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I brought along a 17 gallon sterlite (hard plastic) tub, a 42 gallon/3 mil contractor bag, a dry bag and a 5 gallon bucket. Put the dry bag inside the tub and put the contractor bag inside the dry bag. Used the 5 gallon bucket to scoop river water and put 13 gallons (approximately 108 lbs.) into the contractor bag. Twisted the neck and tied off the contractor bag and closed up the dry bag. Dry bag has shoulder straps and used them to lift the ballast bag out of the tub and place it into the front of the boat; just ahead of the front seat (canoe was already in the water). Ran the tub and bucket back to the car and was ready to roll. The rear (stern) seat and foot pegs had already been adjusted all of the way forward.
The 17' tandem handled magnificently as a solo! I did a 16 mile out and back on the 8 mile stretch of the Susquehanna River from the Crumhorn drop-in (north of Portlandville) to the end of Goodyear Lake. The unpopulated portion at the beginning and end was teeming with Great Blue Heron and Giant Egret. First time I've seen the Egrets anywhere other than Montezuma refuge. Treat of the summer came at the unpopulated cove on Goodyear Lake behind and east of the dam. Found myself less than 50' away from a Bald Eagle dining on a fish. Eventually he or she flew right over my head - could hear the wing beats!
If circumstance forces the need to solo another time, I will definitely do it. Again, handling was easy. The only gauge I had on speed was relative to the occasional other paddler and the lone motorized fishing boat I saw all day. This boat really moves with a single paddler if you can achieve optimal trim with ballast in the front.
Criteria for replacement boat:
We moved on to the very short list of pack canoes designed with narrower gunwales, plenty of beam at waterline, less freeboard (shear) and some rocker for silkier handling. An exhaustive search yielded a 14', 15' and 17' from 3 different builders. Prices were high, but in-line with each other. Weight differences also negligible when compared with what we were moving away from. The 17' "Ohneka" from Placid Boatworks was an easy choice. Better performance and carrying capacity in the longer boat.
We made a two day trip to Lake Placid to try the boat out. Joe (the owner) observed trim while we were out in the demo and determined where the adjustable seats and footpegs would need to be for 108 lbs. in the bow and 178 lbs. in the stern. I've never been that far forward in the stern and it really made a difference. Even though the seats have a sliding mechanism for adjusting, they are still custom set for the middle of the range needed for the likely occupants.
Sold the canoe and kayak on Craigslist, got what we felt was fair, gave Joe the go ahead and picked the new boat up in a week and a half. Finally got it out for a serious spin 5 days later when the weather improved. It handled on land as expected. Final weight 43.5 lbs., will enjoy that aspect for many years to come. Once on the water for a sustained paddle we were really pleasantly surprised. Dropped into our seats without the ballet (canoe) or clumsy drop (into kayak cockpit). Steered briskly and easily through the channel leading to the lake. Once out in open water we were really moving in spite of heading into on-and-off puffy winds. In a nutshell; faster and more maneuverable than the canoe and at least as stable-feeling as the kayak. Little or no water on board coming off the paddles. We would have been happy with matching the best features of the trusty canoe and comfortable kayak. What we ended up with was better than matching those features.
Sorry about the review length and sounding too much like a salesman. This was the right boat for our situation and would highly recommend it to others whose preference is for 2 in a boat.