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2/22/2019 8:29 am  #1


Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

Hi All,

So this summer I plan to do quite a few solo trips, however, I never have done a solo trip before. Though I'm generally a competent paddler, portager, and camper, I am seeking advice on a few things.

 - How best to portage? Do people double-pack to get their paddle after they carry their canoe? Or do people carry their canoe while holding their paddle with their hand?
 - How hard is it to solo long distances on the lake? W/o the weight of a second paddler in the bow, doesn't the wind just blow them around despite how strong of a paddler one might be? And even if I sit in the bow and turn around, I feel the canoe will still be quite lob-sided.
 
Any help would be appreciated
 

 

2/22/2019 9:15 am  #2


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

There’s so much that can be talked about for solo tripping but a few key things I would recommend...

- start with an easy route, something that leaves a lot of buffer time, in a relatively popular area of the park in case of emergency, etc. Something like Canoe Lake to Burnt Island, or Rock Lake to Pen Lake would be a good first solo trip in my opinion.

- people do solo in tandem boats but I always rent an actual solo boat so I don’t have any of the issues you mentioned. Algonquin Outfitters have plenty available and most of the other outfitters have some, but they vary in terms of weight, size, etc.

- bring an extra paddle, and if you’re crossing big lakes, bring a double blade (kayak) paddle for your first trip, until you get a better feel for your capabilities of paddling solo

- some solo travellers will single carry but I decided pretty quickly I prefer double carrying when I travel solo. Depending on what I’m bringing, I usually do Canoe + day pack in one carry, and the rest of my gear in a second carry

- be extra cautious at every point. You’re by yourself, you’d really be better off not rolling an ankle, tipping your boat, having a bear at your site, etc.  None of those are good situations regardless, but if you can take extra precautions to avoid them while traveling solo, it’s worth doing (ie when crossing a big lake stay relatively close to shore)

- give yourself more time than you would think, for everything. Cooking, cleaning, collecting wood, setting up and taking down camp... it’s all much more time consuming when you’re solo. Until you have enough experience to know how long everything will take when you’re alone, make sure you build in enough buffer for everything throughout the day

Any other questions feel free to ask


Trip Reports & Campsite Pictures
www.algonquinbeyond.com
 

2/22/2019 9:49 am  #3


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

Thanks for the reply TrippyThings!

I think all of that makes a lot of sense, I appreciate the input.

The only thing I will say is that I am a very experienced sterner, so I don't think there will be much need for me bringing a kayak paddle... My central concern was more or less regarding the boat being lob-sided with one person, and therefore, easier for the wind to push around....

I have never been in a solo canoe before - do you think if I got one from Algonq Outfitters that this issue would be alleviated? I have 0 experience in a solo canoe (don't think I've ever seen one) so I don't know what to expect.

Thanks
 

     Thread Starter
 

2/22/2019 10:33 am  #4


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

I'm a novice solo tripper. I bring both a single and double bladed paddle. Even as an experienced sterner I find the double bladed is really helpful in the wind and much faster. I typically switch back and forth between the two. 

You will get blown around a lot more without another person in the boat. I always try to pack lightweight but I actually try not to pack too lightweight on a solo trip because the weight of your pack at the front of the boat is really helpful. A proper solo boat will help reduce the blowing around because it's a shorter boat. 

Soloing for me essentially just means watching the wind more carefully and making a more concerted effort to stay on smaller lakes and in the lee of islands and shorelines. 

There are solo canoes and pack boats. Solo canoes are just like a tandem but smaller with only one seat. A pack boat has a kayak-style seat as opposed to a canoe style seat and is designed to be paddled with a double bladed paddle. If you're more used to single blades, I'd recommend a solo canoe. You can still use a double bladed paddle but it's not required. Both boats usually come with a removable yoke. 

I typically double carry portages when solo-ing. Canoe on pass one and pack and paddles on pass two. Typically we are strict single carriers and I've done it before on solo trips (tie the paddle into the boat underneath the yoke and the seat) but I always try to be extra careful and don't want to slip and fall with a weight while portaging by myself. 

Hopefully that helps! Enjoy!

 

2/22/2019 10:57 am  #5


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

My solo trip was from Rain to Islet. Very Short route. I rented a solo boat and it worked great. The only hiccup is having to install and remove the yoke for portaging but easily rectified. I single carried strapping what I could to the boat. Paddles, PFD, Fishing rod. I pack light so my carrying weight was pretty limited. I chose this area due to high traffic and  access to back packing trail as an alternate emergency route. The portages were relatively easy. Soloing Tandems in the wind can feel a little wonky but this is simply a matter of weight distribution  in the boat. Loading gear to the front can help allot. Enjoy. I hope to do another this summer as well. 

 

2/22/2019 11:02 am  #6


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

In regards to boat weight, obviously putting your packs forward in the canoe helps, but if the lakes are windy I usually also put a dry bag full of water attached to the bow handle of the boat to provide additional weight. This may not need to be performed for all solo paddlers, but I am 250lbs  so it really helps level the boat and catch less wind on the bow.

 

2/22/2019 11:16 am  #7


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

cookgr2 wrote:

Thanks for the reply TrippyThings!

I think all of that makes a lot of sense, I appreciate the input.

The only thing I will say is that I am a very experienced sterner, so I don't think there will be much need for me bringing a kayak paddle... My central concern was more or less regarding the boat being lob-sided with one person, and therefore, easier for the wind to push around....

I have never been in a solo canoe before - do you think if I got one from Algonq Outfitters that this issue would be alleviated? I have 0 experience in a solo canoe (don't think I've ever seen one) so I don't know what to expect.

Thanks
 

Correction strokes are more effective the further they are from the center of the canoe.  Since you are seated in the middle of a solo canoe you will find it harder to keep the canoe on track than if you were paddling in the stern of a tandem canoe.  The design of the canoe also makes a difference.  Some solo canoes are designed to track well and can be paddled using a "hit and switch" method where you alternate doing four or five power strokes on each side of the canoe.  This can be quite efficient as you are not doing correction strokes, however such a boat would not be much fun to paddle down a winding river.  My own solo canoe is a Swift Osprey that is designed to be able to turn relatively easily.  A double bladed paddle is definitely an asset with this canoe, especially if it is windy out.

I was able to single pass portage back when I had a 39lb Swift Heron.  However, my Swift Osprey weighs 49lb and I am now in my early 60's so I would no longer be able to single pass portage.  It might be doable if I had a carbon fiber solo canoe.

Renting a solo canoe for your first trip would certainly be a good idea and I would be pretty sure that Algonquin Outfitters has a better selection of solo canoes in their fleet than anyone else.
 

 

2/22/2019 11:29 am  #8


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

AO rents the Keewaydin, Shearwater and maybe the Osprey solo canoes and some pack boat models as well. They likely do have the best selection around.

 

2/22/2019 11:32 am  #9


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

As a matter of fact paddling sit-and-switch down a winding river, e.g. the Nip in the park, is easier than paddling on one side, which necessarily will require lots of corrections. Of course it helps to use a short bent-shaft paddle for this technique.
Paddling solo in strong wind it's important to keep upwind end heavier than the downwind, when possible. It's easier done in a solo boat, for instance going upwind just shift the bigger pack from the stern to the bow. In a tandem canoe soloing upwind might require the paddler to move to the center of the canoe.

 

2/22/2019 11:59 am  #10


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

my first solo trip 3 years ago  was not a good one, i decided to go to the shell lake access point and do the 1 km portage to Shirley lake, renting a solo canoe from the outfitter in Madawaska. I am a strong stern paddler, but I could not get the hang of it in the solo canoe. There was also a lot of head and side wind, and I kept getting turned and/or blown to the side  no matter what i tried. I gave it everything i had over the next few days, tried whatever i could think of, and ended up filling one of my seal bags with water to put in the bow, which helped but by then my mood was very very sour. The next solo trip I rented a keewaydin 15,a  pack boat (with the kayak seat) from  AO outfitters in Dwight (oxtongue river) and at around 42 pounds, its easy  to portage. All other  problems solved, it was a dream to paddle. I have never looked back and never tried a solo canoe again.  I do use a kayak paddle, the boat steers as straight as an arrow in head wind, is easy to manouvere in side wind. I do double portages, for the same reason others mentioned, being alone, and getting hurt being my main concern.
I agree with what all the others on this forum say regarding trip length and the cautions to take.

 

2/23/2019 9:07 pm  #11


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

Hi,
I'm new to the board. 
I've got a Alchemist Legend 16.7 that I use when I'm in Algonquin solo.  I sit in the bow seat so I'm more in the middle of the canoe.  Would a double-bladed kayak be of any benefit for me?

 

2/23/2019 9:30 pm  #12


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

Kayak paddles are ideal with narrow canoes that have low gunwhales and a pronounced tumblehome.

This is my solo canoe ..  16' long and part way to being an open-decked kayak.

If you're going to use a kayak paddle in a regular canoe, make sure the paddle is extra long so it can reach out over the gunwhale without you having to actually lean-out and down to reach the water..

http://www.algonquinadventures.com/PCI/lakes/BigPorcupine/images/BPCS2Landing.jpg

 

2/26/2019 8:06 pm  #13


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

cookgr2 wrote:

How best to portage? Do people double-pack to get their paddle after they carry their canoe? Or do people carry their canoe while holding their paddle with their hand
 

I suspect most soloists that double carry will carry their paddle with their packs. But I think it’s unlikely you’ll ever see someone carrying a canoe while holding a paddle. Get a bit of rope and tie it to the canoe in a position that provides optimal balance. After a few portages you’ll figure out exactly where the optimal spot is because there is nothing like an improperly balanced canoe to motivate you to improve your technique.

Also, don’t forget to do what I call “The Zeroth Portage”. This is when you park your car, prep your gear, and start your journey by portaging to the water, just like you plan on doing during your trip. It lets you spot flaws and omissions while still being a stone’s throw from your car so you are more likely to easily fix the issue.

 

2/26/2019 11:13 pm  #14


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

I haven’t done much single carrying portages as a soloist.  For myself I use a couple gear ties and tie up my paddles in the canoe.  The second carry I carry the canoe pack.  Being alone I’ve always worried about stumbling on a portage with too much weight on me.

 

2/27/2019 6:24 am  #15


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

It's great to see the growth in the production and variety of solo canoes in recent years. I was just down at the Outdoor Adventure Show and noticed Swift now has some minor competition from Souris River and Northstar Canoes. And I'm sure there are lots of others. I'm a fan of solo canoes, but as much I appreciate the convenience, speed and comfort of my Keewaydin 15, I also recognize its limitations -- or perhaps, they are my limitations from decades of solo paddling tandem canoes. 

I now get nervous approaching upriver takeouts at rapids, as I have had multiple cases of partial spills in these situations--the result of an inability to easily manoeuvre the stern of the boat into shore while the bow is pointed out, thus allowing the current to take the stern and spin the boat around. Without extreme caution, one could easily be pulled into a rapid this way. I've managed only by grabbing frantically at branches or other on-shore obstacles to arrest the spin--but this would likely fail on the Pet at spring flood, for example. Of course, this really isn't a flaw with solo canoes in general, rather the asymmetrical design of mine. Don't get me wrong--again, I love my Kee15 and before that, I enjoyed a fantastic solo tripping experience in an Osprey--but I've been searching for a symmetrical hull in a solo canoe for some time. Just not sure it could ever be a reality, as I expect it may bring other issues in such a narrow craft. 

In a symmetrical tandem design though, performance is completely predictable in any kind of water. Two years ago this spring I enjoyed an amazing paddle straight into a big headwind on Cedar Lake in a Trillium 15. I was sitting in the bow facing backward with my pack in the stern (ahead of me). Gorgeous big rollers and breakers coming straight at me and I wasn't nervous for a second. The boat didn't ship a drop of water, and in a couple of seconds I could adjust the angle so the waves would hit exactly as I wanted. From time to time I had to adjust my position closer to the centre thwart, kneeling as opposed to sitting, just to ensure proper balance and responsiveness: no big deal. I sure didn't make fast progress, but I had a LOT of fun that morning! I wouldn't be as comfortable doing that same paddle in my Kee: the narrower hull reduces overall stability, the asymmetrical hull reduces the responsiveness to turning strokes aft of centre, and the tumblehome would allow water over the gunnels. 

Again, I'm a fan of solo canoes for their low weight, ease of use, and speed. But if anybody else out there was privileged enough to see Becky Mason paddling that 15 Prospector in the demo pool at the show Saturday afternoon, you know how beautifully a traditional symmetrical hull responds to proper paddling technique. Sheer poetry in motion!

I wonder how she would have made out in my Kee.

 

2/27/2019 11:13 am  #16


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

Landing above a rapid canoe should be positioned in the upstream ferry position, if possible, i.e. bow facing the current. It's much easier to point the bow to the shore while stern being in the current. There's little danger then of current picking up and turning the canoe.

 

2/27/2019 11:46 am  #17


Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

look up "painter line" for bow, stern,, helps along portages,, 

 

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