Right grip and lean How about the ferry?

A ferry is when you use the current to move across the river without gaining forward distance. It’s an important maneuver to master, especially in faster moving water.

To do it efficiently, I understand I need to point the bow upstream, raise the side of opposition, set the ferry angle and then paddle across the river possibly using a pry stroke off the stern in weak current.

I have a two questions. 1st, how to HOLD the lean that I am paddling against. 2nd how to determine the correct and most efficient ferry angle.

If you’ve got the correct ferry angle
… you shouldn’t have to lean at all. If if you blow your ferry angle and get swept downstream, you may have to lean downstream a little to avoid a capsize.

How do you get and hold the correct ferry angle? Practice. It’s easy to learn and fun to do. Once you’ve gotten it down where you are practicing going forward, try it backward. Often you have to change the angle as you ferry due to differential current speeds you encounter. The faster the current, the more your bow must point upstream.

Mostly just relax and have fun. Learning to ferry is a blast.

Paddle only on the downstream side
It is easier to hold the edge and easier to control the ferry angle. Use a variety of strokes depending on what you need to do. For example, use a stern draw if you need to point more upstream. Or use a closed face bow draw to turn more down stream. Have a look at EJ’s strokes and concepts video.

you shouldn’t have to lean at all??
So long as boat movement is against the current, as it is for at least part of a ferry (depends on which kind of ferry) you will inspect the river bottom unless you edge down stream.

Just trying to keep it simple
At this point it seems that’s what is most helpful to the OP. But, I may be wrong.

Not helpful, but …
the more you do it, the easier it is and just becomes second nature.



Thanks everyone. Its not rocket science
and lives don’t depend on getting it right. What’s the old saying, “If you’re not getting wet, you’re not learning”. Maybe I need more sit-ups and less sausage.

An additional suggestion
It is not possible to edge you boat effectively and keep it edged with your knees. Boat rotation should be done with your hips and thighs with a weight shift to one butt cheek while the other is raised slightly. When crossing the eddy line you can “lean” a bit down stream but you want to shift your body then to a centered position with the same boat tilt.

yes LEAN
The lean is the thing that makes a ferry, it gets the current to do some of your work. You lean downstream, raising the side of the boat that is upstream so that the current hits the bottom. In some situations, the current will do all the work and you hardly have to paddle at all.

Agree on letting experience teach you the “right” angle. Start off with a 45 degree and see what happens. If you are getting blown downstream, you need more pace and a more upstream angle. At some point, if you are still getting blown downstream, you need to just open up the angle more (towards the river side), accept that you are going to loose some ground, and complete the ferry as quickly as possible to minimize the loss.

Trim is also important. The current gets more grip on the deeper end of the boat. If the weight is forward, the current wants to take that end downstream. Ferries work better when the end of the boat pointing up the current is lighter (floats higher) than the other end.

Correction strokes are a mixed benefit. They correct, but rob forward power and progress. When possible, use stern correction strokes. If possible avoid correction strokes entirely by utilizing foward and cross-forward power strokes. These will turn your boat while simultaneously providing forward motion, helping you maintain your progress against the current.

I’m not an instructor, and there are a lot of folks on this board that really know and understand this stuff, but that’s my two cents.


In flatwater, little or no lean may be
needed, if you set out with little ferry angle. In whitewater, you need to know your boat as well as your technique.

For example, my MR Synergy, a 15’ whitewater canoe, is very “tubular,” and so despite its whitewater design, if I set too radical a ferry angle, the hull will catch and move downstream.

With my flatter bottomed boats, including my Mad River Guide, I can set a much more radical ferry angle, because when I enter the current, the flattish undersurface will “plane” on the water. With my old slalom c-1, I can get the boat to “fly” at almost right angle to the current, clear from one eddy to another.

Know your boat, and how the current affects it from various angles. This is a key to dynamic, radical ferries.

Thanks for all the great posts