How to Launch a Canoe

How to Launch a Canoe
While it may not be obvious from watching experienced canoers, the canoe is an inherently unstable craft because it is so narrow. You'll develop the ability to step in and out of a canoe with ease as you practice, but the first few times you climb into a canoe and launch it you'll want to proceed very carefully, making sure that there is nothing loose or unbalanced about your load, and that you are secure in the canoe before shoving off.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Carry your canoe to the water--this may mean portaging it along a path through the woods, or simply taking it off the roof rack of your vehicle and walking out to the edge of the dock.
Step 2
Place your canoe carefully in the water. If there is any water current or wind that may move it away from shore, either tether it to something heavy or leave somebody next to it to tend it. Either way, never walk off and leave your canoe completely unattended. If you have to make another trip to portage another canoe or to unload supplies from the car, leave your canoe sitting on the beach until you are ready to load it.
Step 3
Load everything in the canoe, with heavy objects in the middle, sitting as low in the canoe as possible. Don't stack things up. Instead, spread them along the length of the canoe. Lash anything that won't float securely to the canoe with bungees or cordage. If you are launching from the shallows, make sure that the water is deep enough that the canoe doesn't bottom out against the ground when fully loaded.
Step 4
Decide where you'll sit in the canoe or, if you're paddling with a partner, where each of you will sit.
Step 5
Hold the canoe steady with a hand on either gunwhale as you step into it with one leg, then the other, situating yourself directly between the gunwhales right away--this is the most stable place to sit. This works well if you are launching from shallow water. If you have a partner, she can help steady the canoe as you climb in. If you are launching from a dock, you'll probably want to hold on to the dock for stability as you step into the canoe, although most experienced paddlers can simple step down into the canoe and then sit down immediately.
Step 6
Use your paddle, braced against the bottom of the shallows, to steady the canoe as your partner climbs in. You can also hold on to the dock to help stabilize the canoe if you are launching from a dock.
Step 7
Verify that you have everything in the canoe you need, including paddles.
Step 8
Untie any tethering or lashing holding the canoe in place. If you are launching from a dock you can simply paddle away from the dock. In the shallows, you may not be able to get a full paddle stroke in such shallow water, so you can push your paddle against the ground beneath the water to move yourself into deeper water.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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