The Dry Line ?

In the flotation thread G2d touched on a point that I’d like to hear more about.

The major flaw, some might say advantage, to an open boat in rough water is the big hole in the top. The big hole where all of the water comes in!

I had many teachers who tried to teach me to see and paddle the dry line. I was able to follow their instruction well enough to realize they were not putting me on.

There are lines through many rapids where you will take little or no water. The same is true on turbulent open water and surf. There are lines that are dry and lines that will fill you up.

There are also techniques to prevent taking water over the side, quartering and blocking are two I’m familiar with.

I chased a gentleman down the Ashuelot in Gilsum, NH a few weeks ago, trying to follow his lines. I kept having to empty my boat. He took on very little water. The dry lines were there but I sure didn’t find them.

I’d be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts, tips, suggestions or advice for keeping the water out of the open boat.

Ocean, River or lake, I paddle them all when I can.

I only ask that you be clear about where you are speaking of and what sort of canoe. I’m pretty sure things that work in my Outrage might not in my Voyager.



That sounds like what I’m trying to do just before I lean upstream and … bloop!

Wear the thickest Depends and your boat will never slosh.

Best you can do huh G?

I’m old. I wear the bottom of my
trousers rolled.

Actually there isn’t a lot to say. Part of it is slipping around waves and holes rather than slamming through them. A subtlety is quickly leaning or skewing the boat when you anticipate that gallons of water are about to enter. Another thing is to learn what the stern is likely to do when you go over a drop. Boofing, running at an angle, etc, are possible ways to avoid stern water. Leaning hard forward or back to defend the part of the boat that is most vulnerable.

There are certain fairly ordinary rapids that will put water into any open boat, unless tricks are used. Quarry on the Nantahala is an example. I sneak it on the far right. Less thrilling but dry. “Bump,” the marginal 3 preceding Lesser Wesser, always put water in my boat until I learned to pass just right of the bump and cut into the quieter water below it.

Lesser Wesser itself almost always contributes water on the standard route. I have taken to boofing off the little rooster tail over the the left. The boat lands dry (or at least as dry as it was when I pulled out of Truck Stop), and I can even grab the leftside eddy to be in position for surfing across the base of the drop. It was no-flotation Dick Wooten who showed that one could side surf across the drop and take no water at all. That requires a highly developed sense of lean and of what amount of lean will keep water out of the boat.

I’ve needed the past ten years (the period during which I’ve turned to mostly open boating) to acquire continence, or the ability to stay dry. I’m sure I am not near as good as the guy you were tailing. I had to unlearn a lot of rapid running habits that worked just fine in my decked boats.

It funny…
You watch a really good boater run a rapid, and it can be kind of boring. Canoe or kayak, it doesn’t matter – they make it look easy.

The typical river run for me goes something like this – miss the eddy at the top that would have allowed me to set up the run. Barrel down through the rapid - maybe forward, maybe backward - hoping for the best. If by chance I’m still upright when I get to the bottom, empty out the boat.

Every once in a while I’ll hit the right line and run the rapid clean. I usually think to myself “that was too easy”. Finding a dry line is one thing, being able to paddle it is another, but I’m getting there.

Taking on water on a river is one thing – if you swamp you’re close to shore. Dealing with big waves on a lake – that scares the sh*t out of me.

Good Stuff!
G2d, It sounds like much of what you are talking about is knowing the rapid well enough to choose the dry lines.

I hadn’t really thought of that since it’s so obvious. Thinking back, many times when someone pointed out a line that I hadn’t seen it was a run that they were familiar with and I was not.

Eric, The Racers Line, That’s not always the same as the sneak route is it? I’ve only seen a little down river racing, less with skilled boaters. But from what I have seen the good ones are flying through the rapids rather than eddy hoping.

The idea of planning your route from the bottom of the rapid up makes a lot of sense (assuming you are scouting the drop rather than read and run).

Ack gotta run,

Thanks guy’s.


Yeah, but it works even with rapids
I haven’t seen before. When I ran the Kennebec (the easier par), I was surprised at how dry I stayed in the big, big waves. The one place where I took serious water was where two big wave trains converged, a situation I’ve seldom encountered before, and I didn’t know what to do.

spacing may be at work
with your surprisingly dry run. My mentor used to surprise me by coming thru wave trains totally dry. In his joisey accent he’d explain ‘ahhh, a little back paddle to slow down’.

On the larger wave trains, if not too long, I’ll turn my boat sideways and go into sidesurf position, sounds like the ‘blocking’ move above.

Weight shift helps a lot too.

Generally I take a run and make it wet, as my local runs are interspersed with “bailing pools.”

Other runs I bring my d-cell powered bilge pump (New Boston e.g.)

The spacing was favorable, but I was
actively running one side or the other of crest trains. One can see big waves, closer together, on the Ocoee, but for an open boater the plan is usually the same, choose one side or the other depending on where you want to be at the end. If there are big diagonal waves converging as on Tablesaw, get one side of the convergence zones, which tend to occur in a line. That way you can rise more easily over a diagonal wave rather than crash right into the convergence backwash.

I’ve always been relatively better on technical stuff than on big stuff. Open boating has contributed to my understanding that it isn’t smart to meet the big stuff head on.

still trying to figure
out that T’ville dam you commented on. Most of the wildwater folk were running straight down the middle, some coming to a dead stop due to the head high curler.

Difference between my boy Aaron and me is I say “no way am I running that without swimming” and he says “I figure we’ll swamp, but it’ll be fun.” Got to head up there and figure that one out. My alternate plan is veer right, his is straight down the left.Swamping on the left may lead to an issue with an undercut rock. He hasn’t broken any ribs or ruptured any disks yet, and I’m hoping he doesn’t on my watch.

T’Ville Dam Drop

There is about 15’ of dam left on river right and a big quiet pool above.

What did you say Matt your pic shows it at about 2.5’ on the gage?

A few years back we were there at about 2’. The curler at the bottom is noticably smaller at the lower level. We ran it on the right into the right eddy (watch out, the eddy will recirc you back into the current if you let it)

Any way that’s one of those spots where I’d take on a few inches of water every time I ran it. My friend and paddling mentor Ron says “You’re running it in the wrong place. Run where I do” and he runs it maybe 6" to 8" left of my line. I couldn’t see much difference but it was easy enough to hit so I tried it.

Bone dry.

But I still don’t know why!


yup 2.5’
so it sounds like I’m right for a change. 'course, Aarons a hot dog!

Tommy, you still don’t know why
because you’re closing your eyes whenever a wave or hole heads its ugly rear ! }:wink:

Heads it’s ugly rear?
I need to learn this whitewater lingo.

Boats make a difference
I used to paddle the predecessor to the Outrage, the Fantasy, and I used blocking, quartering, and back paddling to try to reduce the water coming into the boat. Then I moved into the Encore. Suddenly I was paddling much dryer. I don’t know how similar the Outrage is to the Fantasy, but maybe you just have a wet boat.

Since you were chasing a faster paddler, he probably didn’t back paddle. And as waves get bigger, seems like back paddling might get you in trouble. You do need to make it through or hopefully over the wave, right? But slowing the boat to give the bow more time to float up the wave seems to help keep water from coming over the bow.


Encore Vs Outrage

– Last Updated: Apr-30-09 4:08 PM EST –

I have both. I wouldn't say that one is wetter than the other. The Outrage is quicker and doesn't require as much heel to carve a turn. The Encore is longer and has a bit more volume which I like in pushy water.
I've heard that the Fantasy was a wet boat. Never paddled one so I couldn't really say.

I have never tried backpadding a playboat. Most times they pop up over the waves. So I'm not sure what I'd gain?


It should be that obvious?
Maybe I’m blind?


Carry Brook?
The place where you feel bad carrying your canoe down the 562 steps until you see the rafters carrying their rafts UP?

I ran that once at the standard release (4500cfs?) the wavetrains were pretty big. Must have been HUGE at 6K.


I just read a book by Farley Mowatt (No Man’s River), and he tells of running rapids in an 18’ freighter canoe under power (i.e. outboard motor). The opposite of that technique would be the slower-than-current techniques Canadian trippers used to use.

I’m told the modern way is faster than current, with lots of snappy turns. I like to mix both. Large standing waves are best negotiated slowly, allowing the canoe to float over them. Holes must be powered through, so they don’t fill the boat amidships.

The easiest line, the safest line, and the driest line are not always the same thing.