Practice makes perfect.......a question.

Hi folks:

My wife and I, both novices with around 10 canoeing days behind us, are planning a trip down the Maumee River this upcoming Monday in our Penobscot. The river will be higher than we have run it before (previously ran it at 3-4 kcfs, predicted to be at 9-11 kcfs. For the most part, we are assuming that it will be fast and flat, punctuated by several class 2 ledges/rapids (less the turkeyfoot rapids, 1/8th mile class 3 that we will possibly run/portage after scouting from below during the shuttle). We are hoping to practice some basic strokes/techniques like forward/back, sweeps/prys, etc. We are even thinking of tossing in some eddy turns around bridge abutments and possibly some ferrying. What other skills can you folks recommend that we practice/play with?

Are we nuts?



Do you know how to beach the boat…

– Last Updated: May-26-06 11:14 PM EST –

... in a big hurry? You might want to practice doing that, so when the Oh-Sh.. factor kicks in you are better able to escape certain doom.

Okay, I'm partially kidding, but not completely. Most novice canoeists (kayakers too!) just ram the shore while heading downstream. In general, you want to spin the boat back upstream, paddling into the current to maintain position, and angle the boat toward shore so that you just ease up against the shore. It's the same thing as ferrying.

In an emergency, you probably just want to back-paddle like crazy and angle the stern of the boat toward shore. Like backing a trailer, it's easier said than done until such time as it becomes automatic. I use the trailer analogy because people have a tendency to angle the boat the wrong way when back-paddling, bow toward shore instead of stern toward shore, when doing this for the first few times. Paddling tandem makes all these steps on the learning curve a bit more awkward too, which is why I have serious envy for really good tandem paddlers!

excellent post
I will certainly add that to the list.


You mentioned just about everything…
that you should be practicing.

Hopefully you have the Penobscot set up with some good foot braces and thigh braces.

We are in the process right now of removing our cane seats and replacing them with gray foam pedistal seats in our Penobscot just for WW.

If you will be in any big WW you will need them.

Don’t forget a spare paddle (or two) secured into the canoe, just in case.

We were in a class II with our rec kayaks last week that was running higher than normal, and you are right. It was fast and with a lot less bumping and scraping than normal.

It will hone your reflexes, and that is just what you are looking for right now if you are novices, (reading the river and reacting to it).

One thing that I find is difficult on a bright sunny day, if there are a lot of overhanging trees is distinguishing the rocks just below the surface from shadows. Several times in what is an obvious clear wave train, right in the middle of it there will appear to be a rock which turns out to be just a shadow.

Have a good time and let us know how it went and keep the open side up!



Urging caution…
…as it may not be the best idea to “practice” maneuvers on a 3x normal volume river that is still running ice cold. Hope you’re going in a group or at least with experienced friends. Rained several times here (central OH) yesterday so the level may even be higher than you predict. Everything changes with that large difference in volume. ST

There’s a good section in Bill
Mason’s book “Path of the Paddle” about exiting a canoe in fast moving water. He tells the story about a novice couple paddling a river in the Spring runoff. They couldn’t exit the canoe before a rapid because of lack of skills so they were into the white water and didn’t want to be in and had to be rescued. If you paddle into the shore you’ll probably go in too fast and can’t stop the canoe, so either back ferry into the shore or do an eddy turn. Also, the person upstream should exit first so if the canoe swings out, an upset won’t deposit the paddler too far from shore into the current. A good book to read.

again for the words of caution and advice. Like I was saying, we are taking it seriously, and really looking foward to a good day on the water. The river is not in flood stage, nor close. At worst, should we decide to take on Turkeyfoot rapids, we could potentially take a really long, slow swim to shore in 63 degree water and 85+ degree air temp. I’ll try and get a couple of pics and share my expirences.


In the Toledo area?
…someone said that there’s camping on some islands possibly. I’m thinking of checking it out… I’m frfom the Lorain area, but frequently cross the river on my way to Ann Arbor. Do ya possibly know anything about it?

Don’t forget

– Last Updated: May-27-06 6:40 PM EST –

airbags and a secured bailer. High water may lead to some wave trains which are not dangerous(safer than scraping rocks imo), but you will end up with water in the canoe. Also they're a blast, my favorite part of ww along with a good chute.Airbags also keep canoe higher in the water if you flip.JackL, re: thinking waves are rocks...Oh yeah, the other day my local river was flooded. We thought we saw a huge wave, decided to hit it, it was a rock under about 8" of water. My son was about 8' in the air, made the playboaters jealous. My end went sideways, and water coming over the airbags. Water is 53 degrees, fortunately we stayed upright. Still laughing about that one.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no camping allowed on any of the islands in Wood/Lucas County. All of the islands are held privately or by the state, local governments, or nature related organizations. There are a couple of campgrounds @ Mary Jane Thurston state park near Grand Rapids, Ohio or at Buttonwood fishing access, near Maumee, Ohio. As a matter of fact, access is prohibited on a good number of the islands all together.

Thanks alot…
a guy emanoh(?) once posted a day trip report mentioning there might be some camping available…

back paddling
is the most important skill, I think, coupled with ferrying both directions. Gives you time to think, pick a line.

was an excellent day to paddle the Maumee. 7.5 - 9.5kcfs (around 4.5-5ft) seems just about perfect. We did get get some water in the boat going over a 2’ ledge, but kept the open side up the whole time. Saw 3 whitewater playboats out today, but we stayed away from the areas that they were paddling.

Thanks again for the help folks,


– Last Updated: May-30-06 12:23 AM EST –

It sounds like you two are moving along with great confidence in flatwater, but just two weeks of flatwater experience won't "cut it" in current.
I think you may find high water in a ClassII-III river...throwing things at you beyond your skill levels, certainly at a faster pace than you'll expect. You don't safely learn moving/whitewater skills by simply experiencing moving water. Bow & stern paddlers often have distincly different tasks that require coordinated timing. You also need to know what holes & ledges look like from upstream, and what waveforms to line up with...even though you might clear the ledges with higher than normal flow. ...and with all good respect, "pointing" a canoe towards shore and making Tranquility Base is somewhat relying on a slow, meandering current...not always present upstream of serious ledges or drops.

recipe for regret
The way you describe the conditions I’d say that yes you are nuts. Leave your wife at home and go learn the hard way yourself. You can get in trouble with much more experience and much more familar conditions. Springtime is dangerous on rivers.

Can you two stop the boat and start backing it up within two strokes? If you don’t know you’re crazy to go out.

sorry, I’m opinionated.