Yesterday We took our canoe out on our third voyage. When we got to the reservoir the wind had picked up a bit but it wasn’t too bad. Oh, this was my third trip but my wife’s first As we pushed off the warning light activated (sustained 15-20 mph winds) but I thought that we’d be ok. We paddled about a mile or so around the coastline with no problems. When we turned to head back the wind made the water a little more choppy. I thought we had it under control but in one split second we were flipped over! It was funny and my wife started screaming “I’m drowning!” then I told her to stand. After a few seconds she was laughing too. We both had our pfd’s on BTW. I have now learned to stay off the water with winds that high. I have a few questions though. We were hugging the shoreline. I noticed the water got rougher the closer we got to shore. Is it safer to stay further out in the deeper water when the water’s rough? We were pretty much parallel with the waves so we were pretty much riding them sideways. Was this the wrong thing to do? I’m thinking about buying a stabilizer for two reasons. One is to give my wife peace of mind and the second would be for when we stop and take pictures and use the binoculars and such. I think a stabilizer would make that allot easier to do correct? I think I’m also going to look into some paddling lessons at a local shop because I’m more of a hands on guy rather than learn from a book type. If ya’s would like to add any other suggestions or comments they’d be most welcome.
The closer to shore
you get the easier it is to swim to safty and wald out… On the other hand the waves are (as you noticed) less severe. Been out in small craft advisory waves several times. Once to rescue a bunch of sailors who had capzied. Th eothe rwas the Becall race. We decided to pull out of the becall race since it wasn’t worth the risk of losing a paddle or glasses etc.
I am glad you got back safely:-) It is a water sport!
The problem with being
further out is that you can get caught in huge winds sometimes if you haven’t checked the marine forecast and it may be hard for you to get back to shore. I strongly advise that you check the marine forecast for your area before heading out- there are some days where I want to go out and after checking that I don’t go there!! Learn to read the wind and waves for the body of water that you frequent-watch the trees and this helps also to determine whether to go out. It’s not worth the risk sometimes going out in bad water with inexperienced people either.
Getting out on the water in less-than-ideal conditions, when you’re not so sure of the outcome is the way we learn. I’ve talked to paddlers who have told me “I’ve never capsized unintentionally.” To me, this often means that they have never gone outside their comfort zone.
On big lakes on windy days I make a point of staying close to shore, but not too close. The shallow water may have rocks just below the surface that you can get stuck on. One good wave and you’re over quick. On reservoirs, the culprits might be tree stumps, too. The part above water rots away rather fast, the submerged part gets petrified and lasts ‘forever’. A small res. I paddle (a flooded swamp) has been there over a hundred years and the stumps are still there.
You mentioned lessons and stabilizers. IMO the skills gained from lessons would be far better than any gadgets you can attach to your boat.
for paddling in rough water.
Waves get bigger the longer the distance that the wind is in contact with the water, so the waves will be smaller on the upwind side of the lake (ie, closer to where the wind is blowing from).
Water (and wind) will be calmer downwind of islands, headlands, the shore, etc., because they block the wind.
When you have to paddle in the rough stuff, it is often best to let the waves hit you on an angle- not broadside (which may flip you) or headon (where the waves might break into the boat). You may find it best to paddle a zig-zag course, so you can always hit the waves on an angle. Just be careful when you change course from the “zig” to the “zag”!
finally, think about where the wind will take you if you do flip. Is it blowing you toward safety (the shore) or danger (the middle of lake Eerie)?
A few tips from a wind/wave lover
Going cross-wise to the wind can be tricky, but it can't always be avoided. I think some of what I've learned in my guide-boat would work with a canoe too. When you go parallel to the waves, keep a constant watch on the waves that are coming. You can usually spot the bigger ones a hundred feet or more before they reach you, and the big ones tend to travel in groups of two or three so be ready for that. Don't let the biggest waves "slap" the side of your boat. If a wave is coming and starts to get really steep on the front edge or develop a curling top (these features change constantly as the wave travels along) shift your weight to raise the side of the boat that faces the wave. This will keep you from getting slammed, and will help keep water out of the boat. BUT, be ready to lean back again right away so you don't get flipped downwind. This probably will take more practice with two in the boat than with just one. Also, if you see some super-size waves coming, sometimes you've just gotta bite the bullet and turn into the wind for a bit. There's no rule that says you have to maintain a constant course when you are fighting wind and waves. I zig and zag all the time when the going gets tough on a big lake.
As far as the size of the waves close to vs far from shore, that can vary. Shallow water will reduce wave height, especially over some distance, and sometimes right away. However, abrupt shallows can cause the waves to get taller, and the waves will start breaking in very shallow water. Best to stay out of the breaker zone when you can.
Finally, if you need to travel when the waves get huge (like of the weather gets a lot worse after you are already out there), you and your paddling partner may BOTH need to be in the center of the boat, one in front of the other but very close to each other. When the weight is centered, the ends of the boat will ride over the waves nicely. If the waves get really bad, repositioning yourselves can be the only thing that keeps you from swamping. Here's hoping you don't experience that situation until you've had enough practice!
Finally, learn to brace. Sometimes it takes more than balance to keep the boat from going over.
Good for you for pushing your limits (safely)!
A few suggestions
1. As some of the others have mentioned; if you do get caught out on a windy day, tack back and forth so that the waves will not be coming directly at your side.
2. If the lake is not too big, get on the side that the wind is coming from, (the leeward side). You will get some protection from the land.
3. Keep a small weather radio, and always try to plan your trip by the weather. I listen for wind conditions before anything else. I would not want to be on a open body of water in a canoe in 30 MPH winds, and I have ben canoeing all my life.
4. Keep in mind that the wind always, (at least almost always) picks up in the afternoon, and plan your trip accordingly.
And lastly, why not forget about the stabilizers, and for now just go out on calm days, and learn how to handle the canoe properly. Once you become proficient you will enjoy it much more, but you will never become proficient using stabilizers.
Rules to live by
Lots of good advice, so a few good rules:
1. Swimming occasionally is a natural result of the learning process.
2. Know the limits of your current skill/technique. If you're unsure as to how to handle the conditions, get out of the water. Purposefully dump in the shallows (if necessary), and then seek advice/training and finally test the new skills the next time you've the opportunity.
3. Not all boats are created equal - design characteristics of the hull will help to indicate best course/strategy and may limit the types of water you choose to encounter. Freeboard and trim will offer guidance on windage challenges/opportunities. A flared bow will allow for the shedding of a bow wave while a sharp entry bow will slice the wave and so travel drier with a quartering bow wave. Know the limits of your hull design.
4. When all seems lost, don't fight the conditions. There may be times that the wind will blow you safely towards shore with little to no paddling required so long as you keep your weight low. If it's getting too dicey, simply put the paddles in the boat, reach forward and down to each gunwale and finally get down to your knees or butt to get your weight low. Once done, the boat will glide and bounce like a log floating on the water. (See item 2).
5. If you're going to paddle the shallows try to stay on the leeward shore (the side offering shelter from the wind). Be careful, the wind tends to blow and stack water on the windward and so the leeward may be disturbingly shallow (particularly in a broad reservoir).
6. Wave height increases as water is blown upon the shallows. It's simply physics; wavelength is compressed forcing an increase in amplitude (think breaking waves along the ocean shore). In the right boat, I'd much prefer to deal with wind and chop in the deeper water rather than subject myself to rolling waves when there is the probability of hidden debris.
7. With advancing skill you can learn to stop fighting the conditions and avoid exhaustion. You'll begin to harvest some of the energy of the wave and wind for your benefit. The key element is to try to minimize wind pressure on the bow, (if you don't, then the faster you paddle the greater the pressure and you'll generally tire before the wind abates - not a good thing). At it's simplest, the concept of zig-zag/tacking can be quite effective.
In summary, appreciate to power of wind and wave, be a student, build a broad skill set, practice so that the skills execute on what approaches an instinctive level (action before conscience thought), never abandon your respect for the elements and continue to learn from each successive paddle. This can be an extremely satisfying, Zen-like, experience.
Glad you made it safely in…
and that you were able to have a safe finish to your “outside your comfort zone” experience.
Just a thought that it ‘was your wife’s first trip’(don’t know how long you and your wife have been paddling) and the warning light went off just as you were starting out. Anytime warning lights go off, either physically or mentally, we should heed them. JMO
I only mentioned stabilizers…
because I like to stop and smell and smell the roses, take pictures and watch wildlife from the canoe. I know nothing can take the place of knowledge and skill. It weas just an idea. I pdobly shoulda bought one of those big clunky hunting canoes instead of my Penobscot 17 but I didn’t really want to limit myself to just flat water forever. I’d like to start to paddle the local rivers once I feel I have enough paddling skills.
you can stand in your Pen 17
Its a great poling boat. But try it for your first time on a calm day.
As far as waves, the unsteadiest feeling and the fastest flip can be when you broach running downwind. If the back gets at a little angle to the wind the boat will slew sideways and without a brace you will dump.
If you are going cross the waves as you were its a very good idea to learn to brace on the wave top, kneel and stay flexible in the hips so as the boat sways and your hips sway your head stays within the confines of the gunwales.
When running really big seas sometimes the stern will just hang on a high brace,drawing and pushing as needed for steering while the bow does the propulsion. This worked nicely for us in the ocean and Lake Superior under sone gnarly wave conditions (eight footers plus clapotis) and got us out of potentially dangerous conditions(cliffs prevented landing)
I’m real new to paddling. What is a poling boat?
Do a search of the archives on this forum for some threads on poling.
In a nutshell,it is standing in the canoe and propelling it with a push pole. It is particularly good in shallow rapids. You can get up through water too swift and shallow to paddle.
It apparently is most popular in the north east. I’ve tried it some recently and it is fun and effective.
If a boat is a good poling boat that would suggest that it has good overall stability, and thus no need for stabilizers.
We used stabilizers some when I was a kid. They were more trouble than they were worth. Particularly if you like to go in places where you’ll be around trees, vegetation or rocks the stabilizers tend to catch on these obstructions and generally cause the boat to be awkward.
Stay with it and keep using the boat and expanding your skills and confidence and you won’t need the stabilizers.
Welcome to the sport. Have fun.
All good advice…
…herein. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the phenomenon of “reflected waves”. I don’t know what the banks were like where you were, but if they’re steep enough (also true w/ cliffs or hard manmade
structures), waves hitting them will reflect back, crossing the incoming waves at an angle and making a confusing sea. Another reason to stay further out sometimes.
Sounds Like a Day for Kayaks
Open water, large waves, heavy wind…
Maybe use a
I'd neglected to address reflected waves. The effect often creates cross waves that cause harsh peaks at the point where the cross waves meet. They'll often make you feel as if you’re paddling in an agitating washtub. Not particularly dangerous so long as you stay under power and remain centered and firmly locked in with your boat. It's yet another reason to get your weight low into the boat. Reflected waves can make for an interesting paddle.
It's also somewhat similar to the effect of being passed on your left and right by two power boats traveling in opposite directions and then dealing with their crossing wakes. Simply stay aware and try to stay off of the harsh peaks.
Paddling is both sport and recreation. Sport calls for participants to overcome challenges while recreation requires reasonable skill to enjoy and remain safe. The Penobscot 17 has the capacity to pursue either objective, so decide upon the type of paddling you'd like to pursue, build the appropriate skill set and have fun with your paddling. As for the kayak troll, remember that wind and wave is not exclusively the domain of the 'yak and not all 'yaks are built for the conditions either.
wife’s peace of mind
I’m a wife. Who has trust issues. Sometimes big time. Stabalizers probably won’t give your wife peace of mind. Knowledge and skill development so that she feels that she has some control in the situation probably will. She trusted you the first time out. The outcome was good. You dumped in a place where she could stand up. Don’t be hard on her if she isn’t so trusting next time. Join a club and get some basic instruction as a paddling team. This is a great encouragement and confidence builder. And it’s usually easier for someone else to instruct your wife.
Ok, I’m done with my wife’s eye view. Canoeing has been a great activity for the hubby and me. We now have solo canoes and this has been an advancement in our paddling experience. He can be more adventurous and I can have the control that makes me more comfortable. And I can go out with my girlfriends when he can’t paddle…my secret’s out…