Can anyone tell me what this means?

they are ropes that are easily accessible, tied to bow and stern. I like 25 foot of length, others have shorter rope. they can be used for linning, tying off, emergencies, etc.

As a minimum, each painter should be the length of your canoe. Otherwise they aren’t much use in lining or tracking. I like floating 5/16" poly with a kermantle sheath. Attachment on the canoe should be at the waterline, not up near the decks.

well thank you both. All this time that I have been using them and have never heard them called painters. It must be a carry over from a nautical term.


Another use
For flatwater I use only one painter, on the bow. Needed to secure the boat during muckle-ups and such.

It is sized to allow it to reach the stern and be tied off somewhat loosely. In this configuration, while portaging with a good yoke you can use the painter line as a tension line to control the boat’s attuitude fore and aft. On long portages both hands can be at your side.


Logophiles note
The origin of ‘painter’ is an interesting bit of trivia - from the old French ‘pentoire’ for ‘strong rope’, derived from the Latin ‘pendere’ meaning ‘to hang’. Here’s the full explanation from my favorite word origin maven, The Word Detective:

Interestingly, painter is also an American regionalism for panther, i.e. cougar, puma, catamount, mountain lion, etc.

I use Van Gogh on the stern, Matisse on

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the bow.

A painter is a salty name used for a light piece of line used to tow or tie up a dinghy or other small craft.

Some whitewater canoe folks prefer shorter painters(less than a boat length) to minimize the risk of entanglement when they swim. Ends are not knotted to minimize snags. Floating line is highly recommended.

Good choice in painters, though I
prefer drunken house painters.

painters can be dangerous
I had started using painters on my canoe. In a section of whitewater we capsized and the bow painter wrapped itself around the bow paddlers leg and also got wedged between two rocks. Picture if you will the boat full of water pulling down river tied to rope wrapped around his leg and the end of the rope wedged between two rocks. It took him about sixty seconds of pain before realizing he could flip around the rope to get away. I know it was a fluke but tied ropes to a canoe that are not secured in a throw bag can cause more problems than they are worth.

if you paddle with a big enough group…
… who needs painters? As long as there are a couple people to run down a loose canoe (along with a couple or three more to assist a swimmer) painters may be more potential trouble than they are worth.

However, a good many of us can’t really get 6 or 7 people together every time we paddle class II. It would be nice, but in my world it’s not realistic. So, I’m sticking with my well-secured painters.

I always heard that WW boat painters
should be no longer than 2/3 the length of the boat.

Do not think I would want to do WW with a paddler that does not have the common sense to see that.



I did try attaching JJoven to the bow

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one time, but had to let him go for all the holler'n.

I guess he was the wrong "painter". ;^)



Oh yeah
I’m a Painter and I use painters.

I suppose the use of painters as long or longer than your canoe comes from being a “Wilderness Tripper”, and not just a whitewater canoeist or day tripper. In the wild you will have more opportunities to actually use painters for lining and tracking.

A whitewater paddler is more concerned with running the rapids and probably is on a river with a well established line or route. In that case painters aren’t necessary. I have seen WW boats with only handles, especially on day trippers canoes and kayaks.

In any case, painters should be coiled and stored under deck bungies and not just left laying in the bilge asking for trouble.

I like longer painters
Longer painters give you a better chance to swim to a place where you can stand before having to pull your boat back. This is especially helpful in icy cold water.

Are also used

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improperly to describe other types of lines :)

A painter is the term used to refer to the line attached to the bow of a dingy used to tie it off

Merriam_Websters definition
Main Entry: 2pain·ter
Pronunciation: 'pAn-t&r
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English paynter, probably from Middle French dialect (Normandy) pentoir, penteur clothesline, from pendre to hang -- more at PENDANT
: a line used for securing or towing a boat


I will sometimes use a poly line (floating)to drag on a large river with a somewhat fast current. Gives me something to be able to pull the canoe to the calmer water near the banks

first time I’ve heard that one
I guess dragging a painter is the polar opposite of keeping them well-stored and secured.

I hope you don’t put a knot in the end to grab onto.