Open Canoe in the Ocean

What do you think about putting an open canoe in the ocean? I’ve never read anything about it or heard of it being done. I’m not suggusting a 20 mile trip, just a little fun off shore.

Thanks for the advise. SYOTR


God Bless The “Dumb and Stupid…”

– Last Updated: Nov-17-04 10:25 AM EST –

sometimes... I know. :)

Back when I was in college, I visited a friend who had a house on Pine Point, the northern end of Old Orchard Beach in ME. He had an aluminum canoe. It was a nice calm day. So we set out and went way down, around a nice rocky point and then to a beach. Took almost two hours. We swam a bit and then decided to head back. Jeeze... it's kinda choppy out all of a sudden... The wind had kicked up. We were getting steep 2' feet chop. When trying to follow the coast line, we were taking in some water over the gunwales. So, we decided to head straight in to the waves and wind, way the heck out and quickly made a turn and head straight back in with the waves. We got back in okay, with a little white knuckled paddling.

Several things struck me afterwards about how stupid we were. One was the lobsterman who looked over at us, while pulling up traps, and said, "Ayuh... Pretty rough out for you boys to be in that little boat..." Then a sail boat came by and the person dropped his sail and hailed us. "Hey, you guys want to ride back in?" We declined. As we were passing the point, I noticed there were no beaches. Just sheer cliff and rock with waves smashing in on them. In white knuckled phase, I realized that we didn't have life preservers. Just a couple of old cushions. I didn't relish a swim as the little swimming we did on the beach was already too cold for my taste. There I had also found out my buddy wasn't even a great swimmer. I just assumed he was. I noticed that when we were swimming, he would mostly swim/float on his back. He didn't know how to do the crawl.

I knew we sort of lucked out and but didn't appreciate how much til I started to know more about kayaking in the ocean in cold water conditions.

God's grace does get shined on the ignorant and the foolish. But not always.... Know what you're doing, have immersion gear and check the weather reports.


The Polynesians did it
I would be willing to bet that outriggers were developed specifically for the purpose of putting canoes in the ocean.

Open Canoe on Ocean

You might want to read Brian Schulz’s post on the Qajaq USA forum at

Greg Stamer

I have paddled in the ocean in the Gulf and off the GA coastal islands. I would suggest understanding the tides and the currents very well before heading out. Surf should be minimal. If it is hard to get away from the beach, don’t do it. I once went out in a 15’ solo canoe when there were people surfing on boards at Fernandina Beach in FL. Getting off the beach was a real rodeo, lots of fun. Getting back to the beach could have been deadly. You don’t want to tumble in the surf with a canoe full of water, it weighs several tons. I was having a really exciting run when a big wave overtook me. It broke over the canoe and lifted me out. I could see the bow as I passed over it in the wave. Thinking that the canoe was going to flip end for end and follow the same path and land on top of me, I prepared to die. I curled up in a ball and covered my neck and back of my head with my arms. I was not able to get air for a long time. I was maytaged 3 times, getting a little air in between. Finally spit out on the beach, I had sand in places that hurt, like under my eye lids. I’ve been back on the ocean since, but only under milder conditions.

Do your homework first about tides and currents. Take your experiences in little steps.

Then there’s the wind
Even without surf landings the wind might be a problem.

Check out

I guess it again comes down to knowing the conditions you are going out in and not exceeding the limits of your craft.

Good thread. I LIKE that blue canoe!

Folks paddle Puget Sound and
canoe camp on the islands. The ones I know of use larger, fast tripping canoes and good equipment. They’re skilled and careful. Not recommended for everyone, but not unreasonable.

Seattle to Alaska
Mildred, A woman in my congregation when she and her husband were married just prior to WWII paddle a 17’ cedar strip open canoe from Seattle to Ketchikan Alaska.

The journey took four months. They were in no hurry and stopped to releive families working at various light houses and homesteads along the way. She also was a teacher and offered her services to remote families along the way.

They waited out storms along the way and bailed frantically a couple times.

Their biggest difficulty was finding accurate Canadian Maps.

Mildren is in her 90’s now and although her body is frail her spirit is still very strong and active. If her body would let her she would like to canoe the length of the Yukon River.

in harmony with the ocean go better
There are many people who inspire, especially those who are told to never think for themselves. So the best post here share personal experience and principles to learn about and apply for oneself.

Mildred beat the odds, open canoes on open coast ocean in those waters, cold and stormy, not a great place for anyone. However, maybe she beat those odds by plain old dumb luck, but then again give her credit, maybe did not have a macho conquer it anti authority do as I please attitude, respected the power of the ocean and tried to go in harmony with it. If that is so, she inspires me also!

Sing & Seumas … THANKS !!!
Your “canoe in ocean stories” are very poignant and cautionary tales about how quickly things can change

to make a fun venture a harrowing or deadly one. Last week, I was housesitting in Florence, Or and touring the coast around Cape Arago. When I saw Simpson’s Reef in the afternoon at low tide, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to head out there from Sunset Bay with a 15 foot canoe set up for rowing from a low cg center position. Well, I couldn’t resist the siren call and soon found myself out amongst the sea lions who stared at me incredulously. I soon succumbed to an adrenaline hypervigilance mode as I experienced a set of six-foot swells drive past me into the cove and explode. I felt a tremendous exhilaration but was also feeling ashamed for having put myself out there with no immersion insulation or fins … just a life jacket. Anyway, I watched the swell patterns for a half hour to get a feel of when to “sneak” back in between sets and succeeded without mishap. But I learned that the swells are so much larger when you’re out on them than as perceived from a cliffed shore point. Next summer, I’ll go back with more safety provisions and a larger (spray-covered) expedition canoe with waterbag ballast. Rich coastal waters are very seductive … but “sneaker sets” can make it very dangerous if things go south out there. Sometimes (as Sing noted) a first bold venture (stupid as it may be) is granted a free pass by fate … but certainly not always. Your stories help me assess the real responsibilities that must be faced to venture out there with canoe(s). Thanks again for sharing them. Shawn

canoes on ocean
i’ve always wanted to take a 13 foot or so whitewater canoe onto the gulf with full bags, etc. seems like it would be fun, and i’m sure the boat could handle the waves. some type of electric bailing system would help. but with a traditional canoe, i’d be very careful. a tandem would probably handle the waters better than most solos. i’d strap plenty of flotation in the boat and dress for wetness. a pfd and diving fins might help for the swim home. as for the canoe, i would plan on loosing it at some point if i were doing this over any duration of time.

Too much freeboard on a ww canoe
The wind will push you all over. Some days they are a bear down in the river valleys. Decked whitewater canoes are fun in surf but trying to travel with a following sea ain’t much fun.

Is this the same water you paddle the Rob Roy in?

I would think that in a group with good assisted rescue skills, proper equipment and moderate conditions an open canoe on the ocean would be reasonable. A decked and bagged canoe would be better and a decked, bagged canoe set up for rolling with a good skirt would be the best.

Ocean Canoeing
I was enthralled by just such an idea…so last May on a trip to Deleware my wife & I launched our 16’ Prospector into the Atlantic.

Breakers to the right & England to the left. It was quite a charge, but very demanding paddling. Highly dangerous and not recommended…but weirdly worth it. I would do it again, but be very willing to walk away if conditions were not ideal.

“Different boats for different floats.”

rob roy
i do paddle a rob roy, often offshore in southwest florida. the water isn’t too heavy here, although a steep three-foot chop gets real old in quartering conditions. i’ve got bags, and hope to get a spray cover this winter. i’m not that concerned about paddling my rob roy on open water. i was responding more to traditional canoe designs.

no problem
The fish will be well fed and the boat will float back to shore safely without you. Go for it!

I have done some wave surfing in a large
tandem, paddling solo. You certainly do have to watch the wind, as a switch to wind from onshore could send you out. I have also paddled an Old Town Tripper in light-to-moderate wind and chop on Lake Michigan. If I were traveling long distances on a big body of water, such as along Superior Provincial Park on Lake Superior, I would want to have added floatation and a full fabric deck, plus plenty of time to wait out the periods when it is too windy to be out.

Well I’ll post it if nobody else will…
Try this …

Somebody named Ron Drummona or something like that.

I think you would be nuts to go out on an exposed open coastline on the ocean in a canoe. Delaware bay would probably be OK if the weather was good.

Ocean Canoeing?
Don’t take this negatively, but it’s sort of like asking if you can cross the street. If you try to run across a 12-lane expressway at rush hour with your eyes closed, the practical answer is “No”. But most pedestrians reach their destinations unharmed.

I get the impression that at least 90% of what sea kayaks actually are used for, is perfectly suitable for canoes. All kayak tour operators seem to promise sheltered waters. There are canoes and canoes, from cottage tubs to sleek, spraydecked cruisers designed for open flatwater. Like the Sea Clipper. There are paddlers and there are paddlers. There are charts, tide and current tables, VHF radios, and guidebooks. There is the open ocean and sheltered tidewater. There are brief jaunts and ocean crossings.

The great popularity of recreational sea kayaking overshadows the fact that the world over, and through history, people have paddled small open craft on the oceans. I’ve heard of people in the northwest US who claim to be able to handle anything in their spraydecked canoes that sea kayaks can, but I can’t find their web posting anymore.

We do most of our canoeing on saltwater and often with sea kayakers. If you go to the BC Canoe Routes Forum on, you can find tons of advice about saltwater canoe paddling.

In fact, we just got back from canoeing on the Pacific - with a child - in November. Despite what many would consider utter foolishness, we believe we did so in a safe and responsible manner. We don’t get cocky, carefully research our trips, then live by the marine weather forecast.

Any “novice” trip listed in sea kayak guide books is appropriate for canoeing, as are the intermediate and even many of the expert ones if your equipment, skills, judgement and the conditions combine at a suitable level. Start with brief trips in the safest situations and build your experience from there.

Why not?
before I had my kayak I used to canoe in the ocean all the time.

As long as you heed the weather reports, and use common sense you can have a lot of fun.

I used to have fun trying to surf the smaller breakers into the beach.

If you want to see some good ocean canoers, you need to watch Baldpadler and Randy operate in the ocean in a C-2.

Last year they won the Bogey 13 miler down in Key Largo, and the next day in the Bacall 6 miler, the weather was horrndous. There were stong quartering winds with two foot or higher white caps, and they completed a one mile loop before finally deciding that it was time to let the closed kayaks finish. I think close to a quarter of the kayaks dropped out after that same first loop.



Read Paddle to the Amazon
A father and son paddled from Canada to the Amazon River in an open canoe. A big part of the trip being ocean paddling.