0 for 2 with canoe.

I’ve been in a canoe two times and capsized twice. Last year it was in an aluminum rental and this year it was in my Old Town 147 Guide canoe. I purchased this new canoe because the reviews were great. One guy said he could stand up in it to fish. Ha!. This is the most unstable craft I’ve ever been in. I bought it for me and my wife to float down the White River. I don’t think I’ll use it again unless I put pontoons on it. Or maybe I need some instructions. I thought I was buying something stable. It doesn’t have a keel. Would that help?

Need morre info
Let’s start by saying that various types of “operator error” become a lot more clear with familiarity. My first guess is that you broke one or two basic rules. Where you moving around in the boat, balancing yourself with hands against the gunwales rather than keeping your center of mass over your feet? Keeping your head over your feet is a working approximation of this. Were you paddling solo from the stern seat? Doing that lifts the front half of the boat, so all your weight is spread only over the pointy end of the boat.

So, how big a person are you? Were you paddling tandem or solo, and if solo, where in the boat were you sitting? My guess is that you aren’t really aware of what caused the capsize, but with practice, this sort of thing becomes very clear. It’s not too much of an over-statement to say that canoes are as stable as you make them. Do things the right way and they are pretty darned reliable.

Getting Help
Guideboat guy’s advice and suggestions are right on. Let me add a couple of things. You’ve gotten off to a tough start but you’ll be able to laugh about that one of these days. Good motivation.

If you can get to a basic canoing class or get some pointers on the water from someone who has good canoe skills that would be a big help. Seat time is very helpful. A boat that seems tippy at first can feel very stable after a few hours or few trips. With your life jacket on and in shallow safe water you can capsize on purpose to see how it works.

A keel is not helpful in stability and in general not a good feature on canoes for several reasons.

Hang in there!

Guideboatguy said it all in a nut shell
I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, but canoes and kayaks don’t tip over, people tip them over.

My guess is you leaned to one side- the boat leaned to the same side, and you panicked and went over insted of paddling forward on that side (a brace) and thus leveling the boat.

You might try sitting in the canoe in calm water/shallows and just hanging out a bit to get the feel of it. Get in a foot or two of water, and paddle it back and forth, but keep your movements slow and easy. If you feel it is going to tip, instead of going with it, paddle a forward stroke on that side with out panicking and watch how the boat levels out.

Give it a little time a patience and I’ll bet you’ll get used to it.

Jack L

It probably IS you
and you are not alone. Many of us have been there, got wet and went home plenty mad.

It might well be worthwhile to get an hour or two of instruction. My guess is that your head is getting outside the rails. Where your head goes your body follows.

If you are in the stern of a canoe…there is very little leeway for error and very easy for the head to break that “in bounds” rule.

If you are getting in and out…its easy for your head to go first out of the boat and last into the boat. Again leaving you vulnerable to oopsie. Bet you have seen that too.

Remember we are laughing with you and not at you. Many of us have been there!

maybe you have a ballance issue …

– Last Updated: Apr-15-12 9:50 PM EST –

....... how was it the rest of the time (before the upset) while on those two canoe outings ??

Did you feel well ballanced or like you might fall in any second ??

How long were you out there before the upset ??

What was the water like those two times ... smooth or rough , windy or not , flowing river (currents) or a lake ??

You really should answer the questions gbg asked so we can see why you fell in . As canoes go the OT Guide 147 is pretty stable .

I agree…

– Last Updated: Apr-15-12 9:55 PM EST –

I agree with all the information you've received so far.

You need to get yourself involved in an ACA beginner's canoeing class, or get some one on one instruction from someone more experienced than yourself. The problem is most certainly your problem; NOT the canoe's problem.

Check out the Arkansas Canoe Club website.
There are many great paddlers who post on that website.
Quite a few are ACA Instructors.
The club sponsors quite a few classes & river outings.
Quite a few of those who post on that website are probably quite close to you distance wise.

Two of the posters(I know)on this thread are great paddlers, but one lives in Wisconsin, and the other lives on the east coast.
They can give you good advice, but aren't going to be be able to give you the hands on instruction you need. The other thing you will definitely need is "time in the boat".


nose over navel
Keep your center of gravity as low and as centered as possible. If kneeling, spread your knees out wide. If seating, spread your feet out wide. Be like one of those spill-proff coffee mugs. Keep your upper body as perpendicular as possible - “nose over navel” as they say.

The Guide is a very wide canoe; that might be part of your problem if you are having trouble reaching over the side to paddle. Don’t lean over! Nose over navel - always. Stretch out your arms - they should be straight or nearly straight. Use an unwinding motion in your torso to power the paddle, not your arms. Here’s a great youtube video that illustrates how to do that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVnP8aB8Jns&list=UUTWvVPFMV9gflatR4Dp5xHQ&index=14&feature=plcp

Good luck and hang in there. Your sense of balance in the canoe will come with practice and familiarity. Its just like riding a bike.

It happens, esp to novices
I remember in my novice days I had inexplicable incidents of imbalance. Seems like I’d be upright and stable one minute, swimming and fishing for my gear the next, and have no idea what happened or why.

It is a pretty fast learning curve, and you will get through it if you stick with it. Keeping your balance in the boat will become second nature and you won’t even have to think about it. Lessons are a great idea, not just for learning to stay in the boat, but you will learn strokes and technique faster and get to the fun parts sooner.

Your “0 for 2” subject reeled me in. I fell out of the canoe while going over a drop yesterday. It didn’t seem like it should be that tricky, so I dragged my boat back up and ran it again. I fell the second time, too, only I fell in the boat and though the boat was swamped, I declared victory. I mean, I was still IN the boat. So, I was only almost 0 for 2. But I can identify.

So look what you have to look forward to. Once you get experienced, you can be like me, and be 0 for 2 in the space of a half hour!


If you start with a hull that isn’t
stable enough for your purposes, there are two ways you can improve stability without changing the design in other ways. One is to increase width, but in a short canoe, making it wider doesn’t add much leverage. Making the canoe longer will improve stability more, when starting with a short boat. Just too bad that canoes don’t telescope like a cheap fishing rod.

Learning balance
People get into canoes assuming it is thoughtless because kids go out in junker canoes on lakes all the time and seem to stay upright. And for the skinny, young kids it often is thoughtless.

But at adult height and weight, and on aging hips, knees and ankles, you usually need to learn the balance for a canoe. You just can’t get into it and be inattentive to where your weight is and how you are moving around in the boat. You have to learn how to handle this.

There are a lot of people for whom this is not intuitive, including some kids. In my younger days I sometimes had to let some cousin go out in a tandem canoe with me. I quickly learned to wear a bathing suit so I was already set up to take a swim. I was usually let free of my passenger after they’d put us into the lake twice.

This is why rec kayaks are so popular - the paddler is sitting down, hence automatically at a low center of gravity, and you don’t (usually) walk around in the things. So they tend to be much easier to manage in terms of balance.

But it is worth it to be able to stay up in a canoe - they can be fun boats and are often more available to borrow than a kayak because they aren’t as paddler size-specific.

lessons scheduled
I had the canoe expert over for dinner tonight. This guy and his wife have taught canoeing for years and have paddled in many states.

He looked over my Old Town Canoe and said it is fine for what we need. He is going to give me and a few others lessons in about a week. There is a lot more to it than I ever knew. It wasn’t the canoe. It was me.

Lucky you!
That should be a marvelous opportunity. I wish I’d have been smart enough to seek some expert advice on paddling about 30 years ago. If I had, I’d probably have started paddling seriously a whole lot sooner than I did. Have fun!

With a few hours of lessons; I’m betting you’ll see a BIG difference in your skill & comfort level & canoeing will be a LOT more fun for you.

I think you made a well reasoned decision.

Keep the open side up!

Good luck,


keep us posted …

– Last Updated: Apr-17-12 10:09 AM EST –

...... never had any canoe lessons myself but those that have say it's a good thing .

Let us know what was causing the imballance issues when you find out . My guess is that you just need more seat time to get the feel of how the canoe moves under you . You have to allow you body to be flexable to counter the canoe's movements , leans , pitches , spins , etc, ... if you are ridged you are following the canoe as opposed to countering it's movement .

It's probably just getting use to moving your own body around in 3 axis deminsion (similar to a gyroscope) . We're all very comfortable moving around in a 2 axis world where the bottom isn't moving around beneth us ... add that 3rd element of bottom moving and it just takes a little new programing to move yourself around fluidly , normally again . I just think seat time , and a relaxed body that counters the canoes movements , a new set of muscle memory skills .

Not sure what happened. Sounds like you might want to work on the balance etc. Its not like you will just jump in the boat and start dancing. Here are a few videos of people standing, boats are a lot less stable than your Old Town too. One guys in a racing canoe and another is some heavy rough water. Maybe the vids can provide a few clues.

good luck and keep the round side down.