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7/09/2018 12:50 pm  #1

Centering yoke pads

I'm adding shoulder pads to our new Nova Craft.  The yoke doesn't hit me right and always feels like it is going to slide off.  The yoke is slightly off the center balance point, or at least it is where it hits me makes causes it to be just off the balance point, so the stern drops.  It isn't off by a lot, so I'm thinking when I add the pads, I have an opportunity to balance the boat to find the sweet spot relative to bow-stern balance.

The only way I can think to do is get the boat over a sawhorse and manipulate it until the boat balances, and ta-daa, from underneath I can mark the spot.  The sawhorse has a 2x4 on top of it, but 4" (ok, 3.5") is pretty wide, so I'm thinking maybe I temporarily mount a narrower piece of wood on top of the 2x4, so when I do get the boat to balance, I'm really on target, and can then just pencil in that sweet spot on the yoke.  

To get the distance between the pads I can just take measurements from the pads on the other canoe.  From that point it should be pretty straightforward.  I just hope the center point isn't right in the middle of a contoured part of the yoke.   

Anybody else got a smarter way?

here are the yoke and the pads.  The photo doesn't really show it, but the yoke is contoured, intended to be comfortable on the shoulders.  It is ok from car to water, but as mentioned I always feel like my shoulders are slipping out of the groove, and wood is a bit on the unforgiving side when the boat is bouncing around on you.  I used this style of pad for my Merrimack for 25 years, and use them on my Old Town canvas as well.  I find them very comfortable.   



7/09/2018 12:52 pm  #2

Re: Centering yoke pads

I guess I should note that to balance the boat over the sawhorse the plan would be to do so upside down (on the gunwales) would be quite a trick to balance the boat right side up like that.....

     Thread Starter

7/09/2018 2:03 pm  #3

Re: Centering yoke pads

I think your approach is reasonable and sound.  Only recommendation I would add is to consider using a "painter" line when portaging. 

A Painter is a long, lightweight cord (think paracord thickness) tied to the bow and the stern with enough slack so that when the canoe is resting upright the line could hang outside the boat and just about drag in the water at the lowest point.  When you pick up the canoe and place it on your shoulders, you can then grab that painter and use it to manage any pitch rather comfortably.  I personally like the canoe to be ever so slightly bow-heavy so that I am putting just a small amount of tension on the painter and pulling the stern towards me.  It keeps the canoe level when portaging and also tends to keep the yoke in a sound position on my shoulders.  I usually have enough slack in my painter to do a couple quick loops around three or four of my fingers to get the right amount of tension to be comfortable.  In this way, you can do any portage with your arms at your sides instead of up on the gunwales - I find this to really extend the distance I can portage without my arms getting tired.


7/09/2018 2:11 pm  #4

Re: Centering yoke pads

        i tie a rope from the bow to the stern,  (  i have little handles in front of the deck plates at each end)    tie the rope fairly tight, i hold the rope in one hand,  slightly pulling to steady  (balance) the canoe on my shoulders as i portage, much easier than grabbing the gunwales to steady the canoe, more relaxed while walking,, i have seen some pro trippers attach a small rope to there belt,, same idea, stops the canoe from shifting,,
 try this trick at home, what side is more comfortable, right or left?
  i hope this helps,,
    i guess i did not get up early enough today to beat the old p.a. paddle  in the advice column,,
   great minds think alike?

Last edited by swedish pimple (7/09/2018 2:13 pm)


7/09/2018 2:56 pm  #5

Re: Centering yoke pads

Indeed they do, Swede!


7/09/2018 4:02 pm  #6

Re: Centering yoke pads

I've thought about using a painter in the past, but I always seem to forget about it - maybe your comments will finally make me remember to try that.  Generally I'm balanced enough that I carry with one hand on the gunwale and one at my side, occasionally switching up.  But there's no doubt that the hand in the upward position gets tired faster over distance.  I'm just glad I can carry the boat given the shoulder thing.  Actually I should update the injury progress while I'm logged in.

     Thread Starter

7/09/2018 9:42 pm  #7

Re: Centering yoke pads

A short rope attached to both ends of the front thwart and hanging down to your waist level allows for very easy control as long as canoe is slightly stern-heavy. Just push slightly down with one hand or rest both hands on it if you like.


7/09/2018 10:20 pm  #8

Re: Centering yoke pads

My "painter" is tied to the bow and the first thwart or seat forward of the yoke. After loading the canoe on my shoulders I can reach out and grab it. It has enough slack so can hold it in a variety of positions and also easily switch hands. It;s nice when weaving through trees on the portage you can use the painter to steer. However, when the terrain gets particularly tricky I find that I put my hands on the gunnels to provide maximum stability. Also, I use 4 mm static cord as its thicker and more comfortable than paracord.

Last edited by solos (7/10/2018 4:42 pm)


7/09/2018 10:45 pm  #9

Re: Centering yoke pads

I also think that a painter line will be of great benefit to your shoulders. Getting the hands down is such a relief.


7/10/2018 8:42 am  #10

Re: Centering yoke pads

DGD, one of my old canoes had a slippery wooden yoke that tended to slide off the shoulders... a very quick fix (10 min) was to staple open-cell foam to it. The OC foam stays grippy on the shoulders even when wet and sliding around is eliminated. Closed cell foam, like the blue foam pad material or ensolite was still slippery, so sticking with the OC. It has to be replaced every few years but it works. The yoke is old and the staple holes aren't a big deal but you might not want to inflict that damage on an expensive new yoke.

BTW, there are worse things when porting than carrying slightly stern-heavy... certainly preferable to bow-heavy which is a real pain since the arms work much harder trying to keep the bow up and out of the ground. Enjoy the portage & good health to you.

Last edited by frozentripper (7/10/2018 8:45 am)


7/11/2018 6:13 am  #11

Re: Centering yoke pads

I always like to have the rear of the boat a tiny bit heavier than the front, that way I can hold onto a painter from the front and just keep a very small amount of pressure on it steady while carrying to keep balanced.


7/11/2018 7:09 am  #12

Re: Centering yoke pads

I find that blue foam, wrapped with duct tape provides both comfort and grip. 



7/19/2018 11:55 am  #13

Re: Centering yoke pads

I use two painters, tied to either side of the seat in front of the yoke.  I weigh the canoe so that it pulls slightly to the rear and wrap the painters around each hand so that I'm walking with my arms down and slightly away from the sides of my body.  It's a comfortable position, no switching hands, more control when walking around obstacles.  Don't usually have to touch the gunwales until I'm lifting it off of me...


7/19/2018 12:59 pm  #14

Re: Centering yoke pads

Thank you everybody for your input!  I put a painter in the Nova Craft (after centering the yoke pads).  The boat is pretty even front to back now, maybe dips just a tiny bit toward the back, which is fine.  The painter is positioned so my right hand/forearm rest on it with my elbow almost at a 90 degree angle, and that is pretty comfortable.  Relative to the shoulder injury - for one thing, the shoulder feels very good now in general (there are moments....), and carrying this way is very rotator cuff-friendly. 

The painter worked so well that I put one on my Old Town canvas.  The boat weighs 58 pounds, but somehow the boat always carried heavy, and I never understood why until I put the painter in.  With the painter, and my shoulders down, I can feel the pads wanting to slide off my back.  A-ha moment - the pads are placed too far back in the yoke, so with my neck tucked into the yoke, the pads don't quite get all the way up on my shoulders.  Argh. 

Sparing some explanation, I need to move the pads forward to some pre-existing holes so they rest up on my shoulder properly, and I need to move the yoke backward to achieve something akin to balance.  
I'm officially a fan of using a painter.  The biggest downside is that if I leave them in the boats full time, they will pose a hazard in getting the boat on and off the car.  I really need to make sure I'm clear of the roof rack bar and not wrapped around it or that could lead to unpleasantness!

     Thread Starter

7/19/2018 1:02 pm  #15

Re: Centering yoke pads

*sniff* proud moment for me *sniff*


7/19/2018 1:30 pm  #16

Re: Centering yoke pads

dontgroandaddy wrote:

... The biggest downside is that if I leave them in the boats full time, they will pose a hazard in getting the boat on and off the car.  I really need to make sure I'm clear of the roof rack bar and not wrapped around it or that could lead to unpleasantness!

I pass the painters up under the seats and thwarts just before loading the canoe on the truck. They get tied together around the yoke. That keeps them out of the way. 

I will note that I also use a Yakima Boat Loader extension bar with my racks which gives me a place to rest the canoe and adjust the ropes before I finish loading. 


7/19/2018 3:22 pm  #17

Re: Centering yoke pads

PaPaddler - and a well-deserved one.  I mentioned it to my wife, but I'm not sure she fully appreciated that I took somebody else's advice.  She's grown accustomed to me being a rock head.

RobW - I'll end up doing something like that with the painters.  I've got a Rav4, and a Thule system with really wide bars since I need to carry two canoes now.  You use a loader extension - I stand on a big rectangular stool.....

     Thread Starter

Board footera

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