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Canadian Canoe Routes

Boils and Whirlpools
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Author:  Karen [ April 19th, 2004, 9:24 pm ]
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thanks much for the helpful input !

Author:  Frank Sinatra [ April 20th, 2004, 1:06 pm ]
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I have known about whirlpools and the importance of steering clear of them since I started canoeing years ago.
Last month on a week long river trip, I experienced the power of even small whirlpools for the first time.
The river had many Class 1 and 2 rapids. I was in a solo royalex boat that I was paddling for the first time. I won't say my lack of experience in this borrowed boat was a factor.
I decided to pass an island on the right side. I was a bit dissapointed in the action on that side and when I reached the bottom of the rapid, I started crossing over to see what the left side looked like. I was crossing below the point of the island in the water that was merging from the two sides. I was broadside to the current and leaning up river to see around the point of the island and the left side.
Out of no where the downriver side of the boat dipped down below the gunnel. I grabbed the left gunnel, now high in the air and leaned on it. The boat straightened out and then began to dip left (upriver) because of the water shifting that I took in on the initial down dip on the right. I held it though and was just embarressed.
Basically, I was not paying attention and I got spanked but not dunked.

BTW - the left side would have been a lot more fun to paddle down.

Karen, you should really come out paddling with me. You never know what new experiences you will have.

Author:  Karen [ April 21st, 2004, 11:57 am ]
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Frank (howie) - if i didn't know you better, you would have scared me with that last post 8) !

Author:  Frank Sinatra [ April 21st, 2004, 5:24 pm ]
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Wow, a sincere invite to go paddling based on real paddling experiences. Tom, you, Doug and me, it would be great!
And, I can now show you how to deal with whirlpools. Although a lot of folks would say never grab the gunnel in any situation.

Author:  Karen [ April 22nd, 2004, 8:24 am ]
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:wink: sounds good! maybe one of these spring seasons we could hit the buffalo together - it sounds like a great place to play around!

Author:  Sam82 [ April 30th, 2009, 12:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boils and Whirlpools

As I mentioned in another post I have a new mad river outrage x. I decided to plunk it into the scugog river in lindsay and get used to it on flat water.
Well just past the boat launch there is a bridge high over the river and the river constricts here causing some choppy waves and a large v. I decided to paddle over to this section and play with the currant in my new boat.
After the v the river widens out and becomes deeper forming boils and small whirlpools. Not being used to the way my boat handled I realized how uncomfortable I felt in these boils with a tippy canoe (going through boils in muy old town discovery is bad enough).
Anyway I powered forward through these as my brace was not all that effective at keeping my balance. Just as I figured I was doing ok the currant seemed to just grab my already tippy boat and because I was moving along at a good clip my boat swung around hard and I almost went over. I leaned hard and kept my paddle in the water and got through it.
Lol, not what I was expecting to find on the scugog river that's for sure. Boils are tricky (esp in a new playboat) and scary particularily if there is a chance of swimming in murky waters chalk full of metal junk and broken slabs of concrete...I.e. Scugog river!

Author:  Kanoe [ April 30th, 2009, 11:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boils and Whirlpools

I've been in 'boily' water before, but we encountered boils of a bit more than a foot at the bottom of second canyon on the Mountain River in NWT.

At least a 1/2 dozen or so, diameters of 15 feet maybe. Initially a quick brace to stabalize the unexpected boat movement and provide orientation and then some moderate power to escape the boils 'grab' on the boat. The boils are composed of as nearly as much air as water, providing very little purchase for the paddle's blade. Too powerful a forward stroke does nothing more than cut the water too quickly. Moderate power and be ready for quick braces or hip flicks to keep the boat oriented.


Author:  jedi jeffi [ April 30th, 2009, 1:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boils and Whirlpools

Sam82, you may be a little "stiff" in your boat.
meaning you may be over leaning your upper body causing your centre of gravity to be falling out of the boat.
If you look at foating toolbox's first pic
you will see a slight forward lean and we have to assume he is hip flicking the boat back upright with the brace.
Let 's pretend this is not happening to you when you are crossing the boils, a straight rigid body will make any boat tippy.
The hips can be doing one thing and the upper body something else to keep your centre of gravity in the boat. A little more forward lean would also lower (strengthen) your centre.
Practice and Play.
Too many WW paddlers over think what the need to do.
Learn to use the water for your advantage and generally in bigger ww if you have to think about it, it is too late :o
As you learn, save each trick, sooner or later you will need them all.

Author:  native brookie [ May 1st, 2009, 6:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boils and Whirlpools

A bit off topic, but there are some really good images of whirlpools associated with "the Old Sow" in Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine/New Brunswick, here:

This is obviously a lot more water and a lot greater depth than is encountered in river situations, but the physics are the same, the pictures are really cool! Scroll down to the middle and bottom part of the page.

It has been reported that measurements from an aerial photo showed a whirlpool at this site to be ~ 250 feet across. More info on the site is here:

As for how to paddle it? Stay the hell away! :D

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