solo paddling technique

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solo paddling technique

Post by sluggo » Mon Aug 31, 2009 9:07 am

I took out my Freedom 15 yesterday. After toodling around with the family I took it out by myself. I found it a bit tricky to paddle solo. I was trying to use a solo thwart, and here is what I noticed.

1. The beam on the f15 is 33.5", and I think the width at the solo thwart is about 32". This made it kind of tricky for me to reach the water properly if I was centered in the canoe

2. when using a kneeling thwart, is the paddler supposed to kneel so that the buttocks are on the heels? With one injured knee, I found this to be uncomfortable for my right leg.

3. I think I had the most success by shifting to the right side of the canoe with the canoe tilted a bit. I had to work the j-stroke pretty hard, which slowed the boat down.

4. Some wind gusts kicked up, and did they ever push the boat around! I had to really, really paddle to even come close to keeping on track.

5. Finally, are bent shaft paddles suitable for the j-stroke? I didn't find the bent shaft paddle to be very good for solo paddling, It loses "oomph" on the j-stroke, and loses some versatility.

If anyone can help explain some of this solo paddling to me, that would be great.

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Post by frugal » Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:46 am

Here are some replies bearing in mind that I consider myself to be only a slightly better than average paddler.

You answered your first question yourself in your third. I think the term is heeled over when you tilt it to one side. I regularly paddel this was and shift from one side to give one set of muscles a break.

When paddling a tandem canoe solo I sit on the bow seat with the stern forward. If I am leaning with the left side down I usually have my left knee down and my right leg forward resting my butt on the seat. I'm not kneeling nor sitting if this makes any sense. I've come to use this position after many hours of trial and error so to speak. the main point I'd make is you need to be comfortable. The position I use allows me to reach quite a bit forward if I need to.

I have read that the bent shaft paddle does not work well for the reasons that you have discovered on your own. They work for power paddling but not for manouvering.

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Post by pawistik » Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:10 pm

I use the bent shaft solo and tandem, but I use straight paddles too, it just depends on my mood and the conditions. You can learn to become adept at correction strokes with the bent-shaft. Having said that, I am somewhat more likely to use a straight paddle when going solo where I tend to paddle in a more relaxed style using slicing stokes to aid in correction rather than relying solely on the J.

As mentioned, heel the canoe over. Not only does this get you closer to the side making it easier to reach the water, it shifts the center of gravity to the side and allows you, and your paddle stroke, to be close to that center of gravity (COG). The closer your stroke is to the COG, the less of a turning effect it will have on the canoe. Furthermore, by sitting near the gunwale your paddle stroke can be vertical rather than angled as it likely was from the center which only makes the problem worse. So, despite that it changes the way your canoe sits in the water and maybe frees the ends from the water making a short waterline, your canoe can actually go straighter when heeled over to the side.

Wind on an empty canoe can certainly be a problem. Once you have your technique down it will help. You can also thrown some ballast to help a bit more.


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Post by pawistik » Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:13 pm

Searching for an image to illustrate what I described above (I didn't quite find it) I found this article which may be somewhat relevant: ... iency.html


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Post by BradRob » Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:48 pm

I paddle mostly the way Bryan paddles. I prefer a straight to the bent when going solo but i use both depending on the mood also. (If i want to haul butt then i use the straight when im solo.)I almost always paddle canadian style with the canoe heeled rather than using the j stroke. I can realy move along with this technique.This style is simply a forward stroke and on the return the paddle never leaves the water as it slices on edge back to the forward position.When the padldle is sliceing forward i angle the blade breifly for correction. The amount of angle depends on how much i need to correct. I also reverse the canoe and sit in the bow seat. My knees are getting older and i cant kneel for too long. As far as windy conditions ,i get as low as possible in the kneeling position with a slight heel.
Hope this helps

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Post by Bryan Hansel » Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:54 pm

Try using a C-stroke instead of a J-stroke.

Years ago on Nessmuking, I wrote about how to solo a tandem canoe:
Using these three canoe strokes (draw, pry, forward) in combination allows more control over a canoe when paddling on one side of the boat. When a forward stroke is used on just one side of a canoe it forces the bow to turn away from the paddle side. While great for going in circles, most paddlers like to be able to go straight. When you apply a draw stroke at the start of your forward stroke, the canoe will turn towards the paddle. Blend this into a forward stroke, which moves the boat away from the paddle-side, and finish with a pry. The final pry pushes the bow towards paddle-side. The net result is a C-Stroke, because you are drawing a “c” underwater with your paddle. When learned a C-Stroke keeps a solo or a tandem canoe paddled solo going completely straight.

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