The bow station

G

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The nephew of neighbor and his g-friend just had a close call flip in their new canoe.

Although he knows the area, they were in too much river for the boat and their skill.

Run up on a submerged rock, over they went.

Many $$ of fishing and camera gear lost, and had not other anglers come to the rescue, maybe worse.

The girl was in bow, the boy in stern. She far less river wise.

Station should not be gender limited. The bow is the place for the more experienced.

So what's the way around the cultural bias?

Oh, yeah: not wearing PFDs; another neighbor is US Park Service swift water rescue, and he says that all of the people his dept. pulls out are not wearing PFDs.
 
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Actually I am in the bow because I am lighter and weaker than Christine, that is how we do it. I have less experience as well.

Karin
 
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Most teams are all backward. Watch mixed racing teams. The strong paddler is the bow paddler. The job of the bowperson is to be the engine and pour it on. Usually when sternspeople push hard their stroke gets a bit of sweep and then things go south.

The trouble for most cruising paddlers is the of course trim and how to balance the load especially with a light camping load or day trip load. We put 44 lbs of water in back of the stern woman last week so she could learn to stern with her husband in the bow.

Capsizes, per David Yost are almost always due to bow paddler ejection. Sometimes bow seats are too high and even when kneeling the knees are forced together. FreeStyle canoeists try to off set this by carving mats that have a curved bottom of foam and neoprene jersey on top. This flattens the floor and also widens the possible kneeling stance. Yes it can also raise the paddler too high so there is no pat answer to this. A solution for seated paddlers of course is to mount low and use a footbrace and pad the gunwales so you can brace your thighs there.

When the bow goes, the stern follows.
 
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I have to deal with the experience thing all the time with the high school kids. If both paddlers are relatively new, doesn't matter if it is a boy or a girl, whoever can make the canoe go straight from the stern gets placed in the stern. Basic obstacle avoidance bow strokes, such as a draw and a cross bow, seem to be much easier for most kids to learn as compared to a goon stroke or a j stroke.

In the picture below, the girl weighs about 110 pounds, the guy about 120. The girl is an excellent bow paddler, the boy not so good. She is a decent stern paddler, the boy couldn't make a straight line from the stern if he was being towed. Over the course of eight days, the boy became an OK bow paddler, the girl became an excellent stern paddler. The boy became better because the girl was continually providing feedback to him, such as "cross bow now you lunkhead!".


So the real answer to your question is "how much did the guy in the stern know?" Maybe he didn't know any bow strokes either, and the pair of them both contributed to their unfortunate circumstances.
 
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The bow station and gender and experience and ejection. I say ejection is a function of the shape of the bow station, has not much do do with experience but the missing link may be that the bow paddler either turned their head around or got their head outside the gunwale. If your head goes, the rest of you does too unless the stern can compensate with a weight shift. That compensation rarely happens in a river situation. One of the challenges of putting a taller paddler in the front is that there is a longer lever arm connected to the head at a narrower place in the boat.

In the OP's story there were other indications that neither was experienced.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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The OP says the tandem couple flipped by running up on or against a river rock. That can happen to anyone. Most likely it happened because the tandem couple had insufficient skills in reading and maneuvering in moving water. Second, they didn't have waterproof protection for their camera gear. Third, they did not tie in their gear, which should be de rigueur on rivers.

None of that so far has anything to do with PFD's, bow stations or gender bias.

As to who should be in the bow, racing couples are probably not the best general example because both racing paddlers are probably highly skilled. When the paddlers are low or unskilled, the seating positions need to be determined by some mix of relative skills, strength and weight. I wouldn't propose any fixed rules for the bow paddler except the following three-tier heirarchy of common sense and sanity:

When one of the paddlers is a total incompetent lump with no skills at all in the bow or stern:

- The third best option is to put him in the bow and tell him to shut up and not move, lest he try to wash his hair over the gunwale.

- The second best option is to sit him on the bottom of the canoe behind the bow seat, since he will ignore your admonitions about not moving or washing his hair.

- The best option, by far, is to leave him on the shore with his iPhone, iPod, iPad and iPaddle . . . and go enjoy yourself by paddling the dang boat solo.
 
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iPaddle!?! Where can I get one? What generation are they on?
 
G

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When I heard about the incident I described above the questions I asked myself were as much about the job of paddling bow as they were about the particulars of the misadventure.

You can see the water better from bow and as often as not you initiate course changes and avoidance moves. Bow seems like the place for the better paddler and river reader.

Seems also that long ago I read that even longer ago the more experienced paddler typically did sit bow.

There's not much local canoe lore here. My two examples were very green and completely untutored.

People go on the water to fish. Period. Canoes are rare. They don't wear PFDs and gear is unsecured.

So the kids were typical in all respects, including in their observance of the rule that the girl is in front and the boy in back regardless of the type of craft and the boaters' respective abilities.

Yes, there were several contributing factors in the upset, and actually it's a minor point that the boy in this case does have a far better eye for the river.

It's the familiar story that habits can conspire against us that is a "Wow!" for me.

More and more though the question of "What makes a good bow?" is interesting to me. And a part of that appeal grows from the Forum's cheerful way of answering, "It depends."
 
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I want an i-paddle too. One with an under water camera.

Is Apple reading us?
 
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Trim;

The best determinator of who goes where in a tandem canoe is trim. In almost all conditions we'd rather have the hull level as the designer intended or run the bow up a little; the stern down a little, approximating the differential rocker found in most modern tripping canoes. Since few tandems come with sliding seats we are forced to adjust trim with the fixed seats provided which usually finds the heavier paddler aft, the lighter in the bow.

Selecting a tandem team is another issue. Not wearing life jackets and failure to tie items in the hull aren't even that - just evolution functioning in the general populace, which is usually a good thing.
 
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Yes but 'trim' can be adjusted when tripping with the placement of gear. Weight of the paddler isn't as much of an issue as with an empty fishing canoe.
 
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The wife and I follow the gender lines. Why? She is the best at getting the bow of the canoe were it belongs when things get tight. I call it steering from the bow. Some here call it sliding the bow. What ever she dose she is a natural at getting the front were it belongs and missing submerged logs, strainers, and other obstacles in tight quarters. We like all those very interesting side channels and twisty black water creeks. She also has great balance and I believe this helps in the front more than the rear. When I lean the canoe to aid in turning she is able to sense the way she needs to balance to help with out seeing what I am doing. It also helps she is better than me at taking pictures. I can take her in close quietly so she can get the shot.


As to tieing in everything have read a lot of very spirited conversations on weather to tie down or leave dry bags, barrels and dry boxes lose. I am of the school of not tieing down to make it easier to turn the canoe back over. As long as it floats don't tie. In the slow moving waters we paddle this makes sense. Can always pick up floating things after we are back in the canoe. The main thing is to have a workable plan on how to take care of your gear.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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As to tieing in everything have read a lot of very spirited conversations on weather to tie down or leave dry bags, barrels and dry boxes lose.

No one with river experience should be confused about this at all. When you are canoeing in swift currents, you tie everything in. The reason is simple. By the time the paddler and boat are rescued, which could be hours in the case of a difficult pin, the dumped-out gear will be long gone and likely forever lost down the river.

The OP seemed to be clearly describing a river situation with swift currents.

On non-moving water, tying floatable gear tightly in is optional. If it is very windy and wavy, however, having gear on a tether line can make retrieval a lot easier. In addition, if the packs are water tight and buoyant, they can act like float bags. Tying them in tight may help a turtled canoe float higher and make it easier to right the canoe with less residual water.
 
G

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Hi,

I would generally agree with the trim comment. Wind can also play a factor - in terms of if I want the bow riding slightly higher or lower.

In Canada, tying things down in whitewater is debated and varies regionally.

In terms of having only 1 person who knows how to read water, I would typically put that person in the back but I can control a canoe from front or back if needed - ideal of course is a team approach where both are involved in navigation.


Christine
 
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Hi Christine and welcome! I liked your line "tying things down in whitewater is debated and varies regionally." That pretty much covers just about anything on this site: varies and debated. However, we, being nicely brought up, draw the line at eye gouging and biting. No, I'm only kidding. Most all here are really very nice folks and I look forward to hearing more from you and your canoeing experiences.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
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In Canada, tying things down in whitewater is debated and varies regionally.

Too true! For instance, I do all of my paddling in Northern Ontario. The rivers are usually medium sized pool and drop type stuff. I used to always tie stuff in, force of habit. After having a couple of spills, I changed my mind. Canoe over canoe rescue and self rescue are pretty tough to do with everything tied in. It's not always easy to drag a fully loaded canoe to shore. However, it is fairly easy to paddle over to the shore and pick up your stuff that has floated away. In the rivers i paddle, most stuff will eddy out better than I can.

Of course, the story would be different in a large river powerful river with long straight stretches devoid of pools. In that case, I would be tying down.

On the other hand, in one dump in particular, i recall that my tied in barrels acted like float bags and kept the canoe relatively buoyant in some very nasty water that I had no business being in.

So the moral of the story……every once in a while the sun shines on a dog's ass no matter what you do.
 
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Now Gavia, I wish you wouldn't keep referring to that thing about the eye; Rippy said he's sorry. You'll make him feel bad all over again.
But, I would like to bring up a small matter of a pair of dentures that I had to go to the vet to get un-clamped from the meat of my right calf. Don't bother to ask, I'm keeping them.
They hold a place of honor on the coffee table, you've heard of conversation starters? Well there you go. And if some day some total stranger comes up to you to inquire if you're the famous "Stoughton Crocodile", well, just count it as chickens coming home to roost.

I can't wait for our next little social get together, don't know if Robin will come this time, He's still in a snit over his canoe being burnt up. Maybe the thing to do this time is to bring lots more firewood.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
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Sorry Dave, it looked like a slow news day so I did a little kidding, nothing real, just nonsense. It started at #16 above.

Rob
 
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