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Ranting about Painters — WITH a Paddle in IT!

Dude ranting about painters on canoes

Probably not best to start the year off with a rant as the first post, but maybe, just maybe, 2017 will be the year when this kind of thing stops. What do you ask? The silly need of people to comment about how a photo of a canoe or kayak that they saw on social media doesn’t meet their idea of what a canoe or kayak should be or some other silliness like that. To be completely honest (cliched phrase on purpose, because it’s like a cliche that you going to get someone who thinks they are the know-it-all paddler to comment on a photo that they have no knowledge of), I just don’t even have the energy to continue describing this type of stupidity. I’ll just post the screenshot.

Here it is:

dude ranting about silly stuff

If you can’t see the screenshot, it shows a Facebook comment that says,

No painters, bow or stern, and a canoe one small gust of wind away from being blown out into the lake. And WITH the paddle in it. Nice photo I guess, but from a practical standpoint it’s just camera candy.

OH. MY. GOD. It’s “WITH” a paddle in it. Holy cow! The Cubs win! The world is coming to an end. An obviously posed picture of a canoe has a freak’n paddle in it. OH. MY. GOD. I just can’t handle it. Without a couple of painters on the bow or stern (using technical language because you know), it’ll blow away from ONE SMALL GUST of wind. Yikes! That’ll happen on this completely calm morning when there wasn’t a gust of wind to be found, but you never know WHEN a GUST of WIND is going to hit. IT COULD HAPPEN RIGHT NOW! Right freaking now. And WITH the paddle in it!

You know, it’s a nice photo and all, but without painters and WITH the paddle in it, it’s just camera candy.

The comment was made on this canoe picture that I took:

Northstar Phoenix canoe at sunrise

On this morning, I decided to head inland and take a sunrise picture with my new Northstar Phoenix (Read the mini-review: Northstar Phoenix Review). It was the perfect late fall morning and the light was amazing. I set my canoe down in the shallows, grounded at the stern so it wouldn’t move during the long exposure and the bow partly on the shore. I had to adjust the angle of the canoe several times to get it just right. The fog drifting across the surface of the water moved like magical powers. And the reflections were perfect. It was one of those one in a thousand mornings. The perfect paddling morning. One shot from the morning even made the cover of Sierra Magazine (it’s a selfie). After the light started to fade away, I went on a long paddle and explored sections of this river that I hadn’t paddled before. Got some great pictures and the entire morning was as calm as can be without a gust of wind.

I’d say it was a pretty practical morning in a pretty practical canoe outfitted exactly how it needed to be outfitted for the chores that it had to preform. It was so practical that I made a shot I love and has sold prints. I scored a magazine cover shot. And, I had a great late fall paddle.

All without painters and WITH a paddle in the canoe.

sierra magazine cover

More related reading:

Seriously, when will paddlers stop the silly?


UPDATE: It gets even better.

The carelessness…. This gets even sillier. Seriously, paddlers just stop.

But I just want to make this perfectly clear to someone reading this: you do not need painters on a canoe. Can they be useful? Yes, in the situation you might need them. They’re great when you’re lining your canoe through rapids or other fast water sections. You can tie your canoe to a tree or something as well. Can they be dangerous? Yes, they pose an entrapment issue during a capsize. You should have a knife ready (I like the Gerber River Shorty with the blunt tip mounted on my vest) to cut yourself out of the painters should something go south. Canoes are used in far less extreme situations than kayaks and kayaks don’t use painters. I used to have them on all my canoes (after reading Cliff Jacobson’s books) when I used them for flat water trips. After 100s of trips into the Boundary Waters, I seldom used them. I think one of the few times I did was on my first trip. Experience taught that they weren’t useful nor necessary for flat water trips. I don’t know many canoe guides who use painters in the BWCA. We didn’t when we guided the BWCA.

The thing is this: you use judgement instead of dogma. Dogma says, you need to have painters all the time. Judgement, gained from experience, says use them when you need them.

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  • Nice article. I sometimes leave a painter on the front of my kayak to make it easier to stand up, It is also very useful when doing the Core Sound sandbar drag. It is really just the bow tie down from the car.

    I rarely use one on the canoe as the rivers have over hanging branches that grab them.

    • They can be useful. I’ve used them on my canoes, but never in a kayak. I typically carry a waist-mounted tow rope and a pigtail on my vest.

      I don’t understand what you mean about easier to stand up. Do you mean you pull on it to help you stand up in the kayak or to get out of the kayak?

  • Love your pictures and your blog. I should probably let this go because you say you are done, but just a point about painter lines. There was a tragic accident near me a few years ago involving a young man who died when his foot got wrapped up in a painter line. To your point, they can be very significant hazards if they come loose in moving water. I took all the painter lines off my boats after that. I have put most of them back on now not because I need them on the river (rarely do), but because I use them as bow and stern lines on the car. Great picture – hope you post lots more.

    • Thanks for bringing this up and posting the link to the incident report. I think it’s extremely important to bring this into this conversation — I wish you’d have posted this on my PaddlingLight post (I’m going to copy in your reply on the site. I hope you don’t mind). Ropes, whether they are used as painters or tow ropes, are dangerous. If you’re going to have them on your boat, you have to have the ability to cut yourself out of them on you and preferably fixed to your vest that you always wear. You should also practice cutting ropes while underwater holding your breath. It’s not easy. In my opinion it’s best not to have them on the boat unless you need them to have them there. And you should always have plenty of practice with using them in controlled situations preferably with an experience paddler helping with instruction.

      In the case of my picture, they were not needed. The morning was calm with no chance of wind gusts. The canoe was wedged in so it would take a gust near 15 to 20 knots to free it. Had the conditions been such that the canoe could have blown away, I wouldn’t have set the shot up like I did.

      It’s all about managing risk. We can look at risk on a matrix with one axis being the probability of something bad occurring and the other being the consequence if it does happen. In my canoe picture it would be a zero probability with a mild consequence (or zero consequence, because I would have walked the 40 yards to my car, grabbed my other solo canoe and went paddling). But in the accident you linked, it’s a low probability but a high consequence of death. In that type of situation, you have to mitigate the consequence downward otherwise it’s a no go.

  • OMG It’s a photo and there are no painters. Get a life. Go paddling and mangle some painters. I got rid of mine – just a length of wet rope.
    Great photo; nice boat.

  • Maybe this will make the painter-less people happy…

  • Now I learned bow and stern lines are named painters. I saw a very beautiful picture of a canoe in a serene lake, it made me want to paddle, thanks! The value of being critical sometimes causes relection which alters outcomes. Cheers to both the silly and serious.

  • I had expected this kind of reaction from a kayak nazi, the BCU type, but not from a canoeist.

    • I had a hard time approving this comment because of the use of the term “nazi.” I’ve come around to the position that using it when it applies to people outside of the Nazi party or historical or modern Nazi Party context or when used in comparison to another party’s policies, etc. dilutes the meaning of what the Nazis did, i.e. genocide in the holocaust. And it dilutes how evil the Nazis were.

      A kayaker practicing and preaching about BCU instruction or a person having a safety reaction to a photo does not rise to the level of a nazi.

      Anyway. Those are my current thoughts.

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