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With summer definitely upon us it’s time to look at some tips for canoeing or kayaking around the lakes and rivers of Muskoka and Ontario. A canoe, for those who don’t know, is a lightweight narrow vessel pointed at both ends. It is also open on top and propelled by one or more paddlers. They are widely used for activities such as racing white water, touring and camping, and general recreation, to name a few. Canoeing has been a part of the summer Olympics since 1936. Historically, canoes were dugouts of made of bark on a wood frame. As construction materials evolved so did the canoes construction, from canvas on a wood frame, to aluminum. Most of the modern canoes we see today are made of molded plastic or composite materials. These vessels were developed by cultures all over the world. Until the mid-nineteenth century the canoe was an important means of transport for exploration and trade. In some places it is still used as an important tool for exploration and trade possibly with the addition of an outboard motor. 


              With that little bit of canoe history out of the way let’s take a look at some tips and rules for safe and fun canoeing this summer! 


  • Paddling on opposite side of the boat will ensure that your canoe will not pitch back and forth while under way, increasing the stability of the craft. If the water is choppy, or added stability is needed, kneeling rather than sitting in the canoe is recommended. 
  • Paddling in rhythm with your partner is paramount. The person seated in the bow of the canoe is responsible for setting the rhythm or pace that the person in the stern is to follow. This allows for maximising forward momentum. 
  • While paddling it is advisable to call a side switch periodically. This will allow the canoe to continue in a straight line without the need for advanced paddling strokes. 
  • It is important that your paddle interacts with the water accordingly to maximize your ability to create forward motion. Lily dipping is when the paddle goes into the water at an angle reducing the useable surface area of the paddle, the desired entrance angle is vertical or close to it. 
  • Always be proficient at re-entering your canoe if you happen to fall into the water. If paddling with another canoe it is recommended to practice canoe over canoe rescues. 
  • If you are paddling on your own it is recommended that you stay closer to shore and out of the wind so that if anything does happen you have a chance to get both yourself and your vessel back to shore. 


  • Even without an engine canoes are subject to the same rules of the water as other vessels in Canada with a few exceptions. There needs to be at least one life jacket per person in the canoe at all times. A buoyant heaving line of at least 15 meters is required as well as a bailer or manual bilge pump. A sounds signaling device is also mandatory on all vessels. If the vessel has a freeboard (vertical height that must be climbed to re-enter the boat) greater than half a meter there needs to be a reboarding device on board. If the canoe or vessel is longer than 6 meters then it also needs a watertight flashlight and at least 6 flares. It only needs lights if it is intended to be used at night. Also if the boat is over 8 meters in length it requires a magnetic compass and a radar reflector 
  • Always consult a map before going out on a paddle, paying specific attention to the distance you would like to travel. Most beginners can cover about 2 miles per hour, on average, with experienced paddlers anywhere between 3 and 4 miles per hour. Of course these speed averages will be adjusted based on currents. 
  • Be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you intend to return so that if something unexpected happens authorities can be notified. 
  • It is recommended to check the weather forecast for the day and plan accordingly. Always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature 
  • Sunscreen! The sun’s rays can reflect off of the water and shiny surfaces in your canoe. These reflections can hit places that one would not normally cover with sunscreen. Be sure to bring sunglasses and a hat as well. 


  • Beware of obstacles present in the river or lake. There are often low head dams in rivers that look quite benign. However the currents created by these 2 to 4 foot drops can trap boats and humans underwater. 

  • This is supposed to be fun! Pack a picnic, bring some water floats, a fishing rod, anything that you might want to do during your trip. 

  • Take a canoe lesson! As with any past time there are always things to learn, and the best way to accomplish this is to find a trained professional and take some lessons. Advanced strokes, ways to read current, safe operation are some of the topics that you can learn about in these classes. 


               Well we at HRC Insurance hope that this was an informative blog about canoeing. Canoeing is part of the Canadian fabric and has been used for centuries here in Muskoka and Ontario as a whole. As early as 1615 the explorer Samuel Du Champlain was known to have reached Georgian Bay in a canoe. As well as other prominent explorers such as Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Take a page out of history and try your luck in a canoe this weekend! 

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