Tandem paddling question...


New Member
My boat is a 15' Cheemaun (Thurlow) design which performs wonderfully solo, as many of you know, but when taking my wife out for a paddle, stability is an issue--especially since she doesn't want to kneel due to knee issues from old sports injuries and collective experience is limited. Given the incredible buoyancy of the canoe, I would think that adding a couple of collapsible water jugs in right in the middle of the boat help to lower the center of gravity. Any thoughts?

BTW: Roof issues on our 1916 bungalow and lack of garage make the obvious preferred solution of adding a second larger wooden canoe impossible (I hate when that happens!).

Anyway, I guess it can't hurt to try.

I haven't paddled a Cheemaun, but like your "can't hurt to try" thought with the water jugs.

There also might be some helpful suggestions at YouTube. I check-out YouTube when wanting to learn things like "how to play the spoons" or "what's the name of this weed, and can I eat it without being hospitalized?".

Here's an example of what's out there, on YouTube, re tandem paddling:

Don’t own one but I have paddled tandem in a Cheemaun and didn’t notice exceptional stability issues. The place to start is trim: how much do you weigh and how much does your wife weigh? Does the canoe end up stern heavy or bow heavy or evenly trimmed? If slightly stern heavy, I would first add weight to the stern, rather than the middle, and get the vertical planes near the stern ends deeper into the water. This will add considerable stability. Stern heavy is a little better for downstream paddling in any case. You may need to paddle with an underwater recovery technique, which acts like a brace. .
The last few years have left us a bit broad at the beam, while the canoe is not. The canoe seems pretty well balanced with regard to bow vs. stern. I have acquired kneeling pads that I, at least, plan to use. Hopefully I can convince Mrs. H that seats are for leaning against, rather than sitting upon.

I don't see how any canoe that is good for solo paddling can be stable with very much weight sitting on the seats so far above the water line. In motorcycling, one of the first things one needs to learn is to stand on the pegs rather than sitting on the seat whenever on unstable terrain or especially when crossing water in order to move the center of gravity significantly lower.

At any rate, we'll get it figured out. Thanks for the input.
Since the bow person will not be kneeling, so doesn't need a lot of foot room underneath the seat, consider lowering the bow seat and moving it closer to canoe center. My first try would be to move the seat so that the bow seat holes now are lined up with the stern gunwale holes. Of course the seat frame will not be wide enough, but can be hung (temporarily - long enough to give it a try) with threaded rod. [Stern end can be hung from a board - similar to a portaging yoke.] Advantages: Extra room to the front for the legs and feet, & lowering the center of gravity and getting some weight nearer the widest part of the canoe. Perhaps a backrest attached to the lowered seat will make it more comfortable. Tom McCloud
You’re right about a canoe being so much more stable when you’re kneeling. There’s no substitute for that.

My suggestion came from a specific experience. I once paddled tandem with Steve Lapey in a canoe that he had just built that ended up with more rocker than he aimed for. With me in the stern, it was very tippy, even when I was kneeling. At the mid-point, we were fed up with dealing with it, so Steve moved in back of the front seat and kneeled with his fanny on the center thwart. This retrimming radically altered the situation. Suddenly we were in a speed boat! We just boomed along and I scarce had a thing to do to hold course. A torpedo wouldn’t have knocked us out of the water and we could outrun most of them.
I build the same design and have paddled a Cheemaun for years, solo and tandem. I've also poled it, taken my labs out in it, and fished from it. I find that any canoe with my wife in it becomes unpredictable including the 20 footer :rolleyes:

If your bow seat doesn't have spacers lowering it will help. Oh and never use "ballast" and "wife" in the same sentence!