Self-rescue in a canoe???

empty and re-enter
Emptying can be done solo lots of ways. My favourite is to have something bouyant to roll the canoe over without scooping more water in. I’ve used things like an old gallon oil jug or a fender from a larger boat lashed out side the gunwale amidship (on some canoes on top of one of the ends seems to work). Even easier on a windy day, put the float on the down wind side and lift the other side enough to let the wind get under the canoe and let the wind do the lifting, make sure you have hold of something though or it bye bye canoe.

Getting in depends a lot on the canoe but I’ve had a lot of luck swim/jump/scissor kicking up around the middle and kinda side/forward rolling on to the floor in a pile and sorting out from there. This is made easier because the float is now on the same side as you.

No I’m not particularly young, light or athletic.

Yes it works, in rough conditions, if you practice. No I’ve not had to do it for real but I practice a lot of things I hope never to do for real.

it can be done, but
you have to dedicate about 20-40 hours practicing and dealling with the bruises etc. It is alot easier with two people in an ultralight tandem where you can get your times down under a minute if you are in pfds.

the canunut and I have been bounced out in 1 ne foot chop from bass boats and self recovered, on numerous occasions. with witnesses ! Figure it out for your boat and practice.


Denver NC

I spent an entire summer trying
The closest I came was to end up back in a canoe full of water. I tried all kinds of flotation and sterrups.

Now, I use very long painters, get to a place I can stand, pull the boat over to me, turn it upside down and get under it. Then, I flip it over and it lands right side up, empty. Next I swim the empty boat to shore and get in.

I still think it can be done using an end-entry approach.

I didn’t know it was that hard
Reading all the posts here made my think that it most be harder to self resque in deep water than I think. I use a very wide canoes 34 to 40 inches beam. And I do it with a paddle float or spare pfd tied to the end of a long pole or an oar.

I get bruises every time I have practiced it but I’m not coordinated or in shape (unless round is a shape) and I have always been successful in calm water. Maybe the key is to always have a pole in your canoe.

Kanawa Magazine
Kanawa magazine recently had an article on this, it was good food for thought.

Bottom line - every person and every boat are different. So you won’t know what works for you unless you practice. And if you try it in calm conditions, remember that may not be how it goes in an emergency.


Thanks, i will practice and take pics

– Last Updated: Jun-03-07 11:23 AM EST –

Thanks everyone for the advice and feedback. I ordered a fiberglass Wenonah Kingfish and will be picking it up this week. I plan on using it only in creeks and calm rivers. Most of the time I will be fishing or crabbing close to shore and in or near shallow water. So if I do capsize it will probably be from me doing something stupid like leaning over too far to pull up a crab trap or standing up to fish and losing my balance and less likely from rough conditions. The canoe is 40" wide and is supposed to be stable. The brochure even shows 2 people in the canoe with the person up front fly-fishing while standing up. I do plan on practicing the re-entry in a controlled environment near shore with a few others around in kayaks to help if something goes wrong. Most likely I will only use the canoe with another person. So I think I will have my brother hold one side of the canoe to prevent it from dunking while I try to pull myself into the canoe. I do have a hand bilge pump and will need to get a paddle float. I have a couple of kayak paddles so I do plan on bringing one of the kayak paddles when I use the canoe. Thanks again for the feedback and I will try to take some pics and post them once we practice the canoe self-rescue/re-entry.

here it is being done…

Very kung-fuish, not sure I could do it myself.

I think the first order of business would be to NOT capsize in the first place. Take a look at these clamp-on outriggers for canoes (good for fishermen or canoe sailors… I use em, and I can walk from stern to bow in my canoe staning upright):

take away the sail and dagger board
… and that guy is dealing with a completely different situation. The dagger board obviously assisted in righting the boat. A little less obvious is the dagger board providing a lot of lateral resistance to the boat rolling toward him as he flopped in.

I have done it…
last week in fact, we practiced deep water reentry with a Jensen…

it’s easy with a tandem canoe
My partner and I flipped in the middle of the Ohio River last year because of a run-in with a motor boat that was the buoy turn. I was amazed by how easy it was to get back in with my partner in the racing canoe, and I had never practiced it before (took less than a minute). Haven’t tried it in a solo canoe but I’m sure it can be done.

Hey blackie
was that a 4x32 or a 3x27 racing boat?

I have self recovered many times in a 4x32

Savage river comp cruiser. Wonder how different it is in a Proboat…

pro boat

– Last Updated: Jun-04-07 7:58 PM EST –

It was a 3x27 boat (Savage River JD Pro). I was racing with a paddler I had never paddled with before. He told me to get back in and I was thinking hmmm I've never tried this before. It was actually really easy though. We almost caught back up to the team that won (came within about 50 yards) before we died. The current was really cranking on the Ohio River that day because my GPS was reading between 9-10 mph all the way down the course (the strong current pushed us into the motor boat that was the buoy turn).

I tried in a pool and didn’t have much
luck. In a Wenonah Champlain with my wife holding the opposite side I got in and pulled her in. We had bruises all over our legs for days afterwards. We couldn’t easily empty the canoe though since the design just splashed the water back in the canoe. With it loaded we’d just have to bail it out since it would be impossible to flip it in the air to empty it. We didn’t have much luck with the flip in any case. I tied a rope to a gunnel, looped it over the overturned canoe and pulled from opposite side of the canoe to right it. This method will right even a loaded canoe.

I had zero success with my Mohawk Odyssey. I could empty it but never even got close to getting back in solo. I figure I’d have even less of a chance if the weather was bad and I was dressed for cold weather.

Perhaps a method could be figured out in a session with an experienced sea kayaker using a paddle float or whatever that could be used by the majority of us canoers that don’t have the dexterity to self rescue? But until that time, for me, the best bet is to right the canoe, empty out most of the water and then swim it to shore.

I remmeber
the year the canunut decided we had to learn selve rescue,my legs and arms were black and blue half that season…

self rescue safety issue
I was practicing self rescue on a high side solo, MR traveller. I got back in a couple of times but it was not easy. On another try I pushed down on the gunnel and the boat flipped so that the opposite gunnel hit me in the throat.

That was a sobering experience. Imagine getting wacked in the teeth or across the nose bridge when trying to self rescue in adverse conditions.

It CAN be done…
IF the canoe has some flotation to it. My way of re-entry is either over the bow or stern. I use my one-gallon bailer (you do carry one with you, don’t you?) to get rid of enough water to ensure my weight on the ends does not allow the gunwales or ends to dip below the waterline. Being tall and thin I can maneuver various body parts to slide over either end and keep my weight centered over the center-line.

I also vote for outriggers

Also flotation wouldn’t hurt, but you probably won’t use much as you seem to need a decent amount of cargo space.

Again, I’d like reiterate that self rescues are quite different in the rough conditions that usually cause the need for them.

yes, it can be done
I can do it over and over and over again in my Supernova with 60" airbags in. I won’t get a single bruise or even get tired. (To be completely factual, I must say that I used to be able to do it, before I replaced the seat with a saddle.)

The technique is to come at the boat from the side with my back to the gunnel, push the gunnel down a little under water and scoot my but into the bilge and then simply recline back to right the boat. The gunnels are now well above the waterline and I just bail the water out. The key is the large airbags.

To me, the point is not that it “can’t” be done. The point is that anyone casually asking the question should come away with the distinct understanding that it can not be done until you practice and prove it yourself. The process of doing that will educate on just how damn hard or even impossible it can be is in ideal conditions.

Can your kayak handle 8 ft. swells?
My canoe can, have done it several times and even rescued a kayaker over two miles west of Carl Ross Key in heavy swells. It took a few attempts and precise timing but I got him in. Keep your kayak, I’ll keep my canoe because I know what I and my 16.5’ “barge” can do and what our limitations are.

Thomas, if you’re lurking on this site it’s time to 'fess up and testify!

well said Clarion
It often can be done with enough practice, but most people won’t invest the time to do it. The Canunut can self rescue in a J-boat and still show a good time overall in a race, but he is obsessive about to a degree most others could not imagine.