Attaching your loaded bag to your canoe

I will be going soon to a long trip solo with a 16 f Ally canoe , I plan to carry about 60 to 80 KG of gears inside dry bags . My question is: should I just attached them to a line attached to the canoe or should I attached them tightly to the canoe . I will have front and back flotation bag . just afraid to loose the boat if I capsize and it get filled with water adding to the weigh of the gears.

Are you going to be paddling on moving water? If so, I would constrain all the dry bags within the confines of the hull so that nothing dangles outside of the gunwales if the canoe capsizes.

Gear tied onto the canoe that is loose in the current not only presents an entrapment hazard for you in the event of a capsize, it also makes it much more likely that the canoe will get hung up on a rock, deadwood, or some other obstacle. When a canoe gets hung up in current in this way, it can be extremely difficult to free it, especially if you are on your own.

Most gear filled dry bags will contain enough air that the bags themselves will be lighter than water.

So, that’s somewhere between 130 to 175 lbs. That much weight tied to a 16 ft. canoe, IMO eliminates the possibility of a self rescue or other boat rescue. I’ve asked dozens of expert paddlers over the decades and gotten mixed opinions. My personal preference is to leave some air in each dry bag for buoyancy and then lanyard the dry bags together, but not tied to the canoe. If you take a spill hold on to your paddle, get back into your hull by whatever means possible, then locate your rafted up gear. Attach a flagged float to more easily find the gear.

No loose lines, they’re dangerous; I would lash them down so they stay below the gunwales for reasons mentioned above. You will have to untie them once you get to shore so that you can empty the canoe, but that’s better than going back into the river to fish out loose or tangled bags from sweepers downstream. Also lash in a spare paddle.

1 Like

I agree. That is a thjing I do but did not include in my response. The poster did not specify water type. I see these type rigs rigs mostly on big lakes. Trying to self rescue in big wind and waves with that much weight in gear tied to a canoe is next to impossible. Taking a 16 ft. hull loaded with that kind of payload on a swift river is dicey at best.

Maybe packing like a back packer/ kayaker isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Thanks so much for your reply/ advice , it does make a lot sense to me now to get them tied together but not to the canoe and since I will be alone this should work for me.

Sorry for the lack of details , there will be some rapids but I will do lining or portage for those and then the current of the river should be class 1 mostly

as far as packing weight I will be doing 45 to 65 days solo so no way to carry less gear (including food )

My pleasure. Hope everything works out for you. In paddling, nothing is written in stone. There may be some places one would tie gear in, for instance a small creek with a lot of accessible shoreline that can be reached easily. Even then I use a painter knot that can be quickly released.

Above all have fun,

PagayeurThat’s never a bad idea. I do that but when tripping but for 14 days ar more, for 2 people one might have 150 to 170 lbs. mostly in food.

Just out of curiosity, how much experience do you have self-rescuing in moving water?

I am not trying to be patronizing. I ask this because most individuals who have had significant experience in self-rescue will have decided on the best system for hauling and securing gear for their particular scenario.

Keep in mind that if your canoe is upside down and as completely filled with water as it can get, any gear bags in your canoe, secured or otherwise, are almost certainly going to weigh less than the water that they are displacing that would otherwise be there.

It is my experience that packs and gear bags often remain inside the boat when it capsizes, even if they are not secured, since they almost always are lighter than water. Of course, one can’t count on this.

There are ways to empty the water out of a canoe that has a significant weight of gear secured inside that do not require you to be able to lift the entire combined weight of the boat and gear. If you have never experimented with this sort of thing, it might be a good idea to do so before your expedition.

Hi , responding to your question . I have no experience in self rescuing and I am waiting for the weather to warm up to get into the practice of it. I plan to do a 200 miles trip in the lower Colorado in April to test myself on daily long distances and also on self rescue ( in slow to no moving water ), I intent to try with paddle float and I already fitted my canoe with airbags (front and back).If things cool down I will be off for my trip by the end of June so I do have some time to learn and train… hopefully.

Ok, here is some advice based on my experience. I paddled whitewater in open boats for years, not infrequently by myself, and have had to self-rescue from current literally hundreds of times. Of course, these boats were bagged and basically unloaded. I have also had to rescue loaded boats from current, although never my own.

What works best in one scenario may not be so good in another. And there are plenty of divergent opinions regarding rescue techniques, securing gear, use and length of painters, outfitting, etc. And what is optimal for a group day trip certainly might not be so for an extended solo trip.

Unless you are in the middle of a very wide river, the usual self-rescue technique in river paddling, especially when you are on your own, is to swim your boat over to the bank, or to an eddy large enough to hold it and shallow enough to stand up in. If you are in a group, there are assisted rescue techniques that can be done in current with experience, but that won’t apply in your case unless someone happens to be close to you.

If you dump in current, you will have at a minimum a boat and a paddle to deal with and you probably don’t want to lose either. If you haven’t tried swimming with a boat and paddle in current you might find it harder than you anticipate, even if the boat is bagged and unloaded. I advocate having short painters, no longer than the boat, attached to grab loops at both ends of the boat, but these need to be secured in some manner so as not to come loose in current by themselves. I secure these under double shock cord loops on the front and rear deck plates. These should be of some variety of floating rope. For lining purposes, you can easily attach longer lines to your painters or grab loops. When swimming with a boat, you don’t want a long length of loose line with you in the water. But it is very helpful to be able to pull out a shorter length of line attached to the boat, swim into a midstream or bank eddy, and then pull the boat in behind you.

For flat water touring I do not secure gear in the boat, especially on a group trip, since it can make a boat over boat rescue quite difficult. For river conditions I personally would never have all of my gear tethered together on one line but otherwise unsecured in the boat. If you have gear stowed in front of and behind you, I would certainly never have a line crossing your paddling station. As I said earlier, I have often seen packs that were loosely placed in the boat stay inside the hull after a capsize. If you have a situation where packs are tied together, do not count on them all coming out or all staying in the boat. I think it is quite likely that some would stay in and others trail in the current on the tether, a situation that could not only make the boat much more likely to hang up on an obstacle, but also make self-rescue quite difficult and even hazardous.

If you choose not to secure your gear in the boat, I would leave it all loose and hope for the best. But realize that you are most likely to dump in an area where the current is stronger, even if there isn’t an actual rapid. You might hit a barely submerged rock or submerged deadwood, or cross a current line with insufficient heel, etc. So if you dump, there will probably be significant current. In this type of situation, a paddle float rescue is unlikely to be applicable.

If you dump and have gear floating downstream in the current, you are going to have to self-rescue quickly, dump the boat, get back in, and boogie downstream to retrieve your gear before it floats out of sight or gets hung up in some inaccessible location. If you have your gear secured in the hull, you will at least have everything together. That could make emptying the boat a bit more involved once you swim it to safety. But as I said earlier, if the boat completely fills with water, your gear bags will almost certainly weigh less than the water that would otherwise be in the boat, so it would not necessarily make the boat harder to swim out of the current. Obviously, gear bags would not be as light as fully inflated air bags filling most of the hull, but that is not an option for an extended trip requiring you to carry a significant amount of gear.

Once you get your boat into an eddy, there are several different options for emptying it. If all your gear has fallen out, you need to dump it and get back in as quickly as possible. If you are out of the current and can stand, the quickest way is to leave the boat inverted, duck your head in the water and get underneath the center, and then stand up with the boat as if you were preparing to portage. You want to stand up slowly to allow the water to drain out as it comes up out of the water. That way you need only to lift the boat and the bags, not the water. Hopefully, you will be able to get back in quickly enough to retrieve your gear.

That option won’t apply if you have heavy gear secured in the boat, but if you have all your gear secured you can take your time emptying the boat. Once again, the idea is to not lift any water if you don’t have to. In some instances, it might be best to turn the boat right side up but leave it mostly submerged in the water, and remove your bags and put them on the shore if that option exists. You could then empty the boat as before and reload the boat. Most times I would try to leave the gear in the boat if possible. If you have a gently sloping bank, or even a low or submerged rock to place one stem of the boat on, you can go to the other end of the boat, turn it gunwales down, and slowly inch the boat up the bank or rock repeating this maneuver so as to empty the water out little by little.

You may not need to empty out the boat entirely. If you can get enough water out to at least have both gunwales above the surface, you can stand by the side of the boat and empty the remaining water out using a small manual bilge pump of the type used by a lot of kayakers. There are also small electrical bilge pumps that will run off a small battery that are now used by a lot of whitewater open boaters that you could look into. But you might not have the facility to recharge the battery during your trip.

1 Like

This is sort of an “old school” solution to your situation and it has its drawbacks. I doubt any current ACA whitewater instructors would approve because it is a possible set-up for entrapment - one could get tangled up in the tethers if you swam too near the boat after being ejected from it. That might be a particular problem if you failed to get on the upstream side of the boat - and that is a very serious failure anyway since you NEVER want to find yourself caught between a swamped canoe and a downstream rock or strainer. It can crush you.
But, a loose tether does offer a means of keeping everything together and quickly getting back in the game after a dump. If you can reasonably expect to stay in the boat in the situation you’re going into and keep the tethers well away from your paddling station, as Pete mentions, perhaps this is a solution worth considering sometimes. Everything is compromise. Judgement is the art of making the appropriate compromise for the situation.

So perhaps you might want to check out this oldie but goodie and pay particular attention to the part about “getting rid of some of the dampness picked up along the way” at about 4:10 or so.

1 Like

FWIW, I was told by somebody, possibly Paul Mason, that Bill abandoned that practice.

1 Like

Well Pete, I can sure see some good reasons for abandoning the practice and mentioned one of them… but on the other hand it was something he, and many others did for many many years (and I used to do long ago and in milder waters). Many survived the practice. :wink: Perhaps there is still a place for its limited use, so I thought I’d mention it. It also offers some advantages.

I would consider using that method for flat water touring. After a capsize in non-moving water it would allow emptying the gear out of the boat quickly to allow a boat-over-boat rescue to be done if a rescue boat were available, or emptying and reentering the boat if not. And everything would pretty much stay together.

It has been years since I heard the bit about Bill Mason. If I recall correctly that was on the cboats dot net forum which has a lot of whitewater paddlers. I mentioned that video and suggested it as a possible technique for paddling on non-technical moving flat water (not whitewater). The incoming flak that I received was considerable and I think it was then that someone posted that Bill Mason gave that up (I don’t recall hearing why) and I think that might have been Paul or someone who heard it from Paul.

Once thing I may end up doing is a mix of all , securing inside the canoe the very essential gear and using a loose tether for the bag containing the food ( since it will be the heaviest of all ) , try will tell , I will start to do some testing in April as the weather permit it. Thanks to all of you for your precious help.

This debate has been going on for a long time. A swamped canoe in fast water can get really beat up. It can get broken in half or wrapped. I believe in securing my gear in the boat, because it displaces water just like flotation bags. Then the gear stays put and the boat rides higher in the water and is less likely to get damaged. This is really important if you are solo. If you bust up your boat you may have to walk out. I have swamped boats in Class I and II rapids that have caused considerable damage. Bring duct tape and some other repair materials. View some videos of wrapped boats and pinned boats so you will see how much power the water has. Bring a z drag system and a long rescue rope. Hope this helps.

Almost all loaded dry bags have positive buoyancy. Use that buoyancy. All gear in a canoe should be securely tied in. If traveling in Class II water or higher, all gear should be lashed down tight. You get your food box shifting hard to one side or the other, you are going over. Shifting gear is a practice of positioning for proper ballast for that day. Wind behind you? You want the bow to be high and fluffy. Wind on the nose, (like usual) you want the bow down. Large rapids, if the wind permits, the bow a bit on the light or fluffy side to respond quicker to the standing waves and holes.

In all cases, the gear is tied down. Wanna be smart? Put the heaviest stuff centerline and right on the bottom, lightest fluffiest stuff on top. I routinely travel with a full spray deck and skirts. I ballast the bow for the day. I ballast the centerline appropriate to the rapids. And then, I infill all spaces under the cover with inflation matts, and I use some cheap stuff for that. 4.00 dollar pool mattresses? Slip them along side (all gear on the centerline?), and on top, and inflate them all. I have rolled to upright a fully laden expedition 20 foot canoe , by myself while standing chest deep. And only lost the bailer and sponge.

Load smart, Tie it all down.