new canoe...how to trim

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I was an avid canoe paddler as a young man, but after several decades, I have come back. I bought a Wenonah Aurora ultralight 16 foot tandem. I want to be able to solo as well as paddle with a friend. I am having trouble getting the canoe to ride smoothly and be easy to paddle solo. I tried sitting (kneeling) at the bow seat with a 5 gallon jug of water in the stern. I found it difficult to row in a straight line. I am sure a large part is my lack of experience, but could there be a better configuration? I even thought of a stadium seat just in front of the yoke and sitting low. Any suggestions? Thanks!
 
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I paddle a 16’ x 35” w canoe often and almost always from the bow seat as you describe. I usually have a 75# dog up front for ballast. When she’s not with me, I have to move to the middle and it gets to be relatively harder to handle due to the width. In that position maybe you could heel the canoe over? If you’re not comfortable with that, I would add more ballast than the 5 gallons you describe and move it as far forward as you can.
For comparisons sake I’m 220# without paddling gear.

Good luck and enjoy the canoe.

Barry
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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Probably much of the inability to paddle straight is inexperience with the various single-sided correction strokes for a solo canoeist, which take a while to learn and are most easily learned by a hands-on instruction course. Meanwhile, this Bill Mason video is a classic in demonstrating the basic solo correction and turning strokes:


Your other problem is trim when soloing a tandem canoe. There two basic approaches. The first one is what you've tried: sitting backward in the bow seat with some sort of gear load or ballast at the other end. I have used a 20 liter drybag for this, but 40 lbs. is still not enough to level a canoe for me. Some folks just live with the front of the canoe sticking up in the air, I suppose.

The second general solution is to install a third seat or a kneeling thwart 15" or so behind the center thwart. That's still a little far back for perfect trim, so other folks will remove the center thwart entirely and put the third solo seat about 6" behind center. If you do that and want to portage, you can buy or make a clamp-on, removable portage thwart.
 
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Here’s a 16’ prospector with my 13 month old dog at 72#. I’m sitting in the bow seat. Other than the cooler there’s not much other weight in the boat. Even with the dog it’s still a tad light up front.
 

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Trim and paddle strokes sums it up as stated by previous posters. As a safety reminder...use water jugs, dry bag with water or firewood. Do not use rocks or other negative
buoyancy items for trim. In case of an upset, you don't need additional problems. Remember, paddling a canoe is a skill and will require a bit of practice to set the muscle memory.
Practice, at first, on calm days before tackling the wind/chop. Another thing to focus on is to practice more on your weak side. Solo, you will definitely want to paddle comfortably
on both sides. Just don't get discouraged, watch the videos, and as Glen said take some instruction if available. We all started out the same way.
 
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I know a ton of people paddle tandems solo. My hats off to them. I'm not sure I could do it. If I were using it for a multiday trip, I think I would just paddle from the stern seat, like I would if I had a partner, and use the gear to trim the boat as best I could. A lot easier on western rivers where you, typically, carry all your water. Pretty tough for the Boundary Waters.
The best solution is to have two boats. I know that's a big commitment, but it also means you don't have to compromise on your tandem.
 
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Many years ago, when I was in my 20's, I acquired a 17' aluminum Grumman as my first real canoe. I often paddled it solo, but the configuration of a thwart immediately behind he bow seat does not allow paddling from the bow seated backwards. So I learned how paddle from the stern and to trim using my camping gear, my dog, water jugs, or found chunks of wood. I admit that in those early days I sometimes even dangerously used rocks if the water was calm, being careful to not put them where they might get caught under the seat in case of capsize, while thinking about the potential danger.

One of my favorrite destinations was (and still is) an Adidrondack wilderness reservoir/lake, the long axis of which is unfortunately precisely aligned with the incoming prevailing wind, even when the weather is good. Too often I would start out in overcast weather with relatively calm wind, only to have perfectly clear weather under high pressure (but with strong wind) for my return trip back to the parking area. So I learned how to handle that big beast of a canoe solo and improved my single blade solo paddle strokes from the stern. I cautioned my wife at home to not worry and to not immediately call the rangers if I did not return at the exact time I predicted, especially if it was windy. That happened more than once. One time in particular I remember I was camped in a protected connected pond of the reservoir. I headed out in little wind but when I reached the long fetch of the main lake, the wind and waves grabbed my bow and no amount of paddling strength could turn me into it. it directed me downwind to the oppostie shore and I spent an unplanned camping night out until the wind calmed the next morning. No rescue necesssary, but much was learned.
 
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Probably much of the inability to paddle straight is inexperience with the various single-sided correction strokes for a solo canoeist, which take a while to learn and are most easily learned by a hands-on instruction course. Meanwhile, this Bill Mason video is a classic in demonstrating the basic solo correction and turning strokes:

When Kathleen and first started canoeing, we watched these Mason videos many, many times. It’s been many years since I last saw it. Still so very beautiful. Thanks for posting this, Glenn.
 
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I paddle my Northwind 16 solo. I replaced the straight thwart located behind the carry yoke with a kneeling thwart. I trim the boat by placing my pack in the front and correction strokes are vital.
 

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Here’s a 16’ prospector with my 13 month old dog at 72#. I’m sitting in the bow seat. Other than the cooler there’s not much other weight in the boat. Even with the dog it’s still a tad light up front.
What kind of Lab is your pup?
 
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She’s not a Lab, she’s a Chesapeake Bay retriever. People ask me what kind of lab mix she is a lot.
I wasn’t sure. I have one that looks just like her. The curls, color and yellow in her eyes made us think she (ours) was a Chesapeake ad well. But after wasting money on a dna test, turns out ours is mostly Lab, with one parent being a pit and the rest of her bloodline Lab.

Either way, good looking pup and canoe partner
 
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I paddle my Northwind 16 solo. I replaced the straight thwart located behind the carry yoke with a kneeling thwart. I trim the boat by placing my pack in the front and correction strokes are vital.
Gorgeous boat. I am second guessing my decision to order my Polaris in aluminum deluxe trim. Ah well. It’s done and the gunwale trim will be maintenance free. But maybe on the next boat 😁
 
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Gorgeous boat. I am second guessing my decision to order my Polaris in aluminum deluxe trim. Ah well. It’s done and the gunwale trim will be maintenance free. But maybe on the next boat 😁

Woodpuppy, I actually prefer and wanted aluminum trim. When I purchased my canoe no aluminum trim canoes where available and the wait time for one was unknown. The dealership offered me a discount and with the discount plus what I saved by not having to rent a canoe for the trip that I was in town for I decided to purchase the wood trim canoe. I do not like the wood. I have already had to refinish it. It is personal preference but I consider carbon Kevlar and wood as a high tech / low tech match and feel that aluminum or Kevlar trim would be a better match for my requirements.
 
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Woodpuppy, I actually prefer and wanted aluminum trim. When I purchased my canoe no aluminum trim canoes where available and the wait time for one was unknown. The dealership offered me a discount and with the discount plus what I saved by not having to rent a canoe for the trip that I was in town for I decided to purchase the wood trim canoe. I do not like the wood. I have already had to refinish it. It is personal preference but I consider carbon Kevlar and wood as a high tech / low tech match and feel that aluminum or Kevlar trim would be a better match for my requirements.

It probably is the better choice which is why I chose it. But I still love the aesthetics of the wood!
 
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