The running bow pry: two-handed and one-handed

Glenn MacGrady

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I posted this information in response to a question about what is the purpose of Bruce Smith's secondary "running pry grip" in my thread about the quest for a custom made ottertail paddle, but thought it would be appropriate to repeat it in this forum as a general paddling technique.

One of most effective and abrupt ways to turn a canoe to the off side is to use what's variously called a bow pry, bow jam or bow wedge. To do it, you jam the paddle against the gunwale or hull up near the bow with a slight inward pitch on the blade. You can do this with two hands on the paddle or, if really skilled, with one hand. Bruce Smith's secondary grip facilitates one-handed running and static pries.

Videos are easier to illustrate the techniques.

Here is Becky Mason demonstrating the two-handed bow pry:



Here she is demonstrating the one-handed running and static pries, holding onto the paddle's secondary grip:

 
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When Kathleen and I began canoeing way back in 1987, we took a canoe instruction course offered at a local community college. The instructors demonstrated the bow jam, and then asked each of us to try it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as difficult as imagined. I’m not saying we were as adept as Becky Mason, as such a claim would be preposterous. We could do the stroke, though, and never capsized the canoe.

I have never used the stroke in real life, though, perhaps because I very seldom paddle solo on quiet lakes. I wonder about other people. Do you commonly use the bow jam? It is quite aesthetic, and very impressive.
 
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I find it the easiest way to make even very small course corrections in a solo. Use it all the time. With shoulder of blade against gunnel and very slight angle small direction changes can be made without losing much speed and with almost no effort. Personally I love it. And it blends into a forward stroke easily.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Here are three more very short videos produced by Marc Ornstein demonstrating the running bow pry, which he prefers to call the bow wedge:



 
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I've always been partial to a cross bow draw, and its variations. It's a Canadian thing, I think.
 
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The Wedge is the FreeStyle version of the running bow pry. I have no idea why it needed to be renamed. It had something to do with the combination of paddle angle and heel to the outside of the turn of the boat. In a tandem paddled solo the only practical way to do this turn is with the heel to the outside but then again in Canadian Style you are already heeled that way. CS= quiet paddler big boat. Mem the strokes we teach beginning bow paddlers on trips include the cross draw. They need to know forward , draw and cross draw for the Allagash. Not sure its a Canadian thing.. a North thing perhaps.

The running bow pry and the hanging bow draw are extremely useful in tripping. Usually the portage begins in a rock garden and these are useful evading rocks maneuvers. In my narrow solo its the wedge and axle. Heel is less than full on as I want to keep my packs from leaving prematurely
 
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I did some running bow prys the other day after watching those videos and they were surprisingly easy. I was kneeling at the stern thwart of a Spirit II. The first one was two handed, under power with a tail wind and the boat spun right around. Then I did some one and two handed ones at slower speed and the boat responded real well again.

These are real fun and easy and I've already used it while fishing. Give them a try if you haven't already.

Glenn I can see how that paddle would be great for the one handed pry.
 
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The FreeStyle wedge got named, as did all FS maneuvers, to create a lexicon that would include the three components of each maneuver together in one encompassing descriptive name/phrase. Each maneuver is built of an initiation, a placement, and a conclusion. The intent was to simplify codification.
Fun move whatever you choose to call it.
 
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