Yoke vs. Middle Seat w/kids

Hello paddlers! I am looking for some advice, especially if you canoe with your kids.

I want to buy a canoe to take my kids paddling/fishing on mellow rivers and lakes. I am 30 years old, 6’2", 235lbs, and my girls are 3 and 5 years old. I recently moved to WA (Seattle area) from O’ahu. In Hawaii I had a 14’ tandem SOT kayak for about 7 years that I took my wife and oldest out on until we had our second, then I bought a sailboat that we had for about 4 years (I don’t like boat motors. Its the noise…). After that the kayak was solely used as spear-fishing platform. I have very limited canoe experience though, mostly from my teenage years and don’t remember if I have ever actually carried one by myself, but I will need to be able to with this one. My wife will not be accompanying us on our canoe trips. Ok, to my main question:

Do you absolutely recommend I buy a canoe with a yoke if I am going to be putting it in by myself, and just have my youngest sit on the deck in the middle, or will carrying the canoe overhead be possible and comfortable with a middle seat instead for about 100 yds. or so. I don’t expect to have to “portage” much farther than that to put in, at least not very often.

If the middle seat is OK, I am looking at buying this Mad River Journey 167: http://www.sportsmanswarehouse.com/sportsmans/Mad-River-Journey-167-Recreation-Canoe/productDetail/Canoes/prod999901365369/cat101212 It does have a thwart aft of the center seat, but it appears to be too far back from the CG to use as a yoke.

If not, then I’ll probably opt for an Old Town Discovery 158. I know these aren’t ultralight canoes, but I am not a scrawny guy, so configuration and posture are far more important to me than actual weight. I can still backpack several miles with a 70lb pack if properly loaded out, not that I particularly enjoy it anymore. I am clarifying this because I am probably not going to spend several hundred more dollars just to save 20-30lbs for a few yards a day, I primarily want to make sure the weight I do have isn’t going to be akward. Thank you in advance for any help deciding.

Well, they are both heavy boats to portage, yoke or no yoke, but you already know that. You will be able to control the boat most effectively if it is in reasonable trim, which means you will need to be in a position near center. With a seat positioned a bit aft of the center and one of your girls on each seat fore and aft you should be in reasonable trim. The boat is quite wide to be paddled from that position, but you are a fairly big guy, so you will probably be able to reach over the gunwale OK.

Sometimes a canoe with a central seat is not too uncomfortable to portage for short distances by balancing the front of the seat frame on the back of your shoulders. I don’t know if that would be the case for the MRC Journey or not. There are removable portage yokes that you could look into, like this one:


Alternatively, you might be able to custom shape a block of minicell foam to fit your shoulders which could temporarily be attached to the top of the central seat to be used as a temporary portage yoke.

Wow, how did I miss that. I just found a whole bunch of others like it marketed as “solo canoe portage yokes”. Thanks. I think I’m going to go for the MRC, try it with the seat only, and if I don’t like I how it carries, buy the yoke.

Something I don’t understand about canoes is that they seem easier to carry on my shoulders than to carry with another person, each of us carrying one end. Doesn’t make sense, but I really like having a carry yoke.

Suppose you buy a canoe with a carry thwart and just bring along some sort of third seat. You can buy an inexpensive step-stool at a big box store and use it for a seat. Tape some foam to the top if it needs to be more comfortable.


Spring Creek (Outfitters) has been making a nice yoke for both solo and tandem widths. Wide foam distributes the weight nicely. May be others that are newer and that have improved on it…but it was/is comfortable and light, but using minicell might be fine.
If you do get a heavy canoe and get a standard yoke…My $.01…head down to sporting goods store that sells either hockey or football shoulder pads, smaller quarterback pads…you throw those on and you’ll never feel a standard yoke + canoe-weight.

Thanks everyone for the advice, i still may get one of the above mentioned canoes, but I found something on craigslist i may get instead… ill need your expert advice again though. I’ll be starting a new post shortly.