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Thread: Towing a canoe

  1. #1

    Default Towing a canoe

    Just need a little advice. My father and I have been canoeing in the Quebec wilderness for 33 years now. He is approaching his eightieth birthday and is still in fantastic shape. This coming summer I want to bring my three daughters on a trip with my Dad. My 17 and 10 year old have each been once (separately) but my 8 year old has never been. There is a "fixed" campsite on an island that can be reserved fo up to four days. It would take my father and I about four hours of paddling to reach it. Herein lies the problem and the point of this thread. We have a 16 ft cedar canvas canoe with a 1200lb payload. My initial plan is to load everyone into this canoe with my Dad and I paddling and tow a rental canoe with all the gear.
    Hairbrain scheme?

  2. #2

    Default Why tow?

    You have enough people going why tow let them paddle one. How far is this island that it takes 4 hours? Is it on a river or large body of water?
    The other option is to rent or buy a Mokai.com make that 4 hours short time.

    I love mine getting to old to paddle for hours.

    Cheers

  3. #3
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    Default

    Welcome to the board nooby.
    Afraid i can't give you much help with the towing question, but would in part agree with AKMMs post above.
    Unless the water is particurlay dangerous for some reason either let your dad paddle with the 17 or 10 yr old in one boat & you take the other kida in the other & split gear or let the 17 & 10 yr old have a boat if you want to paddle with your dad.
    If you put the 17 & 10 yr olds in one boat you can keep the 8 yr old & most of the gear with you & dad. Just keep the two boats together.
    The kids will probably enjoy the trip more that way too.
    Vance in AK.

    Matthew 6:33
    "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

  4. #4

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    Time to make a catamaran from two canoes and add a sail. My parents did this regularly to transport us miles at a time on big, cold lakes when the family was two adults and three kids under 10.

    Get two 2x2 boards about eight feet long. (PVC pipe would work as well. Even tree limbs work if the right size and strength.) Lash the boards across the gunwales of the two canoes, leaving comfortable sitting spaces for all concerned and room to paddle. Now you have an extremely stable platform for transport. No, it's not the fastest thing on the planet . . . yet.

    Now, add the sail rig. One way is to adapt Sam Manning's Sticks and String rig to the catamaran. There are other canoe sailing rigs available for inspection at Canoe Sailing Resources 2005 and at Rigs.

    Too complicated? Then rig a square mainsail from a strong groundcloth tarp with a pole or two and lines as needed. This will usually allow only downwind sailing, but you will be amazed at the speed you can generate. Adding a leeboard will help it track better. If you don't want to build a frame to attach one, you can lash a paddle into position, or simply hold one if you can stand the boredom of doing it. Steer with a paddle.

    My dad had an open canoe that he sailed regularly on Lake Superior, solo. He rigged a rudder off the stern with a couple of eyebolts to hang it on. A leeboard hung on the side. The rig was a lateen, which hangs on the mast from the middle of a downward-sloping boom to which the sail is attached.

    EDIT: And there is no 16 foot canoe that I would put five people in.

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks for all the replies but with all due respect, the advice I need is on towing a canoe with a canoe. How does it track, is it more apt to be flipped by large waves, is it too hard to tow a canoe with only two paddlers etc. etc.
    I am a fairly good canoe/camper with a little common sense but have never seen a canoe being towed by another. I don't want to form a plan around an untried idea.

    I do, however, like the lashing two canoes together idea.

    P.S
    My Dad had the canoe built in 1974 and had a sail mast holder installed. We have, in the past, made a mast out of a tree/limb and rigged our ground sheets to it. Rudimentary at best but holy shmokes...does it haul *****.

  6. #6

    Default

    You can tow a canoe with a canoe but it isn't the easiest paddle in my book. On bigger waves you will feel the canoe in the rear pull on the front canoe. It isn't impossible just extra work. Hope this helps.

  7. #7

    Default

    Thanks, d.h. Have you done it? If the wind kicks up, does it blow the towed canoe all over the place?

  8. #8
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    Default tow tethers

    I've seen this done with kayaks. the brunt of the gear was placed in the towed kayak, and hardly any in the towing kayak.

    the water was pretty flat, and the towed kayak had it's rudder dropped and locked.

    they used a tow tether, which has elastic built into the tow line to take some of the snap out, and seemed to keep the towed kayak from pulling the towing kayak way off course.

    NRS makes one, extrasport, and even Lotus (patagonia) I think.

    you might think about using one. here's a link http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product_list.asp?deptid=1766

    all that being said - I've never done it myself. good luck.

  9. #9

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    Thanks for the reply, fishin fool. I will look for those tethers.

  10. #10
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    Nobby,
    I towed numerous canoes with power on the front one [and with out] many years back in the BWCA....The trick to towing a canoe is not to tie to the eye on front of canoe. This eye is for your painter line only or for securing during auto travel. Make a large diameter bowline loop [4'-5' diameter] and loop that over the entire front 1/3 of the canoe to be towed.....about even with the front thwart where you secure it with a paddle....hard to describe...

    Anyway, the bowline knot should be under the canoe so that the pull lifts the front of the canoe keel slightly above the water.....otherwise they don't track worth a hoot.....May I suggest;
    Don't load your canoe any where near max....this will get you down to 3" of freeboard and water line may be above tumblehome....not a good thing!

    If both adults are capable, I would definitely have each adult paddle a seperate canoe with the kids and gear ahead. This travels faster than you think it would and you get the hang of stearing but wind can be more of a problem.

    Please PM if I can help.....

  11. #11
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    Nobby,

    For serious canoe how-to of the great canoe era.....any of Cal Rutstrum's books are invaluable besides entertaining.

    For your towing information see Page 19 of New Way of the Wilderness by Calvin Rutstrum.

    And put that 17 year-old on a paddle.....

    Best of luck on your trip.....wish I were there with you.

  12. #12
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    Default tow a Canoe

    there are all kinds of units to tow with ,a cheep one would be 2 2x4's tie them to the conoes an make a cat, more stable ,an all 5 people can talk leave room between the 2 conoe's so the waves can go betwine them they will be more stable an all can have a good time the front tie will be a tight one close to the bow an the 2 nd will be a little loose co it will track at the best track angle,
    # 2 if you tie them all tight every one can paddle a little an get read off all the hype of the trip an will be tied when you get to camp
    just rember that you need to paddle so select you tie point for the 2x4's ,try this out on a local lake to fond the tie point's an work out the problems

  13. #13

    Default

    Thanks for all the advice. I will let you know what I decide.

  14. #14

    Default towing is no fun

    I've done it before. It feels like you are dragging an anchor. It jerks you back just when you start your forward stroke..etc.

    Better is Sid's suggestion with a catamaran. Even better with a small sail.

    I have seen people set up two canoes with 2x4s. The canoes are about 4 feet apart and the 2Xs are connected to the canoes with zip ties on the thwarts. Then 4 foot wide sheets of plywood are zip tied to the 2xs in the gap between the canoes. This makes a nice deck to climb on and also serves to stabilize the canoes from racking back and forth. you can mount your SMALL sail here as well.

    The downside is, you need to coordinate your paddling between the two canoes because steering is completely different. You might end up with all three paddling the other canoe to keep up with you on one side. It still would be a lot better than towing. More efficient and more fun.

  15. #15

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    I like the idea, however, it will be a challenge to get the canoes to sit evenly in the water given my 16' cedar canvas floats like a cork and the traditional rentals sit lower. I will have to do some fancy packing. Further to that, I hope the thwarts line up.

    P.S. As we are not planning to portage (just day trips from our base) we will bring a cooler on this trip...A first for me and Dad!

  16. #16
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    Default

    there is nothing free in the world you have to give an take a little on all jobs an outings a little planing an a trip to the local lake will take care of it all problems an a 2x4 on one side an a 4x6/4x8 on the other will make it float level

  17. #17

    Default towing canoe vs. catamaran

    Have done both, in my opinion towing is more difficult, esp if you tow a keel -ess canoe
    that will slew around w/o someone to steer.

    A towing bridle like the rope bridle suggested is OK but still troublesome in the wind.

    The cat i made for big windy lakes used two 16 ft. canoes fastened to 2 x 4 cross members secured around the thwarts with u bolts secured with lock washers and wingnuts.

    You might use a very long paddle for more leverage in steering, actually an old oar works better.

    For a sail a tarp works ok down wind, hard to tack though.

  18. #18

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    Thanks again. I really like the idea. I will have to remember to bring everything. U bolts, zip ties and my personal favorite...Duct tape. 2x4 or 2x2?

  19. #19
    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi all;
    First a little background on me so you can see where I'm coming from. I was a canoe and kayaking guide for many years and a avid surf kayaker/ rock garden paddler. I guided in Michigan California and Alaska. Ive Done the Juneau to Seatle paddle solo and the Algonquin trail paddle twice(thats across Lake Supierior the long way).I also biuld custum boats.

    Towing boats in the manner your discribing is a emergancy only proceedure and dangerous for several reasons. If the "gear boat" swamps you've got worse than a anchor slowing you down you've got a massive wieght on a short tether doing all it can too take you too the bottom with it! If you loose the "gear boat" your stuck in back country whithout food or shelter. Towing is verey dificult in the best of circumstances with guide level folks doing it and you can count on it doubling your crossing time. You can never tell when conditions will take a turn for the worse why take a chance with your fammilies safety.Rafting or lashing boats together is also for verey specialised situations and when done at all it should be done in a way that the boats can be easily and quickly speperated.Sails can work well but you have to know what your doing remmember were talking about boats with no keel that can easily be pushed over by a gust of wind hitting a sail and mast.(Most sail boats are heavily keeled and have more mass below the mean water line than above it)

    Canoes and Kayaks have at least 2000 years of engineering through experiance behind them why argue with that by cobbeling up some new design? You and your fammily will have more fun and be much safer if you devide into 2 boats.When padeling with mutipal boats each one should be packed as a self sustianed unit never put all of anything in one boat!!That way if something happens to one of the boats you'll still have food and shelter, you might be hunggry and crowded but at least you will have some food to ration and shelter.

    Another factor to consider is your paddling with kids do you really think your 8 and 10 year old are going too sit still in the bottom of a canoe for 4 hours let alone the 6-8 it will take you if your towing a gear boat? Whenever possible kids should have a job during crossings it keeps them bussy and limmits the behaviorally issuse even the best of kids have when bored. In my expreiance kids are not chalenged enough in there day too day lives but if they are given a chance they normally excell beound your expectations.

    Just one paddler and fathers opinion.

  20. #20

    Default

    The supposed hazards of lashing canoes together for lake travel will come as a surprise to those of us who have done it. Here's an example of the stability it provides -- Two Boy Scouts pull adult male from water.

    And one would be hard pressed to find actual examples of capsized lashed canoes under sail. With passengers and gear in each of the canoes as ballast and the typically small sail areas used, it is an unlikely scenario, IMO. Personally, I've never heard of it happening.

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