Windy Lake Solo Advice

-- Last Updated: May-04-14 11:34 PM EST --

I am lucky enough to live 2 minutes from a small lake. I love to paddle. Also love to fish. Problem is that the lake is routinely windy, lots of 15-20 mph days and whitecaps and waves.

My current solo is a Wenonah sandpiper. I like it because it is fairly light - pitch on truck, plop in lake, go. However, as my paddling ability has improved, I have started looking for something a little faster that tracks better. The sandpiper feels small. Also have two sons, 4 and 2, and want to take one along (headed for tandem, just ot yet). I am also tiring of fighting the wind.

I single blade, C or J, kneel to travel and sit to fish. 5'10, 175 lbs. There are no canoe dealers nearby, other than a wenonah dealer a couple hours away.

I've found an old Bell Rob Roy 15 in fiberlar for 500 bucks. I'm interested because it might solve my windage and speed issues...but I'd be on the bottom of the boat and it weighs 50 pounds. Anything come to mind that might be better? Cover the sandpiper? Canak? Empty my wallet on something else? Help me pick out a boat, please.

A less-conventional idea

– Last Updated: May-05-14 12:06 AM EST –

You could outfit a canoe for rowing, or "empty your wallet" and get a proper rowboat. I love canoes, but when it comes to windy lakes and solo canoes, solo paddling just doesn't hold a candle to rowing.

Canoes can be a little tough to set up for rowing because at least one of the thwarts is bound to be in the way, and most solo canoes are a bit too narrow for proper use of oars unless you use outriggers (that's more junk to deal with and more weight). Ideally, you'd mount the seat quite low so that the oars could be mounted at gunwale height (right on the gunwales if the boat is as wide as a typical tandem) and that would have the added benefit of making big waves a lot easier to handle.

Otherwise, there are lots of solo canoes that will be a step up from your Sandpiper. I am pretty certain that someone will recommend the old Bell Magic, and my Merlin II is pretty nice in wind as solo canoes go, though personally I don't think it's all that great in steep waves. Overall however, I'm not much of an expert on which models would be good in your situation, since in that situation I'll always opt for a rowboat instead.

Then, there's always the blue-collar option: a standard 12- or 14-foot fishing boat. You can cartop a 12-footer pretty easily if you set up your rack with loading in mind. Of course, if you go that route, it may not be long until you are shopping for electric motors. That's a whole different category of boat.

canoe for now
Thanks for the reply! For now, I’m stuck on trying to make this work in a canoe. I do see that this could be a little asinine. I’ve been paddling off and on since I was a kid, and find it relaxing in a way that only fishing and hiking/camping match.

It’s okay to focus on the canoe idea
The rowing idea is from a guy (me) who would be in a world of hurt if he were forced to give up rowing OR paddling. For being so different in mechanics, they are remarkably compatible as far as the mood that goes with them.

There will be canoe suggestions popping up soon.

One of the canoes I currently own is a Hemlock Kestrel. It is the most wind resistant canoe I have ever paddled and firm tracking. My go to lake boat.


My view on this

– Last Updated: May-05-14 6:53 AM EST –

is that unless you paddle a heavier boat you will not solve the problem. A heavier boat is less affected by wind and waves. A heavier boat is much easier to handle and much more enjoyable to paddle in the conditions you describe. I recommend either wood canvas, cedar stripper in heavy layup, fiberglass in a heavy layup or perhaps simply loading up your canoe to get it down into the water and to minimize the impact of the wind. The speed issue is another matter and has to do with hull shape - certainly the materials I mention above are available in a wide variety of hull shapes some faster than others. But my sense is that you are more focused on ease of paddling and control than speed give the type of use you are describing. Not sure how the speed issue factors into your thinking.

Another thought
The conditions you are experiencing would suggest you want something with low freeboard to catch less wind BUT at the same time whitecaps and waves potentially getting water in the boat would demand more freeboard. Then you want something fast but this usually means a narrow hull, not something best for kids and camping. Someone suggested loading your canoe with some extra wieght when you are paddling solo but that counters your desire for speed. My friend you are gonna have to comprimise somewhere but I have a suggestion that some will claim as blasphemy in canoe purist circles. Find a well made canoe that has a keel. For purely lake travel where wind is a concern, it will help keep your canoe steady oncourse. Another option is a canoe like most Mad River models which are made with a shallow V hull. It has some feel of a keel and counteracts the wind effect a little better than a flat or arched bottem.

according to Archimedes
a boat heavier by thirty lbs displaces how much more water? And hence sinks how much lower? A quarter of an inch.

In reality… the wind resistance is not appreciably less.

Get a cover. It does help… I use a cover on a 23 lb RapidFire on Lake Superior. If that aint windy with heavy seas, nothing is.

HA!..either one improves a LOT or you

– Last Updated: May-05-14 10:27 AM EST –

develop your swimming skills a LOT with the Sandpiper. I loved a Magic and the venerable Penobscot_16. Since you've stayed alive try a Prism(Wenonah)= seems like it can certainly hold a good line. I'm dying to try a Peregrine(Hemlock)..Swift's new K15 & Osprey...and other's boats(Colden, Placid)...whatever Ted Bell is working on...

Sacrilege! (rudder?)
I am going to put a rudder on my solo for this exact situation. I can competently paddle in a strong wind, but honestly, its not that fun just trying to fight to keep a line. I am going to buy a rudder system for around $150 and call it a day. Ill make it semi-easily removable so I can take it off it for races. I just bought a double blade paddle for some muscle cross training, but found it hard to control the boat on twisty rivers. That is another situation where a rudder will be nice.

Im a big fan of the Wenonah Advantage. Its a decent ‘all arounder’ boat. Not too long or short, its big enough to carry a load but not huge, it goes pretty fast…a good combo boat. Savage River also has a couple solos that I would like, although they’re hard to find on the used market.


– Last Updated: May-05-14 12:01 PM EST –

there is a pretty cool whitewater segment at the 46 minute mark

Buy a kayak

Rob Roy
Thanks for the replies. When I say “faster”, I mean “faster than my 13’6” sandpiper. Not hard to come by. I may give this Rob Roy a try. A Yost design, apparently a scaled magic hull, and at $500, not far above the price of a Cooke cover for my current canoe.


Lakes, Wind and Paddling

– Last Updated: May-06-14 9:22 AM EST –

If you can tolerate the seating, a longer narrower kayak with a good skirt is hard to beat. I'd include the Bell Rob Roy in that.

If you are like me and require something that you can kneel in, or want to stay in an open boat, then you have to balance the wave shedding vs windage of a higher shear line.

My current Lakes and Wind boat is a Bell Magic. I like it a lot. I've happily paddled a Hemlock Peregrine (the Kestrels bigger brother) in similar conditions. At 200 lbs I think the Kestrel might be too small for me. My Swift Osprey is good out there too. But it does not care too much for following seas.

If you go with a tandem you may well consider adding some ballast on windy days. I'd be looking to add 50 - 100 lbs to most tandems if I planned to solo those in the wind. If I was not hauling a weeks worth of gear I'd use water ballast because it won't sink your boat if you swamp. I've done that successfully in a Mad River Explorer but there are many faster tandems to consider.

Kneeling, straight stick, good beginning
If you were in Atlanta, I would have you over to Stone Mountain Lake, get your boat trimmed level, and show you how to paddle “cab forward” with only occasional need for a C or J correction. The boat will track better, and you’ll get more out of your effort when paddling in windy conditions.

And it does help to be able to shift some weight, yours or cargo, forward or back in windy conditions. Not permanently, though. Level trim works best most of the time. A tiny bit bow down can help your canoe go into the wind. A little bit stern down can help with following wind. The rest is just an annoying struggle.

I have Mason’s books, but had never seen that movie. I enjoyed it, especially the Lake Superior paddling. Talk about winds and waves!!

SoloPlus or NorthStar
I recommend you get either a Wenonah SoloPlus or a Bell NorthStar. Here’s why:

The SoloPlus is 16’6" and is set up with three seats. It goes well as a high-capacity solo, or you could take your kids along in the bow and stern seats. It doesn’t go so well as a tandem with two adults, but that isn’t your situation. Also, the SoloPlus tracks fairly well (about a 7 out of 10) but turns somewhat stiffly (about a 3 or 4). I had one for several years and traded for a Prism (also 16’6" but a hard-tracking tripping boat).

The MorningStar is also 16’6" and is set up as a tandem. All of its layups except the all-kevlar one are set up with a kneeling thwart, which you can replace with a regular cane seat. It’s a good solo tripping boat and handles nicely loaded, too, provided there isn’t too much wind. It handles two adults and a week’s worth of gear with no problem. Tracks well and maneuvers well, too. I’ve used mine solo in the Boundary Waters and tandem on small streams.

For rowing - something I’ve done and recommend - I suggest looking at the rigs available through Spring Creek Outfitters:

I’ve been reading “The Last Voyageur”,
Vince Welch’s account of Amos Burg’s exploration of western rivers. Whenever portages were likely, Burg favored canoes and propelled them by rowing. At one point he settled on a Chestnut Prospector 17’ and fitted it for rowing. Rowing allowed him to make better progress on wavy lakes and open rivers. When portages were not an issue, he used early versions of river dories.

I have a bit of trouble empathising with his rowing experience because almost the only rig I’ve used is the sliding seat competition single scull, not an expedition load carrier. Some who start with Spring Creek may graduate to rowing rigs derived from Adirondack or similar experience.

If the OP is going to be almost always on his local lake, then a rowing rig might allow him to increase his days fishing.

Good read
I thought the biggest reason for his use of a rowing rig was because all he had available were large tandems, and sitting in the middle while rowing made it easier to handle in all conditions.

True -
but a light boat moves more in response to wind.