How to Empty a Canoe by the Shake-Out Method

Flipping a canoe should be a rare occurrence. For the most part, they have enough secondary stability so that they might tip a bit, but don’t go all the way over. That being said, canoes do flip and as anyone who’s ever capsized a canoe before will tell you, they sure can hold a lot of water. Without some training and practice, the canoeist will be left bailing out the canoe for hours or abandoning it all together.

There are some fairly effective techniques at the canoeist’s disposal that will reduce the bailout time from hours to mere minutes. The “shake-out” technique to bail out a canoe is one such method that works well in deeper water.

  1. The first thing you need to do if your canoe flips are to ensure your safety and the safety of anyone else in the boat. Then you need to get whatever gear you can, especially your paddle. There are specific details regarding each of these areas that will help in recovering after a canoe capsizes.
  2. Next, you’ll take care of the boat. Ensure it is free of obstructions and that nothing is hanging off of it. Also, make sure all other people in the water and any nearby canoes are away from the boat.
  3. Flip the canoe over. Canoes usually flip right back over pretty easily. It will be full of water of course, but you have to get it upright to begin the shake-out technique to empty a swamped canoe. So roll it over.
  4. Now you’ll begin to “shake out” the canoe. Swim to the center of the canoe and grab one of the gunwales (sides) with both hands. Begin to rock the canoe up and down into the water with force. Water should slosh back and forth and begin to pour out of the canoe with each pushdown. When you push the gunwales down toward the water at the bottom of its travel push the canoe out or forward as if you are pushing the side of the canoe out from under the water. The motion should allow the water to slide out of the canoe.
  5. Continue doing the previous step until no more water easily leaves the canoe.
  6. Put your gear back in the canoe.
  7. Climb back into the canoe.
  8. Continue to bail out the remaining water from the canoe.
  9. If water remains in your boat, paddle to shore and finish bailing it out.

Of course, there are other methods for bailing out a canoe. However, practicing this one will all but guarantee that if you get into trouble you won’t have to rely on anyone but yourself to get rescued.