BWCA Solo canoe. Single or double bladed paddle? Boundary Waters Gear Forum
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schweady
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08/16/2022 06:13PM  
Lately, whenever our trips involved an odd number of participants 3-9, we automatically went to a 3-person canoe rather than involving a solo. On this year's trip (which was ultimately cancelled due to illnesses), there would have been 3 of us, and one of the guys was not happy with last year's 3-person Northwind (5 went on that trip), especially when he was in the center position, and whenever he was in it while fishing.

So, we were all set to rent a tandem and a 15-1/2 ft Northwind solo this year. Only after canceling did it get me to thinking:

I have to say, I'm a very proficient stern paddler. Aiming at a point and steering to maintain or alter course is second nature. We'll switch sides only occasionally, and I tell my bow paddler that it's up to them, I'll watch and switch accordingly. On those seldom occasions, I'll ask for them to switch to a particular side to help with wind or current, etc. Anyway...

When this option comes up again for future trips, and we try a solo canoe, would I want to consider a double-bladed paddle? Or, just steer with a single? Mostly, just got to wondering about efficiency, fatigue, possible disadvantages, etc. Not looking for specific models, unless it enters into the reasoning behind various advantages. Thanks.
 
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quark2222
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08/16/2022 07:08PM  
I've had a Wenonah Prism since around 2004 in Kevlar Ultralight, and I've used a kayak paddle the whole time - except once. I snapped the kayak paddle a few years ago on my way back to my SUV, and had to use my regular canoe paddle for about 6-7 lakes.

I found that the canoe paddle (a straight one) worked just as well as the kayak paddle for maneuvering, and speed. So, I still use a kayak paddle as my primary, but would have no issues just standardizing on a regular paddle. The yak paddle comes in handy when putting up bear and tarp ropes, plus a few other uses.

It's pretty much what you feel comfortable with, but I would not underestimate just using a regular paddle. The yak paddle is nice in winds for keeping a straight line, as you can just adjust the paddling pressure on the stroke on each side of the canoe to compensate for side winds.

I don't spend a lot on yak paddles. I think the replacement I bought a couple of years ago was around $125. You don't need carbon or ridiculously expensive ones. Mine is a straight shaft that snaps together in the middle.

Tomster
quark2222
 
jillpine
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08/16/2022 08:29PM  
With gratitude to Boonie - it was a game-changer in the solo department. Wouldn't leave home without it. Put me into the gaping maw of some 5000 acre+ lake, or with a group of tandems, Boonie is spot on --- get a double blade.
 
08/16/2022 09:53PM  
I take one of each, the other is a spare. I usually use the double, but like to switch up from time to time. I have done it since the early years when I was experimenting to see what worked best for me. I did not have much canoe paddling experience of any kind. I'd suggest taking one of each and seeing which one you prefer in various situations.
 
OCDave
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08/16/2022 09:56PM  
I paddle my Northwind Solo exclusively with standard canoe paddles albeit the long thin ones that reach deep into the water. It is a Zen-like experience to guide the canoe with subtle tweaks to each stroke. I paddle mostly on the left but will switch to the right if fatigue or boredom start to creep into my day.

If I had need to keep up with a tandem, I might concede the need for a double-bladed kayak paddle but, I wouldn't feel good about it.
 
08/16/2022 10:00PM  
boonie: "I take one of each, the other is a spare. I usually use the double, but like to switch up from time to time. I have done it since the early years when I was experimenting to see what worked best for me. I did not have much canoe paddling experience of any kind. I'd suggest taking one of each and seeing which one you prefer in various situations. "

+1 for taking one of each. I use the double 70% of the time when tripping and maybe 30% when exploring.
 
gravelroad
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08/16/2022 11:10PM  
When I want a Zen experience, I go shoot one of my longbows.

When I want to get somewhere solo, I use a double blade from midships and bring a single blade as backup.
 
Sparkeh
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08/17/2022 06:02AM  
Double for speed. Single for stealth and precision.
 
jillpine
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08/17/2022 07:38AM  
I should have been a little more clear in the response. A single blade is kept in the canoe for times when a single blade is useful (already mentioned). Both are secured with a Bungee Dealee Bobs to the thwarts during portages. I enjoy paddling my solo canoe with a single blade, but not on windy Brule and not when I'm half a lake behind the rest of the group.
 
IndyCanoe
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08/17/2022 07:48AM  
Double blade paddle for me when solo. Admittedly maybe my skill level with the single blade is not where it should be but I also think it is just the noticeable difference in speed and efficiency that make me think I am doing something wrong with the single blade while solo. I still try to use the single paddle when I take out our tandem canoe solo fishing to slow down and for a little practice. That said if I was on a trip double blade for me all the way.
 
sueb2b
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08/17/2022 07:48AM  
I prefer the double. I also have a single along, just in case.
 
08/17/2022 07:49AM  
I was once adept with a single blade then had an extended break in paddling. When I went back it was kayaking and double blade. I got comfortable with that and when I got my Magic I tried both but could not find the rhythm with the single blade. I carry it as backup but use a high angle stroke with a double blade. I am working on low angle paddling, but cannot find the rhythm there, either.
My message, go with what you know. Unless you have opportunity to become familiar with a new paddle or style you might find it just doesn't work for you. As to efficiency and such I am encouraged to believe the low angle double blade gets the best ratings. I really appreciate my double blade in choppy water and especially when wind and wave are across the bow.
 
kbobb
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08/17/2022 08:45AM  
Currently looking for a new double blade for my new solo. What length paddle do you all like? my new boat is 26.5" at the gunnels, 28.5" at the widest point. Very similar to a NW solo in dimensions. I usually use a 52" bent shaft ZRE but the doubles are better for me in wind, heavy waves, etc.

Thanks
 
08/17/2022 08:53AM  
kbobb: "Currently looking for a new double blade for my new solo. What length paddle do you all like? my new boat is 26.5" at the gunnels, 28.5" at the widest point. Very similar to a NW solo in dimensions. I usually use a 52" bent shaft ZRE but the doubles are better for me in wind, heavy waves, etc.


Thanks"


Hey Kbob...I don't always use a kayak paddle, but when I do I paddle a 270 cm Accent Air. I'm 6'2" tall and my Wenonah Basswood is 31" wide.

To the OP, if I was soloing in a group of tandem paddlers, I believe I would use the double paddle almost the entire time just to keep up.
 
moray
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08/17/2022 08:56AM  
I live pretty far from BW and usually drive and bring my own double blade kayak paddle to use with a rented prism. This spring I did a solo but flew to MN instead of driving so I had to use a double blade from VNO. They gave me a paddle that when broken down had a single blade handle that could be inserted into one end of the paddle. I thought it was great to have single blade for fishing and only having to carry One paddle on the trip.
 
08/17/2022 10:26AM  
I feel like canoe design has a lot to do with this decision. For the longer, shallower, more narrow/ "kayak-like" hulls I think the double blade makes sense and I think your canoe choice is probably influenced by your paddling style as well. Those used to more sit-and-switch style paddling will probably naturally fit better with a double-blade.

Personally I find paddling in more of a traditional/Canadian style more comfortable and less tiring so I tend to favor more traditional hulls and a single-blade. I haven't found (in my limited GPS speed testing) that I do any better or move any faster with a double blade than a single, but I enjoy the experience much more with a single blade.
 
08/17/2022 10:44AM  
boonie: "I take one of each, the other is a spare. I usually use the double, but like to switch up from time to time. I have done it since the early years when I was experimenting to see what worked best for me. I did not have much canoe paddling experience of any kind. I'd suggest taking one of each and seeing which one you prefer in various situations. "

This. That said, I use the single blade much more often unless I am on big water and want to move.
 
MikeinMpls
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08/17/2022 11:27AM  
I've used a single blade exclusively. I've used a straight-shaft Sawyer paddle I purchased in the mid-80s, as well as a bent-shaft carbon Bending Branches paddle lately. I use single blade paddles solely for my personal sentimental and nostalgia reasons. I also like to pretend that people are watching me in awe paddle a solo canoe with never having to switch sides to steer!

Mike
 
DanCooke
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08/17/2022 12:15PM  
Single Blade padding whenever I am in a canoe. Straight, Bent, Spoon depends on what I am trying to do on the water.
Double blade is used only in a kayak for me.
 
08/17/2022 01:06PM  
DanCooke: "Single Blade padding whenever I am in a canoe. Straight, Bent, Spoon depends on what I am trying to do on the water.
Double blade is used only in a kayak for me."


A little OT, but Dan I've been meaning to ask if you do much poling as well? I think I read some of your info about paddling up the Brule and doing the Brule - St Croix Portage. Was thinking about doing the same but wondering if poling would be the way to go when going upstream on the Brule. I'm an amateur poler, but in my limited experience it seems to work really well on the Brule...
 
08/17/2022 06:51PM  
I have both but mostly use the single blade now because the kayak paddle dumps too much water in the boat and everything gets soaked. The double blade is handy on big lake crossings in waves and wind cuz you can make correction strokes so quickly. Good for an exercise paddle also, but again, I mostly stick with the single blade anymore because I haven’t figured out how to eliminate the way the double blade carries water with it into the boat.
 
straighthairedcurly
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08/17/2022 07:51PM  
I also take one of each. I have a lot of canoeing experience, but it is hard to beat the double blade in windy conditions. But sometimes the single blade just feels right. I carry a 2-piece double bladed paddle to make it easy to stow.
 
Duff
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08/17/2022 07:56PM  
I have a SR Tranquility with a rudder.
I thought a double blade would work great for me.
My shoulders did not agree, it felt awkward, I've dislocated both of them, not sure if that had anything to do with it.
Before going with the solo I was always the power bow paddler.
A single blade just feels more natural to me.

And I'm with scat above........too wet for me for BW trips, I'm usually going in the shoulder season's. The main goal of any day is to stay as dry as possible. Even with drip rings, too much gets wet.

I retired it after one trip and went back to bringing 2 single paddles.
 
DanCooke
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08/17/2022 08:42PM  
keth0601: "DanCooke: "Single Blade padding whenever I am in a canoe. Straight, Bent, Spoon depends on what I am trying to do on the water.
Double blade is used only in a kayak for me."



A little OT, but Dan I've been meaning to ask if you do much poling as well? I think I read some of your info about paddling up the Brule and doing the Brule - St Croix Portage. Was thinking about doing the same but wondering if poling would be the way to go when going upstream on the Brule. I'm an amateur poler, but in my limited experience it seems to work really well on the Brule..."


Sam Cook (no relation to me) just did a piece for the Duluth paper on him and friends poling up a portion of the Brule. John F sullivan -Misissippi river paddlers group moderator on facebook has poled up the entire brule and than gone down the St Croix. , Scott Oeth from Bull Moose Patrol on facebook (located in MSP) is a big time poler and registered Maine guide.

I have never poled at all and would be a poor one to ask about it
 
Voyager
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08/18/2022 06:38AM  
I used to take both. After paddling 340 miles on the Missouri River in July, I realized I didn't want to use the 25 oz. Werner Calliste after swinging an 8 oz. ZRE. In Sept. on the border rte. I'm taking 2 ZRE's and leaving the Werner home. That being said, I have a rudder on my Voyager and my Blackwater, so there's no necessity to swap sides every few strokes.
 
justpaddlin
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08/18/2022 01:28PM  
I'm a single blade paddler. I've owned a NW Solo and have a couple similar solos (Merlin II, Keewaydin 15, Osprey) and for me a single blade complements their maneuverability (I paddle on rivers). But I also have a Rapidfire and an Advantage and am planning to get a double blade for a change even though I like paddling both of them single blade. Voyager's comments hit home for me, I'm also curious whether a "light" kayak paddle can compete with the light canoe paddles I'm used to when the kayak paddle is around 3 times heavier.
 
08/18/2022 04:00PM  
Both
 
jhb8426
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08/18/2022 11:21PM  
When I paddle my Magic I've used both depending on my mood. It seems that I prefer a single blade quite often going between a beaver tail and a bent shaft. I prefer the beaver tail. I have a 280 CM Bending Branches Slice that I like. My problem with it is probably I'm not used to it. I find that I don't get a good glide between strokes like I do with a single blade, I feel a need to make the alternate side stoke almost immediately. But that is probably due to my technique. That being said, in a shallow river condition it is a god send when the water is only 10 in. (or less) deep as I found on the St. Croix recently.
 
08/19/2022 02:35PM  
+ 17 on one of each. 95% single, 5% double...but when I really need the double (wind, usually) it sure is nice to have it in the toolkit.

And agree that you may want it to attempt to keep up with the tandem.
 
Dilligaf0220
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08/23/2022 01:20PM  
I paddle big water, with big winds, and pony'd up for a carbon double blade. Didn't change one thing, except my lap got a lot wetter.
Would say it is entirely dependent on skill level over all else, and also depends on how long you're going to be in the boat.

A double blade is still going to beat you up 2x. Current quiver is a bent shaft ZRE and an Ottertail. Ottertail is for the in-water recovery zen fishing, ZRE for when I want to cover water. Can paddle both all day, not so much the double blade.
 
Banksiana
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08/24/2022 04:42PM  
For efficiency with a fast, straight tracking hull a lightweight bent is your best bet. If you possess an inefficient stroke, have a slow single blade cadence or a slow switch a double blade is your friend. A greater amount of energy is lost in a double due to the weight of the paddle and the greater amount of force perpendicular to the direction of travel (yaw) caused by the greater distance the blade is from the center of the hull of the double. The closer the blade is to the center of the hull the greater the amount of force of the blade's motion is transferred to forward motion. I could not move my solo as quickly for any period of time with a double over my 8oz ZRE.

I have tripped often with my solo and a tandem. I am usually the one waiting.
 
schweady
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08/25/2022 05:15PM  
Great replies. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Keep 'em coming, if you don't mind...
 
Kermit
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08/26/2022 05:10PM  
I’ve had a Northwind Solo for about six months and I’m in process of planning a mid September solo trip. I’ve been taking the boat out the past few weeks on my local lake working through different corrective strokes using both a bent and a straight shaft canoe paddles just trying to get mindlessly proficient with it.

Since I’ll be going on some pretty sizable lakes, and after reading this post and doing some other research, I decided to pick up a 260cm kayak paddle and see what I thought. Wow. It feels totally sacrilegious to traditional canoe paddling, but the efficacy is absolutely undeniable. I set a personal best for getting around the lake on my first trip out. The tracking and speed made me an instant believer. Similar feel to a sit and switch method with a single blade but much less effort. I could easily keep up with a tandem. It’ll likely be my primary paddle next month, with a single blade for a backup. If you’ve been considering giving it a try, I highly recommend.

Thanks all for the insightful thoughts here and for making me reevaluate my bias against the double blade.
 
Banksiana
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08/27/2022 06:27PM  
If you are paddling a center seated solo with a single blade and using corrective strokes rather than switching sides a double blade should be a big improvement. Corrective strokes from a center position are terribly inefficient and really make little sense; you simple don't have the leverage (leverage you do possess in the stern) to make a corrective stroke without sacrificing a good deal of forward progress.

However if you are proficient at switching sides with a bent shaft from a raised seat center position it is the most efficient means of propelling your craft.
 
justpaddlin
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08/28/2022 07:38AM  
It seems like physical conditioning is a factor, at least for me. With thousands of hours of single blade experience I'm confident that I can handle any conditions and set and maintain a pace that few paddlers in any paddlecraft will match...but I get the feeling that if all my experience was with double blades I'd probably feel the same. I have zero muscle memory for a double blade. I recently took mine out and quickly got myself all wet and tired as usual so for me I'd choose to build up my strength/experience/confidence; it would be a mistake for me to commit to a double blade for a trip.

 
justpaddlin
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08/29/2022 05:43AM  
Banksiana: "
However if you are proficient at switching sides with a bent shaft from a raised seat center position it is the most efficient means of propelling your craft."


As an engineer and a paddler I'm really curious about all the little physics details and I wonder if your statement is always true. My thoughts...

- I agree it's more efficient to apply the paddle force close to centerline of boat? But how much more efficient? You lose little if any forward thrust due to boat yaw...but boat yaw does affect efficiency (I read one paper that saw yaw-induced drag was 10-15% of total drag). So which yaws more, a boat driven with a single blade or a double where you are switching sides much more often?

- Double blade means the boat maintains a more constant speed, it doesn't slow down as much between power strokes and doesn't need to be accelerated as hard between each stroke. I think that's fundamentally more efficient than the same amount of power delivered through bigger power strokes spaced further apart. And if the boat slows down less with a double I think that means that there should be less slip (loss) between blade and water.

- What about ergonomic effects? I don't know. Even with just a single blade I know I'm more efficient kneeling than sitting. I have no idea how efficiently I can deliver my limited power through a double vs a single and I also wonder about possible differences among people.

Anyway, sorry for going all engineer nerd on ya.
 
MReid
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08/29/2022 06:59AM  
justpaddlin: "Banksiana: "
However if you are proficient at switching sides with a bent shaft from a raised seat center position it is the most efficient means of propelling your craft."



As an engineer and a paddler I'm really curious about all the little physics details and I wonder if your statement is always true. My thoughts...


- I agree it's more efficient to apply the paddle force close to centerline of boat? But how much more efficient? You lose little if any forward thrust due to boat yaw...but boat yaw does affect efficiency (I read one paper that saw yaw-induced drag was 10-15% of total drag). So which yaws more, a boat driven with a single blade or a double where you are switching sides much more often?


- Double blade means the boat maintains a more constant speed, it doesn't slow down as much between power strokes and doesn't need to be accelerated as hard between each stroke. I think that's fundamentally more efficient than the same amount of power delivered through bigger power strokes spaced further apart. And if the boat slows down less with a double I think that means that there should be less slip (loss) between blade and water.


- What about ergonomic effects? I don't know. Even with just a single blade I know I'm more efficient kneeling than sitting. I have no idea how efficiently I can deliver my limited power through a double vs a single and I also wonder about possible differences among people.
Anyway, sorry for going all engineer nerd on ya."

You need to watch good sit-and-switchers. I come from a racing background, and I'm a diehard bent shafter/sitter. Even while touring with a loaded boat, I maintain at least 50 strokes a minute, and I don't loose time or momentum with the switch. If you're kneeling, I seriously doubt you have an effective technique for efficient bent shaft/switching use (which is what Banksiana references). There's a world of difference between kneeling and sitting/switching techniques, and your engineering analysis based on your kneeling techniques is way off.
 
Banksiana
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08/29/2022 09:40AM  
justpaddlin: "

- I agree it's more efficient to apply the paddle force close to centerline of boat? But how much more efficient? You lose little if any forward thrust due to boat yaw...but boat yaw does affect efficiency (I read one paper that saw yaw-induced drag was 10-15% of total drag). So which yaws more, a boat driven with a single blade or a double where you are switching sides much more often?


- Double blade means the boat maintains a more constant speed, it doesn't slow down as much between power strokes and doesn't need to be accelerated as hard between each stroke. I think that's fundamentally more efficient than the same amount of power delivered through bigger power strokes spaced further apart. And if the boat slows down less with a double I think that means that there should be less slip (loss) between blade and water.


- What about ergonomic effects? I don't know. Even with just a single blade I know I'm more efficient kneeling than sitting. I have no idea how efficiently I can deliver my limited power through a double vs a single and I also wonder about possible differences among people.


Anyway, sorry for going all engineer nerd on ya."


The effect of yaw related to distance from centerline is very significant (10-15% is significant). This can be easily and intuitively demonstrated if you think of the corrective strokes used when "parking" a canoe as you approach a landing- to gain leverage one performs these strokes at a greater distance from the center line of the boat.

Double blade does not mean "boat maintains a more constant speed". No reason why a hit and switch technique cannot maintain the same cadence as a double blade; strokes should not be further apart with single blade. Both techniques should be using short strokes (a bent shaft paddle stroke should end before your lower hand reaches your hip) with a swift cadence. This question demonstrates a lack of understanding of an efficient seated bent shaft paddle technique.

A bent shaft paddle is designed to increase efficiency by maximizing the portion of the stroke when the blade is vertical or near vertical in the water. If the stroke is continued past the hip the blade cants off the vertical axis and a portion of the energy of the stroke is directed at pulling the hull into the water. The bent shaft is designed to be used in a seated position. When paddling from a kneeling position a straight shaft (though it is very important that the shaft not be too long) is more effective as kneeling shifts the "bend" to keep the blade vertical from paddle shaft to posture.
 
BonzSF
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09/01/2022 11:36PM  
After just returning from a 10 day Mudro-Beartrap-Sunday lake PMA-Iron -Crooked-Basswood falls -Horse River Loop. I did the whole thing with the double blade and loved it. We had good weather, bad weather, wind., sun and rain. It worked well for me that I could instantly adjust the pressure on either side to keep tracking. Though I couldn't keep up with the tandem, I could keep a straighter track than them. It does get you wet but it was relatively warm in August so that wasn't much of a factor. I got a lot more water in the boat when it was poring rain on a couple of the days. I did learn to shallow stroke and greatly reduced the water coming in. you learn a lot in 10 days of paddling.
That being said, I am basically a newbie at canoe tripping ( 2nd BW trip) and don't really know how to J-stroke. I barely know how to paddle correctly. The double paddle worked great when I got in the rhythm. It worked MUCH better that the tandem on oxbow section of the beartrap river. I could make the corners much quicker and easier. Same length boat but narrower and drew less draft. Wenonah Prism vs Wenonah Basswood 17.
So if you're a beginner I think the learning curve is a lot easier with the double.
I'll let you know in a couple of years when I learn how to use a proper paddle.
 
09/02/2022 12:34AM  
BonzSF: "After just returning from a 10 day Mudro-Beartrap-Sunday lake PMA-Iron -Crooked-Basswood falls -Horse River Loop. I did the whole thing with the double blade and loved it. We had good weather, bad weather, wind., sun and rain. It worked well for me that I could instantly adjust the pressure on either side to keep tracking. Though I couldn't keep up with the tandem, I could keep a straighter track than them. It does get you wet but it was relatively warm in August so that wasn't much of a factor. I got a lot more water in the boat when it was poring rain on a couple of the days. I did learn to shallow stroke and greatly reduced the water coming in. you learn a lot in 10 days of paddling.
That being said, I am basically a newbie at canoe tripping ( 2nd BW trip) and don't really know how to J-stroke. I barely know how to paddle correctly. The double paddle worked great when I got in the rhythm. It worked MUCH better that the tandem on oxbow section of the beartrap river. I could make the corners much quicker and easier. Same length boat but narrower and drew less draft. Wenonah Prism vs Wenonah Basswood 17.
So if you're a beginner I think the learning curve is a lot easier with the double.
I'll let you know in a couple of years when I learn how to use a proper paddle."


Glad your trip went well! Hope to read the report when you get to it. Also good to hear about your experience with a double blade. Thanks for sharing the newbie perspective. I also appreciate the fact that you are enjoying it enough to commit to many more years of paddling...it doesn't get much better, in my opinion, than being out in the wilderness. Again, glad your trip went well!
 
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