Canoes in Rough Open Water????


I am a kayaker (with a little bit of canoe familiarization in the past) and have a question about canoes----just out of curiousity.

How “seaworthy” are canoes in rough open water?

I saw a post below by someone wanting to paddle long distance in coastal waters. I would not have thought that this would be something you could/should do with a canoe. Sounds like fun though.

Can conventional canoes handle the ocean? I imagine that spray covers help, but I would still would find that this to be maybe pushing the limits a bit.

What do you do if the boat capsizes in open water?

Just curious----not trying to start a kayak vs. canoe battle here. I would get a solo canoe if I had the money (and time) for more toys! Maybe some day I will.



Indirect observations

– Last Updated: Jun-06-05 1:40 AM EST –

Well, for starters, Bill Mason used to go in some pretty rough water to demonstrate technique with photos and movies. For tandem paddlers, he and his partner would kneel very close to each other at the center of the boat to unweight the ends. This would allow the ends to ride up over the waves quite nicely, instead of cutting in and swamping the boat. This idea of having light ends would work especially well with a solo paddler, but canoeing solo in those conditions is where I start to have some doubts. That's because solo paddling a canoe in high wind, especially a canoe with enough freeboard to handle rough water, takes a better paddler than most of us. When the wind kicks up on big water, I wanna be in one of my rowboats, not a solo canoe. My guide-boat illustrates one important thing about open boats in big water, though. The place you really need extra freeboard in rough conditions is at the stems, not in the center. This boat is very low-slung in the center, and even though the water is only a few inches below the gunwales, it never threatens to come over the edge, except for an occasional splash. A canoe would get splashed a lot more, though, due to lack of flare amidships, so a spray cover (and floatation bags, if possible) would be the way to go.

As far as recovery after a capsize, that's where the kayak has a big advantage. With floatation bags I'm sure it can be done. Without, pretty unlikely.

Open Water Canoes
Open canoes have traditionally been used by most native peoples of the West Indies for crossings across open water. Migration routes included north coast of South America to the Lesser Antilles and Hispaniola. Arawaks in the Bahamas also ventured acrocc the Bahama channel and Florida straits to the keys. Most of these boats appear to have been dugouts of considerable length capable of moving a small community. I would imagine a fairly sophisticated knowledge of weather, sea and current conditions was their saving grace.

Canoes can be used within limits. I really enjoy all types of small craft and use seakayaks, open solo and tandem canoes and recreational kayaks all for different environments.

canoe seaworthiness
It’s actually not quite as cut and dried as it seems at first glance. There is a tremendous variety of canoe designs, just as there is a tremendous variation in kayak designs. Some are strictly recreational craft, just like the smaller plastic kayaks. Some are designed for hunting and fishing, just like the sporting kayaks. Some are designed for racing, but aren’t good for much else. Some are good, general purpose craft. A very small number are designed to do a good job of handling adverse conditions on flat water. These include both decked and open canoes.

The choice and capability of a boat is complicated by the need to factor in the skills of the paddler. For example, I have a pretty decent kayak (One Ocean Cirrus), but my skills would probably only put me at the advanced beginner level. In other words, the boat is capable of a whole lot more than I am. However, my canoeing skills are far more advanced than my kayaking skills, so if you put me in a canoe that is designed to handle adverse conditions, I’ll be able to do more and do it better than I can in the best designed kayak.

Do canoes have their limitations? Certainly, but they are not as great as the typical stereotypes would have you believe. However, if a person is choosing a canoe that will be used in rough weather, (s)he needs to be very careful in choosing a boat, then make sure his/her skills are adequate.

I agree with the above
I do prefer a kayak in colder rough seas such as here in Maine in the ocean.

Have done some coastal paddling in a solo canoe and my canoe skills are way above my yakking skils so I am comfortable. Its to a large part whats inside your head (seamanship) and not the boat. Lots of things sea kayakers learn have nothing to do with their boat; it is developing good sea judgment.Solo boats have a wonderful ability to ride up and over waves.

I have paddled solo on Lake Superior and the Gulf of Mexico and some here on the Atlantic Ocean on extended trips.

Some of the trippers can handle big
water comfortably. My personal preference would be to put maximum flotation and spray cover in/on the canoe. Also, dress for immersion. But I’m a weenie.

i can’t e-mail you goovy
i’ve tried to inquire about your rob roy for sale but can’t get through to you. can you e-mail me or just send me some photos, location, deck color, etc.

Coastal: Broad Category
Hi Matt,

Those are very good answers above, by knowledgable people.

The Gulf Coast of Texas is sheltered from the prevailing winds and big swells by barrier islands. I’m only familiar with paddling the protected waters of the bays. Most shorelines are pretty benign, with no big waves breaking onto rocks except at jetties and bridge abutments. Plenty to be wary of for sure, though.

My plan for paddling would include careful route selection, close watching of the weather and using a well-outfitted and seaworthy solo canoe. I’m also going to keep honing my skill paddling in wind and waves.

Getting back into a solo canoe once capsized can be a tough task if by oneself. That is something I’m going to be experimenting with. The buddy system is probably a much better idea.

what if you capsize?
what will you do in a worst case scenario? i have no desire to be rescued and think that expecting rescue in event of calamity is irresponsible. if you are contemplating ‘rough conditions’ i suggest you learn to deal with those conditions one step at a time. practice close to shore. be informed. have appropriate gear. practice.

Yeah , What if…?
It’s really no different than what the kayakers deal with except for the likelyhood of swamping.

A good high volume pump, either electric or foot operated, would be handy.

In a bagged out solo with lots of flotation, an assisted rescue shouldn’t be any harder than in a yak. Easier to re-enter but more water to remove. I’d certainly want to practice that, in conditions, before staking my life on it.

For solitary paddling you would either have to set the boat up to roll or come up with some variation of a paddlefloat type rescue. Either would require rigging the boat and lots of practice.

Self Rescue
Lots of variables involved in what would work.

We have had several threads on this subject and there have been some threads on Canadian Canoe Routes Forums. Options include paddle float, stirrup, and others such as what Clarion was talking about on a recent thread.

I’m planning to have the boat bagged and doing mucho practice to find and get good with something that will work for me with a loaded boat!

Some of the route I’m planning on will require some open water crossings of a mile or two. Even in good weather a boat wake from the intercoastal waterway could possibly cause a capsize. The water here is usually fairly warm and simply riding the capsized boat to shore could be an option in some conditions. Of course if a person was on the gulf side of the islands and got a northwest (off shore) wind with a frontal passage, they might get to meet a certain cigar smoking dictator :-).

canoes in rough water

I dont know why I am not receiving e mails off the ad. Call me at 561 750 2082 or 561 376 9454 or leave a number.



Rescue in the Shearwater
I was practicing in my shearwater a few weekends ago, I can basically just climb over the side and plop down on the bottom, it is actually not too hard in the Shearwater, the sides are low enough that by reaching over and grabbing the far gunnel, I can kick and pull myself up and over. Now, if there isn’t too much water in the boat, it is easy to bail and carry on, but if there is a lot of water, that is one tippy canoe! One of these days we need to get together, paddle, fish and practice some of these things.

Me Too
Yes, I can do that too, just not in real life yet!:slight_smile: I’ve tried it a couple of times and always seem to reswamp the boat. This summer may provide some chances to practice.

Yep, I way past ready to rendezvous for some paddling. We are in the eye of the moving storm right now. Packing Packing Packing. How is July looking for you? Maybe I can get the family down to Galveston for a weekend.

It would be great to practice with assistance nearby.

Sounds like
canoes can be seaworthy given the right boat and paddler.

Of course all things are relative as stated above, but I am curious what kind of conditions that a good paddler might be able to contend with comfortably. Once again, I know that this depends on lots of factors-----but what might a swell and wind wave height and wind speeds that they might be albe to deal with??? Once again, I don’t know a whole lot about canoes and am just curious.

Maybe all you hard core canoeists can educate (and impress) me.



canoes in rough water
Clearly a well designed seakayak is easier to use in difficult conditions. Weather wisdom is more important than equipment as demonstrated by use of open canoes by aboriginal peoples throughout the world. Here in South Florida I see large numbers of paddlers with very seaworthy kayaks who never paddle in anything approaching a challenging condition. The vessels tend to be overkill for their real usage.

The paddler really makes the difference and there is no substitute for good judgement. The absolute best and most expensive name brand kayak or canoe will not see you through the worst conditions. Besides paddling should be fun and not some extreme test of personal worth.


Canoes Are Perfect
It’s just a matter of using the right one. The Polynisians paddled thousands of miles across the open Pacific in open outrigger canoes…the right boat for the task.

I don’t think anyone here would think of taking an Old Town Otter into rough open water and feel safer because they are in a kayak.

Agree, but
It is good to have pressed the limits – with as much control and safety as possible – so that you know what they are. Eventually many will be out in rougher conditions than they had planned on due to weather and other surprises. At those times having reserve seaworthiness in your craft and skills to get the most from it are a very good thing.

you are so right GM
I also want to say that if you are very familiar with your area, especially on how and when storms approach. You can make a judgement call before exposing yourself to weather that are beyond your limits. So, not only are good paddling skills important but outdoor skills are a must if going solo.

When I am on a multi day tour in our coastal areas I monitor the weather before taking off in the mornning, before I get to bed and before we set off again. This gives me enough info to plan alternate routes or leave camp at night to avoid high winds or to limit my exposure to wind directions forecast that day. There are very few surprises. If you are in a canoe you paddle closer to the islands so you can take shelter should a wind pick up. Don’t make an open water crossing of more than 3 miles if you don’t know what to expect.

Weather Freak vs. Freaky Weather
Weather is a little more consistant in some places than others I suppose. Central Indiana weather seemed pretty straight forward. Weather on the Texas coast however sometimes suprises old salts and phD meteorologists alike.

As a lifelong weather freak and small boat user I agree completely with your strategy Beachcamper. But at least in my experience freaky weather happens.