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Indian Arm in a canoe?

Biere a Terre

Paddler
Joined
Jun 5, 2021
Messages
22
Location
British Columbia
Hello friends. I am curious about the safety aspects of traveling up Indian Arm in an open (undecked) canoe. I searched through the forums but I believe all of the discussions about wind and tide up Indian Arm were about trips in kayaks.

I have personally seen others departing Deep Cove or Belcarra in regular full-size open prospector-style canoes (with taller bow and stern) and heading up the fjord. Obviously most of the traffic there I've witnessed is in regular sit-in kayaks. In fact the very first time I used a canoe after moving to BC was around Barnet Marine Park with a friend whom had just bought a Clipper canoe of some style.

But what about more performance-style canoes? We have a Swift Keeywaydin 18.6 canoe that definitely does not get pushed around by wind as much as our prospector-style canoe, and my Swift Cruiser 16.8 solo canoe that has an even shorter silhouette, but obviously not as small as a kayak. Both of these have less rocker and shorter bows than a prospector-type canoe that would likely have greater success shedding waves.

My concern is with gusts, winds causing waves that could end up flooding the hull and/or potential capsize, mostly fearing the shorter bows and less rocker being a problem here with sudden changes in wind speed. That little voice in the back of my head is telling me these specific boats aren't well suited to Indian Arm. I've been checking wind maps the last few weeks thinking I might have time to go on a quick paddle midday, but the opportunity hasn't arisen yet and I'd like to test this out in my solo before getting my partner and kids in a canoe up into the fjord. They haven't seen Silver or Granite Falls yet and I'd like to share that with them.

Appreciate your thoughts.
 
Last edited:
Hey @Biere a Terre , good question. As you know, Indian Arm is a long, narrow inlet (fjord), much like Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Park or Isaac Lake on the Bowron route. Both of those bodies of water see lots of canoe traffic every day in summer, much of it from relatively inexperienced paddlers. So based on that data set, I think we can assume that canoes are adequately suited for this sort of paddling environment.

The most basic tactic for a canoeist (or kayaker, for that matter) to adopt is ”handrailing”: sticking close to shore and avoiding open water crossings.

Another basic tactic is avoiding predictable winds. On a warm summer day, inflow winds (south to north in Indian Arm) will develop between 10 am and 11 am and die off in the evening. Plan your travel for earlier and later in the day.

So those are two tactics. Now for a technique: the low brace. Practice your low brace so that it is instant and instinctive. Assuming you are in a tandem, one paddler is always in a position to low brace to stabilize the boat. (If in a solo, add in a righting pry and you have both sides covered).

That’s about it. With those three things (2 tactics, 1 technique), you will be as safe as any paddler in Indian Arm and probably safer than most.

Cheers,
Andrew
 
Understood @AM , and I appreciate your response! The last time I was up Indian Arm was ... I believe late April 2020 (I had to get out of the house; my kids were home with child care closed the previous four or five weeks), and remember just getting sprayed in the face as I kayaked.
 
We went to Granite Falls for an overnight a couple of weeks ago and there was a a couple with a dog in a canoe whom we passed that made it and camped for the night.
 
My partner and I have toured BC's coast extensively in our Clipper Tripper. We just returned from a mostly circumnavigation of Galiano Island (all but Active Pass), in August, we did a 13-day 200 km trip in the Discovery Islands (Okeover-Desolation-Toba-Rendezvous-Octopus-Teakerne-Copeland-Okeover), did another 200 km circuit from Bella Bella to North Calvert Island a few years ago, and the list goes on. We go up the arm regularly.
 
Years ago before the days of widespread kayaking maybe before the 1980s canoes were the way to go. I have a book on the Broken Islands Group and canoeing was the way to go. I have canoed Indian arm, the Broken Group and many other places in my Clipper Tripper as well. Wind, waves and swells, use caution, packs in the bottom of the boat help. What scared me once was seeing young kids from Camp Howdy with teenage leaders paddling up there. Keep safety in your head and have a good trip. Never let things get out of control. The coastal indigenous people of BC used canoes not kayaks.
 
Indian arm is not much different than a big lake and conditions can vary. The size of the water doesn't matter so much as the conditions. The larger the body the more susceptible to rougher water. One thing about the local lakes and including Indian Arm, and even smaller ones, is that they are mostly in deep mt valleys and subject wind funneling up or down them especially in the afternoon. I prefer kayaks because they are better suited to rough water but canoes are fine if you plan around the conditions.
 
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