You can come to the aid of a swamped canoe and easily empty a canoe full of water while still far out on a lake.
Online users please note, this is not complete instruction in canoe safety or rescue. It is an addition to my classes and Outdoor Club work at De Anza College. If you take a small craft safety class you will certainly be taught about the need for wearing lifejackets, staying in a group of people paddling close enough to each other that they can communicate, etc.
Just as you would practice swimming into a swamped canoe and paddling it in to shore for a short distance, it is wise to practice this skill in advance of ever needing it during an emergency. During practice you can make mistakes that could even be life threatening in real time. Practice is best in a pool or a lake cove with few waves.
You should use this skill only in fairly calm, flat water. If done in slowly moving water, there should be no obstructions.
If you witness a canoe capsizing, you should first see to the safety and consciousness of the paddlers. In the process, if possible, rescue their paddles as well, since even a small current can quickly carry their gear away. You do always travel with a spare paddle lashed into at least one of the canoes in your group, don’t you?
If you are close enough to communicate with them, tell them to hold onto their craft. You all should have lifejackets on, but if someone does not, get it on them.
As you approach the swamped canoe, be certain the wind, your speed or the current does not push you into the people in trouble. Keep back a slight distance until you have talked to them and are certain they will not try anything that will cause your canoe to swamp as well.
As you do the emptying, stay low in your canoe to stay balanced. Describe what you need from your partner and the swamped paddlers clearly.
We usually carry swim caps to put on the heads of paddlers who ended up in the water to help reduce or prevent hypothermia.
Once the paddles and any gear from the swamped canoe have been stashed in the rescuers’ canoe, set up the two canoes with the swamped one perpendicular to the center of the rescuers’ canoe. The swamped canoe, even with a moderate amount of water in it, is now very heavy.
The two rescuers need to be facing each other near the center of the canoe. The person at the bow (front) slowly turns around to face the person at the stern (rear). As you change your position, it is not a good time to stand up and swamp your canoe.
Roll the swamped boat upside down.
If the swamped canoeists are still both a little panicky, both can hold on to opposite ends of the rescuers’ canoe to stabilize it. If at least one feels s/he can help with this process, they should go to the far end of the swamped canoe. They can push down on it to break the suction as the rescuers pull the end of the swamped canoe up onto the craft. Be sure to at least get a little of the swamped canoe up first, so as you drag it onto the upright craft it empties mostly into the water, not into the rescuers’ craft. Aren’t you glad you use dry bags for your gear?
The overturned boat is carefully slid up onto the rescuers’ boat. The canoeist in the water can stay at the end of the overturned boat or go to the other end of the rescuers’ canoe to help stabilize it.
The two rescuers can’t see each other as they slowly flip the previously swamped canoe over so they need to move slowly and communicate.
At least one of the swamped canoeists should be paying attention to stabilizing the rescuers’ canoe.
The now empty canoe can be slid back into the water and the waiting canoeist.
Put the two boats alongside each other to assist the canoeists in the water as they reenter their boat.
Participants, from left to right in the bottom pictures: in the water, American Red Cross (ARC)lifeguard and lifeguard instructor
Brigette Valenzuela Keilig, ARC LG and water safety instructor Shahin Zonoobi, and who? and in the water, LG/LGI Duong Nguyen.