Lifting & Carrying a Canoe

Lifting and carrying anything 16 feet long is always going to pose some problems. With that said, canoes are surprisingly easy to move around.

We're going to take a look at ways for both one person and two people to lift and carry a canoe, starting with the one person lift.

When lifting a solo canoe, if you're right handed you'll start on the left side of the canoe, and if you're left handed you'll start on the right side. Start at the center part of the canoe and grab the closest gunnel with your hands about shoulder width apart. Now, bend your knees and lift the canoe onto your thighs. Your legs should now be bearing the weight of the canoe. With a gentle rocking motion, use the leg closest to the stern of the canoe to lift the far gunnel so that you can grab it with the hand closest to the bow. You should now be holding the near gunnel with your stern side hand. The far gunnel will be the hand closest to the bow.

To get the canoe over your head and the yoke on your shoulders, you'll start with a light rocking motion and then lightly kick the canoe up with your knee as you lift and flip the canoe. Make sure that as you're doing this, duck under the gunnel and rotate your stance so that you finish facing the bow. You can then gently drop the yoke onto your shoulders.

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If you're doing this properly, you won't feel any strain on your back as it's your legs that will be doing all of the work.

To put the canoe back down, you'll simply reverse the lift. With a good grip on the gunwales, bend your knees bounce the canoe off of your shoulders and rotate your stance to face the canoe as you flip it back down onto your thighs. A little trick that can make both lifting and dropping the canoe easier in the beginning is to keep the stern end of the canoe on the ground. This helps keep the canoe balanced as you flip it.

A two-person lift is very similar to the one person lift except that one paddler will position themselves at the bow thwart and the other will be at the stern thwart, or seat. From this position, you'll use the exact same lifting technique that we just looked at, only you'll do it in unison. Once the canoe is above your heads, the person up front will walk their hands forward and rest their bow on their shoulder. The person in the back will drop the stern thwart or seat onto their shoulders as if it were a yoke. Something to keep in mind when setting up a two person lift is that the bow person gets the lighter end and it's going to be a lot easier for them to see where they're going.

If lifting and carrying a canoe is going to be a real problem, another great option is a canoe cart, although they don't work well on really rough terrain. With that said, there are a few important tricks that will make lifting and carrying a canoe a lot easier.

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