double blades in a canoe

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Jul 11, 2014
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I intend to paddle with a single blade, if and ever I get out to solo trip, but I've read about the pros of kayak paddles. They seem clearly ideal for a narrow solo canoe, but can they work for something around 36" wide? Most double blades I've found for sale measure 215 - 240cm. Assuming I'd need longer, would 240 be long enough? I'm 5'5" kneeling in a tandem, with the gunwale width in the neighbourhood of 34-36". This is all new to me. Any thoughts? Thanks for any help.
 
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I use a 250 double sometimes in my solos, and have used it solo in my Novacraft Pal tandem which is 34" wide and it worked fine. in the Pal, I sit near the center.
Turtle
 
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Jul 25, 2012
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Hi Brad, Some time ago I bought a Bending Branches "Slice" double blade canoe paddle. 280 cm. long. I had got caught in a wind where I was worried and decided to see if a double paddle would help in the future. My canoe is a 16' prospector that I paddle from the "front" seat only reversed. (the usual solo from a double seat canoe.)
Well, the paddle works great and gives me a whole lot more to fight the wind. To be honest, I don't like it, the tips are orange (!) and I feel like a cheater, not a real canoer, but what the heck, for the wind it really works.
The only actual problem I've found is I get water off the paddle inside the canoe, not much but still. I'll continue to play adjusting those rubber cuffs on the shaft to see if I can find an optimal position.
The paddle comes apart for storage and also adjusts for angle, something to do with the wind which I've never experimented with.

Most times I'll paddle with my real paddle but when the wind is getting frisky that Slice paddle is nice to have along.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
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Jan 31, 2013
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Warren, Manitoba
Having used a double blade in a w/c canoe, I know how efficient they can be. We see people use them all the time with the narrow solo boats and they fly with them. I think Marten uses one regularly.
 
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Well I never would have gotten into canoeing if my kayak club had not received a FreeStyle canoe newsletter. That just opened a new world of single blade joy.

I've been kayaking for years.. a double feels good to me at times. A single feels good too. I carry a double and a single on most trips. In some shalllow water a single really is a waste..it has to turn into a pole and you have to yank it out. With the horizontal double I can get a good bit of blade in those six inch deep places.

So I never bought any new kayak paddles. I've had 230s forever and am fine with them. I don't seem to ever get wet in the boat.. or any wetter than wetfooting entry and exit gets you. My boats are about 28 max at the gunwales and the rail is about 8 inches off the water. So I may be able to get away with a shorter blade. The only solo I hate double blading with is the Mad River Monarch and the Colden Dragonfly. They are both very deep boats and I rap my knuckles on the rails. With the Monarch it hurts with woven kevlar and fiberglass gunwales.

For a couple of years now I have been working on single blade hit and switch. Over time it may be less tiring than holding up a double blade, but the single I use is a light Zaveral paddle. Woodem paddles are in comparison exquisitely heavy.

I still like the rhythm of the double.. its mesmerizing.

Some may screech..I'm too old to be bothered.
 
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Okay, new question. Is kneeling a poor choice of positions for using a double blade? Is it preferable to be sitting with braced knees and/or feet? If that's the case, perhaps I should be sitting either in my stern (appropriately trimmed) or in the bow (stern forward and trimmed). This is an asymmetrical boat. Does any of this matter?
 
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Kneeling is ok.. If you are sitting I highly recommend a foot brace or foot pads. Your back will say thank you.. Otherwise you are fighting to not get pulled forward off the seat when sitting. Kneeling seems not to have any issues unless you have creamed your knees with DEET.
 
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I like kneeling position the best when double blading. When my back is sore, dubbleing with trunk rotation is therapeutic for me. I currently use a Bending branches Navigator 250 and love it.
Turtle
 
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Jul 25, 2012
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The only reason I use the double paddle is when the wind is up, usually accompanied by waves. So kneeling is so much more stable.

Rob
 
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Jan 22, 2012
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Wyoming
I use a double blade often when crossing a lake in the wind and chop. I'm 6'-2" and paddle a Wilderness at 30" wide. Usually do the double blade thing from a kneeling position, currently using a Werner 260 cm but going longer. I'm awaiting a new FoxWorx paddle that should work a bit better for me with its extra length. Hoping the longer paddle will allow better seated use when desired. I do have a foot bar in my canoe and agree with Yellowcanoe regarding the necessity of such for seated double blade paddling.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I used to paddle whitewater in northern California in 1980-81 with nine foot (274 cm) double blades from a centralized solo seat in a 36" wide Mad River Explorer. The Carlisle paddle was really heavy. But I was young and strong then.

Sitting in an eddy in Cache Creek above class 3 Rowboat Rapid in the spring of 1982, I was advised by a soon-to-become-famous canoeist (Bob Foote) to stow my double blade forever, lest I never develop into a complete and confident "real canoeist". So I did stow it, took out my single blade Mitchell, and successfully ran my first class 3 rapid solo with a single blade.

Since that day, I hadn't used a double blade in a canoe until a trip in Alaska last summer in a klutzy rental canoe. They didn't have two decent single blade paddles, so I took a double as my spare. The wind came up in the afternoon. Looking around to make sure Bob Foote wasn't in the area, and praying for preemptive moral absolution, I hesitantly picked up the Janus-faced thing.

I paddled about a half mile with it, winding around the wind-swept serpentine bends of a boring meandering river. It brought back memories. Unpleasant ones. It brought back feelings. Unpleasant ones: unaesthetic kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunking. Bob Foote was right. I had been able over 31 years to become a competent and confident single blade paddler in all water and wind conditions. I stowed the double blade where it belongs--out of sight and out of mind, at least for me--and finished the trip with the . . . egads! . . . heavy Carlisle single blade paddle.

As to kneeling or sitting, do whichever you would do with a single blade. Whether you kneel or sit is a function of the boat your are in, your balance and stability comfort, and the water and wind conditions--not the type of paddle. Since I'm a kneeler, that's what I do with all paddles, whether they be straight, bent or Janus-faced.
 
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Nov 29, 2012
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southwest Indiana
My advice is to borrow a double bladed paddle and try it in your canoe. Some people really like it and others really hate it. There is no question that a double bladed paddle works better in very shallow water and usually yields a higher stroke cadence than a single bladed paddle.

Although I have done a fair amount of flat water and white water kayaking and enjoyed it, using a double bladed paddle in a canoe is not my cup of tea. I find that using a paddle of 240 cm overall length, or shorter, results in an unacceptable (to me) amount of paddle drip in the boat, even when paddling a canoe much narrower than 36 inches beam. Unfortunately, longer double bladed paddles are of course heavier, and paddling a deeper boat with one can require lifting the upper blade quite a bit to allow the shaft to clear the gunwale.

I agree with Kim that paddling hit and switch with a lightweight bent shaft single blade is overall less tiring than using a long double bladed paddle, and I feel I can approach the paddle cadence of a double bladed paddle that way.

If you do choose to try a double bladed paddle, you will definitely want a take apart model so that you can stow the paddle in the boat easily when using a single blade. Double bladed paddles don't work that well when there are tight passages or a lot of overhanging tree limbs, so you will definitely want to take along a single blade as well.

In addition to deciding on length, you will have some other considerations. You will have to decide on whether to use non-feathered or off-set blades, and if you choose off-set blades you may have to choose the degree of off-set and whether to use right or left hand control. Some take apart paddles allow you to set the blades up either unfeathered or right or left hand control, and some allow a choice of a couple of different degrees of off-set.
 
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You can't breed dogs and cats. You want to end up with a Dat or a Cog? Them damn double blades are Satan's friend, and I will not use them! Canoes are for single blades!

Of course, I felt the same about bent shafts until Yellow convinced me……...haven't used my straight shaft since. But I'm gonna stay firm on this double blade thing! I will never have one in my canoe!
 
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I would never use one if my physical limitations weren't there. I resort to one only when I have to. I much prefer the single blade.
Turtle
 
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Jun 12, 2014
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Them damn double blades are Satan's friend, and I will not use them! Canoes are for single blades!

They're for kayaks too! I've sold my last kayak now but for the last couple years I paddled them I used a 46" single blade almost exclusively, otherwise I used a wing. I found it much more enjoyable and it wasn't that big of a speed hit. Nice having a rudder too and taking 20-25 hits per side before switching sides ( for a muscle break).

A double blade isn't so bad when you're going fast. I hate them when going slow though. A single blade is comfortable for either.

Alan
 
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You can't breed dogs and cats. You want to end up with a Dat or a Cog? Them damn double blades are Satan's friend, and I will not use them! Canoes are for single blades!

Of course, I felt the same about bent shafts until Yellow convinced me……...haven't used my straight shaft since. But I'm gonna stay firm on this double blade thing! I will never have one in my canoe!


We will be sure to bring an assortment of dats and cogs to Geraldton for your perusal. Sounds like a beer bet on the horizon..:)
 
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I'm pretty easy going. I'm allergic to cats, and we "own" three of them. They tell me when they want out. And in. And out. And in again. They also give me sh!t when I'm sitting in "their" comfy chair. (The one I have to keep shampooing.) I'm easy going. We have a resident mommy skunk and babies living under my work shed. I don't wander too much in the yard at night, and if I do, I don't make any sudden moves. The babies are cute, but mommy can't be trusted. They'll move out in the fall. Meanwhile, a family of raccoons rumble my garden every night to cause trouble. They muddy the bird baths and tumble through my wild flowers. The youngsters are cute, and when the cold weather comes, they'll move on. I'm easy going. All summer long mother Robins, Grackles and Starlings hold classes for their downy chicks in my yard, foraging for bugs, worms, and my precious raspberries. More berries will grow for me and them next year.
I'm easy going. Seeing a single blade quietly caressing the waters next to the elegant form of a canoe, is canoeing to me. Packs safely stowed, an unhurried guy or gal with eyes squinting towards the distant shore, is canoeing to me. Calmly hoisting pack and canoe for a solemn woodland walk across a portage, is canoeing to me. Sitting next to a small smouldering fire, with pipe, cigar, or steaming cup of coffee in hand while pondering tomorrows peaceful adventures, is canoeing to me. Using a kayak blade isn't canoeing to me. The thought of it seems awkward and strange, but the idea of saving strength and exertion appeals to me. It may be just another skill and compromise I'll need to adopt... but I'm easy going. I've never been a purist in any pursuit.
For some of you, canoeing is the action and the exercise. For others it's the tradition and the history. And still for others it's the art and the poetry. I'm still looking, feeling, finding what canoeing is to me. Maybe it's a little of all that you hold dear. I'm patient. I'll know when I find a glimmer of that magic moment. And when I do find it, I'll relax, breathe in, breathe out, and patiently pray to find it again. Because I'm easy going.
 
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Sorry for that last blabber post. I should just go straight to bed after a long day at work. Anyway, well rested, caffeined up for a long weekend ahead. To those of you enjoying a long weekend - have fun. To those of you not having a long weekend - don't worry about it. Here in S Ontario we tend to spend a goodly portion of it stuck in traffic. We're off to spend some noisy family time beside a river. I'll borrow some yak blades and do some experimenting, learning. I'll keep my eyes open for stray dats and cogs.
 
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