Wildfire in Kevlar

Grasse River XL in woodstrip

Mad River Explorer in Kevlar

You are a bit light for the Summersong; you might look at a Hemlock Kestrel, a Bell Rob Roy or a Placid River Boatworks RapidFire.

I think you’d do best in an under-15’ canoe for flatwater. Sawyer made a smaller version of the Summersong - can’t remember its name - nice canoe.

I might consider trading a Mad River Liberty (same as the Independence) for your Summersong.

I’m in Michigan. Glenn

Thanks for your support Wildwater.
I have a Mad River Slipper, so I don’t think that the Liberty would be of any advantage for me. I’m planning to paddle it after work tomorrow if I get away in time. Right now, I think that the Slipper is more versatile than the Summersong, but the Summersong with the rudder is great for birdwatching. I’m just wondering if I can justify the expense of the Summersong if I’m only going to use it for birdwatching. I’ll probably wait until spring to make the decision to keep the Summersong or sell it. I remember that I wasn’t too impressed with the Slipper when I first got it, but after about a year or so, it started to grow on me. Since I bought the Summersong, I’ve also bought a matching set of Old Town Castine kayaks which are also quite capable birdwatching boats. I don’t have any one boat that I like paddling all the time, so it’s nice to have the variety. I also find that skills that I learn paddling one boat often improve my abilities in other boats.

I’m glad that you are still pleased with your Summersong.

I’m not giving up completely on the Summersong yet, it is a beautiful boat and I think that it has a higher top end speed than the Slipper. I’d really like to participate in some amateur races next year just for the fun of it and to get a healthy dose of humility when I get beaten by an Old Town Pack Boat.

I’m just a little frustrated that I have to work so hard to keep it straight.

Happy Paddling.

i agree
six or seven sounds pretty good. that’s about what i get out of my rob roy. after reading this post, i checked out my cadence on saturday and found that six to seven strokes in light wind from all directions was about par for the course. maybe you should try quick, light strokes with little torque. that may help a little. remember, it’s like a merry-go-round. once you get it started and up to speed, it doesn’t take much to keep it there.

g2d, if you get 10 to 15 per side in ww
solo, which isn’t designed to go straight “Granted, this is kneeling with a straight shaft, but I am able to paddle a 15’ whitewater boat for ten to twenty strokes with no correction at all.” Shouldn’t I be able to get more in a 15’4" Summersong which is designed to go straight?

I was out in my Slipper this evening and I easily got 3-4 strokes per side with the boat level and 6-7 strokes per side using an off-side heel without using corrective strokes. I’m still puzzled as to why I can more easily paddle the Slipper straight than the Summersong, when the Summersong is more difficult for me to turn than the Slipper. Maybe my size and paddling style are just more compatible with the Slipper.

I seem to be able to cover the same distances in about the same time in the Slipper as in the Summersong. I expected to be able to go much faster in the Summersong because of it’s design as a speed boat. Maybe that’s in part due to the fact that I have to use corrective strokes with the Summersong, but not with the Slipper. Maybe it’s also partly due to being more familiar with and having more seat time in the Slipper than in the Summersong.

I’ll keep puzzling with this as weather permits.