Eddy turns with loaded tripping canoe?

When paddling down rapids with a tandem canoe loaded with camping gear, do you hop from eddy to eddy with eddy turns and peel outs like you might with an unloaded WW boat? Is there a better “policy” to get through the rapids? Should you back-ferry into eddies instead? Just go down the river and mostly ignore eddies?

The canoe is a Royalex Bell Northwind, in case that matters.

eddy hopping
The technique is the same, but your canoe is deeper in the water. The current will affect it more and you have more inertia to overcome with your paddle. You have to anticipate moves a little earlier.

If everyone understood paddling as well as you do, the river world would be a better place

Depends on the Situation
You will need bigger eddys. If you already know what happens when you try to hit an eddy that’s too small and/or weak when paddling a solo canoe, you can simply magnify that effect when thinking about what to expect with a loaded tandem canoe. You will also get a feel for that the first time you try it in a loaded tandem canoe. Yes, back-ferries become a lot more useful, and forward ferries might sometimes be a good tool when already “eddied-out” somewhere. Also, you will see that the eddy-hitting ability of a tandem canoe is not as handicapped as you might expect, since the bow paddler is ideally located for grabbing an eddy.

If you haven’t already read Bill Mason’s descriptions of coming up with solutions for getting a tandem canoe through “complex” whitewater, I’d recommend that. The videos are good too (and are even available on YouTube), but best watched after fully absorbing what he’s written. The use of the word “complex” is mine, not Mason’s, and it just refers to situations where going straight through would most likely end badly. In actual fact, though, going straight through will often be fine. You’ll have to make that judgement based on what’s in front of you when you get there.

I think loaded canoes
and remote areas changes the approach quite a bit. Every time you turn your canoe around so that the bow faces upstream you expose yourself to a sideways hit which can be devastating. So I try to avoid that when I am in a tough stretch of water with a loaded canoe in a remote area. Its not worth the risk and it is usually unnecessary. My idea in that sort of situation is to be as safe as possible and to get down the river without mishaps.

Not at all like a whitewater boat
Backferrying is a fine technique used often here to gain the best line through rapids. You have control because of the speed differential between you and current.

Backferrying is kind of old school with highly rockered playboats. Used to be the norm. Not any more.

You no longer have a sports car. You have a loaded semi.

I agree -
or certainly a loaded 3/4 ton pick up.

Yes – definitely

– Last Updated: Dec-28-15 6:03 AM EST –

You should be using eddy turns, peal outs, front and back ferries and sideslips to help you get down the river safely. It’s the rare river that can be run straight down the middle without any maneuvering, and you will definitely need to be able get out of the rapids to avoid hazards (rocks, drops and strainers) and scout what’s ahead. How much maneuvering you do depends on your skill level, the boat, the load and the rapids.

I do agree with Guideboatguy that a tripping boat can be surprisingly maneuverable in whitewater. I paddled tandem a couple of months ago, and it was a blast. We caught every eddy and surfed every wave that the solo boats did.


I am certainly not advocating playboating your way down wilderness rapids in a loaded tandem, but if the rapids look too big for basic moves, then maybe you think about portaging, wading or lining – nothing wrong with that.

And what about outfitting
A center bag probably isn’t an option, but end bags probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Straps and knee pads definitely improve your control of the boat, but also increase the entrapment hazard.


Might be talking about different things
I think it depends on what you are doing. If you are on a long trip in a true wilderness area with two or three weeks of stuff and where help is hundreds of miles away I personally would never be carrying any flotation. Also, I would be paddling rivers with great care avoiding all dangers to the extent possible. If the water safe to run by good paddlers in loaded boats I will run it but I will do everything possible to avoid exposing myself to dangers. So for me I will be avoiding turning my boat sideways and I will opt instead for other techniques to catch and depart from eddies. If you are talking about short weekend jaunts with two days of stuff then maybe I’m less concerned.

lots to consider

– Last Updated: Dec-28-15 8:48 AM EST –

but in general I think there are some inherent advantages to back paddling and eddy setting. You're likely to give the bow time to ride up over waves, you increase your reaction time to get around obstructions, and keep a downstream orientation to view the river and upcoming route selection.

As rapids get larger the need to punch holes, and paddle through drops becomes more important so your paddling style tends to shift.

An ability to catch eddies is a basic and important skill. It may not be essential to actually do so in less difficult rapids but I would want that ability anyway. You're only as good as the eddies you can catch to keep out of trouble.

I don't see the forward paddling and back styles as being mutually exclusive even when I'm ww kayaking.

We often teach newbie kayakers to paddle aggressively in rapids because active paddling encourages a blade in the water, which is a key to staying upright in the absence of a brace. However, the reality is that you can achieve that same effect in an open canoe by back paddling your way through class II rapids. As you step up to class III your style is likely to shift a bit.

I have a really hard time passing up rapids so I gamble a bit and live with consequences, and have bent a few canoes up as a result of my decisions.

thats the beauty of side floatation

– Last Updated: Dec-28-15 8:43 AM EST –

PakCanoes used on remote expeditions don't use air bags center front and stern but rather an inflatable floatation system on the inside of the sides .

I agree.. the float bag system goes out the door on longer trips. Everything is packed in watertight bags.. which retain enough air to provide some floatation.

But the mindset switches from play to conservative and you think do you really want to run this with your car and house with you?

Eddy turns remain a must do. Otherwise we would have never made a camp anywhere on the fast flowing Yukon River. 8 mph required advance planning at that.

Loaded back ferry
I did a long river trip with a lot of whitewater this summer and one thing I quickly learned was how differently my solo handled empty as opposed to loaded for a 30 day trip with a dog.

Catching eddies wasn’t too big of a deal and still pretty easily done but after only a couple attempts I gave up on back ferries. My solo has differential rocker, as does yours I believe, and when fully loaded the stern was just too grabby. If I got just a little too much angle the current would take me and I was unable to get it straightened out quick enough. Since you’ll be tandem it won’t be as bad as just me sitting in the center of the canoe but something to keep in mind.

I was fortunate that most of my rapids were pretty straight forward affairs. I portaged most of them over CII but did run a couple rated CIII empty after portaging the gear. Others I would have liked to run but, like a couple other posters said, when you’re a hundred miles away from the nearest village/town you tend to get a little more cautious.


tandem and solo back ferries

– Last Updated: Dec-28-15 1:29 PM EST –

I don't think tandem back ferries come naturally to many people.
Sure, in gentler current they work quite well and a team that has practiced and has experience can execute them in strong current as well.

But less experienced tandem teams often have the less experienced paddler in the bow, and back ferries require a sometimes uncomfortable role reversal because for tandem ferries the downstream paddler must control the angle and for back ferries that is the bow paddler. What is more, the bow paddler looking downstream does not have a good visual perception of the ferry angle and often has to glance backward to judge the proper angle. In strong current even a momentary loss of angle will result in the stern being swept downstream into a potentially dangerous broach.

Another factor that influences the success of both solo and tandem back ferries is boat trim. Many people have their boats set up and loaded so that they are somewhat bow light. This might work well for keeping the boat dry riding through big wave trains, but it works very poorly for back ferries. Any time the upstream end of the boat is heavy during a ferry the odds of the upstream end getting blown downstream is increased and maintaining the ferry angle becomes more difficult.

In some of the old Bill Mason videos he makes a point of pushing his load forward to weight the bow when executing back ferries.

Back in the late 70s or early 80s, a local newspaper writer wrote about a trip to the boundary waters that was spoiled when they crashed one of their canoes in rapids. They ended up camped by the river, or perhaps the nearest portage trail (I don’t remember which) for several days before someone came along. The group that came along altered their plans and the whole bunch went back to an access point together. Imagine what a pinch they’d have been in had that happened in real wilderness.

I understand that there is no room for a center bag, but why not put small float bags in the bow and stern. It would certainly help keep the ends up near the surface, which would reduce the likelihood of pinning on a submerged rock. I guess if you have the bow and stern jammed with gear that’s the answer. I actually never take the bow and stern bags out of my Mohawk tandem, and have been glad they were there on a couple of unexpected occasions.

In terms of drybags being used for floatation, that might work fine as long as the bag is tied in well and stays in the boat. If it flops out it could make matters worse.

Backferry sets are tough
About the only time that I use them is setting into an eddy on the inside of a curve – works great there. Otherwise, I’d be much more likely to do an eddy turn and peal out.

I learned backferries back in '96
on the Snake River in the Yukon… Some 330 miles of rapids lay ahead and our guide drilled them into us…

They did not work well with the gear in the back of the boat ( the dutch ovens) but worked better , much better with a lighter stern.

Boat control hence was easier for the bow person…

communication was the key… bow paddlers dont have eyes in the back of their heads and looking backwards from that end did not work well.

I want to paddle with pblanc.


– Last Updated: Dec-28-15 10:00 PM EST –

Blanc's transit ?

the heavy solo bow does loosen
I had not paddled the hull. The first 50 yards was slick into the chute so I padd....eyyyah the stern took off toward Laredo...n lika Porsche was more gas n hit the brakes with a lotta lock.

Advise practice with front load before leaving

But...and I have no such tandem experience...if the hull is dropping, bowman brakes with a sweep n draw...this would deepen the bow's grip ?

With an eye toward eddy space/landing area encompassing all mentioned technique

El groupo has a lotta failed eddy landing experience

Some of these comments
remind me of why I like/prefer very traditional symetrical canoes with decent rocker for long trips on rivers that have white water. Like the old town tripper or the nova craft prospector 17. Also, loading a canoe requires care - need to make sure you are close to neutral balance fore and aft so you can adapt to whatever situation arises. Lord I wish they would bring back royalex. But - I’ll probably manage to get through to the end of my tripping days with the canoes I have.