There are few better ways to spend a weekend than taking your canoe to the local river or lake. The spectacular scenery, time spent with family and friends, and the thrill of floating down the river make canoeing an excellent sport. Canoeing is a great group activity and going with others is both a fun and easy way to make sure that you remain safe on the river in case of a capsize. When planning an outing, having the proper equipment and a little know-how of how to quickly right a capsized canoe in case of an emergency can help make sure that your day will have a positive ending.
Before you head to the river, make sure to check what the weather will be like and look for information on the length of the trip as well as any hazards on the river. And, always bring a map!
- Personal floatation device or PFD (also known as a lifejacket)
- Proper clothing for the conditions
- A waterproof bag
- Food & water
- A spare paddle
- First aid kit
Always wear a PFD that is suitable for the type of water that you will be paddling in. Type III PFDs are suitable for canoeing on rivers, as well as lakes. These essentials will help keep you alive in case of a capsize.
Clothing & Dry Bags
Bring the right the clothing. Quick drying clothing, such as our 210G Merino Long Sleeve Crew, or Green River Water Shorts help you to remain comfortable even if wet. Avoid cotton, which can be dangerous if the weather turns cold or if you are wet. Pack all essentials into waterproof bags. Make sure to lash your bags onto the canoe to prevent losing them in the event of a capsize.
Capsizing, what now?
While proper planning is important before you set out to enjoy the river, accidents can and do happen. Capsizing a canoe can be a scary experience if you don’t know how to rescue yourself. If you do capsize, remember to remain calm and think through the situation. Try to remain next to the canoe and keep hold of your paddle. If you are with other canoers, alert them to your situation and ask for help. If you are paddling with a partner, make sure that you are both okay and communicate how you plan to right the canoe. Finally, keep ahold of your paddle and never try to stand up in fast current. Doing so could cause your foot to become trapped in a rock or log.
Then, follow these steps to quickly right the canoe:
If you capsize and are by yourself:
- Position yourself under the middle of the flipped canoe and place each hand on the canoe rails.
- If possible, try to keep ahold of your paddle and stash it in the canoe.
- Lift one side of the canoe above the water line to break the suction of the canoe against the water.
- Use both hands to push the boat above your head.
- Roll the boat upright to one side.
- There may still be water left in the canoe, so slightly rock the canoe from side to side to slosh the water out of the boat. Once most of the water is out of the canoe, you are ready to climb back in.
- Swim to the side of one of the ends of the canoe.
- Grip the rail on the opposite side of the canoe and perform a strong scissor kick to propel your body up and into the canoe.
- Getting back into the canoe when you are alone can be extremely challenging. If there are other boats or canoes around you, have them hold the opposite side of the canoe when you are climbing back in.
If you are with a partner:
- Position yourself facing each other underneath the canoe.
- If possible, try and keep ahold of your paddle and stash it inside the canoe.
- Lift one side of the canoe above the water line to break the suction against the water.
- Push the canoe above your heads and simultaneously flip the canoe upright so that it is floating in the water.
- There may still be water left in the canoe, so slightly rock the canoe from side to side to slosh the water out of the boat. Once most of the water is out of the canoe, you are both ready to climb back in.
- Have one person hold the side of the canoe level while the other person climbs back in on the opposite side of the canoe.
- Finally, use your body weight to keep the canoe level while the second person climbs back into the canoe.
After regaining control of your canoe, paddle to shore and take stock of your belongings. Put on any extra layers, like the Ridgeway Fleece, from your drybag to help you stay warm. Take a short rest, drink some water, and high-five your friends (or yourself) after a successful rescue. Whenever possible, go with experienced partners or other canoers who can help you. Capsizing your canoe unintentionally can easily ruin any outing on the water. But by following these tips, you can mitigate any unwelcome situation and ensure a positive ending to a great day.