Canoe yoke padding

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My wood canvas canoe has a sculpted portage yoke, with pretty deep shoulder recesses. In use, it is pretty stable on my bony shoulders, but I've discovered it's pretty painful. At my local lake there's a trail from the public put-in parking area that leads along the lakeshore to a more remote location where an old road deadends into the state park lake which was created in the 1960's. Just for practice and to familiarize myself with portaging this canoe, I've been carrying it over the 500 yd. portage both to launch and take out. I know... I'm a bit of a masochist I guess, but better to refine my portaging close to home rather than the first time I take this canoe tripping!

Anyway, while pondering how I could pad the deeply sculpted yoke, I began thinking about what foam I might have at hand to make padding. I have some old Ensolite mattress pads, several pool noodles, some random bubble wrap, etc. and I'm trying to think of both an effective and easily repeatable method that can come on a trip with me. And, voila!, it occurred to me that I have a pair of kneepads which I use for work whenever I'm doing a hardwood floor installation.

I reasoned that I could somehow drape the already curved pads over my shoulders, and while that seemed like it would work, I doubted that they would stay in place. My pads have velcro tabs to affix them both above and below the knee, so I re-arrranged the velcro straps into a configuration which looks like football shoulder pads. The primary straps keep the pads aligned on either side of my neck, and the extra straps on each pad are joined so they form 'sleeves' on each pad. With the whole thing stuck together, I just put it on over my head and at the same time slip my hands & arms into the sleeves until it's seated on my shoulders with straps under my armpits..... and, it works like a charm!!! Doesn't make the canoe any lighter (around 55 lbs.), but it sure does feel better. Looks rather silly getting set up at the public parking lot, but so what.... most people think I'm a little nuts anyway!

Additionally, they can function in their normal mode for kneeling on the canoe's ribs while paddling, and, at camp around the fire ring to get the fire started!

Here's a few pictures:
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And, for good measure, a shot of Fall colors on my local lake:

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I think it's around 55 pounds although I haven't actually weighed it. In an earlier phase of my life I threw around 80# bundles of roof shingles all day, and this canoe clearly weighs less.... so that's a good thing!
 
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Boy that canoe is some kinda Gorgeous! Really creative idea ... I just Tump mine ... good on ya!

Bob
 
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Thanks Bob. The tump concept is an old one but clearly successful in many cultures. Porters in Nepal commonly carry more than their weight in baskets supported exclusively by a tumpline! I would gladly give it a try, but have no knowledge of how to rig it...
 
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Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle. I like it!

My Bobs Special came with a sculpted yoke. I bought a commercial yoke pad with velcro that stayed on the yoke which was an improvement. Eventually, I replaced the yoke to be able to use 'candy bar' pads.
 
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That's a good idea, especially after you ad in the aid to kneeling when paddling. I use home made clamp on pads to a stock center thwart, works for me. Back in my portage days I could haul my 65 lb Chum for quite a while with them.

You have a beautiful canoe, 55lbs is a nice weight. Nice pictures.

DSC01465.JPG
 
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Thanks everyone for your kind comments, especially about the canoe- it's a real beauty, and in addition to the joy of paddling it, it is also really pleasing to look at. Brian, I seriously considered that yoke pad as well, and that's what made me start seriously thinking of the knee pad idea!

Robin, I thought also about making the thwart pads but didn't think they would seat well on my deeply sculpted yoke. Honestly, it was the influence of all your pictures of your canoes that convinced me to buy this wood canvas canoe- I hadn't really been looking for one, rather a lightweight composite solo canoe, but I kept going back to your pictures and easily saw myself in one! As a woodworker/carpenter I appreciate the craftsmanship of these canoes as well as the history.
 
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I have glued pieces of closed cell foam onto the yoke. Strangely, the most comfortable carrying of a heavy canoe for me was in in my scout leader days using an old cheep keyhole style pfd for padding.--turtle
 
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If you can balance the canoe even and use trim lines to adjust stern and bow angle when walking you can keep your arms at your sides and hands at hip level. I am assuming the pain comes from contracted lat muscles being bit into by the yoke. If you can keep them relaxed the pain may go away.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Patrick, very innovative.

I too am interested in your lovely canoe. What make and model is it, or is it something home made? What are its length, width and depth dimensions?
 
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Thanks Glenn,

My canoe is a home-built. The woman who sold it to me apparently built it herself in the 1980’s. In spite of no longer being able to get out and paddle due to age concerns, she is still working on canoes in her urban Philadelphia home basement. When I met her she had a 1929 Old Town OTCA freshly re-canvassed with 5 new ribs on canoe sling sawhorses! She told me she donated the form to the Philadelphia Canoe Club, but didn’t know what became of it over time. So, I don’t know if it was a one-off design, or has siblings out there somewhere...

My canoe is 15’ long, 29 5/8” wide (hull width; the mahogany outwales project 5/8” beyond on each side), and 13 1/2” deep at center. The hull is symmetrical, and has approximately 2” of rocker. The tapered ribs are 1/4” thick on 3 1/2” centers. The hull is very round-bottomed and therefore quite ‘tender’. I need to be quite careful entering and exiting the boat, so I never step in standing and push off; I must put one foot in, slide my butt over the gunwale onto the seat, and bring the outside leg in only after I’m seated. It’s taken a while to become comfortable paddling her, but now that I am, she’s a dream to paddle- quite unlike any other commercially produced canoe I’ve ever paddled!
 
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So, in practice, my 'kneepad/yokepad' idea actually worked on my recent Adirondack paddling trip. However, donning the stuck-together velcro tab kneepads was a pain in the ass each time I had to gear up for a carry. Reflecting on the actual use of the pads, I decided to try my hand at making a more traditional set of pads to bolt onto a straight thwart instead of using the sculpted yoke thwart I had been using. Here's my result:

I found some cast-off velour fabric in my wife's sewing materials pile. Admittedly, not waterproof, but this is just a first try so I am not worrying too much about long term durability, but rather, satisfying my curiosity about how this might work.

This 8.5x11 paper sample serves as the idea for how to lay out the fabric. In my case the wood blocks which support the padding were cut from some leftover 3/4 plywood, sized at 3.5"x7.5". Once the fabric is marked on the back side, I folded the corners inward along the 45 degree dotted lines and machine sewed on the solid line so that the solid lines aligned with each other. Then the folded over fabric was cut off about 3/8" from the stitching.

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Here are the two sewn; one inverted, one right side out, with the pre-drilled wood block behind.

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Test fit of the padding (two pieces of 2" foam).
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Foam padding fitted, blocks with carriage bolts installed.

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Assembled. The fabric was simply wrapped around like a Christmas wrapping and stapled to the back of the wood block.
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And, bolted to the straight thwart, though not installed on the canoe yet. I used a couple of flat steel plates with predrilled holes meant for U-bolt muffler clamps as the backing plates around the thwart. If I like the arrangement I will swap the machine nuts for wing nuts for ease of installation. I don't know if I will like having these pillow pads always there in view as I'm paddling. I may remove them between carries/portages just because aesthetics are important to me ( I know, I'm more than a little wacky about appearances!).

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Though I haven't mounted the thwart yet, I can see that I may want to make the backing boards longer, or offset them forward so the back of my neck doesn't hit the thwart. I'll comment once I've given them a fair trial.
 

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Nice job on the pads Patrick, and a lot more dignified than those kneepads. I have a similar pair. The bolts are heavier and they are further apart so I can offset it to the front. Even when moved forward, the thwart may contact your neck, I seem to remember taking a rasp to a straight thwart one time. Making them longer may make your boat stern heavy but you'll be able to make that call when you try them out.
 
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I've made a few sets, similar to yours. You are a far better Upholsterer than I !
Mine were heavy, and I struggled to find the right density of foam that was comfortable.
I am still searching for comfort and light weight.
For the covering, I used Naugahyde, and I even pulled leather off a couch, that had been discarded on Junk day.

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Thanks for the thread Patrick !
 
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Damn, that's a good idea for naugahyde or vinyl fabric Jim! The search for comfort and ease gets more important every year.
 
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