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How to Right a Capsized Canoe, Alone or Not

When it comes to faring through water, there are few crafts as popular and effective as the Canoe. Assuming it’s not full of water, that is. Capsized canoes do occur. And when it does, here’s how you can right it.

A well-made canoe is pretty good at not capsizing. That’s part of what makes them so popular. As long as you are careful and you don’t overload it, they should stay afloat. But sometimes it happens. Maybe an inexperienced player got in the wrong way. Maybe you hit a rough patch of white water. Maybe you just put too much cargo inside. Regardless of why, it’s time to fix it.

More times than not, boats capsize near land. This is because it’s the act of getting in/out and loading that causes it to sink. If that’s the case, you can simply drag the canoe onto shore and dump it out. Easy. For the rest of this, assume that this is not a viable option.

How to Right a Capsized Canoe by Yourself

Let’s assume you’re alone. Getting the water out will be a more strenuous effort, but it’s still perfectly possible. Here’s how:

  1. Rotate the canoe upright. Yes, it’ll be full of water. 
  2. Move to the middle of the canoe, along the side.
  3. Firmly grip the side of the canoe.
  4. Rock the boat. Rock the boat, baby. You want to forcefully push and pull the canoe, keeping it rotated upright. The back and forth motion will slosh the water inside until it falls out. Do this until it’s as empty of water as you can.
  5. Climb back in, pulling yourself in from the opposite side of the canoe. This means reaching over and across. It’s more awkward, but trying to leverage yourself with the side you’re on will only dip it back into the water.

How to Right a Capsized Canoe With 2 People

Sometimes known as the Capistrano Flip (it originates from boat flipping in the ocean near San Juan Capistrano, California), this two-man maneuver is arguably the most efficient and effective way to right a capsized canoe. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Rotate the canoe upside down. It will likely be mostly, if not entirely, underwater.
  2. Place the oars inside the canoe, under the Thwarts (the sideways bars on the inside of the canoe).
  3. Get underneath and inside the canoe. It’ll be easier if it has an air pocket, if it doesn’t, be quick. Position you and your partner evenly across the canoe.
  4. Lift the canoe evenly longways, raise one side above water level. This will break suction and allow air to flow in.
  5. Lift until the canoe is out of the water.
  6. In a fast, powerful motion, toss the canoe up and out, the intention being for it to land upright on the water.
  7. When re-entering the canoe, each person should be on opposite sides to help balance each other’s weight as they climb in.

There’s something absolutely soothing about going canoeing in a woodland river in late spring. Where it’s hot but the proximity to water helps keep things cool. If you haven’t gone, we absolutely recommend it.

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