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Canoe Rescue Techniques

Additional Techniques

By Doug Wipper

Boat Bump

The boat bump is primarily a river rescue technique. It is used to push canoes into eddies so a canoe-over-canoe rescue can be performed, or to push the canoe and victim all the way to shore.

Before starting a boat bump the victim needs to be on the upstream end of the canoe, swimming the boat on a ferry angle toward an eddy or shoreline. The rescuer paddles in 90 degrees to the victim's boat and pushes with the bow of his canoe just upstream from amidships. Maintaining good angle, along with powerful strokes, make the boat bump effective. If done poorly, the rescuer can be more of a liability than a helping hand. Paddling Awash Graphic

Paddling Awash

If you dump your canoe in flatwater and another boat is not present, one way to reach shore is paddling awash. It works best if the canoe has good primary stability. Simply crawl back in your swamped canoe and sit on the bottom of the craft and paddle it to shore. This is much easier than trying to pull or push the canoe while swimming. This obviously doesn't work in whitewater.
Swimming the Canoe Awash Graphic

Swimming the Canoe Awash

If you dump your canoe in whitewater and there's no other boat around, swimming your canoe to shore is your only option. Get to the upstream end of your canoe as quickly as possible; never be downstream from your canoe! Look downstream and evaluate hazards. If you have a partner make sure he or she gets upstream as well. If there are no life-threatening obstacles, like strainers, angle your canoe to a correct ferry angle and swim it upstream until the current pushes you into an eddy or shoreline. This should be perfected early on in your whitewater paddling career.

Roll Out

This is a good technique for self-rescue in flatwater. The canoe needs to be unloaded first. The victim positions himself or herself amidships with the canoe floating in the upright position. The victim then depresses the near gunwale about 6 to 12 inches below the surface and frog kicks the canoe forward. Before momentum forward is lost the victim lifts the near gunwale until it is above the water surface. A rhythm is developed repeating this sequence until the canoe is empty. This can be done with a 16-foot canoe in as little as 25 seconds. Throw Bag Rescue Graphic

Throw Bag Rescue

Use a throw bag station whenever running a rapid where the potential for a rollover is possible. Careful choice of throw bag location is important. The rescuer needs to be aware of where the victims and canoe will end up once successfully secured to the rescue line. It's also important that the person managing the throw bag has lots of practice in choosing a good location for the throw bag station, throwing the rescue line, and anchoring the rope once the victims have grasped it. Before the rescuer throws the bag, a whistle should be blown to alert the victims. An inexperienced rescuer is more of a liability than an aid.


"Douglas Wipper, a former director of the National Canoeing Schools of Canada, is the director of the Steamboat Springs Canoeing School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He has instructed canoeing for universities and private camps for more than 30 years."




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More Articles

 • How to Empty a Swamped Canoe in Water
 • Canoe Over Canoe Rescue
 • Using the River's Currents to Propel Your Canoe
 • River Features
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