Rethinking 30 years of soloing tandems

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This is a topic I've long pondered. I well remember one day paddling my symmetrical OT Penobscot 16 from the front seat, with a gusty headwind, on the upper Delaware. I could not control it. I resolved then and there to get a dedicated solo, which I did (Magic). It is all trade offs. There is much to be said for the leverage gained in the stern position of a tandem. Trade offs between freeboard wave clearance and low windage. Nothing is perfect.

(I've been MIA with back problems and elbow tendonitis, so absent from the forum for some time, but working my way back)
 
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I'm glad your on the upswing Dave. Start out slow and don't go out in the wind.

As far as your experience on the Delaware I would think being stern heavy going downstream into a headwind is a bad combination, but if you still have that Penobscot try paddling it from the stern on a calm summer evening. I paddle kneeling which is more stable than sitting.
 
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Thanks, guys. I sold the Penobscot many years ago. Many happy memories in her. For a few years, it was my one and only, doing solo and tandem duty. It was outfitted really well, if I do say so myself. I would slide cargo around to go bow or stern heavy. But, that day on the Delaware really sucked.

The guy that bought it was super happy. I might not have sold it if I had any inkling that royalex would be phased out. Who would have thought? Everybody has a killer star trek communicator in their pocket, but they cannot sell enough rolyalex canoes to justify the factory making it.

Replaced it with a used Bell Northstar tandem, black gold, asym. Significantly lighter. I have not tried to paddle flatwater with the Northstar solo from the stern with the bow counterbalanced- weighted down. I would not want to do any class II like that, and I would think one would really have to horse it around in any stiff winds.

The Magic is great for sit and switch. Not so great for kneeling or moving water. I have a secret plan for the perfect solo boat that has a low wind profile, the seat is high enough for me to paddle kneeling comfortably with my size 11 shoes, enough freeboard for big lake water, enough rocker for class II. I will let you know how it turns out, coughrockstarcough
 
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I've paddled my prospector from the bow seat, but would NEVER do it with a solo boat on hand. Just too wind and load sensitive. Of course, I'm not a big kneeling fan due to gimpy knees.
 
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Years ago I read about paddling tandems from the bow seat facing the stern. The benefits of increased stability and better trim where enough for me to adhere to this technique 100% of the time and I thought it was the only way to go. When I would see someone solo paddling a tandem from the stern with their bow way out of the water I assumed that they were either inexperienced or uninformed. This changed for me earlier this summer when for whatever the reason I don't remember I started paddling from the stern seat and realized the benefits of it. Firstly the more narrow seat position makes for more efficient and comfortable paddling. The second thing which is counter intuitive is that the boat turns on a dime because it is pivoting at the stern with little resistance from the water on the hull. This was with an empty boat, with a load you will loose the benefit of pivoting at the stern for easier turning but you will get the benefit of better trim and stability and still enjoy the ease of paddling.

I would like to add that the boat makes a difference. My 18' guide is pretty stable from the stern seat even having some secondary stability, same with my winona spirit II. The 18 footer is so stable I can paddle it while sitting on the deck. My 16' Yankee is also pretty good. My 16' OT guide which is a tippy boat to begin with is very doable but not too forgiving. Although the one time I had to use a brace to prevent a swim in it I was in the bow facing the stern, so there is no gauranty either way.

I would like to emphasize that it is safer to paddle from the bow seat, especially for the inexperienced who may not be confident and proficient with braces. It would also be easy to flip if the bow rose up on a submerged or at the surface obstacle like a stump. It works equally well if you are a hit and switch guy or using correction strokes. I was surprised at how easy it was to keep the bow going directly into a stiff wind, but once you get a few degrees off wind it will spin you around. I also found that I prefered using a longer paddle, especially in a breeze.

So what I once thought was the rule,(sitting in bow seat) is now the exception for me, and the guy paddling in our logo from the stern seat has it right.
A canoe is designed to be paddled in a certain direction. Not so important for symmetrical hulls, but it's still not ideal to paddle backwards.
As you know, the problem with paddling a tandem, solo, from the stern seat, is it makes trimming the boat challenging.
I have two composite solo canoes, but I'd like to have a "plastic" solo tripping canoe, and there isn't a lot of choice out there. Pretty much everything is tiny. So, I've been looking, a little bit, for a narrow tandem that I could put a center seat in. The closest thing I've found, so far, is a canoe with three seats. I'd just have to take out the two end seats.
 
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I would replace any of my tripping canoe by a w/c... One day One day!!
The one I have in mind is a freighter, 17', 39" @gunnels, 36"@ water line, I think it is 17 inch deep! A real boat for moose hunting!!
Hey man. The original ad for the Sawyer Charger was two guys coming out heavy with a moose in their boat.
 
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I have paddled tandem boats solo for decades. Now I have a converted tandem to solo boat the 15'7" Canadienne. With a 32 inch beam it is fast, but feels tender when empty.
 
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...I'd like to have a "plastic" solo tripping canoe, and there isn't a lot of choice out there. Pretty much everything is tiny. So, I've been looking, a little bit, for a narrow tandem that I could put a center seat in. The closest thing I've found, so far, is a canoe with three seats. I'd just have to take out the two end seats.
I hear you. Swift Raven is a large volume, Royalex, dedicated solo tripper. 60+ pounds, I believe. I'm not so interested in portaging 60+ pounds these days, especially for a solo. Northstar Phoenix IXP layup is supposed to be bomber, but for a long trip I think I'd like more volume. Hemlock SRT is intriguing, though composite....I've been pondering this for awhile, as I think on a long trip comfort on the water is paramount. Larger volume boats that are reasonably stable, provide more daily comfort than a twitchy but efficient solo hull. And yet the trade off to the large volume 'comfier' canoe (tandem rigged for solo) is efficiency. It's going to be slower going and take longer to get there, as a general rule.
 
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Three seasons after my OP I’m still paddling from the stern whenever I can. I only switch to bow seat forward paddling when it’s windy or when fishing or the water is cold.

Proper trim is situational and if you are paddling from the stern you want to be bow light. The straighter your keel the more bow light you want to be.
 
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.I've been pondering this for awhile, as I think on a long trip comfort on the water is paramount. Larger volume boats that are reasonably stable, provide more daily comfort than a twitchy but efficient solo hull. And yet the trade off to the large volume 'comfier' canoe (tandem rigged for solo) is efficiency. It's going to be slower going and take longer to get there, as a general rule.
The last 3 years I’ve been solo paddling a Northstar Northwind 16 tandem. Out fitted with a center seat and foot bar.. it certainly passes the comfort hurdle as I can readily move about in the cockpit. On a recent 70 mile overnight trip I had no difficulty staying with my companions in solo canoes if I stayed focus on paddling technique. Responsive hull. The Northstar Polaris is a slightly more narrow and longer tandem that should be faster. In blacklite the canoes weigh~40lbs
 
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