noobe question regarding "boat scouting"

Another one in the WW question series… :wink:

The practicality of “boat scouting”:

So you see some foamy stuff further down the river. And you spotted a good size eddy a bit before it and zip right into it. Now what?

I have a couple of small inhibitions in hand:

  • I’m facing up river, not where I want to “scout”. But if I turn around, I had to be careful I’m staying IN the eddy, not drifting towards the eddy line or bump up against the rock that creates the eddy. Easy to do when facing up river (looking at the rock). But that defeats the purpose of “boat scouting” which is stay stationary and looking for a good route to proceed further down river.

    So far, I’ve resorted to putting my boat sideways to the river, first look around the half of the river on one side of the rock, then turn the boat around to look at the other half of the river. Is that the only way?

  • Sitting in a kayak, I found I don’t see very far down river. I can see the top line of rocks and can see which way I DON’T want to go. But it’s not too easy to GUESS whether it’s clear beyond if I follow the tongue of water… Or if there’s an eddy below the rock vs a hole! :frowning:

good instincts noobe
Good concern, if I try to boat scout and still have to guess, then it’s time to stretch my legs and hike downstream for a better look. I always make sure I have an escape route so I don’t commit to running a drop blind.

boat scouting
Sometimes, especially on creeks with steep banks, boat scouting can be the only practical way to navigate rapids that is at all time effective.

With practice, you can become better at looking back over your shoulder, and you will develop some sense as to whether you are leaking back out of the eddy.

It is often possible to spin around 180 degrees even in relatively small eddies. You may need to stick the nose of your boat out into the current and spin on the eddy line then reenter the eddy with a good backstroke.

You could paddle a C-1. It gives you a better downstream view:)

Obviously you can scout to a certain extent from an eddy. But as you say that may not give you enough information. There are two alternatives. One is to back ferry across the top of the rapid. A back ferry is the same as a ferry except the bow is pointing downstream. Same principles. Edge down stream and point the stern at an angle that maintains your position. You can exit the eddy, ferry across and either enter another eddy on the other side or ferry back to the original eddy. If that is not possible or doesn’t give you enough information then plan B is to get out on the shore and scout from the shore. Plan C, which I have seen people do, including myself, is to catch the eddy, plan your exit to the rapid and hope you can catch other eddies or react quickly enough to get through the rapid. That only make sense if you know that there is no big hole or other serious problem. THERE IS NO SHAME IN SCOUTING FROM SHORE!

the “how” part

– Last Updated: Aug-11-11 10:12 PM EST –

Thanks for the good advices.

I guess what I'm trying to learn is the finer point on "how" to do this boat scouting thing BETTER.

I'm talking about rapids with relatively mild consequences (class III). And I already know which part of each rapid I must stay away from. But the "easier" part of the rapids still involves some moves, if just for fun. I'm trying to use it as an opportunity to learn how to do everything imagining if I need to do the same in a high class rapid.

It seems with every single technique, whether it's surfing, boofing or boat scouting, allk have a lot more intricacy that only comes with a lot of practice, and reflection afterward. So this is just one such reflecctions after the fact.

Another suggestion
"Practice class IV moves in class III water". This is a kind of standard idea in WW kayaking but makes a lot of sense.

other options
In addition to using typical eddies or the back ferry option Dr Disco mentioned (which I use frequently) you can sometimes use some other techniques to get a quick glimpse downstream.

One is to do one or more “flybys” above a drop from one secure eddy to another.

Sometimes you can briefly park in little “trout eddies” created by a barely submerged rock. These might not hold you securely, but the may slow the current flow enough for you to park behind them briefly and glance back over a shoulder while paddling upstream to hold your position.

Non-eddies can also be used like eddies including the boil line of a hole or a surf wave. You can sometimes park yourself behind a hole or on a wave long enough to catch a glimpse downstream.

As you approach the brink of a drop you will sometimes find you aren’t optimally positioned to catch the smoothest tongue. I usually find it quicker and easier to realign the boat with a side slip in this situation.

Good habit to get into
You never know what’s down there. Can’t say I always do it. But your thread is a good reminder to make good habits.

Eddy Hopping
Much of it really depends on the type of Class III you are in. A shallow shoal can be fairly continuous from top to bottom, but generally offers an option to eddy hop all the way down. Find the main channel and eddy out left and right all the way through.

Taking any long rapid is small chunks is always good practice.

Other Class III is the more creeky pool drop stuff where there are distinct drops and small to large pools before the next spot. If you have small water or big rocks, some of the drops may be very hard to scout from a boat.

As pointed out above you need to think about your exit plan at each jump. There might be a great eddy at mid-stream for scouting, but if you can’t get back to shore, you are committed when you go to scout from that spot.

Some drops have “friendly rocks” that you can paddle right up on to scout from. They are out of the main current and generally in slack water at the bottom of an eddy or near a shore. They offer soft landing spots that make it easy to re-enter the water and often provide a spot to get out and stand up for a better look.

Learning to read the water will eventually allow you to scout a lot of drop from very near the edge without committing to run it. Watching experienced people do it helps tremendously.

thanks all for the advice
I’ll try to practice some of that this weekend.

And hope this thread can be helpful to others learning WW.

If all else fails try this
Contrive to lead through the rapid with a friend or friends following closely behind. As you approach the brink of the drop you are most uncertain about, quickly catch the last available eddy and observe your friend’(s) (aka “the probe’s”) fate as they are forced to run the drop.