Salt water canoeing?

I took my seakayak to Puget Sound, one time, and paddled some protected bays.
Saw lots of things I’d never get to see paddling on lakes. Sea otters, seals, giant jellyfish, starfish, etc. I love Puget Sound.
I could see doing the same sort of paddling in a seaworthy canoe.
Float bags, maybe a spray skirt and I think I’d be fine.
I could even see, eventually, doing an open water crossing, to one of the San Juan Islands, once I built up my confidence and skill set.
Any of you do any salt water canoeing like that?

People initially did the Maine Island Trail in canoes - this is not new. And there are people here who are well skilled canoeists who might take on something like that. Some of the best of that older bunch have passed away, I was lucky enough to meet a couple in earlier years paddling.

But there are good reasons that sea kayaks have far overtaken canoes among people who do the Maine Island Trail. And the crossings to the San Juan islands are reputed to be much of the Maine coast on steroids in terms of difficulty, by people I know who have paddled both.

I used to put my 15’ Dagger Reflection on the foredeck of my sailboat during some cruises. Nice way for my son and I to get around some harbors, do some exploring, and we’d take turns soloing it in moderate surf. We saw sharks from the canoe, and caught stripers and blues from it as well. I still have one scene imprinted in my memory banks, surfing out at Block Island, and he didn’t notice a wave that caught him dead astern. It was pretty amazing watching a 15’ canoe go straight up, with my boy about 7’ over the water. Never swam so fast in my (post competitive lol) life getting out to him…but as usual, he was fine. Airbags a must, electric bilgepump a good idea. I used small pumps with D cells, not very powerful but allowing you to keep your attention where it should be.

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In the old days there were canoeing organizations that mentored paddlers paddling canoes on the ocean
You learned what to look for and what to avoid.
Nowadays people think they can learn from watching videos but few are all inclusive as far as weather wind and weather and tide interaction etcWhat you don’t know can kill you.
A kayak is safer in breaking waves
I learned sea canoeing but now prefer a large pack canoe or better my Mad River Monarch. a decked sea canoe

awhile back, there were some posts from a local (San Diego) guide, who had battled a good sized Marlin near Baja. He had taken it along onboard a power craft rather than making the trek on his kayak.

There are spray decks available for many canoes that can reduce the chance of a canoe used on open water being swamped. Any boat with a lot of water in it sloshing around can be very unstable. Proper floatation is also important.

Keep in mind that many canoes with their higher sides tend to be more affected by the wind than many kayaks.

When I was a kid I had a friend who I paddled with. His family had a cabin in Connecticut on the Connecticut River. One year he went to Ontario with my family and one year (year of Woodstock and Moon Walk) I spent in Connecticut with his. We paddled in the river quite a bit, and it was in the tidal zone, but the actual paddling wasn’t much different than on the Illinois or Mississippi Rivers - large rivers with barge and power boat traffic to avoid. (And we motored his canoe a few times - he had a 3 hp Johnson that we managed to get started a couple times… though paddling took less energy than endlessly pulling on that cord.) But timing with the tides was part of it and it was pretty salty water, especially at high tide. There were occasions when we poked around in salt marshes if the wind wasn’t too bad - not unlike Northern Midwestern wild rice beds or someplace like Horicon Marsh - a big cattail bog. You could get lost in such places, wind could be a problem, but we managed to avoid those difficulties.

But we didn’t do anything like is being suggested here - no big open water crossings or surf paddling. Still, it was salt water and we were paddling in it.

Many years ago, my parents and I chartered sailboats in the San Juan Islands a couple times. You really have to know how to read tide charts. I remember one time, trying to sail between two islands, the wind was blowing nicely and we were heeled over, but I was watching the shoreline and we weren’t moving in relation to the shore. We were sailing like mad and not going anywhere.
If I were to cross between two islands, I’d probably pick a channel that didn’t have a ferry route. They are huge and go pretty fast. Even if you didn’t get run over, the wake they kick up is considerable. I think I’d want something to make me more visible.

Yes, I realize it isn’t something new that no one thought of before.
Just wondering how many on this forum paddled salt water.
And, yes, I know a seakayak is probably a better choice, but that isn’t always the point.
I’ve ridden my bike up Mt. Evans, a few times. It’s easier in a car, but making it easier isn’t the point.
I’m one of a select few that has paddled the length of the Dirty Devil River, Utah. I dragged my canoe more than I paddled. It was really hard, but that’s the whole point.
And from a practical point, more boats is more room taken up and more money spent. Better to have one gun and know how to use it than a bunch of guns that you aren’t competent with.

Canadians around BC coast seem to do a lot of salt water paddling. They use big seaworthy canoes that can shed waves. Best to go in a group, read the tide table and watch the wind. Crossings in open water can be a problem because of currents, fog and ships. Not to mention wind. Staying near shore is best except for sprints under good conditions. It is amazing where some people paddle in the salt, but it is not without some risk.

I’ve paddled the ocean in CanAm open canoe, decked whitewater canoe, Hawaiian outrigger canoe and sea kayak.

I never liked it much. In fact, I was often afraid.

Yeah, you can see some blubbery mammals, squawking birds and big yachts and ships, but I really can’t stand:

  • Salt in the air, on my body and on my equipment. It’s icky, crusty, smelly and corrosive.

  • Trying to figure out tides, currents, tide races, whirlpools, and reversing falls.

  • Battling and getting battered by waves, swell, waves on swell, wind, and tide force in directional opposition to wind force.

  • 10-60 feet of mud at the take-out at low tide.

So, yeah, I’m in favor of folks paddling canoes on the ocean. OTHER folks. I’ll look at your pictures. Here, watch this video of a guy ocean surfing in an aluminum canoe:

Give me a mountain lake, flooded forest swamp, or river any day. But not Lake Baikal.


It can be done relatively safely if you bring additional flotation like those huge air bladders. Anything short of this is asking for trouble as it doesn’t take much in the way of waves to start quickly taking on water. I have a little packboat (lightweight, small canoe that is paddled like a kayak) and nothing good happens if anything more than nominal wind or waves show up.

I spend two weeks each summer down at the beach in South County RI, and paddle salt water most every day. I paddle mostly in protected coves and inlets and it is not dissimilar from other flatwater paddling. What is different in salt water are tides and tidal currents. I’ve been out on Narragansett Bay with some sea kayaking friends, looked at a crossing from shore and thought it would be something I could do in my canoe, only to find 3-4 foot rollers out in the middle - very deceiving. Wind blowing one way, tidal waves another - not someplace I would want to be in a canoe.

I guess floatation and a spray skirt are good precautions, but I question wether anyone can get back in an open boat in those conditions if you dump. Impossible alone, difficult even with help. My local club has practice sessions each week, and I have thought about bringing my canoe down there to check it out. Haven’t made it yet.

Then there is the whole question of decked expedition canoes designed for salt water like the Kruger Sea Wind. Never seen one but I would like to.

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You should mess with some self-rescue to address your questions. On relatively flat water, I have gotten back into a canoe properly fitted with float bags as well as a wooden one without.

That said, I will be the fist to admit that it has been several years and like everything else this stuff requires practice to be reliable. Would not vouch for being able to do it right now. I suspect I would need to go out with a stirrup or similar device to assure success now.

It is also fun on a hot day.

I have paddled out of Narragansett in a kayak. Cannot imagine trying it in a canoe - I am not even close to being good enough.

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The three rules of boating:

Keep the boat in the water.
Keep the water out of the boat.
Stay in the boat.

(Easy to say, more difficult to anticipate or plan for …)

Yes Narragansett bay is dangerous. I live not far from there and have decided to do most of my kayaking on flatwater which gets lively enough with wind, waves and whitecaps on the smallish lakes and rivers of RI. There are people who as soon as they see “Small craft advisory” they go out sea kayaking like in Sakonnet Point or Point Judith but it seems rather dangerous and I don’t have the stomach for it even with a good, solid, extremely stable, and easy to handle sea kayak like a Wilderness Tsunami. Been out in that thing with 2+ foot white caps and it didn’t feel like it was going to flip. I’ve been out in conditions like that on a boat that I was more afraid than with a good kayak like that but something about seas that big that can happen so quickly I pretty much got away from “sea kayaking” in general. Too dangerous. Now add an open topped canoe… you’re a brave soul!

I will never forget the sinking feeling we got paddling out of the harbor at Anacortes, WA headed into the San Juan Islands. First we paddled under the anchor chain of an ocean going ship. Then the 5 foot wake of the State Ferry came by. Then 100 large power boats. But the scary part was tidal rips and wind opposing the tide.

It is a chess game with Mother Nature, sitting there with a tide table figuring out when to go and when to wait.

That is what I mostly use. The Mad River Monarch an early Kruger design… It was not as perfect as Verlen wanted. The Sea wind is a fine salt water canoe and you might like to read of Reinhard Zollitschs adventures which are hardly day trips

Yes I agree on tidal rips and opposing wind and tide. And add clapotis.

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Reinhard Z was someone l and my husband met, on what he said would likely be his last run at the Trail. He was staying overnight after having gotten around Pemaquid on a good passage.

One of the people who had forgotten more than l will ever know…

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I have paddled a tandem Clipper Tripper with a partner in the ocean on Canada’s westcoast extensively. Similar to large lakes, waves can be a problem but like anything else, these can be avoided or managed by attending to the weather and wind forecast. Many locations are quite sheltered and have minimal current. Where there are currents, use the current charts to plan your crossing at or near slack. Swells are another issue, but we have managed to paddle in 2m swells safely. In a canoe, we plan our paddles carefully and have not had any incidents. You can read about our trip to the Great Bear Rainforest (Bella Bella to Hakai) at Stories with Pictures - KJ and Jeff's Adventures

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