-- Last Updated: Jun-27-13 1:41 AM EST --
No, paddling a kayak or canoe doesn't give you the same workout. My godson rows solo and crew and I've tried it myself. The effort is not the same and uses different muscle groups.
Not quite clear on what region you are paddling in. TN or NY? On the Albany NY Craigslist somebody is selling a Hurka solo shell that can also be used like a kayak (locking down the seat and using a double paddle instead of oars). You said $1200 is your price range and that is the price they have posted.
Aren't there rowing clubs in your areas? That's where most of the rowers get started around where I live.
I have heard of people installing oarlocks and a sliding seat in Old Town Guide 147 or 160 canoes. These are fairly common on the used market for under $500. I counted no less than 5 in the upstate NY area for sale now for under $400.
Wall Mount Boat Racks
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