Submitted: 10-29-2010 by MikeMaxwell
As I recently completed an 8-day solo canoe trip in my Penobscot 16 (first solo), I was very interested in reading Tom Watson's "double dipping" article. Being used to paddling tandem, I quickly learned that I needed to modify my paddling style. Instead of paddling primarily on one side of the boat and steering with a J-stroke, I switched to the back-and-forth approach: a couple of paddle strokes on the port side followed by a couple on the starboard and so on. In this way I didn't lose forward momentum, and steering was easy: just add an extra stroke on one side or the other as necessary.
It occurred to me that this style of paddling is much closer to double-bladed kayak paddling than my normal canoe paddling approach, which got me to thinking about the possible advantage of using a double-blade paddle when canoeing solo. I don't think I would try it in rapids, but for flat-water cruising, the double blade might make a lot of sense. Aesthetically, I will have a hard time putting aside my classic Old Town wood paddle for a plastic and aluminum job, but the advantages might be worth it. The next time I go on a solo trip, I will probably rent a double-bladed paddle (maybe two in different lengths) and give it a test.
By the way, I was impressed with the Penobscot as a solo boat. (We have mostly used it as a tandem in the past.) I was carrying lots of gear and sat in the bow seat facing the stern so as to be closer to the center of the boat. In this position I was able to arrange my gear to achieve good front-to-back trim. The Penobscot is perfectly symmetrical, so the bow angle is the same facing forwards or back. With a sharp bow entry and a somewhat narrow beam, the Penobscot is a swift canoe, and the narrower profile helped with my reach across the gunnels when paddling. At 58 pounds in Roylex, the Penobscot is a tough boat but easy for one person to handle on land. With the Penobscot configured this way, and paddling on both sides, I was running about as fast as the tandem canoes I encountered on the river, and I was able to maintain good progress even when paddling into stiff upriver winds.