Getting in a canoe from the water

Hi, I’m going to get a canoe in the near future, and I was just wondering how hard it is to enter a canoe from the water if I want to go swimming? I’ll be taking it out on an estuary, its slow shallow water.

Well it’s not terribly hard to enter a canoe from the water, straddle the bow or stern and shove the canoe under you while you pull yourself in, the canoe will have a lot of water in it when you’re done though that’ll need bailed.

The biggest problem is you can’t really go swimming from a canoe in the first place, it’ll wander away all on it’s own if you’re not holding on. Even in slow moving water it can drift much faster than you can swim. You would have to anchor it somehow first.

Bill H.

Since I have never been out on a canoe I don’t really know, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to anchor a canoe, would it?

One or two
kayak paddles tied to thwart with either rope or for quick install use double sided Velcro (adhesive back type) kayak paddle(s)hanging over one or each side with paddle floats attached. Did it a lot when I was younger with my dog in my solo.

Canoeing & swimming…
Save your self some hassles.

Paddle to pretty spot on shore.

Make sure canoe is secure.

Swim to your heart’s content.

Take a break.

Get back into canoe.

Paddle on downstream.

Any water dripping off you can easily be wiped up with a small sponge.

If you want to practice canoe reentry after a capsize; I suggest you have a partner present to assist you if needed. I have found it to be tiring & not a whole lot of fun, but it certainly can be done.


It’s not the current, it’s the wind
If you tread water next to a boat in current, no matter how swift the current, you will remain near the boat. Both you and the boat will move with the current. A popular method for teaching relative motion in physics classes is to illustrate that even with the aid of floating buoys, there’s no way to even detect a uniform current if you are out of sight of fixed landmarks.

Wind is the problem. An empty canoe will drift faster than you can swim even in a fairly light breeze. It’ll blow along the surface like a dry leaf.

Yes, anchoring is easy. You just need a weight (or a real anchor) and some rope.

As Bob says below, re-entering a canoe is not an ideal situation. It takes practice, quite a bit of effort, and how difficult it is will depend a lot on exactly which canoe you are using. Some sort of easy, temporary modification to the boat might be a good idea if you plan to do this a lot, such as a makeshift “outrigger” tied to a thwart with a float on the outboard end.

I’m not canoeing on deep water, lake water, only shallow streams.

Moving to Florida from the NE, adopted air bags for the hull preventing that sinking feeling. Not previously a problem.

With the canoes on lake water, I would move into a float brace setup n practice this move.

Covers the ground.

Anchors are problematic. Even shorelines are sometimes problematic.

Very hard, next to impossible !
From one who has seven canoes.

Some solos, some tandems, and some racing canoes, and I have been paddling canoes for over sixty years.

If you want to get in and out of one in deep water, you will need to think of some auxiliary device such as sponsons.

jack L

Look at Sit On Top Kayaks
If you are on an ocean estuary and want something that you can paddle on protected ocean coast and calm estuaries and that you can exit and re-enter to go swimming or diving, you want a sit-on-top kayak.

The Scrambler is a good starter kayak and paddles well, and is very seaworthy.

If you really can’t land…
agree with the SOT idea. There are canoes and ways to equip canoes that will make them easier to get into from the water, but overall a SOT is less likely to leave you feeling like you need to take a swim again from the effort. Also, if you are thinking of being out in the middle somewhere, less windage than a canoe while you figure out how to hang onto it or anchor it.


– Last Updated: Feb-24-16 10:00 PM EST –

A lot depends on 3 things: Your age, Your general physical fitness, and your balance.

I have seen a decent number of people (around 10) get into a canoe their first time, but they were moderately to very athletic. They ranged in age from 15 to around 48. Their skill ranged from 'competent novice' to expert.

Point being, you may be able to do it your first try if you're in shape and have decent balance. If you lack any of the above skills above, it can be difficult to impossible for people to remount a canoe without help from sponsons (an outrigger), air bags, a rope ladder, ect.

Its best to try near shore and find out what you're capable of.

Not hard at all…
Paddle to shore, take a swim, continue your trip. Now if you plan to reenter alone from deep water I agree with Jack - difficult if not impossible.

depends on the canoe
I’ve gone swimming (intentionally) from a big Old Town Tripper tandem. Getting back in the canoe was awkward but not difficult. With a solo canoe it is relatively easy if you have someone else in another canoe alongside to stabilize your canoe while you get in. I’ve been unsuccessful in re-entering a solo canoe unassisted.

No kayak
The reason I’m going with a canoe over a kayak is because mostly, its gonna be for fishing. Also, I will occasionally have more people with me, more than a tandem kayak can hold, at least with 2 people and a good amount of gear.

Also, if anyone knows where the Albemarle Sound is, where I would be is on one of the branches of the branches, maybe out on one of the bigger branches.

Where I am you can stand, its mostly waist to chest-deep water.

You should have said that…
from the start.

If you have one or more people with you, and you are in waste deep or even chest deep, it wouldn’t be too hard.

Just have one person standing in the water on the opposite side holding the canoe down, while you climb in on the other side.

If it is children, forget it.

If adults, then the last one in the water is screwed, unless the ones in the boat are great on figuring counter balance.

jack L

Counter balancing
It would be best with some practice, but I easily counter balanced a canoe while my much heavier husband climbed in. In fact it went so easily that he had to counter balance for a bit and let me know he was in the boat. I did not realize he had gotten in already.

Now things to keep in mind about that - the canoe in question was a heavy old fiberglass monster of indeterminate manufacture with big air baffles. So it resisted sinking as he climbed over the side far better than my ultralight solo. The latter would be a piece of cake to re-enter with full float bags, but then it would no longer be ultralight. So I limit where I use it, which is fine on a hot day, so if it sinks like a submarine it is embarrassing rather than dangerous. And in your case, if you have multiple people in the boat you might not want to chew up space with major float bags.

Dunno about the ages listed above, it may depend on your friends. The last time I and my husband spent half a day climbing in and out of various canoes I was 58 and he was 57. Aside from the naked Mad River Guide, which I finally got into but called that the end of my day, there wasn’t anything I did then that I couldn’t do now at over 60. But float bags make ALL the diff. You just have to be able to tolerate the weight and the cost.

is how I learned to do it as a kid, although we’d try to throw our upper body across the canoe more towards the center thwart rather than towards the bow/stern as in this video. The trick was to get your upper body weight across both gunnels as far as possible, then pivot to get your lower body in the boat. Now, as an adult, I can’t do it anymore.

Yeah sorry, I kinda just figured people knew that estuaries are generally shallow like that.

I have news for you !
I have been in the tidal creeks in estuaries up and down the east coast from New Hampshire to Florida, and in more of them than not the depth is over your head.

jack L