Powerboats and Canoe Rescues
In general, canoeists provide their own rescue cover
and are understandably wary of power vessels manoeuvering close by. In some
circumstances however they may welcome assistance. These notes are intended as a
guide for experienced powerboat drivers should they find themselves involved in
rescuing canoes. The most fundamental rule must be: Be absolutely sure
your assistance is needed before getting involved. If you are uncertain
as to whether or not to assist, ask the canoeists first. When rendering
assistance be conscious of your wash, not all canoeists (or canoes) are able to
Eskimo Roll. In any rescue your aim must be to improve the situation, not worsen
Canoeists, whether in or out of their boats are very
vulnerable if approached by power boats. Treat their rescue as a man overboard
as appropriate for your type of boat and the prevailing conditions.
the engine off as soon as you have made contact with the casualty.
them that you have done this, they will feel a lot happier!
Capsizing in a canoe can be very frightening and
often beginners will panic both in the canoe and when swimming alongside it.
Treat this as you would for any other panicking swimmer and remember that your
instructions to the casualty must be slow, clear and precise. This is usually
the best way to reassure them and calm their panic.
If you suspect that a canoeist is trapped upside
down in their canoe then stop your boat a short distance away and stop the
engine. They may free themselves and then may swim out and surface in any
position. Put one of your crew into the water to perform a swimmer to canoe
to the middle of the capsized canoe
over and grasp the cockpit or the arm of the casualty on the opposite side
At all times the welfare of the paddler is more
important than the recovery of their boat. Tired paddlers who have been swimming
are very likely to have hypothermia. Their condition may deteriorate quickly
when rescued and their condition must be assessed before continuing to pick up
their boat. Hypothermic casualties should be transported in the recovery
position with their head towards the stern of your vessel.
A swamped canoe may contain as much as a tonne of
water. This has to be emptied out before recovery. Resist the temptation to lift
one end which will then empty of water and heave it over the side of your boat.
Even if you succeed in lifting the canoe without injury you will probably break
it if you try to lever the opposite end clear of the water.
The easiest way to empty a swamped boat is using
the Curl rescue:
the canoe on its side parallel to your gunwhale with the cockpit towards
it a few inches and allow some water to drain out. It is easiest to do
this with one person holding the rim of the cockpit and the other holding
one end to balance the canoe, keeping it parallel to the water.
not lift a canoe only by the two ends, you will find it difficult to
balance on its side and again may damage it if you lift it when full of
water (the convenient toggles on the end are for swimmers to hold on to,
not for lifting the canoe, let alone when full of water).
it a few inches again and let some more water run out.
until you can lift the canoe clear of the water.
One way to make this job easier is to tie two
lines to your boat, pass underneath the canoe and then pull on them. Again make
sure that the lifting is nearer the middle of the canoe than the ends. This
technique is known as parbuckling and is particularly useful in high sided
Once the canoe is nearly empty it can be lifted
onboard and drained completely alternately lifting one end then the other. Some
canoes even have drain plugs!
Avoid towing occupied canoes behind a power boat if
at all possible. A capsize at even relatively slow speeds could cause a serious
injury. If there is no alternative then rafts or two or three can provide mutual
support while being towed. Pass a line through the bow toggles of the canoes to
keep them together.
Empty canoes may be towed on flat water but are
liable to swamp and capsize if there are any waves. They will then act as a
gigantic sea anchor before you rip the toggle out or snap their bows off. Make
sure that the tow is sufficently long to prevent the canoes slamming into your
stern when stopping.
If possible lift the empty canoe into your boat
and carry it to the shore. If you have also picked up the paddler then the boat
will probably help to shelter them from the wind too. In some boats it is
possible to lie the canoes along the deck on either side. If you have to place
them across the gunwhales then they should be lashed to prevent them moving and
either falling out of the boat or injuring one of your crew or passengers. Make
sure that they cannot foul your engine or steering controls.