Solo canoe / river rescue

-- Last Updated: May-18-06 1:56 PM EST --

Reviewing my last canoe episode for future continuous improvement. Thought if I gave u the details
u could give me your recipe for the perfect rescue ( and u know how we like perfect ).
~Two solo canoes/intermediate to skilled

~East Branch Black river @ 4000cfs / Graton to Elyria, OH
~55 water temp
~2 to3 ft waves...irregular & very pushy
~1 canoe tips over/swimming
Would appreciate your input...............Eman-River

canoe rescues

– Last Updated: May-18-06 2:00 PM EST –

flat water techniques deleted

there have been some threads on reentry

– Last Updated: May-18-06 12:18 PM EST –

... of solo canoes. To me the thing to appreciate and understand is that you cannot reenter a solo canoe in deep water unless and until you PROVE to yourself (by repeated practice) that you can.

I'd be willing to bet that less than 5% of the folks here can reenter a true solo in deep water. I used to be able to do it in my bagged Nova Craft Supernova. (not because I am special but because it is bagged out with 60" bags and is a deep hull. I also practiced it and discovered a technique). However, now that I put a saddle in it I no longer can.

Moreover, we haven't even talked about trying it in the kind of conditions under which you are likely to exit the boat in the first place.

I'm not picking here, I just think it is important for solo canoers to realize and factor into their contingency plans "if you come out, you probably aren't getting back in."

How Fast? 4000 CFS?

not a lot of information provided
… but based on the size of the group (2) it sounds like a recipe for searching for the spilled canoe downriver after ensuring the dumped paddler gets safely ashore.

4000cfs is correct…

Swim for shore
If you had time and room on the river you might be able to have your buddy steady the boat while you climbed back in. Easy on quiet water, not so in strong current and waves. Add rocks(?)or hydraulics(?) and you would have to be damn quick not to get your buddy in trouble.

If you are really good and the water is deep maybe you could re-enter and roll up. If you are that good most likely you won’t be swimming.

Usually I just swim for shore. If I can I’ll swim the boat in with me but if things are hairy I worry about the boat later.

Agree with Tommy…

– Last Updated: May-18-06 9:27 PM EST –

If I can (in my opinion) do it safely; I will hang onto my boat(boat downstream from me), and attempt to swim to the river bank, or an eddy. Bottom line; I can always buy another canoe. I will let the river have the boat in a heartbeat if things are not looking good for me making it to the river bank with the canoe.

In real pushy water with obstacles downstream from a capsize; forget about wasting time trying to "re-enter" your canoe.

Also forget about your buddy helping you, or you helping him re-enter canoe. In pushy water, with obstacles downstream, you're putting both of you in a dangerous situation.

Rule of thumb: People first, boat second, gear last.

Hard to give more information when I don't know the "rest of the story".


P.S. If you get downstream of a canoe(full of water), in pushy water & hit the wrong spot, that canoe may roll over you & eat your ass! Been there, done that; don't want to do it again.

got air bags?
I haven’t flipped my tandem in a few years. When I used to flip it was generally a rock pushing me over in shallow water, so I could eventually get to my feet, son hanging on boat, and I would get us to the bank. Lately the river I paddle is flooded,3-4’ wave trains, boat is double bagged. Told my son to stay with the boat. We have calmer areas between wave trains, I’d try for shore at that time. Fortunately my balancing act has improved with experience.

Standing up…

– Last Updated: May-18-06 9:59 PM EST –

Not a good idea to stand up in fast moving water. Good scenario for a foot entrapment; even if its only 3 or 4 foot deep.

Not a good idea to "always" stay with the boat either. Three scenarios I can think of immediately are staying with the boat if a strainer is downstream from you, going into a rock garden, or going over a large drop. A large drop doesn't have to be 20 feet high. If you go over a drop first & a canoe loaded with water drops on top of you from a 4 foot drop, the results could be ugly.


several options
1) Install WW outfitting and learn how to roll.

2) If you are reasonably close to an eddy, grab the end of the painter and swim to the eddy, letting the slack in the painter play out. If you can get into the eddy before the painter tightens, just pull your boat in.

3) If your coming up on a not too big rock, grab the painter and push your put to boat to one side so that you pass the rock on one side, and the boat passes the rock on the other. Keep your hold on the painter, and you and your boat will meet in the eddy behind the rock. Climb up on the rock, and get back in. (This method - “invented” by NE OC guru Jim Michaud - has saved me a long swim.)

the water was about a foot deep.Think we have a lot of variables in this thread.

Eman-River - this can be good stuff
Tell us how it went down. Forget about “perfection” (good hook but nobody’s biting). What were the specific hazzards?, what was the timing?, how much “ground” did you cover?, what did you learn? anything you would do differently?

Animated Answer - funny
Preface - Before you read this, it’s supposed to be funny. I support responsible and safe paddling. I just couldn’t resist a smartass answer. I’m glad everyone involved is safe and sound.

Hummm tough call? Before I can answer or give advice I’ll need you to complete the picture.

  1. Was there a cooler of beer involved? If yes, grab for cooler, it floats and you’ll have a cool bevearge while you await rescue.

  2. Did you tip because you saw a buxum blonde hiking along the shore? If yes, ask her if she wants a beer, but she’ll have to strip down, dive into the 55 degree water and help you rescue the boat.

  3. Was the other boat capable of retrieving said cooler of beer? If yes, ask blonde to meet you at the next eddy for a cocktail.

  4. Did you tip over as an act of God or was it just a dumb mistake? Maybe God was telling you to stop and share a beer with the blonde? Or, if it was a dumb mistake, maybe you need to sit down and have another beer to think about what you did?

  5. Finally, my advice for a perfect rescue. First remove your beer cozy / holder from around your neck (finish beer first). Lash it around the first tree limb you see like Indiana Jones using his bull whip. Hanging with one hand, swing to shore. Quickly braid a rope using your own hair. Fill empty beer can with water (how sad - beer is gone). Tie the rope to the now weighted beer can. Using your best Bernie Kosar impersonation, act like you’re tossing a TD to Brian Brennan and hurl the beer can down river and expertly lasso the run-away boat. At this point ask Blonde to tie rope to a tree. Now with your chest all puffed out and looking studly, pull the boat back to shore, hand-over-hand until you can retrieve the cooler from the boat.

    I’m no expert, but I think this qualifies as a perfect rescue.

    For those that don’t know the river in question is near Cleveland, OH that is why I used the Bernie Kosar analogy.

I wouldn’t be so quick to discount either the boat-grab and jump-back-in, or a full-on canoe-over canoe.

It’s not just a flatwater rescue!

Your post didn’t say anything about rocks, holes or other significant hazards, and if you’re intermediate/strong paddlers, and both of you practice as rescuer and rescuee, you can do an effective boat-over-boat rescue even in waves and strong current. In fact, the faster and colder the water, the harder/longer a swimming ferry to shore with your boat will be, so the better option a canoe-over-canoe becomes. Especially if it’s a steep river with few pools or eddies - you might need the canoe-over-canoe.

I’ve often seen skilled teams of 2 (rescuers and rescuee) very quickly have people back in their boats, even in class II+ rapids with rocks etc. Much, much faster than any self-rescue (except rolling) would have been, with or without hanging onto the canoe.

Admittedly I’ve also seen a few long, ugly botched attempts where self-rescue would’ve been better/faster.

Depends on what you and your partner know & practice. Not a bad discussion to have at the put-in when paddling with new friends.


air bags/helium filled

How it went down.
OK…1st river run this year…probably a little too anxious…conditions probably unsafe for our skill level w/ only 2 solo boats & I would like to become a skilled solo paddler but I’m in my new Mohawk Odessy 14 & kinda new to solo. I lower the seat to lower center of gravity & try sitting rather than kneeling which I would normally do in fast water.We put in for our 10 mile float & as soon as we get into the waves I find out even w/ seat low & foot pegs I’m bouncing like a bobber & totally unstable. Before I get back to a kneeling position I loose my balance & am swimming. Fortunatly got air bags bow & stearn. Had rescue bag attached like painter & if I hadn’t lost it & forgot to use it I may have been able to let boat go & swim to shore w/bag then pull boat in …but I kinda panicked. Did keep the boat down stream held on to bow while swim for shore. Had urge to put my feet down couple times…not goood…fortunately it was too deep to touch.This went on for quarter mile couldn’t catch an eddy…finally got close enough to grab a branch & got myself & boat stable. Bushes in face …could only hang on til buddy got his boat secure to tree above me & threw a line. Inch by inch was able to pull self & boat to where I could exit. Rock garden was coming up fast…so glad I got out when I did …was just about out of steam & ready to let the boat go.Needless to say I finished the 10 mi. float on my knees…will experiment w/ seat & foot pegs later.Glad I wore wet suit…Never could have held the boat that long w/o air bags (no helium)…Didn’t plan or discuss rescue @ put in…Probably should have had more boats…May have crossed skill level safety line…Now that I’ve totally exposed & embarrased myself (:>)…Any suggestions how to become a skilled solo paddler??? Vidios-books-courses-etc???

Don’t sit.
Kneeling gives me much better control. I go over rocks now without flipping because kneeling just gives so much more control.Knees wide apart too. Probably have to put your seat back up to fit your feet under.

Practice in your boat, take a whiterwater class.

Keep a painter within reach. It should be separate from your throw bag. In the conditions you were in a 20’ line to the boat would have allowed you to swim to shore quicker then haul the boat in. I agree with Bob, save yourself, then the boat, then the gear.

It sounds like you did OK. You got down the river with the boat.