Tips from the River Rats:

Knots, Fasteners, Lines

Our Tips section has been redeisgned and is now divided into seven subject headings.

Canoe Outfitting: Flotation
• Care for Air Bags 
• Maintaining your Air Bags 
• The Frugal Paddler's Flotation 
• Protecting Your Airbags 
• Attaching Your Airbag
• On Side Flotation 
• Holed Hulls Keep Gunwhales Whole 
• Inexpensive Dry Bag 
• Low Cost Kayak Flotation 
• Protect Your Flotation Air Bags 

Other Equipment
• Delaminated Hulls 
• Ready, Set, Go 
• Bow and Stern Drain Holes 
• Foam Kneepads 
• Gluing to your Canoe 
• Painters Pop Plastic Plates 
• On skid plates 
• Donut Shop Buckets 
• Compass Tips (article) 
• Saddles versus Thwart Seats 
• Paddle Materials 
• Slap Paddle … No Paddle 
• A (Cheap) Spare Kayak Paddle 
• Seal Leaking Drybags 
• Don't Let Winter Crack Your Boat 
• Wilderness Tripping Tip #33 
• UV makes Brittle Boats

Health and Safety
• Special Safety Considerations for Closed Boats 
Hot Days with a Cool Drink 
Water Clogged Ears 
Sunburn and Chapped Lips 
Accessible Flashlights with Fresh Batteries 
• Surviving Mosquitos & Black Flies

• Hints On Attaining 
• Torso Rotation Skills 
Stroke Efficiency 
Completing Difficult Moves 
The Cross-Forward Stroke 
Hold Throw Rope to Get you to Shore
• Ice Ledges Scream "No Paddling"  

River Etiquette
• Shuttle Reminder 
On Shuttles--Keep Track of 2 
Shuttle Protocol 
A Few Trip Leader Telephone Interview Hints 
Common Courtesies 

Knots, Fasteners, Lines
• Truckers Hitch or Cinch Knot 
Bag the Biners 
Cam Cleat to the Rescue 
Look Ma, No Knots! 
Tangle Lines are Dangerous 
Bow and Stern Lines 
Bow and Stern Bungee Loops 

And More Tips...
• Driving to Canada 
Throw Bag Ready To Go 
Sandy Feet, No More 
Roof Racks 
• You know you're a paddler when...
Dry Booties 
• New paddlers can save big bucks 


Knots, Fasteners, Lines

Truckers Hitch or Cinch Knot
Use the Truckers Hitch for tying the boat down to your roof rack on the car. The loop gives you a 2 to 1 mechanical advantage in tightening the rope. It also gives you the advantage of pulling down with your weight as you pull.

truckers_hitch.gif (8053 bytes)Click on the illustration for a larger image

Form a loop through a simple knot leaving enough rope to loop around the roof rack and back up through the loop. Pull down on the end going through the loop and once it is tight, tie off the end to securely fasten the canoe. Also make sure bow and stern lines are securely fastened. A loose line catching under a tire at speed can do serious damage to the canoe and potentially cause a very serious accident.  - Rod Dore, 11/98

Bag the Biners
Carabiners are a great invention … for another sport. For canoeing, I believe that they are dangerous. The image of an outfitted paddler with a carabiner attached to the safety vest tries to portray a macho image, but to me it is an image of foolishness.

The very attributes that make carabiners great for rock climbing, make them inappropriate for canoeing. Carabiners are designed to quickly snag a rope and hold it strong enough to catch a falling person without letting go of the rope. This is exactly what you don’t want to have happen in a canoe when you’re in trouble. A line, branch, or object in the canoe can catch on the carabiner and you won’t be able to get it off, even if you know that’s what has you caught. The type that need to be unlocked before inserting a rope is not much better in that a branch or rod could snag though the hole.

Although carrying carabiners on the PFD is a major safety problem, having the quick catch kind attached to your boat is also a hazard. As you get in trouble it is possible that it will catch a belt, sleeve, or other part of your clothing or equipment drags you where ever the boat goes.

If you insist upon bringing carabiners on your canoeing trips, keep them in your dry bag for those emergencies when you might use them for pulling a boat off the river. If you need something to quickly attach equipment, water bottles and bailing buckets to the canoe, use the plastic squeeze clips that won’t catch you and will break if they do.

Remember … Bag the Biners! Tom Todd, 5/98

Cam Cleat to the Rescue
How do you tow a canoe while paddling your own? Holding the rope makes it difficult to paddle. Tying the rope to your canoe takes precious seconds and then you may have a problem untying it when you need to in an emergency.

The Cam Cleat is a device used in sailing to quickly attach and detach lines. It can be used for that purpose in canoeing. The cam cleat is small, lightweight, and strong. It does not have any protruding points or arms on which you can be caught. Although it will only hold a rope in a certain direction, one can attach the rope in an instant and detach it even more quickly.


The cam cleat should be installed in the boat in a place easily accessible to the paddler. It must be attached securely to a strong member of the canoe. It has to be placed so the grip is horizontal otherwise the rope will slip out when pulled at an angle. If it is mounted on a strong thwart then one has the advantage of being able to loop the rope under the thwart and then forward so that it can pull from the front in a case where that is necessary. Careful consideration should be given to placement for towing.

Any paddler who thinks that they may be called upon to rescue someone’s boat should have one of these installed in their boat. They are cheap, nine to twenty dollars. They are very easy to install once you’ve decided where to install them. Tom Todd, 5/98

Look Ma, No Knots!
I was asked on the West to write a short description of the tie-down system I use. For paddlers who hate to tie knots, this is a cheap, easy system to tie down your boat.


  • Old broom stick or mop handle
  • ½" rope
  • 4 "S" hooks
  • 2 dog leash snaps

no_knots.gif (4126 bytes)Find an old broom stick or mop handle, cut four (4) pieces about six (6) inches long, if you have large hands make them longer. Drill two ½ inch holes in each about one (1) inch from each end. Thread ½ inch rope into one hole, tie a knot, then put on "S" hook large enough to fit into whatever you have on your car that you tie to....close other end of "S" hook. Thread rope into other hole on your piece of wood. Place dog leash snaps on rope with slip knot, so it can be adjusted. Put rope through other piece of wood, attach "S" hook, rope into other hole, tie knot. Make a second one.

To use, hook dog snap to bow/stem of your boat. "S" hooks to car frame or wherever you usually tie your boat. Pull up on wooden handle. Rope will tighten and not let go. This system is fast, cheap and saves tying knots in your painters. Really wonderful when weather is cold and nasty.

[Make sure your bow and stern lines are securely coiled to your boat. If they become loose and fall under your tires while driving, you will do serious damage to both your car and boat and probably yourself.] Sue Keroes 4/99

Tangle Lines are Dangerous,
Use Quick Disconnect Buckles Instead
Water Bottles and Bailing scoops are items that need quick access while paddling. They are also the first things to float away if not attached.

Attaching these two items with rope or string can lead to a dangerous entanglement is you capsize. I cringe when I see new paddlers with long cords on their bailing scoops.

A much better solution is to attach quick disconnect clips to your mailing buck and water bottles. You can then attach the mating clips onto your boat in appropriate places.

I would suggest getting quick disconnect clips that match the clips on your throw bag, drybag, or helmet that way you can attach these items quickly to your boat. It would best if all these clips are the interchangeable.

Once you have attached a number of the female clips to your boat, you can then attach male compatible male clips to your baling scoop, water bottles, dry bags, film box, waterproof camera, lunch bucket, and similar items you carry in your boat. When you attach the female clips to your boat, attach them in such a manner that you can push the male clip into the female with one hand. I do this by threading the female clips on a piece of web strapping and wrapping that around a thwart so that there is a line of clips on the thwart. By Tom Todd

Bow and Stern Lines
Bow and stern lines are important for helping launch the canoe, lining down around obstructions, and retrieving a wayward or pinned canoe. Ropes used on boats are always called ‘lines’. The line should be strong enough to allow pulling a pinned boat off a rock. It would also be helpful if it was not stretchy. The length is selected to allow a good reach while lining down but not so long that someone would get wrapped in it if it was loose in the water. About 10 - 15 feet is a good length. The diameter should be large for strength and to avoid cutting into hands when being pulled. A 7/16 to 9/16 inch diameter rope feels good in the hands. I have gotten excellent service from braided rope I’ve bought at a marine supply stores. Floating Lines are easier to grab.

Attaching the lines to the boat is also important. The line should be attached through holes drilled through the canoe’s hull near the bow and stern. The line should be attached with a bowline (knot) looped through the hull. For added strength, fit a block of wood into the canoe and pass the line through a hole in it.

Don’t attach the line to a deck fitting, thwart, or though the deck plate because these are weak points and will pull off the canoe if you are trying to pull the pinned canoe off a rock. Tom Todd with help from Rod Dore and Bill Lowman 3/99

Bow and Stern Bungee Loops
Loose lines dragging in the water are dangerous. They can either snag on a rock in the river or entangle a swimming paddler after a dump. Bow and stern lines should be coiled and held on the fore and aft decks by means of a loop of elastic. Cut the hook off of one end of a short bungee cord and slide off the other hook. Tie a figure of eight knot and thread the cut end of the bungee up and then down through two holes drilled 5 inches apart through the top of the deck.. Pull the bungee tight enough to that there is no slack and knot the other end below the deck. Tom Todd with help from Rod Dore and Bill Lowman 3/99


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