Throw bag when canoeing

I am a member of a large canoe and kayak club and someone who switched from kayaking to canoeing in doing so. I am an advocate of having a throw bag with me on trips but got into a stronger discussion than I wanted with someone who claims they are worthless in canoes. We do not do whitewater but some of the rivers we do have strong currents. My argument is that if someone is in trouble or floating downriver it would be worth the 10 oz weight. Thanks, Miles

I take strong exception to the idea that throwbags are worthless in canoes. For white water rescue and recovery, decked boaters will generaly go with boat based rescues. Open boaters, having the option of quickly exiting their boats, will sometimes sprint ahead, beach and do a throwbag rescue.

Since the primary objective is to rescue a swimmer it really doesn’t matter what boat they swam out of. I’ve been on both ends of throwbag rescues where the swimmer was able to hang on to their canoe.

I’m curious. What was the argument against?

Cheap Insurance
Have those against throw bags ever taken a white water rescue course? I have. The value of and use of throw bags was clearly demonstrated and was practiced by the class attendees. I always take one with me on whitewater trips.

Required Equipment in Canada
If you do any canoeing in Canada, their Coast Guard requires a throw bag or a 50’ rescue rope in each canoe. I’ve never had to use a throw bag and I gripe a little about the extra weight on portages, but I know that a throw bag would be a useful rescue tool if ever needed.

I think not! Following is an excerpt from my posting about a river trip last month:

“Tense moment - Dallas missing her line in a CII+ technical rapid and dumping at a ledge. She managed to right the canoe without losing any gear and swam the final 100M wave train before I could toss her a throw bag and fish her and the canoe out.”

Cheap insurance.


Never …

– Last Updated: Aug-09-04 10:07 AM EST –

I never paddle without my throw bag (flatwater & whitewater), and neither do my paddling friends; especially on whitewater.
Just returned friday night from canoeing over 20 miles of whitewater in N. Carolina. I was pulled from the runoff at the bottom of class 3 rapids twice with a throw bag. On the same river, I pulled in 3 other people with my throw bag from class 3 rapids. All of us were saved from long, nasty swims, no boats were damaged, no gear was lost.
I would guesstimate that in the past 10 years I have used a throwbag in excess of 100 times to pull people from rivers. Did so in every season of the year. Probably 85 percent of those that I've pulled from the water were people I didn't even know. Their friends? were "not" carrying throw bags. I'm sure I have saved quite a few people from serious injury.
Anyone who dismisses a throw bag as useless is not someone I'd care to paddle with. Get one; learn how to use it, and keep it handy. Sooner or later, if you keep paddling, you'll use it.


Safe use of rescue line-----

– Last Updated: Aug-09-04 1:41 PM EST –

I hadn't used a rescue line for many years, but if you've had plenty of practice, you tend to remember. But you need to keep in practice to react safely and not endanger yourself and others. We covered the potential dangers of throw bag use in pool class this winter and some seem obvious, but things can happen. For instance:
Check your equipment. Rope can deteriorate.
Remove the 'biner from the bag before you throw it. doh! ding!
Yell "ROPE" just before you throw to let them know it's coming. Try to get eye contact before you throw. Throw over them and lay it on their chest.
Throw to the swimmer when they're still slightly upstream of you. This allows you to start reeling them in without working against the direct force of the river and the river helps you 'swing them' to shore. If you have good footing (you should choose a good spot ahead of time if you're running rapids), you may be able to walk along the shore and work the line to reduce force on both of you. On top of a boulder is not the most desireable spot to throw from.
Don't pull/swing someone into a strainer.
Be ready to throw again if they miss the rope.
Anchor yourself and have another person as backup if you need help. You may need more than one person. You may need more than one rope. Be prepared. Set up ahead of time. Learn a basic 'belay' position.
Hopefully, the person is in the safe swimmer position and you have some eye contact. You should be able to lay the rope across their chest. If you have an excited person who is flailing, instruct the person being rescued to grab the rope and then roll onto their back so they don't become a 'diving lure' as they're reeled in. It's much better to get them to roll on their back first, but panicked people tend to want the rope first.
Never wrap the rope around any part of anyone's body. Reel them in hand over hand and be careful not to step into the rope or let it get caught around anyone.
Be ready to use your knife to cut an entangled person free, if necessary.
If you need to rescue a person on a lake or big river, have them grab your stern. Instruct them to kick to help move you toward shore or other boats. If you throw a rope from the canoe, you will need one or more helpers in other boats to raft up and hang onto the gunwale of your canoe to keep from dumping. General rule, don't throw a rope from a canoe. If you need to throw something in an emergency, tie a bouyant item (something big enough to float the person)to your rope and throw that. Don't tie the rope to your canoe.
Learn how to use a throw rope and practice. Have a plan. Misuse can cause serious injury or death. Don't read this and think you know how to use a rope. I posted this to give folks an idea of how many things there are to consider. I haven't covered everything.

We carry throw bags and have not needed them for rescue, yet. We don't use a rope if safe swimming is sufficient. But we have them.

Way to go Pamskee…
You posted some good information.


what, pamskee?
take the biner off? heck, i got me a big 'ol rock in mine so’s i can throw it farther (lol)! “here, bubba, ketch this!” ww

Strong opinions…when it comes to safety
you will always have strong and differing opinions about technique. As Pam has pointed out a rope around moving water can save you or kill you depending on who’s using it. It’s all a matter of personal preference and there is no good reason not to carry a throw bag in an open canoe except…if you don’t know how to use it. It’s scary to think of all the people who have a throw bag and never have thrown it or repacked it.

I don’t carry one any more since I gave up the ww kayaks but I do sometimes carry a nice 20’ hunk of Bluewater 1/2" yellow floating kermantle river rescue rope, The key word here is floating. It’s nice stuff and easy to throw and no need for a float at the end. A series of knots is all you need for hand holds. I would say any rope is better than no rope.

Good point NT…

– Last Updated: Aug-09-04 10:09 PM EST –

One of the major problems I've seen is many people carrying throw bags either don't know how to use them in the first place, or never practice using them. Someone ends up in the river, and then all of a sudden, 5 throw bags come flying out of nowhere. A serious entrapment scenario can be avoided by letting the person closet to the swimmer attempt to get the throw bag to them. If they fail, the next person makes an attempt. No reason to ever throw 2, 3, or 4 throw bags at the same time, to the same person.
Fortunately, in one instance I saw; one well practiced throw bag user pulled the person in the water to safety. Several other throw bags ended up in the water 5 to 9 feet from shore, one ended up in a tree, and one was behind the thrower. Have seen river raft guides ??? that couldn't hit the side of a barn with one! That really inspires confidence.
A few years back in Arkansas, I pulled in a couple at the same time. They were running class 2+/class 3 whitewater in a aluminum, 17 foot, rental canoe with no pfds, no helmets, and no flotation. Also not the slightest idea of what they were doing! First words out of their mouths when they hit the water......HELP!!!!


hey , ww----so what do you yell before
you throw the line? “ROCK!”

LOLFOMB (laughing out loud falling outta my boat)

Wait, don’t throw me the line. Please. I’ll swim.

WW …
Better start tapering off those meds there Terry!


you’re right, bob
gotta drive this morning! seriously, though, very good imfo from pamske, bob, and nt. ww

Rope soup

– Last Updated: Aug-10-04 2:13 PM EST –

Saw a bit of that this weekend when a couple of swimmers got spiderwebbed by our over-enthusiastic rescue class. One was just amazing -- I think there were 4 or 5 ropes thrown simultaneously and accurately, and it looked like a giant asterix with the swimmer at the intersection. Yikes! After that we calmed down and started to think before we threw.

Not useless
I never go out without my throw bag in my canoe. I have needed it. I wouldn’t think about going out without it, even in calm water.

Throw bag when canoeing
Thanks for all the great replies to my question. Most of you asked for the rationale of why the other member of my club is against throw-bags in canoes: He argues that they are just meant to be thrown from a shorline, cannot pull/tow a swamped canoe, worthless unless every boat in our trips have one, a waste of money over having a XX length of rope, they sometimes do not unravel from the storage bag ect. I argued each step. Basically, he is stong willed and believes that his years of paddling put him in absolute expertise of things such as this. Bottom line is that I will bring my throw bag and hope I will never have to use it. I will follow the good advise you offered such as to practice with it. To open another discussion - he and I disagree on having a hand pump on our trips - he states that while they are good for yaks that his old fashion cut-out bailer is more effective in an open canoe. What’s your thoughts on that. Miles

better safe than sorry
I always carry a throwbag and own 5 of them.

Never had to use them though I practice occasionally.

One thing I learned in the military is that I’d rather carry the weight then not have it when I need it.

example: the Lt got us lost in the desert. He broke his compass and the only way we got out was because I was carrying my own compass and binoculars.

People laughed at me for packing them in but they were glad I had them when the temp rose and water level in canteens fell.

So, in my humble opinion, I may receive lots of joke about carrying everything but the kitchen sink (and there is that camping sink I have my eye on) but whenever there has been am emergency, I was there with something to save the day.

to answer your next question…
When I switched from kayak back to canoe, I kept the bilge pump. It is a lot faster than a bailer and if you are having to get water out of your boat when you are fully loaded for camping, you can position the pump down around your load without having to move things.

And as a test for it’s true usefulness…on the Eleven Point River earlier this summer, a group of us were caught in a sudden, heavy thunder and lightning storm. We parked ourselves on a gravel bar until it passed. When it was over, we had boats full of water. I had to wait to use my own pump because everyone else was fighting over it because it pumped a large volume in a short period of time. Even used it! :slight_smile: I keep a sponge handy for the little cleanups.

On the last trip, the Ouachita River in Arkansas, we were carrying full loads for camping. I missed my line through some rocks and took a swim. There was a nice quiet pool at the end of it, swam the boat over and with some help managed to get most of the water out. Pulled out my bilge pump, stuck it down between my gear packs and pumped the rest out without having to untie anything or move my packs around. That would not have been possible with a bailer.

As to your friend’s opinion that the throw bag was useless IN the canoe…and only useful when used from shore…okay, so how is he going to use it from the river bank if he didn’t have it with him in his canoe in the first place?

Your friend doesn’t sound like someone who is much fun to be around. Regardless of our experience level, we should be open to new ideas and not need to always have to be right or have the last word!


depends on load
A fully-loaded canoe, or a fully-outfitted whitewater canoe, doesn’t have much scooping room. I can see that a pump might work better in those situations.