Flipping over and recovery

I don’t know much about CANOES except that they are pretty hard to overturn on a lake. But let’s say I do flip it in the middle of a BIG lake.

Is it possible to flip it back up, empty the water from the boat, get back in and paddle it? Are there any special techniques or tools? If not, what do I do if I don’t want to swim to shore and lose it?

Hard to overturn?
I kow a lot of canoes that are pretty darned easy to overturn.

And once they fill with water, unless you are with another boat and can empty it over that boat, or unless you have a lot of supplemental flotation in the canoe, it will be near impossible to empty. Grab onto it and swim to shore…don’t leave the boat, because a rescuer can spot the boat a lot easier than he can spot you.

I have been lucky once after dumping in the middle of a river…somehow I was able to get under the boat and push it somewhat up out of the water (kicking wigh my feet) and flipping it upside-right…and then using a paddle from the side to scoop out as much water as I could before attempting to re-enter the canoe. I imagine this would be tough to do on a lake given the size of the waves that probably flipped you in the first place.


Practically Speaking, Can’t Be Done
Some people actually can empty a swamped canoe and re-enter it (it depends on the sort of canoe you have too). However, the odds are good that anyone who ends up swamped in the middle of the lake got in that situation due to rough water, and re-entering and bailing a swamped canoe in big waves is a whole other story. It’s best to be pretty confident you can make a crossing under the given conditions. If the water is cold, the safest bet is to stay close to shore.

Just get a sea kayak and learn how to roll it. Besides, kayaks look so much cooler than canoes! :slight_smile:

Pedro Almeida

p.s. If you want to be really cool, you can build your own kayak.


go ahead and flame me, I’m fireproof!

I disagree…
It can be done. It does, however,take a lot of practice and it certainly is dependant on the boat type; I have seen some paddlers that re-enter one boat in a flash and in other boats cannot re-enter at all. Deck plate design, flotation tanks, tumblehome, and other hull design features all affect how the water is removed (or not) and the subsequent re-entry process. There are ways of shaking water out a canoe partially and then rentering over the front quarter rail, emptying the water out completely with a capistrano flip and doing a cowboy rentry over the bow or stern, etc. All of these techniques take extensive practice. Even the most practiced have limited success in rough conditions.

I agree that the most likely scenario of going over on a lake is in waves, wind, etc. Staying close to shore is certainly prudent. However, I did have the unfortunate experience on one lake outing(calm conditions)in not seeing a mostly submerged, but floating 2’ dia log out in the middle on a crossing, impacted it without warning in an instant I was capsized. There was nobody around for an assisted rescue. I partially emptied the boat,and struggled for about 15 minutes before I managed to crawl back in. I was glad I was able to re-enter my boat; I was fortunate in that I was only mildly cold and exhausted, and glad to recover and be able to paddle back.

It is always best to assume that you will need to take care of yourself. That includes assesing and minimizing your paddling risk, paddling skills and self rescue. Paddling with others is certainly on the best options.

You can do this in rough water?
Lets say the waves are two feet high or more, and the boat is swamped. How can you get the water out of the boat when water keeps splashing over the gunwales about 100 times faster than you can bail? And if you can do that, can you actually re-enter the boat in such conditions, or keep it from rolling while bailing if you are already in? There’s nothing less stable than a swamped canoe. That’s why I say for practical purposes it can’t be done. By “practical”, I’m talking about the kind of situation that would be typical if you get swamped.

I cannot. However my re-entry in calm conditions to me was extremely “practical”

I know a guy who can do it.
I also know about 500 who can’t. I belong to the “can’t crowd” and I have been paddling canoes before most people here were born.

I know all about that “they taught us when we were in scouts how to do it”, but I also have won a few bets from those old scouts.



Not too hard with two boats
in moderate conditions, but but really hard on your own. A T-rescue is pretty quick with 2 boats, one the rescuer and one the rescuee. You can empty a boat pretty quickly that way. The harder part is getting a paddler back in that emptied boat. In rough water or with a tired paddler it is pretty hard. If you have two boats to rescue just one it gets easier because the second boat can work at stabilizing the other doing the “real” work of emptying the rescuee’s boat and getting them back in.

Of course, if the water is cold and the waves are high, this is where the one or two rescuer boats just drag the swimmer into their boats and head to shore. On a lake you can pick up the boat later.


an ounce of prevention
As I think the above comments make clear, the absolute best thing you can do is never, ever, be out in the middle of a big lake (big as in you have little or no chance of paddling or swimming a swamped canoe to shore) alone. Canoes really ought to travel in pairs or groups under such conditions (not that it’s terribly brilliant for kayakers to be out there solo either), since a T-rescue with another canoe is your best, as possibly only, option. Even where both canoes are swamped, they usually retain enough bouyancy to T-rescue one another.

Air Bags

– Last Updated: Apr-11-07 8:51 PM EST –

Don't leave home without 'em.
Pedro, sea kayaks wouldn't look too good where I paddle, not after the first 100 yards anyway ;-)

Are air bags generally strong enough…
…to bear the weight of a paddler executing a cowboy re-entry? Or would such a maneuver likely burst a bag from the paddler’s weight pressing on it?


All air bags I have seen in use are
plenty strong enough. The key is that they need to be tied in properly.

But watch the progress of the new 2-4 lb battery powered bailing pumps. They may prevent a lot of swamping on wavy lakes, as well as rivers.