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Modifications to a Solo Yoke?

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I am going to be paddling a Colden Dragonfly this summer and it does not have a portage yoke to go with it.

I have purchased this:

Universal Portage Yoke

Using it as is, the canoe is so far above my head that I can't balance the canoe at all. So, we removed the center block which brought the canoe down to where I could balance it, but there was still enough room for me to put my head up straight.

But...the shoulder pads are hard and sharp on my shoulders. I have small bones, narrow shoulders. I have to move the shoulder pads actually onto the curved part of the yoke to make it sit on my shoulders and not be falling off.

So, I cut a couple pieces of old memory foam mattress and tied them onto the shoulder pads. This actually works. Except I suspect that the foam will not hold up for a long trip. Indeed, one block already split. I have been trying to think of what I could sew or glue around the foam to make it a bit sturdier. Whatever the material is, it has to be sturdy enough to withstand the trials of multiple and long portages, but soft enough to preserve the benefit of the molding capability of the foam.

IMG-5370.jpg

Suggestions greatly appreciated!


The other issue is a question. Here is the yoke installed on my Mohawk 13. I think you can see that the clamp does not fit onto the gunnel squarely. Does that matter? It seems to me that as tightly as I can screw down the clamp, it is still not firm enough to hold if lateral force is applied. I don't know if this will be an issue with the Dragonfly or not.


IMG-5368.jpg

Thank you, all, once again.
Erica
 
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Erica, that “Universal Portage Yoke” looks over engineered and under designed. We had, still have, a similar manufactured “universal” yoke, and I built another with some improvements. I didn’t care either one; the manufactured one had those plastic shoulder cups. They didn’t feel great on my shoulders either, and I have broad, meaty shoulders.

I suspect the memory foam is too fragile to survive for long, and I believe it is open cell; once it gets wet it will be like a sponge and stay wet. Shouldering the canoe and having sponge water run down your torso will not be fun.

I would replace the memory foam with some closed cell foam. Maybe minicel, which can be shaped and sanded for a custom comfort fit. There are minicel varieties with varying degrees of – technical term – squishyness. Someone here may be able to identify the squishier variety of minicel.

Or some other more compressible closed cell foam. I used pieces of a thick garden kneeling pad in one canoe; closed cell foam so it didn’t absorb water, but very compressible squishy comfortable.

We also have a set of those plastic gunwale clamps, or similar.

P5170004 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

In another technical term, they suck. There are different, simpler gunwale clamps that may work better.

These Conk style wood wedge clamps

P5170005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

\__ shaped aluminum clamps (I suggest gluing some rubber to the gunwale gripping part of the \__ )

P5170006 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

These aluminum L clamps seem to work very well on our vinyl gunwaled canoes.

P5170007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That is a removable utility sail thwart, but same clamp-on concept as a removable yoke. Those clamps are DIY rubber padded for better grip.

P5170011 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Any chance you can return that Hidden River yoke for a refund ($105!) and start over. Do you know anyone with even rudimentary woodworking skills who could DIY a (less) universal yoke that would work on both your Mohawk and Dragonfly?

Or perhaps someone on Canoe Tripping can suggest a better manufactured clamp-on yoke design.
 
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I made a couple of shoulder pads years ago, sorry, I don't remember what foam I used but It was probably just some soft foam I cut from a dog mattress that I doubled up. I have a pair of commercial pads that are way to hard for me. To cover the foam I used leftover canvas from my wood canvas canoe rebuilds. The commercial ones I have are covered with some sort of vinyl waterproof material. I prefer the canvas.
I made a solo yoke once, worked ok but I prefer a canoe with a center thwart.

3655714A-F2B1-4E53-8368-49A8760F8195.jpegAC7BB1C9-94F6-4F4F-94A6-0C0A2D249BB2.jpeg
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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I am going to be paddling a Colden Dragonfly this summer and it does not have a portage yoke to go with it.

I have purchased this:

Universal Portage Yoke
Narrow, dedicated solo canoes all have central seating, so none has a central yoke. Therefore, attachable yokes of various kinds have to be used if one-shoulder carrying the canoe is not feasible for long portages.

I wouldn't have chosen that particular yoke for the very reasons you have discovered, Erica. It looks as if it would push the canoe too high and those curved pads don't look all that comfortable.

Some folks just buy a wooden solo yoke and then glue on minicel cushions that they shape to their personal shoulder sizes by carving and sanding. You can even buy them:


You can also buy a Helium Level Six yoke pad (sold in various US and Canada canoe shops) to strap on a plain wooden attachable yoke:


In your case, if you can't return the entire gizmo to Piragis, maybe you could keep the wooden yoke and just exchange the curved clamp-on yoke pads, which seem to be sold as a stand-alone item . . .


. . . for a set of more traditional foam block pads, which are also sold by Piragis as a stand-alone item . . .

 
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To add on to Glenn’s post: if you really want to go luxe (and for not that much more $$ than block pads), you could also replace your foam pads with sling pads:


I did that with my portage yoke last year when its original padding fell off, and so far, I like the sling pads a lot. Their tall profile is a bit awkward when picking the canoe up and putting it down, but the pads are soft and conform to one’s shoulders well, so they are comfy and the canoe doesn’t sit too high once you have it up.

If you don’t have the tools or motivation to bolt on those pads yourself, there’s also a clamp-on version:


Or, you can buy a yoke with them pre-installed:


I haven’t tried it, but there’s even an interesting design that attaches to the seat instead of the gunwales that might solve your problem of sharing the yoke between canoes:

 
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I would get rid of all that stuff on your yoke, and put something like Glenn's helium yoke pad on it. I have something very similar to that on my solo, and i find it very comfortable. It will lower your center of gravity too. I can't comment on the connection of your yoke to the canoe, other than it looks kind of sketchy, and you don't want something like that to fail when you are well into a trip.
JlY7TbR.jpg
 
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I use the same yoke pad as Mem. Mine velcros to the sculpted yoke already installed. (Overkill). The fabric texture prevents shoulder slipping.
I bet you could sew one up in canvas Robin, replacing the velcro with leather straps. Not sure what kind of padding to use.
Either this design or 2 stuffed collars (like donuts) snapped to the center thwart also in canvas.
Not trying to make work for you, just imagining canvas/leather here.
 
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Erica, not an off-the-shelf solution, but for ultralight solos I start off with a Wenonah laminated tandem yoke, cut to fit, locate the holes and fab up clamps from wood (like Memaquay). The Wenonah yoke has a vertical contour and allows you to mount the pads at an angle to match your trapezius muscles. Because the laminated yoke is so strong, I usually cut lightening holes along the length. SAM_1620 (2).JPG
 
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I have and very much like the CVCA hammock style pads as shown above. I use that yoke when I literally run with my solo canoe during the total of 5 portage miles on the Adirondack 90 miler canoe race, and have portaged at least a couple of miles at a time on off trail travels elsewhere in the Adirondacks. I also use a line tied bow to stern, long enough to comfortably grip in one hand at my hip to control tip and tilt of the canoe as I carry up and down hillls on rough terrain.
 
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I'm a skinny little guy with bony (but wider) shoulders, and have the same yoke, and issues, using it with my solo, which weighs around 34lbs. I tried doubling the foam thickness of the pads; didn't help at all. Also removed the middle block to lower the carry, as you did.

I'm going back to adding padding (not shoulder blocks of any sort) to the yoke itself. Either like Mem's (Swift has a version with gel foam, which sounds pretty nice), or a couple of layers of closed cell foam, similar to sleeping pad foam. I glued two layers of foam, totaling 1.5", on the wood yoke on my tandem (50+ lbs); it's been pretty comfortable. I really think that padding the yoke directly is the way to go for those of us having issues with the blocks.

Added bonus is the yoke is lighter, and lower profile.
 
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I'm going back to adding padding (not shoulder blocks of any sort) to the yoke itself. Either like Mem's (Swift has a version with gel foam, which sounds pretty nice), or a couple of layers of closed cell foam, similar to sleeping pad foam. I glued two layers of foam, totaling 1.5", on the wood yoke on my tandem (50+ lbs); it's been pretty comfortable. I really think that padding the yoke directly is the way to go for those of us having issues with the blocks.
On my last trip I was using my kevlight Bell Northstar which is about 39#. I was using CVCA sling pads that clamp on and couldn’t get them adjusted to where the boat didn’t slide around my shoulders. It bounced around a lot too. On day three one of the pad frames exploded and threw them in my pack for the rest of the trip. I am replacing that canoes very basic yoke with a deep dish carved yoke and pad directly on the yoke like Mem and Stillwater have. It’s what I use on my W/C prospector and of all my boats it is the most comfortable and secure feeling. This has been my experience.

Good luck getting it dialed in!

Barry
 
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\__ shaped aluminum clamps (I suggest gluing some rubber to the gunwale gripping part of the \__ )
Is was using those on my homemade thwart of my raven but I had a terrible time finding the exact position and even worse, being able to lock the thwart down.

I'm currently trying a hinge mount. This is a hunk of oak which I have since formed into a real portage yoke. I think the idea of a thin pad on the time makes a lot of sense.
 

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I was going to add, in my post, but skipped it... I had a yoke years ago with that "deep dish", or doubly contoured shape; with super cushy closed cell foam 1.5 or 2 inches thick. Most stable and comfortable yoke I can think of. The one I had was aluminum, haven't seen one like it since. Got it back in the 80's.
 
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my first canoe was an 8olb Discovery. After one good portage I used some microcell foam left over from a whitewater saddle, cut and glued a pad about 20" wide across the middle of the yoke, 3/4" thick. This is superior to all the commercial products I've tried on a variety of other canoes. It is low profile and comfortable. Now I'm old that 80lbs drives me to my knees after half a mile or so, but the yoke is still comfortable ;-)
 
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After many different adjustments, here is the configuration I have settled on for the portage yoke. I would have liked to try the home made pads, Robin, but time is pressing. I leave in 9 days.

Replaced those funny hard shoulder scoops with the pads. Replaced the odd clamps with ones that are steel. The only part from the original purchase is the actual wooden yoke.

The yoke is currently on a much used Mohawk 24. I will be paddling a Dragonfly, so had to find some way to have an adjustable yoke. ''

Thank you all for your help.
IMG-5728.jpgIMG-5727.jpg
 
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Looks good, those pads look like they will be fine. There are some long portages on the Marshall Lake circuit, but not at the beginning of the trip IIRC, so by the time you reach them you'll know if the yoke/pad work for you, and adjustments can be made.
 
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I've been walking with the Mohawk and this yoke as much as a half mile on semi-rough ground, so I think these will be fine. Thank you, Robin.

What kills me is uphill. On the level I am okay. Nothing to do for it but take more breaks. :)
 
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Erica, a couple of months ago I posted several pictures of a very simple removable portage yoke I use on my Dragonfly on another thread about this subject. It doesn’t put the canoe way up. I can send pictures if you are interested.
 
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