Turning a Malecite

Took my new to me Malecite out for the first and second times last weekend.

Now the Malecite is sold as a lake boat with fine ends and minimal rocker. I know the previous owner as a skilled paddler so when he told me “That boat is tough to turn” I took him at his word.

Of course the first place I paddled it Saturday was the Shawsheen river in Tewksbury, Ma. Acording to local legend Shawsheen means snake and the path of the river supports that as it S-turns through the marsh. I kneeled on the center seat and wrestled that thing around turn after turn. Running down stream was tricky but a bow rudder inside the turn seemed to bring it around. Pushing back up was a fight at every turn. The bow rudder killed my forward momentum. A sweep kept it going but the current grabbed the bow and pushed it hard into the outside bank.

But hey the sun was warm and I was paddling.

Sunday I took the Malecite down to the Ipswich in N. Reading for more of the same. This time I turned the boat around and used the bow seat thinking it might help to get the bow up a little. Again the bow rudder got the turn going on the downstream run while the narrower station seemed to help me keep the boat running straight.

Above the dam at the Middleton line the river gets wide and the current disappears so I spent some time playing with leans and switching sides.

Turns out the boat has a marked tendency to turn slightly into a lean.

Paddling back upstream I leaned into the turns, sweeping out over the raised gunwale. I’m not sure I could do that from the center seat. I was choking up on the shaft to reach the water. It felt pretty awkward but the boat easily made the turns.

So I have two questions.

Does anybody have similar or conflicting experience with a Malecite or similar boat?

Can anyone recomend either refinements or alternate techniques for turning upstream?

I’d like to avoid rudder strokes that kill momentum.



tough to turn?
I don’t find the Malecite tough to turn, on the contrary. Compared to a whitewater model perhaps, one could say such thing.

But anyway, the Malecite is a tandem canoe, and if solo paddled, its (turning) behavior depends much on where exactly you paddle and how much heel you use.

lean a little
One of my brother-in-laws have one and I love it. They are such a great canoe. I have never had problems soloing from the middle seat. It turned fine, the Malecite was originally a solo downriver racer.

Sounds like you are figuring it out.
I also paddle mostly WW boats, so when I try boats like the Wenonah Rendezvous or SoloPlus, they seem very hard to turn at first. But used in their usual environments, they turn out to be manageable enough.

The one that puzzles me at times is my MR Guide, because it is a true middle-of-the-water design. It actually ferries better than my MR Synergy, but of course will not spin as well. On flatwater, the Guide is too inclined to wander, unless loaded with enough gear to force the stems down thoroughly into the water.

Soloing our Bluewater Chippewa is probably similar to your experience with the Malecite. The Chippewa has a very flattish shallow arch, and modest dead rise at the ends, and a solo paddler must push for every bit of turn. Plus, the Chippewa is much deeper than the Malecite, so it blows around like a huge leaf. But when paddled tandem, the Chippewa is a wonderful boat for swamp channels, turning comfortably at a thought, and then settling easily into its new heading.

you need to heel
your boat to get it to turn. Once you free those stems with a heel you will feel like you have a different boat.

Be patient with your heel. Keep your torso perpendicular to the water. The boat heels (eventually to the rail, don’t push it), not you.

One of the pleasures of FreeStyle is the ability to change the weight distribution and hull shape and the application of static strokes to take the one boat you have and make it feel like many boats.

Maybe you weren’t referring to me,
but actually whether heeling a boat helps turning or spinning depends on the boat and the load. With just my 220# aboard, our Bluewater Chippewa will spin better when spun flat. However, our old OT Tripper, about the same length, responded better to a modest degree of heeling. When I solo my MR Synergy, it spins as well flat as edged. Most of my WW decked boats spin better when spun flat, but if moving in or out of eddies, of course they have to be edged in or out to turn better.

So the issue of edging or tilting the boat depends on the boat, on the load, and on the speed and orientation to the current. There are some boats, like my MR Guide, that almost always spin or turn better when edged, and as I said, there are others where edging is almost a waste of time.

Heeling the Malecite
Most boats I’ve paddled respond to a heel like Kim said. Put the boat on edge and it will spin easier. The difference between an inside heel and an outside heel is subtle and has more to do with ballance than turning.

A few boats felt like the stems never came out of the water. I couldn’t get those boats to spin at all.

What suprised me about the Malecite was that the outside heel felt like the stems never came out. The boat resisted turning and, paddling upstream, the current quickly ferry’d the boat into the opposite bank.

But the inside heel, either driving the boat through slack water or pushing up against the current, caused the boat to carve slightly into the heel. I still needed the sweep to make the hairpin turns but the resistance was gone.



Solo Malecite
Neat boat! One of the best short class tandems of all time. Both Phil Sogglekow and I started solo paddling in Malecites; running the hull backwards and kneeling against the back edge of the bow seat.

The good thing about that stance in the boat is the rails are narrow enough to allow a vertical paddleshaft. The problem is the hull runs down aft, its bow, so the “stern” resists maneuvering while the paddler is so far aft any attempt to use a bow draw is useless, the blade draws to the hull amidships.

Try a “Canadian” stance in the boat. Kneel aginst the third thwart if the hull doesn’t have a center seat and paddle the hull at a standing heel with both knees in the onside chine. This improves trim, allows efficient vertical paddlestrokes on the heeled down side, and bow draws and jams work. The downside is the complete impossibility of cross strokes and hull hydrodynamics.

Ant touring canoe - one with its stems in the water, changes in water shape when heeled. Stems are lifted, draft increased amidships and the boats will turn more easily. A WildFire’s in-water profile is 13.8 feet long with 2.5 inches of rocker mostly near the stems when flat in the water. It becomes 10.5 feet long with 8 inched of rocker carried to max beam when heeled to the rail. The shorter, much more heavily rockered shape spins more easily. [This is also true of Bluewater tandems - try heeling farther]

The downside of a standing heel is that the hull does things we do not always desire. It turns away from the paddle so we must use more corrective effort to drive the hull straight.

Here is proof. Take any properly trimmed touring hull, [stems in water when flat], get it going in a straight line. Take take your paddle

out of the water and heel the hull halfway down

and hold the heel w/o wobbling. The hull will carry, then the bow will deflect away from the heel, then the stern skids out and we find we’ve turned through 90 degrees. [Make sure you’re really going straight - it’sd easy to start this mantra with a slight torque which skews the data.]

What’s going on? Look at the bow of a partially heeled canoe or kayak - the heeled down bow plane has twice the surface area under water. The bow is deflecting to one side; eventually the stern skids out and we’ve turned. [See Winters Shape of the Canoe, pg 30.]

But, more than that - not only is the bow deflecting, the entire hull shape curves to offside. Block your hull into a moderate heel on the garage floor. Hols a chalk against a ~2" block of wood and trace the hulls 2" waterline. It looks like a bananna.

Anyway, that’s why Canadian style paddling is so pretty to watch but so slow - gobs of energy wasted correcting the hull to go straight when it wants to turn offside.

So, there’s your offside turn kneeling with both knees in a chine and the hull heeled - A couple sweeping forwards should effect an offside turn.

Onside, hit a strong J correction, plant a bow draw and the Malecite will come right around to onside. What’s going on is we’re initiating the bow to move into the turn with the J. Once started, the boat’s momentum will drive the bows further into the turn until the stern skids loose to complete the turn.

Canadian Style slow?

– Last Updated: Apr-05-07 8:57 AM EST –

>Anyway, that's why Canadian style paddling is so pretty to watch
> but so slow - gobs of energy wasted correcting the hull to go
> straight when it wants to turn offside.

Some hulls are quite neutral of even get a tendency to go a little to their onside with an extreme heel (also called Canadian style).
So I guess this also depends.


a little off topic perhaps but
Two nights ago paddling with ness on Lake Erie I used my new GPS for the first time. Paddled a Supernova for a while and then a Malecite. Surprisingly, the Malecite was no faster than the Supernova. Two caveats though, I only used a straight shaft paddle and speed was only measured over short distances.

Last summer I paddled the Malecite extensively in pretty significant Lake Erie conditions. It really is a dream canoe (to me anyway) in big waves and wind. Jim Henry seems to have cut that bow down to the bare minimum required to provide adequate rise and buoyancy to consistently just get you up and over when leaning back from the center seat. The wood gunnels provide the last tiny bit of flare to usually throw off the last bit of water before it comes over the bow. And if you get a little nervous at an approaching wave, she turns easily enough to quarter it at the last second or two.

I haven’t really gotten to know her on moving water yet. I’m enjoying this thread and am learning a thing or two. Thanks.

So far my experience is

– Last Updated: Apr-05-07 9:49 AM EST –

Heeling from the bow seat (bow becomes stern) with the boat up to speed there is a distinct but subtle tendency to carve to the onside. It doesn't carve a tight circle but it does carve hard.
The offside turn is not happening. LOTS of resistance.
On side draws are very effective but slow the boat down. Off side sweeps very are effective and keep the boat moving but reaching across the boat and over the raised gunnel is bloody awkward. I doubt that I could reach the water from the center seat.

In the narrow winding streams I was on the inside of the turn is often shallow. Next time I'll try it in deeper water and see what I can do with onside power and pry's.

Very curious.


P.S. Nice pictures Dirk. Is there an english version?

unfortunately not in english
> Nice pictures Dirk. Is there an english version?

unfortunately not in english. Most of it is meant to explain things in dutch that normally are already available in english. What it comes down to is that the effect you get when you heel your boat, depends on the design of that boat, which way/side you heel, how much you heel the boat and the way the boat is moving through the water.

Also you can heel the boat for different purposes:

  • To give the boat a tendency to turn in a certain direction. With forward speed most designs ‘want’ to go to the right with a heel to the left and vice versa. Some designs will do this the opposite way though! Can also be different with the amount of heel: extreme heel may cause the opposite. Experimenting with your own boat is the only sure way to find that out.
  • To make the boat more maneuverable.

    The more you heel the boat, the more the shape in the water of the boat changes to a more ‘rockered’ shape which makes the boat more maneuverable. Especially for straighter keeled boats that are very straight tracking, this technique is recommended by many, although personally, I consider this only really useful as a flatwater technique. In waves and current I prefer a design that doesn’t need to be heeled to be able to make a turn. I care more about stability and dryness in that kind of situations, see the next point
  • For stability purposes.

    For instance when encountering great differences in current, one has to heel the boat downstream. (Preferably not more than is really necessary.) But also with hard side winds I heel a little bit into the wind and waves.

    Also it is more stable to lean into a turn on flatwater when your speed is high. Some designs (owned one…) can be really nasty when heeling to the opposite side of a turn with full speed.

    When entering an eddy with forward and downstream speed it is more stable to lean into a turn. For speed however, (many/most?) Slalom racers heel to the outside when entering an eddy.

    BUT if you make a turn on fast moving water, you should heel to the opposite side of the turn (downstream) for stability.
  • To keep an open canoe ‘possibly’ dryer by heeling a bit away from a wave – only (recommended) if you do know when and how to do it (safely)!

Canadian style slow?
If there is a more abrupt turn at the bilges it actually acts like a keel.

All said a paddle stroke with a faster cadence gives the boat less chance to yaw. I do like the Canadian style position with a Northwoods stroke. That can be a fast cadenced stroke.

For this kind of Canadian Style I find a Wenonah flat paneled bottom boat kind of quick. Odyssey.

Hey Brian
Are you soloing from a center seat or bow seat backwards?

What layup is your boat?

Have you noticed anything like what I’m describing?

As much as anything I’m curious if this is “normal” for this boat or not.




– Last Updated: Apr-05-07 12:50 PM EST –

Mine is fiberglass and I paddle from the center seat. Honestly, I can't say that I've experienced what you describe. But, keep in mind that I have only paddled mine in WW once. And that time I was literally going as fast as I could go to squeeze in a paddle before dark. I already knew the lines so I didn't have to do a lot of quick turning.

I have a small lake at work to play around on. It is a good place to experiment with how a hull responds to heels. I'll have to get it out there and play around.

I'm having a hard time getting my mind wrapped around this description though: "Running down stream was tricky but a bow rudder inside the turn seemed to bring it around. Pushing back up was a fight at every turn. The bow rudder killed my forward momentum. A sweep kept it going but the current grabbed the bow and pushed it hard into the outside bank." Are you describing paddling downstream and then paddling back up?

If you are talking about paddling upstream, I have tried padding mine up in some pretty stiff current with few features to work with. I did experience the bow getting grabbed pretty hard. If that's what you described, I can understand what you mean.

On the way down, my mind told me a I should have been able to make it back up. In fact as we were going down I was thinking how much I was looking forward to showing the two "damned kaykers" how to make it back up the stiffest area around a bend. But when it came time, I could not make it and had to get out along with them. I just could not put and the boat where I needed it to go.

Purchase was also an issue with fairly shallow conditions. Any rock 3" off the bottom was hit by the paddle. The only path was the balance between the inside and outside, where there was just enough depth for purchase but not too far out in the swift and featureless outside of the bend. When I tried to move a little to the outside for more purchase, I had a hell of a time bringing her back. I had to expend too much energy in inefficient sweeps to make forward progress.

So yea. If you are talking about difficulty taking her upstream, I think I've been there, just the way you described. But, the Malecite does not have all that much rocker either. So, I'm not sure that it acts much differently than I would expect.

paddling downstream and then back up
Yes I was paddling downstream and then paddling back up.

The current was not terribly strong, nothing that I couldn’t paddle against, but the turns were sharp and the stream narrow.

I’d be curious what you find with yours.

Could be the same as mine.

Could be my boat is unique.

Could be something to do with sitting on the bow seat and paddling backwards.

Could be I’m whacked. :slight_smile:


Down by the stern
Sounds like you’re running down by the stern, which is really the bow. Try adding weight forward to trim the hull evenly if you’re glued to thye back of the baow seat.