Questions about dumping a canoe.

The last two days The water was High in the Sandusky river so I took my 16’ prospector out solo for the whitewater experience(really brown here in ohio). Sunday everything went well beautiful day no problems. Monday I decided it was so nice I’d do it again and cut out of work a little early. The problem started with the wind, I was skirting a ledge at the top of a long wave train when a strong gust blasted my canoe sideways smashing into a rock I braced and made the turns but ended up at a bad angle for the lead wave of the train and took on a lot of water. At the end of the train I relaxed and sat back and all the water came to the back of the canoe and just rolled over and filled up. The water was rough still but I grabbed the line on the cane and swam to shore. What I was wondering is at the time I was swimming my main concern was what happens if I lose this canoe. Has anyone lost a canoe in this type of situation and what do you do then, swim to catch it or walk down the shore. It was fast water to the next rapids a hundred yards downstream and then the water got flat and slow.

most dumps will take a canoe
but they charge a fee

couple points
It sounds like your trim was very out of whack. That’s why the wind spun you. If you’re going to sit in the turn-around bow, you still need to add some weight to the bow. Water or dry bags with gear are best.

Swimming is a skill just like other aspects of paddling. If you swim enough, you’ll develop the reflex to keep your paddle tight and keep hold of your boat as you are coming out of it. Always stay behind the boat to avoid getting pinned between it and an obstruction. Easy-to-access painters can be key to boat recovery. They can also be dangerous tangle hazzards. So, with a swim, you’ve got to decide if you need them for boat recovery or can you just leave them stowed and swim the boat into an eddie. Don’t put your feet down in a current, ever.

You are using supplemental flotation, right? That’s one of those lessons you can learn the hard way, or just take others’ words for it.

There are many other points to be made, I’m sure others will chime in. Swimming is a fun subject.

no hard and fast rule…
Which is better? Swimming to your boat or chasing it down shore?

Whatever is the quickest and safest way to your boat. Then consider, did your boat wash to someplace your body does not want to be? There is no one answer. Sometimes the shoreline may cooperate nicely and allow you to chase down your rig much quicker. No way anyone can swim faster than running down a good shoreline. Sometimes, no way you can get out of the river.

Safety first, then figure out how you can do it quickest.

so you catch a loaded boat…

– Last Updated: May-06-08 10:40 AM EST –

now what? If it's got no airbags and it's up to gunwales with water, in moving current(after a point), there's not much if anything you can do. Take care of yourself first, get safe, then figure out the canoe. My poling/tripping boats have a much longer painter than the WW boats. Reason why is if I flip a playboat, I can push it back upright, and the airbags make for a light load to push. This is impossible with the trippers, so I have about a 20' painter (too long I know but I like it) which allows me to stay away from the canoe and freely swim to a rock or the shore. Once I'm planted I can pull the canoe to me and start recovery ops..
As others have mentioned, there's no set rules. Rivers and situations are different. I'm primarily on fairly narrow rocky cl.1-3 rivers and this is what works for me. I know a swamped Dumoine in cl. 2 sure makes me feel powerless hanging on to the side. Now how would I know that??

Chased Mine Downstream Yesterday
I didn’t dump, but was loading gear into truck. Turned arround, and the canoe was heading downstream. Had to run and THOUGHT jumping in and swimming might be my next “Move” if I didn’t catch it. I barely caught it before it went through a swift run below the landing. IMHO it just depends on the layout of the river and land on which you do. If it’s a river, it should eventually “Eddy out” somewhere downstream. On a lake, you’re a bit more at the mercy of the wind. Clarion made some good points, and just to reiterate, stay upstream of the boat and lay back and keep your feet up to avoid entrapment. Unfortunately, I’ve had extra swimming practice the last few years; probably due in part to adding some weight above the gunnels! WW

If the river is shallow enough and/or slow enough that you can SAFELY stand in one spot, turn the canoe rightside up, lift it to empty most of it and flip it upright. It can then be swum or pulled to shore. Otherwise, the only way to dump water out of a canoe is if it has airbags. If it does, it should ride high enough (after you flip it upright, if necessary) to be able to pull or swim it to shore.

If you don’t have airbags in the canoe and it is headed for fast, deep water or rapids of some sort, my advice is to get out yourself and chase it down, hoping a recovery opportunity affords itself.

Of course, if someone else was paddling with you that could render aid, emptying a canoe becomes much much easier, especially if one of the other boats is another canoe.


I lost one like that. I was coming
through a very familar class II but the level was lower than a few days earlier. I dumped, the boat took off and all I could do was lay on my back watching it go because I was jammed up on some huge rocks. In hindsight, it was no big deal. The water was warm, the sun was bright and I had nothing else to do that day. It took a couple of hours but I learned to use longer painters and practice, practice, practice dumping.

stay with a sinking ship at all cost…till you have to abandon.

You basically did the right thing. Nothing wrong with hanging onto your boat. You really want to be with it unless you are in a situation where you are going to get crushed between the boat and the object it is hitting. Always get to the upstream side to avoid this. You did the best thing. Had you been in some remote place…well you would have lost your boat to the river and more than likey waited till someone came by or walked out. If that happened to be in N. Canada you would have been screwed.

I’ve put 100-150lbs of wweight in a boat to help with ballast…and wind. You cant avoid some wind especially when it is really whipping. Chalk it up to experience and a good lesson. You know know what its like to dump and be in such a situation. Again, stay with the boat and your gear. On big waters you can “right” the boat by getting on the hull an pulling it back over and climbing in.