Solo canoe trailing line or tether?

Do any of you solo canoeists trail a line or tether yourself to the canoe? In my solo sailing days, I trailed a line behind my sailboats in case I went overboard. Offshore racing we were attached to a life line on night watches or rough weather. Planing another allagash trip solo in spring.

If I am worried that I may go overboard I stay off the water until things calm down.

Nope #2
Trailing line behind the boat might get snagged. Even worse, a tether attached to you might snag yoou.

Nope #3

– Last Updated: Feb-26-14 8:15 PM EST –

Eckilson paddles rivers and you definitely don't want to drag a line in that situation. For lakes, I can see the logic of it, but most people, in most canoes, don't have much chance of self-recovery in the middle of a lake, especially in the kind of weather that would flip you.

Like Cliff Jacobson says about tipping over in the middle of big, northern lakes: What happens if you tip over? You die. Best not be out there if there's a risk of tipping.

By the way, also on the subject of the effectiveness of a trailing line, if you tip over in a canoe and the interior is not mostly filled by float bags, the boat will be swamped enough that it will pretty much just sit there. It won't exactly race across the lake when pushed by the wind unless it's not swamped.

Nope #4

– Last Updated: Feb-26-14 9:12 PM EST –

Once I accidentally trailed a line while crossing a lake in Wabakimi.

A Northern pike struck ( they aren't picky what they eat)

It was a little more excitement back there than I wanted.

If you fall out on Chase your boat will eddy out at Bissonette Bridge. Better than have a line snag something or your foot in the middle of Chase.

Nope. Wins
All great replies , thanks. I will take your advice and cut the cord.

Man overboard
A funny story… several years ago when I was training with my voyageur crew… our buddy Franz was our excellent stern paddler. Near the end of a long tiring training paddle session, we noticed we hadn’t received a “hut” from Franz in quite a while. Looking back, there he was, flailing in the water (actually waiting while wearing his pfd) about a hundred yards back. We never noticed him gone other than missing the hut call. He figured we would notice sooner or later, so he didn’t even call out. But he sure got a lot of ribbing for a long time afterward.

Another nope answer…
I’m a little surprised that someone hasn’t countered the nope answers with, “I do it all the time; nothing ever happens”.

My response to that would be, “Keep doing it; it’s just a matter of time until something does happen”.

Sooner or later the “river snake” rewards the fate tempters.


Nope- but:
I keep a tether tied to the stern and in the boat.

Jack L

I once had a line that was accidentally dragging cach on a strainer and stop me dead. It was a struggle to get it loose. There was no knot in it. I also had a loose line accumilate a giant ball of weeds on a long creek paddle I towed for a long time untill I finally figgured out what was making me so tired!

I am nervous in big/rough/windy open water and avoid it if possible. I have considered when paddling in those conditions,temperarily tieing myself to the boat then with a clip on my end.


Learn to stay with the boat
Canoe or kayak, staying with your boat in a capsize is the most basic of basic things to learn. Tethering is as above a dreadful idea. You need to do some actual capsizing to make sure you have the habit, but spring and warmer water is coming.

not towed, but stowed
painter lines on each end, not towed, but stowed - in a way that keeps them under control and out of a swimmer’s way (to avoid rope tangling you up) - typically, stuffed under a bungie cord type of set up. If you go over, you can swim the boat to shore by pushing it, or you can grab the end of hte painter and yank it out from the bungee so that you have a rope that you can use to tow your boat behind you while you swim to shore. adn if approaching a bad rapid while in the water and you don’t have the time to tow the boat, you just let go of the line and swim for shore youself.

I’d guess that is what 95% of river paddlers do.

Reminds me of that terrible feeling
when you are in the water and you realize that you, and your swamped boat, are barreling down on a class 4. I would just as soon not have that experience again in my life.

No and no. Canoe vs sailboat.
I’ve never been in a sailboat, but I can see some logic to tethering yourself or dragging a tether so that the boat doesn’t sail impossibly away if you fall overboard.

That’s unlikely happen if you fall out of a canoe, especially in flat water. You will fall out next to the the boat, and even in whitewater you should be able to grab onto it before it moves away.

Tethering yourself to a canoe in whitewater could drown you if the line or boat snags, unless you have built into the tether a quick release mechanism – preferably redundant – to release the line. Towing systems, by which one boater can tow a capsized boat, are built this way.

You don’t want to drag a line in whitewater because Murphy’s Law will guarantee that it snags on something and capsizes you. You don’t need such a line in flat water.

What you need on any water are painter lines on each end of the canoe, each about as long as the canoe. A lot of boaters stow these end painters under deck bungees. On flat water, I just throw the painters loose into the hull. That way, they will naturally fall out and begin to drag if the boat capsizes. Just make sure you use floating line for painters.

Reminds me of that terrible feeling #2

– Last Updated: Feb-28-14 9:29 AM EST –

Capsize above a waterfall.
When you do; the toe of one of your river shoes gets jammed under one of the footpegs.
Don't want to go over that waterfall attached to the canoe! Struggling like hell to get free!
You do get free; just before you & your Mad River Outrage X go over the waterfall.
Unfortunately, you go over first & the canoe follows you........
Catch about 65 pounds of Outrage X in the small of your back. You go underwater & the Outrage X smacks you in the back of the head. Back underwater again; you & the canoe are getting rolled around a few more times. Sinuses have been thoroughly flushed out.You choke on water & start losing your breath........
You fight your way free of the canoe; gasping for air you surface. You see a buddy downstream waving a yellow bag; you raise an arm in the air & feel a throw rope hit it. You grab the rope & get pulled to shore. So worn out you can hardly stand. Have trouble catching your breath & breathing normal.15 minutes later; boat recovered, emptied and reboarded, heading downstream.

Foot entrapment NOT good.
Buddy with throw rope GOOD!
You don't want anything to keep you from getting free of your capsized canoe.Trust me on that.


trailing a line may not help anyway
There was a discussion about this practice recently on Sailnet. The majority of the solo sailors responding (last I checked) were not expressing much faith in the practice. The tone of the thread seemed to come down to “don’t fall out under sail”.

Oddly enough - not long after that thread began, a fellow fell out in SF bay and was being pulled behind by a trailing line (can’t remember if he was tethered or just grabbed the line). He couldn’t pull himself to the boat against the drag of the water, but was eventually rescued.

That has nothing to do w/ canoes though

– Last Updated: Feb-28-14 12:48 PM EST –

The whole idea of the trailing line is to keep the boat from getting away from you. As I mentioned above, a swamped canoe does NOT take off across the water and leave you behind. An empty, upright canoe can blow across the water too fast for you to catch it, but if you capsize in rough water, your boat's going to be swamped, not empty. It'll be "stuck" right where it is. Even a very strong wind can only cause a swamped canoe to move at a very slow rate.

This also isn't an issue in rivers for various other reasons, but even then, you will be drifting in the same water that carries your canoe, so you should have no trouble staying with it (in really bad rapids, you or the canoe could end up in a zone of faster current than the other, but in that case you don't want lines hanging in the water anyway).

well, it kinda does…
…when talking about rivers. The point being that moving water - over moving through standing water - can make it impossible to free yourself from rope entanglement. The “apparent water speed” (I just coined that term) on a river or behind a sailboat is generally in the same range of speed.

We might be talking of different things

– Last Updated: Feb-28-14 1:16 PM EST –

The canoe would have to be pinned in a river for the tether scenario to be the same as a sailboat moving on still water, but I was talking about simply being flipped and drifting. If the boat were pinned, as would have to be the case for the situation you describe, you are right, but almost everyone else has already made the point that hanging on a rope in that situation is the last thing you want to do. Your statement was not in disagreement with what I said in my previous post because you weren't even talking about the same thing as I was. A pinned boat and a drifting boat are entirely different situations.

Anyway, the original poster was asking about lakes, not rivers, and a canoe that's swamped on a lake will NOT get away from you. It simply can't get blown by the wind with much speed at all when in that half-sunk condition. There's too much water resistance for it to move through the water very fast. And on a lake, wind is the only thing that can move your boat once you are out of it.

Blowing away boats
Surprising to me,on several of the occasions after people fell out of canoes,the boats were nearly empty of water. This was on flat water. I twice chased down a fast moving blowing canoe for the occupants that were in the water and had no hope of catching their boat. These events are what made me think of fastening myself to the boat. I know one should hang on to the boat and paddle when you fall out,but in my experience,surprised people often don’t. Again I’m talking flat open water.