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How to perform a canoe-over-canoe rescue


If you go canoeing enough, eventually you’re going to fall in the water. Sometimes you might flip over. Other times, you canoe might become overwhelmed with water. (We call this “swamping.”)

When it happens to you, remember that the welfare of yourself — not your equipment or the canoe — should be your No. 1 priority.

Don’t try to retrieve a paddle floating down the river until you’re certain that you’re OK. Hang on to the canoe (even if it’s upside down), catch your breath and then assess your situation.

You can swim, tow or paddle a swamped canoe to shore. You can crawl on top of an overturned canoe to get out of the water if it’s too cold.

If you and your buddy find yourselves away from your friends in a large body of water, stay with the canoe so you’re easier to spot. When they arrive, your friends can help you perform a canoe-over-canoe rescue. Here’s how it’s done:


Step 1: The rescue canoe should come alongside the capsized canoe on the side away from the people in the water. This will prevent anyone from being hit or run over by a canoe.


Step 2: The rescuers should hold the capsized canoe and direct canoeists in the water to move hand over hand to the far side of the rescue canoe near each end and to hold on.


Step 3: The rescuers should swing the capsized canoe at a right angle to their canoe. As they raise the end, they should turn the canoe bottom up to begin emptying water.


Step 4: The capsized canoe should be eased across the gunwales of the rescue canoe and scooted along until it is balanced and all water is drained out.


Step 5: The capsized canoe should be rolled upright on the rescue canoe’s gunwales, then slid back into the water.


Step 6: Finally, the rescuers should hold the emptied canoe alongside theirs and stabilize it as its crew climbs back aboard.

2 Comments on How to perform a canoe-over-canoe rescue

  1. As a marine safety instructor and experienced canoeist, I found this article very well done. Pictures clearly illustrate the safe way to do this operation, Well done, Boys’Life!

  2. Caring Leader // July 30, 2015 at 12:10 am // Reply

    In Step 2, it often helps to have the canoe upside down. Then have one of the scouts in the water push down on the far end of the boat to help lift the end of the canoe next to the rescuing canoe. Then once the canoe is up on the rescuing canoe, make sure that the scouts in the water are clear of the canoe before it is rolled on the top of the other canoe.

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