How fast are you?

G

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I'm curious. What's your average speed covering ground in a boat?

My typical speeds (all calculated from a watch and map, no GPS):

Paddle and portage average over ponds and trails: 2.5 mph

Easy stream up and down current average: 2.5 mph

Calm lake or pond, no portage: 3-3.5 mph

Worst upstream no ports with obstacles: 1.5 mph

Best downstream with no ports but obstacles: 4-4.5 mph

Fastest paddle and port over ~10 miles: 4 mph

All these are with a tandem, mostly over 4-6 hours at a time. Average time includes breaks and diddling around.

The 4 mph average was the fastest I ever go, but it wasn't really strenuous. Just good conditions, nice weather, feeling good and no breaks. The ports were real short too. I would never want to go any faster than that.
 
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Those sound like reasonable numbers for someone that knows what they are doing. Rivers average around 2-5 knots a lot the time with some flat spots. We probably average 3-5 mph including the goof around time and some scouting. Sometimes the country can really fly by at more like 8 mph. Once on the Missouri R in MT we had good current and a tail wind. We held two boats together and I pulled out a bed sheet. We left roostertails and only had to steer.

EDIT-
After further thought I am going to revise the speed estimates. When the current is good people rest more. Three to five is probably overestimating the real speed. It takes some hard paddling to negotiate obstacles, and there is some scouting time.
 
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G

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I don’t use a GPS, and rarely paddle without at least a little stopping to smell the roses or muckle up with companions, so I don’t really know.

I did some rec racing for a few years, often on a 12.5 mile course that circumnavigated an island in the bay, so tidal flow and wind speed/direction were largely balanced out. My average times there were typically in the 2 hour 30 minute range.

No question the fastest I’ve moved in a canoe or kayak has been with a sail up. Sometimes frighteningly fast when I had too much wind and too much sail.
 
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I'll be quite honest, I don't care much about speed except for trip estimations and having some idea of how long it is going to take me to get from A to B when decided what I'm going to do.

I rarely exert myself for more than 6 hrs a day. Usually more like 4. It's vacation after all. I don't want to plan on an 8 hr day at 4 mph average speed to make camp... that's just too much effort for me.

I also want to be sure I don't miss anything important or interesting.

The other times I think about speed is when I overtake others or when they overtake me. It makes me wonder if I'm doing it right when I get passed.

The other thing is people quoting such and such a trip takes thus long... sometimes I've found wild discrepencies in my own experience. I don't listen to them anymore and just try to estimate from my past excursions and how long those took me.
 
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We usually plan trips with base camping days, as in, spend X amount of time to get to that spot, spend a few days there and explore, then return. We don't put much into calculating where we need to be at any time, we can stop anywhere if the weather warrants or we need a rest. I would imagine for solo that might be less distance per day type of thing, again, dependent on where you are. Lake travel takes longer, how many ports? Portaging is slow to be safe. If we take an extra day to get where we intend to go because the fishing is good, that is cool, it is a vacation after all. We have only ever done in and out trips, so a loop might make a difference in trip planning, but I would certainly build in extra time for layovers, fishing, exploring, etc on that front.

I think the best speed we ever achieved and actually know of, was downstream with higher water, 8.5 mph.
 
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Green River this spring. 9 mph. We just wanted to find the speed we would make if we actually paddled. We didn't do that for long. Otherwise the 100 miles of river would have been an overnight.

Yukon River 10 mph.. actually paddling. Six not paddling..

13 mph here in a tidal race. There is a bit of help from tidal currents! Again just for fun

46 miles in 7 hours on the Upper Missouri in May. Cause there wasn't a decent campsite to be found.

-2.5 mph in a tidal current ferrying across.. We really didn't need that information though our GPS equipped friend gleefully shared. We could tell by the shoreline sliding by.

Tandem on lake trips usually about 18 miles a day. with portages. Solo about 12 miles a day. Occasionally I will do a long day but after 25 miles I am spent.

My usual planning calls for 2mph an hour for 6 hours solo.. and 3 tandem. Its often remarkably accurate. I can waste a lot of time on portages..
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Over the past 10 years of solo canoeing, measured by GPS and averaged over all non-directional waters and various solo canoes, about 2.8 mph. By non-directional waters, I mean that I include rivers that I've paddled equally both upstream and downstream, but not any rivers that I've only paddled downstream. I'm a leisurely but steady paddler. As of two years ago, I could still hold that pace for 10 hour days without tiring.

The fastest I've ever gone on still water was 7.5 mph in a sprint with my Huki V1B outrigger canoe. That was when I was 59, not in the best shape, and at an altitude of 7100 feet, to which I was not acclimated, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I could probably have hit 10 mph in that canoe when I was 20.
 
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My Wenonah Prism moves along at 3.3 mph effortlessly. Checking it with the GPS I find it takes too much energy to rush it any faster. I know that how far I will move in a day is all about hours on the water and more importantly the PORTAGES.
 
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