Steering Solo

How to steer a canoe solo? When you do not have a paddeling partner, the rules of steering change a bit, though all the basic principles still apply.

Key #1: Get Your Boat Trim!

This may be the single most important part of paddeling solo. If you are lucky enough to be paddeling a solo canoe, then your seat will already be in about the right spot for your boat to be level in the water. If, however, you are paddeling a tandem (two-seater) canoe by yourself, you have a bit more of a challenge.

If you try to paddle a tandem canoe sitting on one of the seats, it is best to sit on the bow seat, facing the stern (with your feet in the middle of the boat). Even then, by sitting in one end of the canoe, the other end of the canoe will be much lighter, and unless you weigh 80lb or less, the other end of the boat will be sticking up out of the water like a sail. With a “sail” like that, unless you have your back to the wind, you are totally at the mercy of the wind.

Other than the wind blowing you around, being extreamly out of trim like that makes it very difficult to steer. If you are reasonably strong, two or three strokes on one side will have your boat turned 90 degrees, which requires a huge sweep, and that huge sweep will likely steal whatever forward momentum you created in those two or three strokes. Very frustrating.

So, you need to either weigh down the other end of the canoe enough to make it level in the water, or you need to sit in the middle of the canoe. Kneeling actualy works better, though, if you’re going be kneeling in the middle of your canoe for awhile, get your knees some padding! You can also sit on the center thwart, though doing so will put your center of gravity higher than a seat will which increases your chances of flipping. It also gets uncomfortable fast, so again, get yourself some padding.