“Lining” and Other Solo Canoeing Tricks

By , September 19, 2013

Even after we acquired a set of single kayaks (see We Need to Get Out More!), our Coleman Ram X Scanoe, a flat-sterned freighting canoe is still the most often-used boat on our “homestead”.

We acquired it soon after we moved to Juneau in 1992 when we bought it used. We’ve used it extensively for a variety of purposes. Although it’s easier to move with two people, especially heavily loaded with gear, we use it solo much of the time. We employ a couple of different tricks that make single-handing much easier.

The canoe has two paddling stations, one in the stern, one in the bow. While it’s possible to kneel amidships and paddle solo, this can be awkward and tiring. If one of us uses the canoe alone, we distribute weight properly to improve performance.

If we’re carrying cargo, it’s easy to load toward the bow, balancing the paddler’s weight in the stern to bring the bow down into the water. If it rides high, the bow is more liable to get knocked around by wind or waves, making progress difficult and slow. Proper weight distribution means proper “trim,” allowing the boat to move through the water as it’s intended to.

If we have no cargo, we put a rock in the bow. It doesn’t require a very heavy rock to balance my weight in the stern. When the rock’s no longer needed, it’s easy to toss it out.

I always make sure that the rock I choose has at least one flattened side on which to rest; if I take the canoe through rough water, I don’t need my ballast rolling around. One only need to have that happen once to convince one to find the right shaped rock for proper weight distribution, and a smoother, safer voyage.

There are situations where we need to pull the craft through the water from shore rather than paddling it. This can make sense if the current is too swift, there’s a strong head wind, or the water too shallow to carry me in addition to my cargo. Here’s a simple and effective method of doing this, called “lining.”

All one needs is a length of strong line with the ends tied to the bow and stern of the canoe. If one can’t tie it right in the bow and stern, try attaching it to thwarts as close to each end as possible. Use a fair amount of line, say 80 feet or so.

Once the line is set, push the canoe out into the water while firmly holding the center of the line. Try to get it out far enough to reach deeper water rather than keeping it close in the shallows.

Now, pull the canoe forward as you hike the bank. Using two hands, steer the canoe with the line by pulling on the bow or stern end as needed. Loosen the bow side while pulling on the stern side to move the bow out into the water, pull the bow while slackening the stern to pull it closer to shore.

In a very short time you’ll be able to work it through the water, around rocks and other obstacles. You’ll find that you can easily keep the canoe abreast of you, or allow it fall behind for a stronger pull, or even make it “walk” ahead of you. Try lining sometime when you’ve got some leisure to experiment. It won’t take you long to develop the skills to use it when it counts.

This method should work for any small craft up to the limit of your strength to pull it.

Incidentally, today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

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