solo canoe flotation

In the spirit of the weather eventually getting cooler. I’ve been thinking about paddling this winter. Would it be wise to install floatation in my wives Summersong. This would be the first cold weather paddling the boat has seen. She will be in a dry suit and a canoe over kayak rescue out would be easy. I guess I’m thinking about if we both went over and for some reason separated. I have read about the impossibilities of the solo canoe reentry without floatation.

We wouldn’t be paddling in really cold stuff. Mostly like 50-60 air temp and about 50 water. No way she would come out under that.

So, any thoughts? If yes, where does one get multiple size floatation?

Ryan L.

NRS, for one

I’m sure other canoe folks will chime in with more.

flotation never hurts

– Last Updated: Sep-01-11 4:38 PM EST –

But it won't make a boat over boat rescue much easier.

As for reentering a solo canoe, it is probably easier to do so in a boat with no flotation, since the boat is very low down in the water, but it is pretty much pointless to do so since nothing can be done with it once upright.

Some profess being able to splash most of the water out of a boat by righting it and shaking, but I am skeptical. Others say they can execute a one-person Capistrano flip. Even if you can upright and mostly empty the boat, it is very difficult for someone to reenter without assistance.

On the other hand, it is much easier to reenter a canoe with flotation if a second person can assist and stabilize the boat from the opposite beam, but this won't work if you are separated.

I think the best chance a person would have to reenter a bagged out canoe unassisted would be to rig a paddle to a thwart near center, apply a paddle float to the blade, wrap a "stirrup" around the shaft (a loop of 1" nylon webbing about 18" in length) and utilize the stirrup to reenter. Don't count on being able to do this without a lot of prior practice, however.

Most solo canoe float bags are sold individually except for short tandem end bags which are sometimes sold in pairs, so you can mix and match sizes. Mohawk Canoe, Gaia, Northwest River Supplies, and Harmony Paddle Sports all sell quality bags. Sierra Trading Post occasionally has good deals on flotation. You can also buy them online from Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC).


I wouldn’t bother
I seriously doubt that she’s getting back in if a second boat is not there to assist. If you put 60" or longer end bags in she could maybe theoretically do it. But short of that, I wouldn’t bother unless she is a pretty darned good athelete. Your best bet is to make sure you don’t get separated. And, have her kneel for much greater stability, if practical.

I have only seen
one person do a self recovery in a solo. Boat had no floatation, but he did have on a PFD. Also his 18 solo J-boat weighs a heck of a lot less then the sawyer.

Simple explaination: get water out of canoe by lifting over head (remember boat weighs about 20 lbs)

get as far under water as pfd allows and give mighty kicks to allow you get hand and torso accross gunwales then keep kicking as you shimmy in. the trick is tobe a national class athelete and being willing to practice till you are black and blue till you perfect it. I could not it with out an other boat near by.

Unless your wife has alot of stregnth stay close to shore cause it is tough getting in a solo.

I could do it in Supernova with 60" bags
I’d turn my back to the boat, push down the near gunnel till I got my but in, then lean back and I was in. Then I just had to get turned around and back kneeling. The 60s floated the boat above the gunnels. Just had to bail the rest out. I call this the “recliner.”

This technique requires almost no athleticism. But I don’t really have the chance to do it anymore because all of my solos that have big bags also have saddles. And the saddle is in the way.

solos travelling together
boat over boat with heel hook rescue. Paddler back in boat in less than a minute. Upper body strength not required.

Solo with a double blade works with normal sea kayak paddle float reentry with stirrup. The presence of water of course complicates things but its amazing how many times I flip and the boat is not completely full of water. A high volume pump helps alot. The paddle float reeentry fails with a single…The shaft just is not long enough to secure to the thwart in more than two places. Much pressure is placed on a single blade as the stirrup does not cancel out the pressure as it does on a double.

Its always possible that the only alternative is to surfboard the boat to shore or sit in it swamped and hand paddle. So make sure you are paddling near a shore the wind will blow you to and not awy

Have you actually dumped and practiced?
Do that then make a decision. If you can’t get back into the boat now you sure won’t be able to in cold water. I’ve been able to self-rescue in some solo canoes, messily but safe, without float bags and no way in others (including my own).

The heel hook is very easy
if both paddlers are in the water…also the chances of them being able to work together and empty the boat of water are much better.

You can use upside down boat B to do a boat over boat for canoe A. Then when A is empty, paddler B stabilizes the boat for A to do a heel hook in. Then its a quick matter to get B boat empty and heel hook in paddler B.

The key is not to get separated and if you are in such wind and waves it might be better not to be out there.

Yes I practice and teach rescues. We have some neighbors that like to go out with me. We all dump at the same time on purpose…usually to make powerboaters that make huge wakes feel guilty. Of course our "capsize " is a sham.

I too have done a heel hook into a mostly swamped solo and was able to lay low and bail… There was no one else around. But I attribute that to luck and warm water.

The stakes are so much higher in cold water.

Having dumped in January I advise painter lines even for a flatwater canoe. My Flashfire sauntered away out of reach in a wind. You see…it did not have any water in it.

Remember…keep your head in the boat.

I was talking to the OPer?
I’ve spent some time trying to get back into a variety of canoes, and I agree that any assistance makes it quite doable with or without float bags. But the OPer’s concern seems to be about if he and paddling buddy get separated, so we in self-rescue territory.

Based on my own experience, the only way to be sure is to try it in the boat to be used for the trip. I have been able to make it back into some seemingly beamy and relatively big wooden structured canoes by myself, without floatation bags, and totally unable with some lighter weight more synthetic layups without float bags.

The biggest problem I find with the latter is that built-in air baffles are often on the small side. They are big enough to prevent the boat from fully sinking yes. But by the time I’ve gotten back in I am sitting perfectly centered and stable in the boat, upright, in water up to my chest. I’m not drowning of course, but I can’t paddle on either.

And i agree, the heel hook is by far the best re-entry for me and many others in an assisted canoe to any-other-craft rescue, including rescuer in a kayak and swimmer back into a canoe.

As it happens I went to a meeting of our local paddling club last Thursday. Missed quite a few this summer, but I made this one.

There was a fellow who showed up at the meeting, a paddler I hadn’t met before, who had a new paddling product that he’s just put in a patent for and is now beginning to produce commercially. Said he invented it because he was a paddler who didn’t respect water - he feared it.

So here are the links:

I haven’t tried it, I’m not promoting it, but it sure seems like something that could be mentioned in regards to this post…

He did say it didn’t work with kayaks since they didn’t have sufficient volume at the ends. Perhaps that is the case with solo canoes with sharp entry/exit lines as well. Re entry into a swamped, or even half-swamped, boat would further limit its usefulness, I’d think. (Take a look at how close the stem is to being pushed under. And that’s in completely flat water, a totally empty (and largish) canoe, and a rather small person…) Waves would probably complicate matters as well…

Still, its an idea I hadn’t seen before and at first blush seems like a pretty good one, at least for some boats in some conditions for some people.

Potentially good ideas should be shared, eh? Especially when a question like this comes up while there’s still enough warm weather to try it out, practice a little, in safety. Its a chance to find out if it might work for you and yours before the serious cold sets in.

The Doozy is a cute idea,
and unless you are three feet tall and sixty lbs not workable in a lake tripping solo.

The issue is the thwart in front of and behind the paddling station… Everything including a body planted way up there has very little room to maneuver.

Stirrups have been around for at least thirty years for assisted rescues. And the midpoint of the solo canoe has the most room for reentry.

Next rescue clinic I will do I will rig my fourteen foot stirrup loop on the bow and find the smallest paddler and work up…

I can flip the boat over alone…
but I have never been able to get back in alone. As long as there is someone to hold the far gunwale, I can get in easy. I agree that putting bags in the boat wouldn’t help. Just make sure that you both don’t swim together.

Actually …
adding bags made a big difference for me, so it might be worth a try. I added small bags to my Yellowstone Solo (Royalex) because I couldn’t even flip it over to get enough water out. Now I can get most of the water out, but when I re-enter I get a lot more in. Still, I can sit on the bottom and paddle in flat, calm conditions. Before I added float bags the boat’s gunwales would be at or under the water surface. I have even been able to bail enough out to make it reasonable to paddle.

I have no problem flipping over the kevlar Merlin II to get water out and then re-entering, but the Yellowstone was just too heavy when full of water.

That’s true - couple of small bags…
would make it easier to break the seal at the gunwales when flipping the boat over. I really haven’t had a problem with that. My problem is getting back in - I always swamp it again.

Bgs make a huge diff
In boats that I tend to otherwise swamp getting back in, the right size bags make enough of a diff that he canoe can be bailed (gunwales are above the water). And I am altogether fairly bad at re-entering canoes compared to kayaks.

Solo canoes, especially lightweight ones, are a whole different game than the heavy old tandems that I knew from my younger years. Both in handling and re-entry.

Try this rescue…
…if you’re young and fit!

I’ve got a buddy that I’ve seen re-enter his novacraft prospector a bunch of times by climbing up the stern and “shimmying” down the gunnels back to the seat. I haven’t tried this technique yet (and have serious doubts about being able to do it. But he sure makes it look easy. Of course his boat was NOT swamped when he did this.