Canoeing alone presents a few more challenges than canoeing with a partner. Aside from the fact that a couple more hands are useful when things go wrong, a canoe is designed for balance. Centering all the weight in one place along a narrow boat makes balance that much harder to obtain. Two people tend to spread the weight and stabilize the canoe along both axes (keep it from tipping). Traditionally, a person canoeing alone will sit in the rear section of the canoe, the aft, so that the bow tips out of the water. There are a few ways to account for this difficulty. Careful and measured paddling can prevent the solo canoeist from overcorrecting and tipping the canoe. If conditions make it difficult to maintain course or balance, one may move toward the center of the canoe and kneel to even out the weight distribution and lower the bow of the canoe. Adding weight to the bow will also simulate the presence of another person, but be sure to secure it properly.

"Had I done it alone by canoe I might have boasted a little."
-- Sergeant Farrar, RCMP

The first time I canoed sans partner, I tipped five minutes into my journey. There was a relatively stiff wind that day and I overcorrected. Luckily, the bed of the river was soon under my feet and I held a canoe in one hand and a paddle in the other. I quickly realized two things: the unique aspects of single-person canoeing should always be respected and I was in one of the best places along the Tahquamenon River to learn that lesson. After gathering my things, including the wayward-floating water bottle, and uprighting the canoe, I continued down the river, shivering a little bit from the wind and evaporation. The rest of the trip was difficult, sitting in the rear of the canoe with a good crosswind. Everytime a breeze came along my canoe would turn sharply, sending me off course and into the bank. Eventually, though, I crawled out of the river two hours behind schedule and called for a ride.

With a pinch of common sense and some good experience on the water though, solo canoeing can be thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding.

nota bene

momomom reminds me that canoeing all alone is considered risky. When one considers canoeing alone, it is always best to tell at least one person where you are going, or even better, bring someone with you. Naturally, all of the information above still applies if you are the odd man out in a group of boats.

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