I’ve sometimes wondered about the potential benefit of a sliding seat in a canoe, especially when I’m on a rowing machine. As an advocate of the longer paddle stroke, a sliding seat would enable the catch to be further forward, the use of the legs during the power phase, and a delayed exit as the blade would remain in line with the hips for longer. I can’t think why it hasn’t been tried before. I expect it has, but I can’t find any references other than some anecdotal citations.
Whilst I’m developing the new skinny C2, I have a boat which is much more suited to a sliding seat. Due to its length, it will be less prone to rocking as the paddler’s weight is continually transferred fore and aft.
So, the first challenge is mount the seat on some sort of rollers or wheels. A quick look around the garage (full of “useful” stuff) , I discovered some rollers we’d used to make shifting the washing machine a bit easier.
Perfect, I’ll just shorten the wheel base an bolt a seat on.
So far, so good. I now needed a captive rail enclosure in which the seat could roll back and forth and maintain a fixed path.
So I knocked a sort of box up out of timber. The weight and aesthetics didn’t really matter, it was just the concept I wanted to test. Early dry land testing quickly revealed that it wouldn’t work the way I’d imagined. Most of the wheels didn’t touch the ground and it kept “crashing” into the sides of the box and getting stuck. I even cut off the surplus wheel sets, but it still wouldn’t track.
I started to look on the internet for the sort of thing used by rowers. As racing rowing boats are hideously expensive, I didn’t expect the seat system to be cheap. Turns out it was less than £100.
I got the wheel platform and rails from a place in Chertsey. (https://shop.carldouglas.co.uk/) I had a long chat with Charles Douglas (the owner). He knew a lot about canoeing and the DW. I think he said he’d done the race and the results show a C Douglas completed the race in 1988.
I mounted the seat on the wheel assembly and then constructed a frame for the rails. I wanted to get it as low as possible as I didn’t know how stable it would all be.
The motion is so smooth.
Them I secured into the boat. This was fairly easy because the boat has a long length of parallel sides plus the flange is also the whole length of the cockpit.
The pull bar on the footrest was essential for securing the feet.
I took it for a quick test on the Kennet at Newbury and it was surprising stable and easy to use. This was a good job as I’d entered the Basingstoke Canal Challenge the next weekend. This is a 16.6 mile there-and-back event with only two portages (one out and one back) so the 21 kgs weight of the boat should not be too much of a factor.
What could possibly go wrong?
On the way to the start, the seat cushioning came away from the seat and it’s somewhere on the M3. Usually the car is chocha-block with spare bits of foam, but not on this occasion.
So I lined up for an early start with a C2 crew who seemed hell bent on a sprint start. I managed to drop them quite early and settled in to a good rhythm. A couple of times I got out of sync, and on occasions I got no benefit from the sliding seat as I did not phase the stroke right and was simply going forwards and backwards. However when it did come right, it felt good. The key seemed to be to delay the slide until after the catch, and not before.
Unfortunately the additional weight of the boat and the drag effect did not deliver a particularly fast performance by the time I got to the portage.
Twenty one kilograms on your own is quite a hefty weight. The portage was slow, but I huffed and puffed to the put-in and headed for the turn.
At the eight mile turn I was getting tired, and decided to lift the boat out for a rest.
On the way back to the portage things started to deteriorate. My back hurt and I was gradually adopting a lent back position. Even by exaggerating bending forward for the catch, I could not compensate for it.
I got back to the portage, lifted the boat out and put it down. Then for some strange reason I started walking backwards, I just couldn’t help it. My body seemed to have forgotten its correct upright position and off I went until I fell over.
After a stern word with myself I managed to get the boat to the put-in. As I moved towards the canal, I fell over again with the boat on top of me. A young girl, part of a K2 crew has also reached the put-in, she looked down at me and asked “would you like me to help you up?” and one handed, she hauled me to my feet. I thought this would be a good time to quit, and did.
So it was a bit inconclusive. I’m convinced that it is worth trying again with a lighter boat and a shorter distance, but ot’ll have to wait because the boat is back to a C2.