Correcting the ferry angle

To correct the ferry angle in moving water, I always have two choices: Move one end of the boat upstream, or move the other end downstream.

Does it make a difference which I do? Is it obvious that I should always make the downstream move on the appropriate end since it’s much easier to move downstream than upstream?

point the
bow at a fixed shore object with a secondary adjacent shore object so that the visual distance between the two stays constant over the ferry …best done with 2 in line points

As is often the case - it depends…

– Last Updated: Jul-28-16 6:34 AM EST –

Assume from your profile that we are talking about canoes. There are a lot of variables. Solo or tandem? Forward ferry or back? Are you looking to increase the ferry angle or reduce it? The simple answer is that you generally make adjustments from the downstream end.

In a solo canoe doing a forward ferry that usually means a stern pry that will move the stern to the offside. Usually you are doing that to reduce the ferry angle, but you could also do it to increase it (or hold it). The complication is if you need to move the stern to the onside. Although it will work, a sweep or stern draw is not a particularly strong stroke in that situation - especially if you are looking to increase the ferry angle. A lot of people simply switch sides to do the stern pry from the other side of the boat.

The other option is to do something at the front of the boat. For instance, I paddle on the left and generally don't switch sides (cab forward), so I would do a couple of quick forward strokes that would tend to push the bow to the offside. Another option would be a cross bow draw that would pull the bow to the offside.

Hard to explain and maybe hard to visualize. Usually easier to make adjustments from the downstream end, but there are other options.

hard to grip …

– Last Updated: Jul-28-16 9:25 AM EST –

right ! is why direction is first ....yawl gotta hit the mark not land in Dominica... then after a few moments of T&E think abt angles...angles are variable with flow, of course.

so in a sea kayak across a tidal flow if worry abt stern positions with not propulsive strokes you are headed to Dominca ....leaving pry and whatnot completely out of COG.

paddle is trailing J mostly with a paddle angle off shaft up to then a negative propulsive addon, a J pry motion.

All the other strokes are desperation.

But in Eck's realm of ancient mill streams, the stern moves up even n passes bow in a complex juggling activity called experience. As Eck sez, difficult explaining without doing it.

I haven't searched but would bet that in a description of how to paddle gates, the explanation is missing. Moving to, point the bow .....

I have an Eddyline cartoon....

draw paddler in kayak

turn upside down

draw fish near paddler

caption reads

'I doahn know why people complain abt this hull ....

> Assume from your profile that we are talking about canoes. There are a

lot of variables. Solo or tandem? Forward ferry or back? Are you

looking to increase the ferry angle or reduce it?

It does not matter whether we’re talking about canoes, kayaks or SUPs,

about solo or tandem, about forward or back ferry, or about increasing

or reducing the ferry angle. To change the ferry angle in any of

these cases, I can either move one end (upstream end or downstream

end) upstream, or move the other end (upstream end or downstream end)


For example, if I am a solo canoeist doing a forward ferry from left

(river right) to right (river left) and wanting to increase the ferry

angle, I can EITHER

  • move my bow (the upstream end) downstream, OR
  • move my stern (the downstream end) upstream.

    Similarly, if a tandem kayak team is doing a backward ferry from left

    (river left) to right (river right) and wanting to decrease the ferry

    angle, they can EITHER

  • move their bow (the downstream end) downstream, OR
  • move their stern (the upstream end) upstream.

    My question is: Is the downstream MOVE (which may or may not be done at the downstream END of the boat) always better than the upstream MOVE (which may or may not be done at the upstream END of the boat)?

    In the first example, should I move my bow downstream rather than stern upstream? In the second example, should they move their bow downstream rather than stern upstream?

Your analysis is overly simple

– Last Updated: Jul-28-16 6:52 PM EST –

First, you need to understand that there's a night-and-day difference between the first few seconds of ferrying right after sticking your boat out into a zone of fast flow (a jet ferry), and longer ferries across wider channels or whole rivers. You ONLY have complications involving sideways forces on your boat (and the resultant "lift") for as long as your boat's momentum causes it to resist drifting with the current. Once that momentum has been lost, paddling and steering are unaffected by current, in terms of actual boat control, and you only set your angle so that you get the right combination of travel direction with current drift so that you end up where you want to be, not because your boat is getting blasted by current from one side. If relative motion is a foreign concept to you (it is for most people), throw a few sticks over the side while doing a longer ferry (not a jet ferry) and you'll see that your path relative to the floating sticks (this shows you how your boat moves compared to the water that's floating you) is exactly the same as it would be on still water.

Now, during those jet-ferry moments, control is tricky just like your question suggests you already know, but I wanted to point out that the tricky aspects disappear once you've been ferrying for more than a few seconds.

During a jet ferry, *in general*, it's much easier to move either end of the boat downstream than upstream, but to even think in such terms is an over-simplifcation of the problem. For example, if during a jet ferry the current is blasting by from left to right, it will almost certainly be the bow that is "blown" too far downstream because the bow enters the swifter zone first. Most often, the best thing to correct this problem is NOT to correct it but to start out with much more of an upstream-pointed boat so that you don't *have* to do much correcting (start with not enough angle and just "put up a moderate fight" to keep the bow from getting blown over too far and have the result be a good angle, rather than setting the angle you want from the start and then fighting like hell to keep it there). If you have plenty of forward speed, and "lift" due to your boat's angle will often give you that speed if you don't lose your angle on initiation of the jet ferry, a static stern pry on the upstream side of the boat gives a lot of correction power (you can do the same with a static draw on the downstream side, but the maximum correcting power of the static stern draw is less than with the static stern pry), but sweeping power strokes on the downstream side are pretty effective too, especially if you need that forward power at that moment because you wish you had more forward speed. Right away, which is best will depend on your need for additional speed, so right away, the proper answer is "it depends" rather than one of the two choices you presented. Also, in this case the static stern pry might seem to move the stern downstream, but it might only be preventing the boat from pivoting while the stern is still back there in the slower flow that you just left behind. The power sweep might seem to be an attempt to push the bow upstream, but in a moment like that when the boat is entering a fast chute from a zone of slower current, it's doing every bit as much to coax the stern (which again is last into the faster flow) to "catch up" with the downstream drift of the bow, so again, thinking of this as moving one end of the boat either upstream or down is likely to be wrong.

I suggest you start playing around with this stuff, using steering strokes, pivoting strokes (pries and draws performed near one end of the boat or the other), and uncorrected power strokes or the "enhanced steering" of power sweeps, on both sides, and it won't be long before you see that there is no best method in term of moving one end upstream or down, or even that those are your only choices. You'll see that what's best will depend on a handful of variables, including how much jet-ferry action is going on, what the current-speed differential is between the bow and stern (usually the current is stronger at the bow when you are having control problems), what the boat's forward speed is, and how much you need to modify that forward speed to make your boat do what you need it to do.

It would take forever to explain all the nuances to whatever "rules" a person might come up with, and it would be harder still to remember them. Therefore: Play! Experiment! It's fun!

"jet ferry"
Isn’t that always happening?

The boat is moving forward with an upstream angle. So there’s a combined force which is always pushing the bow downstream. It’s only when you stop forward movement that the forces from bow to stern reaches equilibrium.

(Another factor, even in the middle of a long ferry, the boat is moving across the current, so the bow is rarely in the same layer of current as the stern. (the longer the boat, the more significant the difference)

I’m a kayaker. So I almost always do my angle correction on the stern, typically from the down stream side, with a draw stroke. At the end of the power stroke, a little bit of draw moves the stern down stream, points bow more upstream. (If I got too much upstream angle, I found the draw on the upstream side of the stern is much easier because the current is constantly trying to turn my bow downstream)

A pry is indeed a very powerful steering move. I found it too much for making small adjustment during a ferry.

Jet ferry

– Last Updated: Jul-28-16 9:55 PM EST –

No, once your boat has lost its "stationary momentum" (the boat's momentum has been overcome as it equilibrates with any new current), paddling crosswise, diagonal-wise, any-wise to the current is the same as paddling on still water. You are correct that there will always be little curly-cues of turbulence even in the smoothest of flow, but when crossing a wide channel having fairly uniform flow, the affect of these is minor, but more important, localized deviations from the overall current have nothing to do with ferrying (you'll correct for these as needed but they don't affect your overall plan).

You are the umpteenth person who has challenged me on this, and I'm waiting patiently for the day when some physics guru who also happens to like paddling will make a video using the overhead view from a pair of drones, one being stationary and the other staying directly over a free-floating marker that travels with the current (there are scads of speed-and-direction problems explained on the internet and in introductory textbooks, but for a person who already doesn't understand this stuff, the fact that the examples don't deal with paddle craft seems to make them irrelevant even though that's a mistake on their part). This could also be done with animation, but real-life video would be way cooler.

I'm actually sick of trying to explain this, because too many people just can't wrap their head around even the absolutely simplest examples requiring one to understand relative motion, and it's not because they aren't smart, but because they've never needed to understand it and once they grow up it's too late. Instead, I'll tell you to try this: Get on a big river, the faster the current, the better (this will be more convincing in a really brisk current, but it always works). Put a partner in a boat well across the channel from you so that there's plenty of distance of good, reasonably-uniform flow between the two of you. Put him at any angle relative to the current that you choose (again, it always works so try it a bunch of different ways). Once both of you are drifting along, point your boat at him and paddle in a straight line (do NOT use the shore as a reference when you do this. Look at the water in front of you and paddle *straight*). You'll find that paddling a perfectly straight line *through the water* will take you right to your drifting partner, even though both of you traveled the same distance downstream in the process. This same principle can be illustrated with one boat laying out a line of markers while paddling a straight line (these could just be sticks collected from the woods on shore) and another boat following. It'll take you about two seconds to realize that the current is not "hitting you from one side" in a non-jet-ferry situation, whether you are the one laying out markers or the one who's paddling along the line of them left behind. Again, FORGET looking at the shoreline or stationary objects in the river. This is about how that boat moves through the water itself, and proving that once you've been in a steady current for more than a few seconds, your boat doesn't "feel" that current any more than you are aware of the fact that you are "ferrying" with every step you take and with every mile you drive, on account of the movement of the surface of the Earth from west to east (that's us drifting with the current). And this is why ferrying across a big river is just a matter of balancing your velocity through the water against the velocity of the water itself to create a true direction of travel that matches the one you need at that moment.

Speaking of the Earth, if you were truly stationary in space relative to the space occupied by the earth (this is for the nitpickers who will point out that the Earth is not just spinning but also speeding through space), and suddenly you stepped to the ground as that ground goes whizzing by from west to east, you'd go tumbling, and in boat terms, that'd be just like the moment when you fail to control your boat at the beginning of your jet ferry, or crossing an eddy line, or any other of a myriad of cases where the boat moves from a zone where the current has one velocity and into a zone where the velocity is different (and remember that "velocity" includes both speed and direction, because if you forget that you'll find exceptions to all I've said, but when forgetting what velocity actually means, your exceptions won't actually be true).

Oh, I'll say one other thing about your idea that every ferry is a jet ferry. The situation as you describe it could only be true if your boat were acted on by an external force (this would be something having nothing whatsoever to do with the water). The closest you can come to this in real life would be a strong wind, and indeed you can do some really cool ferrying tricks across a whole river using the interaction of wind and current. A friend once told me he could make a model boat ferry across a channel by fitting it with a slippery guide so that it would follow a guitar string guiding the way. Sure. You could do the same thing with a real boat with a pulley connection to a steel cable stretched across the river, but in real life, you don't have that cable, or any other means of applying force to the boat that's independent of the water itself.

Of course it is!
I think it makes sense to isolate certain aspects of a maneuver for comparison in a “all things being equal” context, realizing that the real world is not that simple. I now see that I wrote “always” a lot where I should have said “generally” and I would certainly not recommend my treatise as complete instructions on how to ferry.

Your answer to my question confirms what I had read elsewhere.

Doing an upstream ferry solo . . .
. . . I would make all my angle corrections with stern strokes.

If my paddle is on the downstream side, I decrease the angle (point further upstream) either with a stern draw stroke or with a forward sweep type stroke. I increase my angle (point more to the far shore) with a ruddering pry type stroke or a J pushaway stroke.

If my paddle is on the upstream side, I am best off in really swift current if I have trained myself to switch sides, so I can then be on the downstream side and all strokes are same as above. If I can’t switch sides and must paddle on the upstream side, I decrease or increase angle by doing the opposite of what I do when paddling on the downstream side.

I use these same strokes whether I am jet ferrying across a wave face or just ferrying in regular current. The difference will be in the timing, power and duration of each correcting stroke.

On a wave face jet ferry, when I am in gravity-current equipoise relative to the shore, I am more likely to use the stern draw to maintain or decrease angle because I don’t need the forward component of the forward sweep.

With experience, these various stern strokes all blend together as a continuously changing pressure balance on the paddle, and can’t really be identified much of the time as discretely separate strokes.

I probably could make some of these angle corrections with bow strokes, but it would harder when fully or partially jetting, and I would feel less secure if I had to take my paddle out of the water, or slice it forward, to to reach the bow while in the middle of a hard rapid.


– Last Updated: Jul-29-16 3:19 AM EST –

chooses a language concept describing the stern as the effective area. The choice in no way proves the stern is the area affected.

A current parallel here. A project is reducing noise in my econoline. The rear mirrors are pod on stalk. A major turbulence heat loss/noise generator. Opening the window increases that noise level 10x.

Because the window opened ?

cawsing increased turbulence, or decreased noise absorption ? Proving this out asks for a recording outside compared to lab glass qualities.

For the kayak hull we have the lab tested arrow and field tested ships n aeroplanes

Tellus, why rudders astern ?

the explanations are here …

I plan with GPS n charts, human sacrifice, a course avoiding the problem except for using the ferry for sport…or heading home.

Bow strokes from the upstream end
Here is an example where a bow stroke at the upstream end would work just as well (maybe better) than a stern stroke at the downstream end:

If I am looking to reduce the angle, a couple of forward strokes would be quicker and probably more effective than a stern draw. A forward stroke would hold the bow in place, and the current would move the stern. Even if I was looking to open the angle I could use a static bow draw rather than a stern pry. And I can do either stroke at the bow without switching sides.

In a canoe, the side you are paddling on makes a huge difference on the stroke you will use to correct the angle. Whether you paddle on both sides of the boat (like Glenn), or only one side (like me) also makes a big difference.

I do agree that as a general rule you should make corrections on the downstream side. As in most things with paddling, though, there is no single answer for all paddling situations. As Guideboatguy says, you really need to experiment to see what works in different situations.

For what it is worth, I found this video from a few years ago on practicing ferry angles - forward ferries with most of the strokes done at the upstream end of the boat.


? your ww kayak insistence on maneuvering the stern moves the question…

are these stern strokes moving the bow forward into faster current

and if so, are your stern strokes as propulsive as a ‘normal’ forward stroke with steering attributes ?

If you are in a canoe not kayak would the ferry paddling approach be same or different ?

At 6’4" I have no ww kayak experience but observing I’m impressed by the hulls ability to float n hang motionless on current where I would believe canoe and sea kayak hulls will go downstream.

Well, Eck . . .
. . . this is mostly a terminology comment – not a technique comment – but I’m not sure I would call what you are doing in that still picture and video “ferrying”. I’d reserve that term for a lateral traverse of the river with no concern for stopping and surfing.

What you are primarily doing is front surfing small waves and holes in easy water and then powering back upstream into them as the interstitial currents blow you downstream. Yes, you are doing “mini-ferries” as you move laterally from one wave/hole/eddy to an adjacent one, and to prevent yourself from blowing downstream in the interstitial currents you use a lot of alternated forward and cross-forward strokes to attain back upstream. I’d do the same. It’s just that in a terminological sense, I wouldn’t call that kind of surfing play “a” ferry for purposes of this topic.

It’s possible to do a complete cross-river ferry using just a cross-forward stroke on the downstream side, as an alternative to using a forward-rudder-pry stroke on the upstream side. However, that takes a huge amount of control to maintain proper angle in really swift and turbulent current. Slalom racers have the skills (and hulls) to do it.

Is the cross-forward a “bow” stroke? That’s another interesting terminology question. I suppose it is in a quadrant sense, since you really can’t bring it behind your hip. However, even though you can incorporate a draw component or sweep component into it, the cross-forward stroke is primarily a forward propulsive stroke, as opposed a quick angle-adjusting stroke. For the kind of cross-river, non-surfing ferry angling I’m discussing, I’d probably limit the term “bow strokes” to bow draws, bow pries and cross-bow draws.

An advanced paddler in a highly maneuverable whitewater hull can cross a river with all sorts of stroke combinations. For the beginning or low intermediate whitewater boater, particularly in a not-so-maneuverable touring hull, I’d stick with the recommendation to hold and change upstream ferry angles in a cross-river transit primarily with forward strokes mixed in with stern adjustments via sweeps, draws and pries.

(Actually, a sweep stroke is done in both bow and stern quadrants, so the canoe terminology confusion is never-ending because some strokes are both-ending.)

You’re ASSUMING there are two
paddlers…y/n? It’s such a ridiculously open question. It looks like a blatant troll to entice people into typing their morning away!

Surfing vs. ferrying
I have to admit, the first picture is definitely surfing, but the strokes are the same whether you are setting the angle to surf, or setting the angle to ferry. I’d also say the ferrying is rarely done in isolation. You ferry to an eddy, you paddle forward to position yourself for the next ferry, you are constantly changing the angle to get where you want to go. Ferrying is part of the bigger process of getting where you want to go.

Having said all that, I agree that the easiest way to ferry is primarily with forward strokes mixed in with stern adjustments via sweeps, draws and pries.

I’m talking solo…
I’m on vacation, and it is raining today, so I am happy to type away :wink:

“Jet ferry” is another ambiguous . . .
. . . paddling term. I’m not sure I’m using it the same way GBG is.

To me, a jet ferry is when you ferry across the upstream face of wave, such as as wide standing wave or the curler at the downstream end of a wide hole. The ideal jet ferry occurs when the downstream force of the current is perfectly balanced by the upstream force of gravity on the hull. In such a situation you don’t need any forward or backward component to your stroke, and you can “jet” laterally across entirety of the wave with just and angled hull on a static hanging draw or pry.

GBG seems to be using the term to describe any initial entry into current with forward momentum.

vs. back ferrying, which is done . . .
. . . most often as a one-time strategic move and not for play purposes.

Let’s assume a tandem touring canoe with paddlers in the usual seating positions. For a one-time strategic back ferry, I think the angle can be adjusted most easily by the bow person, who is at the downstream end. However, the stern person has the best view of what the angle is and should be. So verbal teamwork is necessary.

That said, in a highly rockered whitewater tandem canoe with paddlers in a Gemini or close seating position, as I and my partner used to paddle in an ME, either paddler can adjust angles pretty easily because each paddler can reach on both sides of the center of lateral resistance (~ “pivot point”).

I’m retired, it’s 90 degrees, I have no air conditioning, and I’d rather be reading or typing than attacking my jungle with my parangs and goloks.