Towing a pack canoe behind a canoe

Although you are apparently in denial that the extra boat is for hauling booze, the very fact that so much thought has been given to increased capacity to make sure there is plenty of it (the booze) should give you pause. Doesn’t make any difference whether you put the beverages in the extra canoe or put the essentials there - the fact is that the drinks are being made a priority to the degree that someone is willing to compromise safe boat handling.

I’m hardly one to tell someone how to choose friends, but you might want to give some thought to that.

What’s wrong with towing a small canoe full of beer and extra supplies?? I’ve done it many times. It’s only hard if you dont know proper paddle technique. Ya know there are classes for the majority on here, that dont know how to paddle. Bunch of old ladies telling him not to tow a “mule” canoe.

teach us then…
The OP states…“We are taking a multi-day canoe trip down a river that at times has fast water, some rapids, deadfall trees, and hairpin turns.”

So tell us, mjflores, what is the proper technique for safely towing your “mule canoe” on such a trip? Do I need a Coleman for this? BTW - if it involves lengths of rope strung between the boats, I ain’t buyin’.

Please, oh please…

– Last Updated: Jun-16-09 9:37 PM EST –

After the trip; please post some photos & a trip report.

Particularly photos of the tow boat rig, going down some rapids, with a boat full of "gear", strung out behind on a rope.

I'd really like to see how you negotiate downed trees & strainers with that outfit.


P.S. Make sure that "everyone" takes their turn piloting the tow rig. That will most likely squelch anyone suggesting such an idea in the future.

Big canoe
A Triper XL is a fine canoe that will carry you and all the kegs you need down the river. It will maneuver better, be much more stable, and be easier to paddle than any towing arrangement.

Esquif makes a big one now too, and there is the Clipper Mackenzie, Wenonah Itasca, and Bell Northshore if you want to go composite.

I sold my Tripper XL because, as good as it was, I just never found the need to paddle for 3 months without a re-supply. Even a standard Tripper has so much capacity, that the weight people want to carry over the portages is almost always the limiting factor.

My vote is no for towing a supply ship.

they are starting to waver.
I think I am getting through to the other guys. I’m pretty sure I have the guy who said he would do the towing convinced that it would be a bad idea.

I do thank you all for the replies. I guess I didn’t post this question to get reprimanded. I didn’t much care for the comment about finding new friends. These are good guys, they are just normally car campers/canoers. This will be the first trip of this type for for a couple of them. Just like the first time I went to the BW, I am sure they will bring too much stuff.

Good for you, that’s your role as the more experienced (and better connected) paddler in the group, steer them straight.

And please forgive the minority of posters who don’t have any manners. I’m sure your buddies will be a lot of fun on the river. And, strange to say, even most of the obnoxious posters here turn out to be okay dudes once you get them on the water. They just have some kind of weird need to call attention to themselves on forums like this.

One final suggestion - one lazy afternoon, when ya’ll are camped out and maybe imbibing a little, why not set up a little competition? See who can set the best time over a pre-determined course paddling one boat while towing another.

“friends” comment

– Last Updated: Jun-17-09 10:28 AM EST –

bpneiman - please accept my apology for the comment on your friends. I didn't intend it to sound like a suggestion to find new ones, but I see how it could be taken as such. My intent was to get you and them to think about priorities. Poor and clumsy wording on my part...

I think you're doing good in assuming a "leadership" position, of sorts. Hope y'all have a good time.

It CAN be done safely

– Last Updated: Jun-17-09 11:06 AM EST –

We towed a canoe full of supplies (grill, firewood, food, adult beverages, etc.) on a large group kayaking trip once. It ONLY works if you have other boats attached to BOTH ends of the pack canoe and preferably a couple of boats nearby to monitor the tow, just in case. The rear boat gives you control in wind (a real issue on our trip) and prevents the canoe from overtaking the towing boat (the rear boat is like having a skeg on the pack boat, it's mainly there to keep it in line with the towing boats). Having two or more boats towing at the front ensures that you have more "engine" than "brake" (the rear boat) and distributes the workload. As with any towing situation, it is CRITICAL that all tow rigs can be release instantly if necessary.

While this method works well enough, given the option, I would carry all the gear in manned boats instead.

You did that trip…
You did that kayaking trip, with tow lines attached to multiple boats & also to a “gear barge”…

on a “river” with fast water, rapids, deadfall, and hairpin turns?


can you read?
op stated a river with fast water, hairpin turns, rapids, and deadfall (i’m thinking, strainers!)… and no cell coverage, and from the sounds of it, help would be pretty far away, if available…

towing a “pack” canoe on a lake or very slow river is one thing, towing under the stated conditions is very dangerous, to say the least…

i can’t believe anyone would recommend towing a canoe packed with dead weight under these circumstances! It goes against all safety recommendations out there!!!

mjflores, read the posts completely before answering (i’m hoping you didn’t read it completely anyway).

No one in their right mind should even think about towing in the OP’s stated conditions… While individuals may tempt fate willing, they should not recommend doing so to others…

but, read the OP’s stated conditions…
i can see your method working well on a large slow river or on a lake…

but, 3 boats roped to a pack canoe in swift water, hairpin turns, rapids, and deadfalls (strainers)…

that still sounds like a recipe for disaster to me…

No, I misread the original post
We did that trip on a lake with high winds. I agree that doing this on a river under those conditions would be stupid and dangerous.

My two cents worth…

– Last Updated: Jun-23-09 3:05 AM EST –

Why such a risky, if not life-threatening, plan and for what? To haul, among other things, extra beer? I see a problem here and it's bigger than your logistics. Indeed, it's probably due to this "problem" as to why your buddies came up with such an irrational plan.
Have you EVER taken a paddling trip without alcohol? If not then you and your buddies are paddling for all the wrong reasons and are in need of serious help. Until you can see the connection between the terribly flawed plan and the rather poor reasoning behind it it will, in all probability, take the loss of a life due to the "condition" for you to see the light but by then it will be too late. It will be only then when you'll realize it could've been prevented.
I tell you this not to verbally trash you but to maybe help you prevent a disaster of your own making in the near future.
Be careful.

More than that
I can’t speak about the original poster’s intent, but the bulk of what we used the cargo canoe for was firewood, camp chairs, a double burner Coleman stove a cooler full of food and other items that simply couldn’t be carried in the kayaks. While we certainly had more than enough alcohol as well, that wasn’t the primary need, as wine and beer come in conveniently-size containers that fit quite nicely in the nooks and crannies of kayaks.