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Thread: The downstream ferry angle...

  1. #1
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default The downstream ferry angle...

    I wonder if experienced floaters favor a downstream or upstream ferry angle to avoid hazards when rafting rivers? I'm in a larger cataraft really intended for river float/hunt trips.

    On the Upper Kenai yesterday, an experienced rafting friend suggested trying downstream ferry angles (paddling downstream at an angle) for moving away from certain hazards. I had used upstream ferry angles to move away from hazards almost always before. The downstream momentum seemed to improve lateral movement except in 1 (OK, 2) cases where collision was almost imminent.

    It was interesting - Dave also suggested rowing my 18ft cataraft into eddies - techniques I'd read about for kayaks/canoes, but hadn't considered applying to this raft. It wasn't pretty, but stripped for a day trip, the raft handling was more manageable than I'd expected.

    Practicing ferry angles and eddying out were good practice. Beautiful day.

  2. #2

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    For my wife and rowers with less upper body strength, I always encourage them to row at a downstream angle. It is alot easier on their arms because they don't have to fight the river. In certain situations you will really need to do an upstream ferry, but alot of energy can be saved with a heavy raft if you row downstream.

  3. #3
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Downstream ferries

    Without a doubt drifting with the current is easier (this is why dead salmon migrate downstream :-)) But the biggest issue with a downstream ferry is that it takes a lot more distance to get around the obstacle. On a large river with relatively few obstacles (like the upper Kenai), this isn't usually a problem. But on a more powerful river you need other tactics in your bag of tricks. The downstream ferry depends on the oarsman moving the boat faster than the current in order to maintain steerage.

    The other issue is what kind of stroke you use. Back-rowing is your power stroke, while a forward stroke (push rowing) is much weaker. Either stroke can be used for upstream or downstream ferries. I would not recommend a back stroke for downstream ferries unless the obstacles were few, because your stern is downstream and you have your back to the hazards. On rivers with a lot of obstacles, you want your bow facing downstream so you can see what's coming and use your back stroke to avoid trouble. This buys time by slowing your drift speed (giving you time to examine the hazard and choose a line), while putting you in the best position to move away from trouble.

    Regardless of how much upper body strength the oarsman has, they will always be stronger with a back-stroke.

    Don't get locked in on one technique; use them all. You'll use forward rowing, back rowing, upstream ferries and downstream ferries in combination all the time. But in most situations, your best bet is back rowing with your bow pointed downstream, and usually with the boat at a 30 - 45 angle to the high bank.

    -Mike
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  4. #4
    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Default What did mama tell ya?

    At least one time while growing up, mama told you to keep your nose out of trouble.

    And that, basically, is how I raft.

    While floating downstream, 'cause I generally can't go upstream, I point my boats nose at a 45 degree angle toward the next potential obstacle...and back-stroke with them strong back muscles to pull away from the potential problem, away from the trouble. Keeping "your (raft) nose out of trouble" is the most basic concept I taught all my new rafting trainees in a previous lifetime, when I instructed new rafters.

    If that can't work due to multiple potential obstacles, I do whatever upstream angle-downstream angle-back rowing-forward rowing that it takes to keep the boat floating properly, frame and oarsmans side up, preferably.

    ...or did I miss-read your original thread question and over-simplify my answer?

    (...and doesn't Mikes book, and every rafting book, cover this?)

    Dennis
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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaTrueAdventure View Post

    While floating downstream, 'cause I generally can't go upstream, I point my boats nose at a 45 degree angle toward the next potential obstacle...and back-stroke with them strong back muscles to pull away from the potential problem, away from the trouble.

    I was back home in NC these past few weeks (I work out of state) and I had three days of 1:1 instruction on rowing my raft. We did some class II/III rivers in the Smoky Mountains of NC. Learned alot, and the above quote sums it up nicely. This is what the instructor taught me and my wife. I am new to rafting, but this approach seemed to work very well.

    The one thing the instructor kept telling me, "More angle, more angle". I was in the mindset that about 45 degrees was right. Something I read in a book no doubt. Turns out, for ferrying, he wanted much more angle. Almost pointing the raft perpendicular to the river flow at times. I know speed of current and all effects this, but in our case, more angle seemed better than less. In the situations we were in, the 45 degree angle approach led to us "Stalling" per the instructor.

    One thought on forward rowing (to avoid obstacles), the instructor said "Don't". Said it would cause elbow problems. At 310 lbs, I laughed a bit. A week later while back home, went out to play a round of golf. Got home, could not touch my face with my left hand. Tendonitis in the right elbow. So now the big guy is taking motrin 3x/day and icing the elbow every 4 hours. Who is laughing now I wonder? So aside from the forward stroke being weaker as said earlier here, it can also lead to some short term soreness in the elbows. I am living proof. Live and learn
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  6. #6
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post

    Got home, could not touch my face with my left hand. Tendonitis in the right elbow.

    Meant "right hand". Sorry. Have not typed in 26 days
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Default Agreed....

    ...keep in mind that as you sweep into a turn, into a curving river bend, that 45 degree angle simply opens up into a larger angle approaching 90+- degrees, or perpendicular to the bank and current. Many river/water/hazard variables affect all this ever changing dynamic stuff. I believe the last three of us have said/written the same thing.

    But if I'm looking over my shoulder, more backwards, something imperfect just happened, or I'm goofing around.

    I do seem to forward row alot, often on gentle rivers, especially while a client-hunter-fisher is fishing.
    Heck, lets go rafting.....

    dennis

  8. #8
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaTrueAdventure View Post
    ...keep in mind that as you sweep into a turn, into a curving river bend, that 45 degree angle simply opens up into a larger angle approaching 90+- degrees, or perpendicular to the bank and current.
    Great point man. Wish the instructor would have clarified this. Makes perfect sense now that I read it. Thanks.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  9. #9

    Default upstream ferry

    As Mike pointed out, a rafter usually wants his bow facing downstream while back oaring, this would be an upstream ferry angle. You are paddling against the current, which in turn gives you more time. In a kayak we use the upstream ferry angle less, and when we do our bow is facing upstream to save time.
    Everyone decides their method of the moment,- based on the speed of the water combined with, the distance between the boater and the obstacle in question......
    Danatrock Keeping your elbows tight as possible to your torso will allow the tricep muscles to work at a higher potential becuase the movement becomes more anatomaclly correct, This will help avoid the elbow strain, much like good bench press technique.
    Good thread
    Mark O.

  10. #10
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    Default different strokes

    If you want to get to the hazard faster, do a downstream ferry. If you're trying to make time or keep up with canoes and IK's, do downstream ferries and course corrections. If it's a lazy sunny day, row forward slowly and pretend you're Huck Finn.

    If you're thinking "uh-oh!" your body should automatically (by reflex earned through repetition as your default strong stroke) go into an upstream ferry and paddle like heck.

    Try it all, hit a few rocks, and do whatever works for you.

    I agree it's great how the simplest questions bring out the best threads. Or as Fulghum says "Everything I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten."

    Eric

  11. #11
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    Default

    Not only does the back stroke, upstream ferry give you more time to make decisions, but it also gives you more time and distance to actually do the maneuvering, since you are slowing your descent while changing directions. It is often imperative to use this on fast, tight rivers.

    This is one of the problems of paddle rafting, as opposed to oar rafting. With oars the back stroke is your strongest move, and it fits in well with the upstream ferry angle. But when paddle rafting (or canoeing/kayaking) your strong stroke is usually considered to be the forward stroke, and as long as you're pointed downstream, the forward stroke (and downstream ferry angle) eats up the distance as you approach the obstacle you want to miss. River kayaks are short enough that the best plan is often to turn the boat around and do an upstream ferry in difficult situations.

    All that said, I find a lot of new rafters using the upstream ferry too much, and it slows their progress on easy rivers. As long as I have plenty of room to maneuver I usually put the boat at about a 90 degree angle to the current before moving the boat across the river. It takes less effort to change river sides, and I make more progress then someone doing a steep upstream ferry. And as Eric notes, pushing the boat downstream, and doing your maneuvering that way is faster yet.

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