Where to sit in a tandem canoe solo

I purchased yesterday a 16’ Old Town, candienne , fiberglass for my first canoe. It is a tandem. Lots of good reviews. I can not kneel as to I have growths of extra bone just below my knees and hurts to kneel. My dilemma is that I need to lower my center of gravity of I took my first spill after thinking I was doin so well. My thought is to sit on the keel line and use a 230cm double blade. Any thoughts. I really love the peace and quiet but the cold water sure was an embarrassment and an awakening. I want to get back on the horse, but want to minimize kneeling and swim time.



Where WERE you sitting?
Most people, that is, average folks who haven’t put a ton of time and thought into their paddling methods, automatically sit in the rear seat when paddling a tandem canoe alone. If that’s what you did, falling out might not have been such an odd thing. With the bow high up out of the water and most of your weight applied to the very narrow stern area, that’s a rather unstable position.

Sitting on the front seat facing backward is better (this works best on symmetrical canoes, which I believe your model is), because the front seat is quite a bit farther from the bow than the rear seat is from the stern. On some canoes there’s a thwart in the way, but often that can be moved.

Best of all is a more centrally located seat, which you would need to install yourself.

I agree with Guideboat guy
But another option is to sit in the rear and put some ballast in the bow to trim the canoe.

Jack L

Front (bow) facing backwards.

This guy just did it for 6-months and 3800 miles in a Mad River Explorer


Three choices
Basically, you can sit in the rear seat and put enough ballast in front to level the canoe, or you can sit in the front seat facing backwards, or you can install a seat in another location. Of the three, installing a third seat is going to be your best choice. You can first experiment a bit to figure out what seems to work the best…get the canoe on the water, take something like a milk crate to sit on, and try it in different places between the rear seat and the middle of the canoe, even if the canoe has a middle thwart, try sitting as close to the thwart as you possibly can, because solo paddling is often better not far from the center of the canoe (if you can easily reach the water with your paddle without having to lean to the side). Once you find a spot that works well for you, you can buy a webbed or cane bench seat from one of the canoe supply places (like Piragis Northwoods) and install it where you like it.

Another option if you can find one is a sling seat, which you can adjust both for height and placement. I’ve got one that I’ve had for many years, and a quick search on the net came up with a couple companies selling them. It’s a simpler solution if you can find one.

Simplest of all if it works for you is to sit in the front seat facing rearward.

Sitting in the rear seat is the worst of your options because of two reasons…it is more difficult to get the canoe to track straight with power strokes sitting that far back without somebody in front to counteract the tendency for the canoe to turn with each stroke. And sitting in the narrowest part of the canoe makes the canoe feel a lot less stable.

Kris Laurie
Way to go Kris!

You should never lean to the side
Classical Solo is done Canadian Style like Becky Mason does.

Kneeling to one side of the hull near the center of the boat longitudinally

That said if you dont want to kneel, install a wide seat about 18 inches aft of center and sit to one side

The boat will heel( tilt) You should remain with your torso parallel to tree trunks

This is actually quite a stable position though it seems counter intuitive.

Here is a video of a radical boat heel… It gives great control but for everyday paddling not necessary… You will want to be to the side so that your paddle strokes are vertical and not all sweeps


if bow seat
facing backwards doesn’t work well for you a canoe saddle and kneeling pads might work.


– Last Updated: Nov-03-16 12:48 PM EST –

If I were you, I'd consider mounting a seat in the middle of the canoe. You can mount it lower than normal; you said you won't be kneeling. If your not going to knell; you won't be sticking you lower legs under the seat. Thus no entrapment issues. Mounting the seat a "little" lower than normal may give you a little more stability.

With the seat mounted in the middle of the canoe, using a standard canoe paddle may be an issue.
You would probably have a problem reaching out over the gunwales & getting a good vertical stroke. Using a kayak paddle should resolve that issue. You can't drop a new center seat too low.
Imagine paddling while sitting down in a tub....... Your hands and/or paddle shaft will be bumping the top of the gunwales

If you do put in a new seat; you will probably need to remove the thwarts, and remount them somewhere else.
That's a simple/easy fix.

That's what I'd do..........
Others opinions may vary.


In previous post I stated you “can’t” mount a seat too low. I meant to say you “can” mount a seat too low.


fish form seating


togo out on a limb here…

see the white spot atop the green hull at the fat area ?

try sitting at this point gunwale to gunwale

if you need sitting then buy a sitting canoe.

While we’re on the subject…

– Last Updated: Nov-04-16 10:13 PM EST –

With apologies to Aaron69 the OP--I don't mean to hijack your thread. More information helps us all:

Let say the solo classic tandem is ASYMMETRICAL, also with a bit more rocker in the bow than in the stern--As I've mainly been a ww kayaker for the last 10 years, I'd like to hear from the strictly canoe gurus here, what their recommendations are for solo rigging such a 16 foot rec canoe for Cl. 2-3 ww use? (Besides the obvious flotation, I'm inclined to put in a saddle and use a neoprene knee pad about 4 inches aft of the center yoke--Turning the boat around to sit in the front seat to utilize the barely rocker'd stern, center-of-gravity aside, just does not make any sense to me...Am I correct in this assertion? I've regularly flatwater solo-paddled "Canadian style" another "symmetrical" canoe I have(a real heavy fiberglass dog)using the backside-of-the-front seat method--But this heavy frozen hunk of snot has a pronounced keel and it's possibility in ww use does not, shall we say, resonate with me. Leaving make/models out of it, suffice it to say this new(used)asymmetrical canoe is royalex.

--I'd be curious and grateful to hear some thoughts. Thanks!

i’d say yes
The rocker is not the only issue. An asymmetrical craft also has a different hull shape fore and aft. The real bow is more flared then the stern

Also the stern shear is lower. This makes the asym boat paddled backward dig into waves… wet ride. and the new stern would be reduced to slueing around the bow

Doable… Sort of … not really… I had a Dumone which is asym 16 footer . Someone had to solo something. I had taken the kneeling thwart out because I was supposed to have a tandem partner show up. Which they did not

It was miserable trying on the St Johns River to paddle backwards on the bow seat. That river is ledge drop… Water coming in… poor control… Finally I went to straddling a gear bag and paddling in normal orientation from near the center

It was more than four inches back… there was a center yoke… for portaging which was quite necessary. I think the kneeling thwart was 18 inches back of center

Yep, I figured the digging-in part
with stern forward, but as I haven’t paddled the boat as of yet, thought I’d check with someone like yourself(one of the Pnet-canoe veterans)who would know…And one can’t always be certain about handles he don’t readily recognize on the “Advise” board, if you know what I mean;-

18 inches is what I’ll go with first before making anything fairly permanent inside the hull–Nice not to waste any more time speculating…Thanks again, KM!

Fully agree with KM, spiritboat
If the rocker is greater, the sheer higher and the flare more pronounced in the bow, you will be in for a wet ride in whitewater if you paddle the tandem canoe stern first.

In addition, if you sit backwards in the bow seat, you will not have the reach for bow strokes that you would have from a centralized seat or saddle. Bow strokes are even more important for whitewater than flatwater – e.g., bow duffeks for eddy turns and peel outs, and bow draws, bow pries and cross-bow draws for quick course corrections when being buffeted around in rapids.

Maneuvers! Hell, first I’ll be lucky if
I can make a straight run by taking the sneak routes or building up enough speed with my forward stroke to punch through any holes;- (But yeah, I hear ya: Bow control is always better than loss of bowel control.) Seriously, I’ll be practicing eddy turns and peel-outs on some VERY small rapids first before graduating up the scale…I mean, after all, if I’ve gotten a 16’ sea kayak down the Esopus a couple times without upset, surely soloing an open canoe of the same size will be more forgiving?

(–Don’t answer that.)

Thanks for the tips, Glenn.