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Tandem Canoe Back Ferry

Well, on a canoe trip, when your canoe is loaded with all the gear, it is about as maneuverable as a freight train. So you're not going to be doing a lot of sporty moves. Start off with a nice, conservative back ferry. Choose where you want to go on the rapid. You can always pick up some speed later on.

I thought we needed some credibility in terms of back ferry and whitewater. So here is a picture of us back ferrying. Back ferries are great, if you want to move across the river without moving downstream. When you have decided to do the back ferry, put the brakes on, turn your canoe, and back up. As you back across, the downstream person, the person in the bow, is going to control the angle of the canoe. Nice.

Okay, now let's look at the strokes required to do a back ferry. The bow paddler has major correction strokes and minor correction strokes. The major correction strokes control the angle of the canoe but don't really move it backwards. They are the back draw and the cross draw. Here is a good example. Mark is doing a bit of a draw as he back paddles. Then I use a back draw to close the angle. On the back draw, really emphasize pushing out with your top hand to get your paddle at the correct angle, so that it really bites on the water. To back ferry in the other direction, use a cross draw. Push out with your top hand, so that, again, your lead bites the water, as the water moves past the canoe.

The reverse J and the back sweep are called minor correction strokes because their main function is to move the canoe backwards with some correction. When you do the reverse J, at the end of the stroke, let your paddle rest against the gunnel, as the water pushes on the back facing the blade. Nothing fancy about the back sweep, just take a back paddle stroke with your paddle blade well out from the side of the canoe. The stern paddlers supplies most of the power in the back ferry. One trick you can use is to reach out into the eddys that you are passing by and sort of use them as anchors to slow the boat.

Adjusting the trim of the canoe, so that downstream man, in this case the bow, is lower in the water, really helps the back ferry. You can move some gear forward, and you can have the stern paddler slide up to the stern thwart. Mark agrees it makes a difference, but admits that usually he doesn't do it.

Back ferries are a great way to cautiously go around a corner. You can back ferry to the inside of the corner where the water is slower. But do know that you are going to need more angle than you think. You've got to look at the current lines, not the shore line.

When you are doing a tandem back ferry, communication is key. That's why Mark and I don't paddle together much. 

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