Turning techniques for shallow v canoe -

Hey Chip,
I’ve been paddling shallow vee-bottom canoes for over 20 years and although their turning ability has vexed more than a few folks I’ve seemed to have handled it well enough to handle class-II rapids on a tight- twisting creek here in Florida. I don’t know all the technical paddling terms but I think having plenty of rocker helps.

I’ve also had her out in 6 to 8 8ft. swells off Lido Beach and a few other places in the gulf and has handled them admirably. I wouldn’t have tried that in anything other than a vee-bottom hull with plenty of rocker. So if you know of anyone wanting to sell theirs please let me know… I love 'em.

Heeling a large, fully loaded boat

– Last Updated: Sep-05-09 6:42 AM EST –

is difficult. Even with a big heavy boat such as a MR Explorer, when empty, the paddler's weight is 200 percent +- the boats weight. When the boat is fully loaded as described, the paddler's weight may only be 50 percent +- of the combined boat/gear weight. Add to that, the boat is sitting lower in the water and the greater mass who's direction of travel must be altered.

You mentioned "both knees in the chine and your butt on the rail". Assuming that you're paddling on the right, try putting your left knee as high in or above the chine as you can and you right knee above that. (if paddling on the left, reverse the directions) Then bring you butt up off the seat so that all of your weight is on your knees and shifted forward. You'll need to have a good, non-slip kneeling pad. You could also put one or both knees on the rail, but that might be taking things a bit far for most purposes.

Lastly, keeping your gear as close to the boat's center of rotation (near the paddling station) as possible will help. I often see boats loaded with the gear way out in the stems. Keeping the center of mass closer to the boat's center of rotation reduces it's lever effect (probably not the correct physics terminology)on the boat.

Marc Ornstein
Dogpaddle Canoe Works
Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

Thanks for the feedback, although
I am not really into freestyle type paddling.

I have Bill Mason’s book, and I actually did some of

that a few years back when I had a rounded hull canoe.

Now, I have this hybrid (shallow, shallow vee/shallow arch) canoe, and it handles different from the former

shallow arch canoes that I have paddled. Here is a pic:


When I solo it, I am sitting on a makeshift plastic seat just aft of the center thwart, and my 80 lb. dog is sitting in front of the center thwart. That would cramp any serious attempts at freestyle paddling.

Although my canoe is not a sharp vee at all, the slight vee that it has results in some different handling and new paddling techniques are required for

efficient turning. That is the gist of my post, and I thank the freestyle artists for their feedback. Problem is, I am not going to kneel up against the gunnel, and would like to know how to better turn it while maintaining my stationary position in the center of the canoe.

I may have to keep experimenting with techniques.

All the same, have a round of beers this holiday weekend, and may your mug be fully filled and foamy, and not shallow veed and sulky.

Another disadvantage
I just got back from paddling the Osswagochie river in the ADKs from the headwaters carry down to Inlet in a shallow V Savage River Wee Lassie paddling kneeling with a single blade. This section is so twisty,that old time guides clamed you could often see the back of your own head when going around corners! I quickly found that an outside lean was the way to go,and my freestyle training really paid off,but a few times when encountering a tricky current or a hidden underwater obstical that exagerated the lean,it got scary. An inside lean at those times weould have been much more secure.It sure was fun though!

Smiling Turtle

I use outside lean on several of my
whitewater and flatwater canoes, and I don’t move all over the inside of the boat like a freestyle canoeist. I’m on minicell pedestals, and I merely lean hard while using the appropriate pivot stroke with the blade.

To the extent that “V” is present in the hull, it helps to lean the boat to the outside (or inside) to get the ends of the boat out of the water so the hull is free to turn. If the paddler can’t move around much to accomplish this, it requires more determined body lean and weight shift on the knees.

For the record…
freestyle canoeing is not that dogmatic, but rather is knowledge of how blade, body, and boat can work in concert to achieve a given goal. Notwithstanding that moving around in a hull can yield greater bio-mechanical advantage, it matters not that the paddler moves or remains at station to achieve a heel, only that he understands when, how much, which side for a given hull will achieve his goals. I know many Freestylers who do not move around. I know others who move around when competing yet remain at center when river paddling. The important thing is to know what works when you want it. Like Turtle says above, there are some situations when an outside heel is just too dicey. He’s right! Use what works in a given situation, but learn both ways so that you have an option when needed.


Proof - It can be done