Rented a canoe with the girlfriend and holy tippy

My girlfriend and I rented a canoe the other weekend. We felt so tippy, I felt like I was constantly shaking and tipping and it was very unnerving.

We have a camping trip planned soon and I’m determined to get it down pat because I want to do some fishing.

Im 6’4 325lbs and shes around 200lbs. Im wondering if my center of gravity is too high and thats what is creating the tipping feeling.

Any advice?

A lot of the problem with a canoe feeling tippy will be solved when you load it down with camping gear. An empty boat is inherently less stable. Be sure all gear is secured to the boat and can’t shift. If you are sitting on the thwarts or seats in an empty canoe, many people opt to kneel on a towel or something similar on the bottom of the canoe while leaning back on the seat. This lowers the center of gravity.

Kneeling (especially you) will add a lot of stability and confidence. If you have a yoga mat or a foam sleeping pad or some knee pads made for gardening they will add a lot of comfort. You can find something like a cheap foam sleeping pad at Kmart for $10. When you kneel you should try to spread your legs and brace against (or near) the sides of the canoe, that forms a triangle between your knees and butt and makes a very stable platform.

It’s also a bit like learning to ride a bike where you need to try to relax and let the canoe move around a little…flex at your waist. Being tense and stiff just makes things worse.

Remember to keep your head inside the canoe. If your head goes outside then your body may follow but if you stay centered and relax the boat will take care of you.

Your load of 525+ is on the high side if your rental canoe is on the smaller side. A 17 foot canoe will be better for you than a 16 footer.

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How big was the canoe you rented?

It was a 17 foot aluminum (3 person canoe)

Some of what you experienced is inherent in canoes. You have to get used to them and relax and sit in the middle of the seat. You two are good sized so you want the biggest boat you can find. A 17 foot canoe is for 2 people. Most of them have a practical weight capacity around 700-750 pounds. You guys together are 525. That leaves you maybe 200 pounds at the most, maybe less. Camping equipment low in the boat will lower your center of gravity. You may find that a canoe does not suit you. Consider a fishing type boat with a small motor.

There are many models of canoes with differing weight ranges and performance characteristics. Some rental fleet aluminum canoes are of types that people use in mild white water as well as flat and are typically not all that great in the performance or comfort departments or for carrying tripping loads. Do you have other options to borrow or rent a longer and/or wider and perhaps more appropriate canoe for camping?

It is true that being nervous and overreacting to fears of perceived capsizing can make things worse so you just may need more seat time. Like learning to ride a bike or downhill skiing, relaxing and centering your body and not making abrupt movements will help you get a feel for it no matter what boat you end up with.

With the weight diff between the two of you, you’ll probably want to keep a little more of your heavy gear stashed towards the bow where she is paddling to keep the water line more level. But if the boat doesn’t have enough volume you may find it worse with a lot of camping gear and both of you in it if it ends up riding TOO low. Best to get that worked out before you start on the long term outing.

I’m going to venture a guess that you and your girlfriend don’t have very much seat time in a canoe. You have a lot of body weight “above” the boat’s gunwales, and you didn’t take advantage of the increased stability created by kneeling.

That’s 3 things to consider; none of the 3 are going to give you the feeling of stability,unless you change and adapt.
Relax, sit up straight, and don’t lean your upper body out over the gunwales. You will improve with practice…


Have you canoed much before? With a second person in the boat?

You are big and would feel more unstable sitting on the seat than a smaller person. But a 17’ aluminum canoe is a bit of a heavy beast itself with some heft to counter your size.

If canoeing itself is relatively new to you and this camping trip is near, I suggest you make it the trip and any fishing involved happen from shore. Solve the time in canoes for next season.

Try bracing with the paddle. That is, have the blade in the water, near parallel to the surface and near the surface, and sweep it a bit, like treading water. Lean a bit so you need to do this, just a little at a time.This will allow you to start to feel the characteristics of yourself in the canoe and get you feeling a bit more at home in it I’m betting. It’s a whitewater move mainly, keeping us upright, but even on flatwater it helps one to communicate with the boat.
Second Bobs suggestions above. Upper body inboard until you get real comfortable, and your lower body, thighs and hamstrings can do a lot to keep you upright, which is why kneeling offers so much more control than sitting. No issue with sitting, just realize you can use your thighs and quads to maintain stability.