Adventures With Lloyd

on CanoeCanadaEast.Com

Do it Yourself


How to

Portage  a canoe


I heard that the definition of portaging is; "A chance to labor up a trail wearing a really large hat that weighs 60 pounds. Unless you own a Kevlar boat, in which case this is an opportunity to stroll merrily up a trail wearing a 30 pound hat while your fellow paddlers shoot you nasty looks ." In any case it isn't the best part of the sport, but it does separate the wimps and whiners. In truth the more portages you are forced to make the fewer undesirable people you are going to meet. The particularly lazy drunks in floating Coleman cooler canoes that you may sometimes find on trips will not portage at all. I have seen them drag their canoes on crushed rock or with ATV's. This is the type of person that is the most likely to die in a rapid on a swollen river because they didn't want to portage their gear. I guess that is just natures way of weeding out the stupid people. Now for the rest of us, a few portages will leave that crowd behind. The portage may not be fun but it is rewarding. My canoe weighs 80 pounds and I carry it solo all the time. I had the ground collapse under me once and I dropped two feet without loosing a grip or balance, but that event taught me how things can go wrong in an instant so it is advisable to have someone behind you when portaging. At the very least, have your signal whistle with you if you do separate from your partner. I also like to have good footwear on for a portage. Too many people like little water shoes and sandals on their feet when they canoe, and they may be comfortable but are entirely inappropriate for portaging. Lifting a canoe is also an art form of sorts. Most people have a hard time to lift a canoe by themselves. I have seen big large men that struggle with lighter canoes than mine, and even with little kayaks. Lifting a canoe is all about practice, coordination, balance, and a little bit of strength is handy, but you don't need much. I have a good side and a bad side, and it is even more difficult to do when it is windy, but once you master the simple technique it gets easier every time. Once you have your canoe up on your shoulders it is all about stamina. Stamina in this case is dependant upon lots of practice and a comfortable yoke. My old fiberglass canoe doesn't have a yoke so I have to tie the paddles in to make shoulder bars. I also wear a life jacket too when using this system, it makes things a little easier on the shoulders. Dropping the canoe is just a reverse of the process done with control. If it is windy, I usually put my back to the wind to avoid dropping the canoe on myself in the event of a strong gust and a loss of control.

This is not the definitive method but some variation of this will work for you


To pick up a canoe, I always step up to the side with my strong arm to the back of the canoe, and my weaker arm to the front. This will be the best position for me to use my body strength to its best advantage, since my strong arm is now in position to do the lifting, and my weaker arm is in position for the balancing.


With both hands I grab the yoke or gunwale closest to me and pull the canoe towards myself so the side comes up onto my knees where the waterline would be. This will almost always get you wet from the waist down. Just deal with it, you will dry out.


Then with my strong arm I grab the closest gunwale and pull it right up to my waist and bend the knees slightly. With the weaker arm, I grab the middle of the yoke and lift leaning back slightly, rolling the canoe up. About half way up the roll, you can catch the far gunwale with your strong arm and pull the canoe onto your upper legs.


Once balanced on your legs you can switch your grip. Let go of the yoke with the weak arm and grab the far gunwale. Let go of the far gunwale with the strong arm and switch your grip to the near gunwale. With your strong arm, push the canoe up by the inner gunwale, straightening the arm. Some people like to reach under and cradle the canoe with the arm for added stability.


With the right amount of pull from the weaker arm the canoe will roll onto your shoulders.  It is not effortless but with practice it gets quite easy even if you are not a muscle man. After the yoke is balanced on your shoulders, assess your balance and footing, and point the front of the canoe towards any wind.

This is not the definitive way to pick up a canoe, but some variation of this will work for you. Using simple physics, I routinely lift a canoe weighing almost half my own body weight.


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