• HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA! 🎆🧨🎇

Bow and Stern Roles in tandem

Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,885
Reaction score
874
Location
Raymond, ME
Flatwater:
Bow is engine. Bow cannot overcome Stern no matter how powerful the stroke in the bow due to physics and closeness to pivot point.
Stern being further away from pivot point at end of canoe can louse up steering or do effective steering Stern often makes work by following gunwale instead of doing straight stroke parallel to keel line or carries stroke too far back which always results in sweep.

Can bow help turn? Yes But the stern of the canoe has to start a skidded turn first. On flatwater on a straight course you can steer pretty well from just the turn. You have lost bow control but that sometimes is not important.

For you on Facebook find the pic of a turn being done by Rory Matchett. He is in the bow. Kevln Silliker in the stern already did his job and is resting. Also Jim and Lisa Lisius. He is in the bow. They paddled across the USA
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?...58819238.1073742247.1609132929&type=3&theater

River:

Rules change. Bow leads. Bow does something to avoid obstacle stern must follow whatever the bow has done and do the appropriate thing to keep boat going straight and discuss later. Not then ( I have seen discussions ! and meanwhile the rock rules). each is in charge of their respective end. Stern however being upstream is in charge of not letting canoe go sideways!

There is more . But enough of me
 
Joined
Mar 21, 2015
Messages
436
Reaction score
18
Thanks for the thoughts. Next time I'm paddling tandem, I'll have to watch what I'm doing in relation to the gunwale.

When on a River, would you then recommend that the more experienced paddler sit Bow, or does it matter much? For context, both myself and the person that I would paddle with are.... minimally experienced to start with.

On a related note, what sort of line do you take in current with a tight bend? This would be on a river small enough that you could almost get the box stuck in one bank and the stern in another.
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2015
Messages
1,550
Reaction score
781
Location
Anchorage Alaska / Pocono Mts.
Thanks for the thoughts. Next time I'm paddling tandem, I'll have to watch what I'm doing in relation to the gunwale.

When on a River, would you then recommend that the more experienced paddler sit Bow, or does it matter much? For context, both myself and the person that I would paddle with are.... minimally experienced to start with.

On a related note, what sort of line do you take in current with a tight bend? This would be on a river small enough that you could almost get the box stuck in one bank and the stern in another.



Sailsman, I would recomend the more experienced person in the back because they control the angle and the general course of the boat. The stern paddler reacts to the bow paddler to avoid obstacles by seeing what stroke they are doing. Knowledge of the forces of the current and how they effect the boat are critical for the sternsman.


In general you would take the inside of the bend to avoid getting pushed into tha bank or sweepers. I would do a back ferry with my bow facing the outside of the bend.


Before I did any whitewater my wife and I took a 3 day course before floating our local class 2-3 river. If formal instruction is not something for you I would recomend at least a good book and some videos to find out what the hazzards and how to avoid them.
 
Joined
Nov 23, 2012
Messages
863
Reaction score
213
Location
Western Adirondacks
Bow paddler sets the pace and generally provides power strokes. Each paddler, bow and stern, needs to understand together how to handle a canoe in turns, and exactly where to point the bow on straight legs. This is especially true in the 28-34 foot voyageur canoes that I often paddle when the stern has limited view ahead. It is all too easy to end up working against each other if one does not understand what the other is doing or planning to do.

In tightly winding rivers, the bow paddler has the advantage of first sight around bends. When the bow paddler alters stroke to initiate a turn, the stern paddler follows with turn force to match the effort, not too much, not too little. On the other hand, when stern's sight ahead is not a problem, the stern is responsible for general tracking. The stern paddler knows how much effort to expend for station keeping or moderate turns. The bow paddler in general should not input extra turning effort unless needed. When is it needed? That is a matter of degree and experience between the two paddlers.

When cruising along if I see an obstacle ahead, say a submerged log, I'll give a couple of draws or a quick bow rudder. The bow will then miss the obstacle, but unless the stern paddler notices the bow draws and also immediately draws the stern, we will still hit the obstacle somewhere behind the bow. We work together to slip the boat sideways to completely miss the obstacle.

Tight bend turns in narrow rivers are fun, especially at high speed with not much downstream current, such as in Brown's Tract during the Adirondack 90-Miler. It is vitally important to set up and enter at the proper angle before actually reaching the bend. Still on the straight section before even entering the turn, the boat should already be angling for proper entry. A bit wide, stern closer to the coming outside of the turn as the bow paddler prepares to draw into the turn. I like the bow to be mid-stream or slightly outside, with stern slightly askew further outside before I begin strong moving draw strokes in the bow. This sets up the stern to skid while allowing the bow to crank into the turn with continuing draws or a post if needed. In the bow I alter turning effort to cut close to the mid-bend inside if it is deep enough, or stay a bit wide if I notice shallows. Do it wrong and the bow gets stuck nose first into the outside bank, or stuck in shallow mud on the inside bend, or at best the canoe slams sideways into the bank. Neither is good and is a sign of major miscalculation in entry angle, timing, speed, power, and coordinated turn effort.

In average size rivers with well behaved current and potential inside bend shallows, the "rule of thirds" seems to work most of the time for normal best track travel downstream. Stay a third of the way from either the left or right river bank for the best trade-off between fast current (outside bend) vs. least distance traveled (inside bend). Upstream strategy in mild-moderate current is quite different from downstream strategy. Racing strategy can be different yet, and can vary quite a bit depending on details of the river.

Paddling for efficiency in broad fast Yukon size rivers requires dramatically different strategies altogether.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 29, 2012
Messages
597
Reaction score
163
Location
southwest Indiana
Thanks for the thoughts. Next time I'm paddling tandem, I'll have to watch what I'm doing in relation to the gunwale.

When on a River, would you then recommend that the more experienced paddler sit Bow, or does it matter much? For context, both myself and the person that I would paddle with are.... minimally experienced to start with.

On a related note, what sort of line do you take in current with a tight bend? This would be on a river small enough that you could almost get the box stuck in one bank and the stern in another.

I have seen experienced whitewater paddlers debate whether it is best to have the most experienced paddler in the bow or the stern. My experience, for what it is worth, is that it is very difficult for the bow paddler alone to control the boat in current if the stern paddler is very inexperienced. It is quite possible for an experienced stern paddler to control a tandem with a quite inexperienced bow paddler. I paddled whitewater in the stern of tandem canoes with one or the other of my daughters when they were too young to be able to offer much in terms of power or control.

If the stern paddler is at least experienced enough to know a reasonable complement of strokes and is able to follow the lead of the bow paddler, it can be quite advantageous to have the more experienced paddler in the bow, especially so when that paddler is the stronger. In addition to providing propulsive power and making quick draws to avoid obstacles not seen by the stern paddler, the bow paddler can really crisp up eddy turns with effective Duffek and cross-Duffek strokes.

Something of a role reversal can occur in current during back ferries. Tandem canoes have something of an advantage over solo boats in that one paddler can maintain upstream propulsion while the other controls the ferry angle. In a solo canoe the paddler generally loses some upstream propulsion anytime it is necessary to execute a correction stroke to maintain the ferry angle. But in tandem canoes it is important that the downstream paddler be the one to set and maintain the angle. The downstream paddler is positioned so that their correction strokes are assisted by the current rather than working against it. In the case of upstream (forward) ferries in which the bow is pointing upstream, the downstream paddler is the stern paddler, But during back ferries, it is the bow paddler who is downstream and best positioned to maintain the angle. If the need for a lot of back ferries in strong current is anticipated, such as in a loaded tripping tandem, this might be an additional reason to place the more experienced paddler in the bow.

As for how best to maneuver around tight bends, this will depend a great deal upon water levels. As a general rule (there are occasional exceptions) the water is deepest and the current strongest toward the outside of a bend. In low water conditions therefore, the water may not be deep enough toward the inside of a bend to make it around without hanging up. In higher, faster water it is often safest to stay close to the inside of the bend to avoid having the current blast you into the outside bank, or take you into a sweeper lurking around a blind turn. An old standard maneuver used by tandem tripping paddlers it to "set" (back ferry) around the inside of a bend when in doubt, by keeping the stern of the boat pointed toward the bank at the inside of the bend and back paddling.
 
Joined
Aug 20, 2013
Messages
364
Reaction score
64
Location
Eastern NC
My experience, for what it is worth, is that it is very difficult for the bow paddler alone to control the boat in current if the stern paddler is very inexperienced. It is quite possible for an experienced stern paddler to control a tandem with a quite inexperienced bow paddler. .

Some thoughtful commentary that mirrors my experience.

One nice summer day with the water being warm I placed my relatively inexperienced, heavier than I, partner in the stern while I took the bow position. We were going to run a long complex Class II boulder garden on the Potomac called the Needles. My thinking was, besides having the heavier guy in the back, I would be better at getting the bow in position for all the dodging we would be doing and he could just follow along. Well whatever he was doing back there had us out of the boat pretty earlier into the Needles. After recovery of everything it dawned on me that without me being able to see his strokes I could't provide him with any instructional help. When we relaunched I went to the stern and we finished the rest of the day just fine.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,885
Reaction score
874
Location
Raymond, ME
I gotta cute story for you. A friend of mine who was also at Maine Canoe Symposium( teaching poling) overheard this. She posted it on Facebook along with a pic of the four year old girl. I wont publish the link as its got a kid pic but copied what she heard.
"Quick but typical story for the Maine Canoe Symposium. This little girl's awesome Dad took her in a canoe on a quiet morning and let her paddle the stern, while he paddled the bow. No yelling, just him skillfully steering from the bow, when the canoe veered off from course. When they were done, I said "Harriet I saw you, you did such a good job steering that canoe", she looked up with a big smile and all she said was I KNOW.
MCS Magic and why I will be there every year till the day I die."


Stuff like this just leads me back to that event. I too will die before ever not attending. There are kids who are willing to be nurtured in canoe. It is a BLAST watching them "mess around in boats"
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2013
Messages
3,621
Reaction score
1,055
Location
Geraldton, Ontario
I experience this every year, as the bowsperson tries to blame the stern for whatever mess they get into, and vice versa. I usually support whichever kid is still laughing, and not pulling a hairy canary, and then try to run them through the situation again with direct supervision so they see that they have to work together. Side slipping is a wonderful thing when they get it. When neither person really knows what they are doing, the blame game can get pretty bad in short order. I usually try to hammer the loudest blamer down quickly, and then deconstruct the situation, ending with them running it again. Sometimes it never works,but many times it does.
 
Joined
Jun 30, 2014
Messages
1,550
Reaction score
278
Our problem is that karin and I have totally different concepts of how to control a canoe. Since my skills and confidence levels are much better than hers, I have claimed the stern seat. We can coordinate better that way. She has gotten much better with draws now that Rob taught her how to do those.

Especially when heading upstream on tight little rivers, it makes a lot of difference. I take a shallow angle of approach to turns so that I never get more than 30 degrees out of line with the current. This requires long sweeping turns on the outside, started well in advance. Usually we paddle on the same side of the canoe so that we can follow the curve of the river with little to no correction from me. We just slalom along like that with some ruddering but mostly some well synchronised paddling. Downstream is the same but with more ruddering. It's a lot like riding a motorcycle.

I think boat handling skills are easier to teach to someone when they are solo...no one else to blame. And if you can learn to work the back, the front is not hard to manage from there.


Christy
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2016
Messages
17
Reaction score
0
A few years ago I had the pleasure of paddling with canoe builder 30 years my junior in the bow. What a treat. I learned in my youth that having a heart felt discussion about were you wanted to go while sitting on a rock in the middle of the rapids was well counter productive. I think the bowpaddler has the best view and so from the stern the job is to follow. I mean their not doing that draw stroke like there life depends on it because they're bored. I'd even go so far to say that in a class 4 or 5 they may have a very good point and woe is the sternpaddler who's not paying attention. I know the youngster in my bow was twice the stern I'll ever be but I've never had it so easy going down a tight meandering creek in my life. I'm just happy I learned to follow their lead. After all in a class ,4 or 5 rapids, if they were lookin back at me they'd see me padlin my a$$ off cause I missed the dam portage sign.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2016
Messages
17
Reaction score
0
I would think anyone on this site could survive if given opportunity. Memequay could take you over to Martin or Barnum green rapids on the Namewaminikan River were in 1975 the Geraldton Outer's Club shot these rapids without incident. After words Bill and Joyce Mason did the trip and assigned a 5 to both with regard for technical difficulty. In conversation, both Bill and Joyce found the Namewaminikan better than the Klahanie. I also shot a set between Parks and Gathering on the upper Namewaminikan I was surprised not to be picking up pieces at the bottom of that set. All 14 canoes behind me opted to cut the port and carry the gear over having lost sight of us after seeing the bob of our heads at the second standing wave. I'd give that one a 6 were the follow the bow rule is actually optional. It seems when moving thru rapids with a pervers volume of water moving at high speed your thrown over any and everything, my paddle hit a huge rock but the chestnut James Bay Special didn't loose a speck of paint. That set was only a few feet wide and 300 feet long Barnum Green and Martin are both in excess of 1 mile if memory serves me. I was also spared the indignity of having my bow in this case Cheryl looking back to see the shear terror in my eyes because she was paddling her a$$ off so she kill me if we survived. In my defence we hadn't put the portage sign up yet.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,885
Reaction score
874
Location
Raymond, ME
Class three is the upper limit for open boats but you might be using a different system
I've only done Class 3 and the outcome once was not happy!
I'm gong by American Whitewater classification
Good stories
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2013
Messages
3,621
Reaction score
1,055
Location
Geraldton, Ontario
Ha ha, yes I believe Jiibash is using the old Outers rating system, which was actually in letters, not numbers, if I remember correctly. Class E was something to be avoided. As with all good fishing stories, canoe trips can be remembered slightly differently over time too. I would rate Barnum Green a solid 3, although the worst part can be lined on river right. Becky Mason did indeed tell me that she thought I might have been conservative in my estimation of the rapids, but in order to get to class five, one would have to shoot Twin Falls, which would indeed end in death, whether your bowsperson was communicating or not. Good story though Dan!
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2016
Messages
17
Reaction score
0
I'd have to differ to Memequay I'd believe his knowledge of that system is better than mine.
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Messages
412
Reaction score
136
Location
Maryland
When I paddle rapids with a newbie, I take the bow. Reasons: 1. I can see the rapid better, and the newbie can't really read the water anyway. 2. If you can't get the bow where it needs to go, the boat is not going there. Whereas, if you put the bow where it needs to be, there's a good chance the newbie can get the stern to follow. 3. Communication in a canoe, in a rapid is difficult. There's a lot of noise. The stern paddler is probably not going to hear the bow paddler, but they can see where I'm trying to go. The bow paddler can usually hear the stern paddler, but it doesn't mean they understand. They may hear "to the left of that rock," but which rock? Unless your river has color-coded features, there's no common nomenclature you and the newbie understand to distinguish river features. So, it works better for the stern paddler to react to visual cues from the bow paddler.

I have no desire to see rapids above Class III from the seat of a canoe.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2016
Messages
17
Reaction score
0
Just for the heck of it Memequay I think we should take a shot down there this sunday. Maybe film and post. You're right about the memory thing I forgot JJ did get wet in Barnum Green. We spent 3 weekends looking for his hat pin. Good fun playing in the rapids never found the hat pin. My tin can has made it down there a few times. Now 7 years ago I would have had to stern but I think the trim would be better with you at the back. Martin and Barnum Green should give us 3 miles and a bit of white water. As I remember Martin has a small shelf just past the old bridge about a 2 foot drop there's a notch were it breaks to the right. So as the consensus of the post indicates I'll pick the route, you can follow. the bottom of Martin also has a wicked left turn with a high volume of water going into a rock to the right so to set it up we'll be slow in fast out. Just so you know., if we get wet that'll be 2 dunks for staff and 1/2 for the multitude of GCHS Outers who've made it.
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2013
Messages
3,621
Reaction score
1,055
Location
Geraldton, Ontario
Sorry, I've sworn off the Nam since I lost the dam wars...it's a matter of principle, said I'd never run it again. Big oil companies building useless dams so they can accumulate carbon credits. Last time I ran it was about ten years ago. Martin rapids was a fairly easy run, if I recall, certainly no more than 750 meters in length. Barnum was fairly short but nasty, I recall lining it on the right and scooting buy. There is a very lengthy, un-named set after Twin Falls, but probably wouldn't even rate C2 in most books. Then there is an extremely nasty set that runs into the resevoir. Johnny told me they checked it out but declined its invitation. Too bad about the dams, it was a nice three day run.
 
Top