Skills: Launch and Land in Rough Water | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
Skills: Launch and Land in Rough Water Photo: Jen Gardiner

Taking on the exhilarating challenge of launching and landing in rough seas

It is possible to launch or land your open canoe in waves and rough seas, however it’s best to avoid these conditions altogether by getting off the water before waves build to a dangerous point. Even in perfectly calm weather, canoeists should be constantly assessing the shore for landing points, protection and campsites. If caught out in the open when conditions change, it may make more sense to stay in even and small swells rather than risk navigating large breaking waves to reach land—it’s up to the paddler to weigh these risks.

Sometimes, rough-water launches and landings will still be necessary. Landing in breaking waves can be an exhilarating challenge, but waves much larger than two feet tall give canoeists a very low chance of success. In most cases, this is considered an emergency situation on a canoe expedition—don’t paddle out in these conditions. If the waves are spilling onto a low-angled shore, it is much easier to land, as the height and steepness of the waves will not be outrageous, and the run-out onshore will be long. If the waves are dumping on a steeply angled shore or onto underwater features, however, swamped boats will probably result.

The ideal beach for landing is low-angled and sandy. If the waves are moving along the shore or at an angle, it will be fairly straightforward; waves moving perpendicularly in to shore will be more challenging but potentially more predictable. The key is for each boat to stay in control...


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