View topic - First solo -- should there be a second?

Canadian Canoe Routes

First solo -- should there be a second?
Page 1 of 1

Author:  Headfirst [ August 21st, 2017, 8:38 pm ]
Post subject:  First solo -- should there be a second?

I’m a modestly experienced and modestly skilled paddler, and I thought I’d planned a modest little trip. Even so, it was a bit too much for me.

About me – I’m 54 and 50 pounds overweight and stiff, but otherwise healthy. Most of my canoeing experience is using borrowed canoes at cottages for a few hours at a time. I did take a three-day group trip in Algonquin a few years ago and got my level two tandem certification. My camping experience and equipment is mostly from self-supported bicycle trips.

I had to be in Sault Ste. Marie for a day, and decided to extend it for an overnight trip in Lake Superior Provincial Park. I found an easy loop on Fenton/Treeby Lake – small lakes and short portages. I planned to paddle and portage a few hours in, camp for the night, and come home.

The outfitter gave me a 17-foot Nova Craft Prospector, and I didn’t know enough to ask for a smaller one. I’ve easily picked up tandem canoes on my own before, but I had to really struggle to get this one on my shoulders. (I think it was the 70-pound Royalex model, although I still wonder if it might have been the 99-pound SP3.) I do know that I was unsteady and stumbly along the 150-meter portage.

Paddling was fine until the wind picked up in the afternoon and I discovered just how hard it is to control a 17-footer solo. Even sitting turned around in the bow seat, with my load in the front for trim, I had a hard time keeping on course. At one point the bow started to swing around, I tried to make a quick shift to the other side of the canoe, unbalanced, and fell out. I pushed the canoe to shore, got back in, knelt in the center behind the yoke (uncomfortable with my stiff knees), and kept paddling, working hard against the wind for about 45 minutes before getting to my campsite.

Camping was great. I had the whole lake to myself, and slept to the sound of the loons. In the morning the lake was misty and beautiful, and on the trip back I spent about 10 minutes with a beaver swimming around my canoe.

On the plus side I love a little solitude, and I had a good time and got out uninjured. On the minus side I had a canoe I couldn’t handle and probably came perilously close to a back or ankle injury that would have created a real problem. I think a more appropriate canoe would have solved most of my problems, but I worry that there are a whole bunch of other problems out there that I don’t have the experience to anticipate.

Should I try again? Or am I just asking for trouble? Opinions appreciated.

Author:  recped [ August 21st, 2017, 9:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

Get a better (more suitable) boat and go again. Try to have a plan B for when wind becomes a serious issue.

Personally I think solo is safer than in a group.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ August 21st, 2017, 9:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

A 17 foot tandem is unneeded and as you discovered a hindrance try to find a true solo 15 feet in the 15-20 kg range
Most of the imperils of Solo are on the portages

Author:  Brad Thomas [ August 21st, 2017, 9:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

Even in my dedicated solo boat (Swift Shearwater), I find it difficult to control in the wind at times depending on the direction of travel relative to the wind. Generally I'd rather wait out the wind if it's consistently more than about 15 km/hr. And I'd rarely (if ever) travel on lakes in winds higher than 20 km/hr.

Consequently, I make an effort to travel very early if there are any big lake crossings.

I'd say try again, maybe with a different boat. But maybe more importantly, try to avoid canoeing with too much wind and try to plan for flexibility in travel times in case you have to exit a day or two late due to waiting for favourable weather.

And welcome! I see it's your first post. I hope that there are many more.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ August 21st, 2017, 9:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

A 17 foot tandem is unneeded and as you discovered a hindrance try to find a true solo 15 feet in the 15-20 kg range
Most of the imperils of Solo are on the portages

Author:  vpsoccer [ August 21st, 2017, 11:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

Good of you to ask about this, and not blame yourself.
If you told them it was for a solo trip, then the outfitter ripped you off. He/she/it stole your trip from you. Seriously. I am tempted to ask you to name and shame the scoundrel! This kind of outfitter/dealer incompetence drives me nuts.* :evil:

That boat was completely wrong unless you were taking 500 pounds of supplies for the season, and bringing back 500 pounds of rock samples or furs. ;) It put you in greater danger of injury or accident, making your trip much less safe to say nothing of much less enjoyable.

Your background sounds like you are camper enough to do it with light/minimal gear and your paddling skills might be a bit rusty but better than many folks who head out to the woods and lakes. :thumbup:

Try again. Have a suitable boat, and plan a bit for how to manage wind or other conditions - even if its just to wait it out.

*A few years ago I bought a fw canoe from some folks who were moving. They threw in their paddles: aluminum/plastic, basic ww type, which they said really weren't very good. Well, certainly not for them. The (illustrious) canoe dealer had sold them as the correct length for flat water paddles: mid-nose to eyebrow high. I am several inches taller than those folks and usually use a paddle (of that type) 6" shorter than theirs and for flat water maybe 9" shorter.** Dealer incompetence made their paddling uncomfortable and awkward, and they never bothered to seek out something different because the highly regarded dealer had sold them "the right thing" they figured they weren't doing it right. Bad service.

**I recently sold theirs to a guy who wanted cheap SUP training paddles for the kids.

Author:  ameaney [ August 22nd, 2017, 7:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

Highly recommend the ORCKA course. I took the level 4 solo certification earlier this summer and am really glad I did.

I had intended to do a solo trip with my dog but after the course realized that it was a bit too much and am now doing a short trip with a friend.

Over the weekend of the course we had some very strong winds on the lake which really opened my eyes. When you are long distance wilderness backpacking wind is not a factor at all. But on a lake it is significant.

Also I am about your age and 3 years ago was 40lbs overweight (although with no other major health problems) I committed to getting back in shape and have dropped all the excess weight and incorporated significant exercise and stretching into my life. Really encourage you try this. You will be astounded at the difference it makes (especially stretching)

Author:  Headfirst [ August 22nd, 2017, 12:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

Thanks for the support and advice, everyone. I’m glad to see another solo trip isn’t completely crazy. Now I just need to convince my wife.

I’m not sure I blame the outfitter. I chatted for a few minutes with the owner and explained the trip, and he was friendly and helpful. But when the guy in the boat shed asked me what I was going to do, I said something like, “Just an overnight trip into Fenton.” He said, “I’ll give you this one. It can hold a big load.” I think now he probably was imagining a wife, two kids, and a cooler full of beer and steaks. Not knowing any better myself, I thought a canoe that could carry a big load sounded pretty good.

And my fitness level was definitely a factor. I’m painfully aware that most of the excess weight on that trip was right around my middle.

Author:  jedi jeffi [ August 22nd, 2017, 4:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

Get a dedicated solo boat or a 15/16 ' kevlar.
My solo royalx is 45 lbs and easy to carry and can hold the gear for a week, and that is shoulder seasons where it is much cooler.

Also you need to get out more and paddle. Practice and KM's under the belt will make a trip much easier.
Also paddling a solo with a double blade with make it easier also.
I only kneel when the conditions that are rough, either WW or large waves.
Any fitness program will also help, walking, bike riding, yoga/stretching.
Being out of shape or just a weekend warrior does not help too much as you age.
Here is a thread to follow up on that. ... 16&t=45510
If you can try different solo boats, some are more stable than others.
Lots of things you can do and BTW you chose a good loop to try, it is very under-utilized and a great intro into northern paddling.
And you made a good start by asking questions, it is a great way to learn.

Author:  Ghost [ August 27th, 2017, 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: First solo -- should there be a second?

You are quite correct; most of your trouble is due to the canoe being meant to carry a greater load. 17 foot canoes with only one person and gear for one night are hard to paddle in the wind. Been there, done that.

Your skills are good enough IMHO. I have been paddling for over 40 years, and still sometimes get caught out, e.g. recently on a trip I took our 17' canoe out on the lake to pump water. Sitting on the bow seat facing the rear, the wind came up and spun me around. Knowing what to do I immediately moved off the seat, moved forward (towards the stern) and knelt while leaning over the thwart. Moving your weight forward changes which end of the boat sticks up into the wind the most and allows you to steer using the wind. You showed good sense, moving to the middle, just behind the centre thwart gives you the best control.

You can see "cat's claws", spots moving across the water surface with a very visible increase in rippling, which will help you anticipate a sudden gust of wind, and give you more time to move into a better position, while being lazy and sitting comfortably on the bow seat facing the rear.

A big empty canoe is much harder to balance than a canoe carrying close to its recommended load. I recall three years ago after carrying my empty canoe back up the portage trail so my daughter and I could shoot the rapids again. Just after she got out (after the second trip down), I, feeling rather smug after making two apparently perfect runs down the rapids, promptly tipped the empty canoe and got soaked whilst getting out.

Next time, unless you are planing on shooting rapids (and it doesn't sound like you are), get a 16 foot or shorter, less than 45 lb, canoe made out of kevlar.

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 5 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group