I was looking at a paddling magazine the other day and found an article about trading places in a canoe. It was a short article with a photo of one man crawling over another man in an empty canoe. It gave a detailed step by step description of how to do it but what the article didn’t say was why you would want to switch places in a canoe.
I can think of a couple of circumstances when you might need to trade places in a canoe while you’re afloat but for the most part I think it’s best to go to shore to make the switch. One situation where you may need to trade places would be while crossing a large body of water. If you’re in the middle of a lake, the stern paddler needs a rest and you can’t see the shore then this maneuver would be needed.
What I like about the article is that the technique for crawling over a person in a canoe can be used when you’re getting into and out of a canoe with gear in it. This happens all of the time when you are in the Boundary Waters and the landing isn’t suitable for loading via the side of the canoe. To learn how to maneuver over packs and other gear in a canoe refer to the article.
How To Change Places In A Canoe
Thursday, 27 June 2013 Written by Michael Mechan
- Switching paddling positions while afloat is easier than it seems
Like any maneuver in a tandem canoe, switching paddling positions on the fly requires good communication. The key to a smooth, dry transition is ensuring only one person is moving in the canoe at a time.
Start by stowing your paddles. Then, have the bow person spin around so that both paddlers are facing one another.
Next, one person can leave his seat and move to the middle of the canoe. Always keep your center of gravity low and use the gunwales to brace yourself. Step over the thwarts and yoke carefully.
Once in the middle, this person should kneel down and curl up in a ball, leaving space between his body and the sides of the canoe. The second person will be traveling over top, so make yourself as small as possible. Once settled, let the second person know he is safe to move about.
The second person can now get up and slowly make his way to the other end of the canoe. When it comes time to pass the crouched person, straddle him. Distribute weight evenly side to side in the canoe, brace yourself on the gunwales and stay as low as you can.
Once comfortably seated, the second person can let the crouched person know he is safe to move into his new paddling position. That’s all there is to it.
Decide who takes which role, over or under, based on confidence. Having the smaller of the two paddlers crouched makes it easier to pass over top. However, this also leaves the bigger person to travel over, a potentially unstable position.
It’s a lot easier than it looks. If you’re in a loaded canoe or lousy weather conditions, your most prudent bet is to head for shore and make the change with the help of dry land. Less-than-confident paddlers will quickly gain nerve after successfully completing this technique. It also helps improve balance and awareness of a canoe’s stability.
Practice a couple of times and you’ll be ready to perform this efficient, fun maneuver to trade places on the go— from the shore, you’ll look like a pro.