smiled (and the way ahead was free of rocks and rapids). Many modern boaters still follow their example.
This brings me to a third point, though it will only have meaning for sailors: It pays to balance your rig so that you always have a touch of "weather helm." Then, if the skipper ever parts company with his craft, she'll quickly round up into the wind and luff, rather than falling off and haring away, leaving the skipper paddling frantically (and probably fruitlessly) in her wake.
Enough sailor talk. Let's get back on course. DB deplores the practice of trailing painters — though I suspect he might agree with James that special circumstances dictate a flexible approach — but he doesn't go as far as Kent, who thinks painters, while useful, …
Are Best Kept Stowed, Not Secured
Moreover, since Kent is an old salt, whose trenchant letters have graced In the Same Boat on more than one occasion, his contrarian view certainly deserves close and careful consideration.
PAINTERS! Bah! Humbug!
Well, as I've said to you before, if there is ANY way to mess something up, I shall find it. Being an old ex-Navy boatswain's mate, I still like having a bit of line close at hand. I always kept a bow line on my motor boats. Kept plenty of spare line on my sailboats. I even keep plenty of line in my kayak. But I do not keep a bow or stern line tied to my kayak.
When I first began paddling, I kept both lines tied to my bow and stern grab loops. But, being me, I was paddling in a fairly strong current with my son. I got too close to shore, and an overhanging branch reached out and grabbed my stern line! I didn't want my son to see the old man tied to a bush, flailing away at thin air. I tried twisting the kayak around, hitting the branch with my paddle, jerking the boat back and forth, all to no avail. The limb was just big enough to hold me, too green for me to break. I couldn't reach the loop behind me, so I did what any proud ex-sailor would do in my situation — I yelled for my son. He untangled my line, but only after he made sure every person in sight saw me, finished making fun of "the old salt," and caught his breath from laughing. Oh, the indignity of it all!
Since that day, I make certain nothing is attached to my loops. In fact, I'm not so sure loops are such a good idea either! So, I use my bow line, stern line, and extra line to tie to trees, piers, and anchors. Why, I even used my stern line to pull my son to shore after he flopped over (hee-hee-hee!). I store one line in a sealed plastic coffee container, at my feet, inside the kayak. I tie them both to my Jeep to transport it, but I do not leave one tied to my bow or stern while paddling.
As for "poly line," that stuff is good for pulling a waterskier and that's it. The local crabbers won't even use it on their crab pots.
Be safe and stay well, and get that dang painter off your boat! I enjoyed your article greatly, as always. You manage to give me a memory flash in almost every article.
In case there's a vestige of doubt in any reader's mind, boatswain's mates are persons of considerable authority aboard a ship. It's a good bet that no one knows more about the vessel's rigging and day‑to‑day operations, and the "Boats"' opinions are always informed by long experience. That said, I'll continue to tie my painters on. But I certainly won't question Kent's decision to keep his stowed when under way. The snagging hazard is always present, and while coiling and tucking painters can reduce it, nothing short of bagging a coil and stowing it below decks will eliminate it altogether. The bottom line? Safety and convenience are always at odds, and each boater must strike the balance as he (or she) sees fit. In this instance, Kent and I come down on opposite sides of the question.
In the matter of poly line, however, we're in broad agreement. I've yet to find a laid (twisted) poly rope I'd use for anything other than packing material. But I've been pleasantly surprised by some of the kernmantel (braided core‑and‑sheath) poly lines I've seen, even the cheap stuff sold in big‑box stores. They've proven surprisingly tractable, and they hold a figure‑eight loop securely. (A bowline fares less well, however.) The upshot? Somewhat against my own inclinations, I've embraced them, at least for use as painters.
And painters are what this week's column is all about. One of the reasons I keep my painters tied on while under way is their ready availability when needed. But that doesn't really address the wide range of uses to which the painters are put, uses whose demands often conflict. Which brings up a critical point:
How Long Is Too Long?
David Shanteau of the Minnesota Canoe Association, an ACA canoeing instructor, has something to say about this, and a few other important things, as well:
Nice article. When a painter is used for lining or tracking it is best to attach it lower than most deck plates or handles allow.
On a whitewater canoe where a painter is used for rescues more than anything else, a painter that's three-quarters the length of the canoe is much easier to handle and less likely to become tangled.
I switch painters from boat to boat, and do not like to car-top boats with painters attached. For convenience I tie a loop with a figure-eight on a bight that is large enough to pass the coiled rope through. I can then wrap the loop end through a deck handle or deck's webbing loop, before passing the coil through the figure-eight loop, creating a quick and easily removed attachment. When not in use, I store one set of bow and stern lines, a throw-bag, a bailing bucket, and a sponge in a net bag ready to grab and go.
I saw the results of a person backing over a loose stern line on a car-topped canoe. The result was bent Royalex and broken gunwales. Some of my canoes have bungee cords installed and I tuck the painters under them. I like your trick of using the attaching loop.
There's no arguing with physics, and David's right to disparage the use of deck‑plate tie‑downs while tracking and lining. The lower down you can tie your line, the less likely it is that you'll pull a gunwale under when wrestling your boat free of the current's grip. Grumman's venerable "tin tanks" had stem‑mounted shackles that addressed this problem, at least to some extent, and many of the older guidebooks depicted more or less elaborate bridles that got the line right down at the keel. But here, too, convenience is at odds with safety. And in practice, I've found no real drawback to tying off to the deck (provided, of course, that the deck is securely attached to the gunwales).
Others have reached the same conclusion. In The Dangerous River, R. M. Patterson recounts how an old‑timer ridiculed his "insane" fixed bridle, and then rerigged his tracking line, tying it off to the nose of the canoe and the rear seat. It seems to have worked, though it has to be said that this doesn't refute the principles of physics. Low is still the way to go. If you can.
Painter length is another area where opinions blossom in a glorious profusion of contrary recommendations. While acknowledging that my 25‑foot painters present some danger of entanglement — though the danger shouldn't be very great when the line is coiled and the coil carefully stowed — I'd consider a nine‑foot painter on a 12‑foot canoe to be a little on the short side. On the other hand, Patterson seems to have used an 80‑foot line for nearly everything, and I'd think this much too long for a painter on anything smaller than an admiral's barge. Yet again, each boater must balance convenience (and utility) against safety, and then be prepared to accept the consequences of her decision.
While we're on the subject of safety, David's quick‑and‑easy method of attaching (and taming) painters is wonderfully ingenious, combining as it does both efficiency and security. In fact, I'll probably adopt it as my own. You can see one variant in Photo 1 below: