Getting Your Open Boat Moving
Getting an open boat up and running to speed is a basic yet essential skill at all levels of boating. Whether this is the start of a tranquil cruise on a mirror clear lake, or getting out of a tight eddy on a white water river one of these tips will help. As we only have one blade there is always going to be a turning force when using a forward power stroke which will turn us away from our paddle side. In this article I will introduce some of the more efficient methods available for us to combat this.
Make sure you are comfortable in your boat, padding on the floor of the canoe if kneeling will help. Rotate to face your paddle side, and edge the boat towards your paddle side as far as is comfortable, this will help you to reach over the gunwale. Practice on both sides of the canoe!
Try to slow things down be efficient rather than trying to hard. It's not about how hard you pull but how you pull. Try to use the entire paddle blade in the water, keeping your stroke deep and in a straight line not following the curve of the canoe's gunwale. This will add forward power and reduce the turning force. Relax your grip on the blade, and try and stay in an imaginary box around your torso. Stay loose. Practice on both sides of the canoe!
Initially don't point the canoe in the direction you wish to travel in. This may sound strange but in pointing slightly towards your paddle side will mean that your paddle stroke will naturally bring you back on track away from your paddle side. This is known as offsetting the canoe. Experiment with the required amount of offset needed by choosing a target and repeating the exercise until the desired effect is achieved. Different rates of acceleration will require different offsets. Be flexible and practice on both sides of the canoe!
Use a C stoke. Combining a bow draw with a power stroke into a stern correction stroke you can keep the boat on track. The stern correction can be in the form of a stern pry or j stroke, again be flexible. If speed is of the essence it's time to break from tradition and ditch that J stroke. Using a stern pry stroke will enable you to get the boat up to much quicker. Short sharp pries off the canoe's gunwale will do the job nicely. This can pay dividends on white water when leaving a tight eddy. Practice on both sides of the canoe!
Cross deck power strokes will help combat the turning force on the canoe from your paddle side. This has the advantage of maintaining forward power. A couple of these combined with offsetting can get the canoe up to full speed quickly. Practice on both sides of the canoe!
These tips need not be used in isolation but can be combined to achieve the desired result in a variety of situations. Remember a good boater can always adapt to the given situation and achieve the desired result using a variety of techniques.
Oh, did I mention Practice on both sides! This will make you a more rounded boater.