How To Line A Canoe

A bridle helps you keep the open side up when lining rapids

BY JIM BAIRD

We were finally in the Du Pas River when we took some time to rig our lining bridles, a necessary step to get through the powerful rapids on the Du Pas. When you line a canoe, you’re far less likely to flip your boat if you pull from the keel line rather than the painter. That's the thinking behind a bridle rig. Try to pull your canoe across strong current with a rope tied to the top of the bow, and your boat will go ass-over-teakettle, every time.

Try to pull your canoe across strong current with a rope tied to the top of the bow, and your boat will go ass-over-teakettle, every time.

The solution is to rig a lining bridle. On common method uses two loops of rope joined with a carabiner at the keel line. The loops go around your front thwart, and should be just long enough to meet perfectly at the keel line. Now tie your lining rope to a carabiner and then clip it to the two loops, joining them at the keel line. This is a good method, but you’ll have to tip your canoe up on its side to attach the carabiner–which can be quite a chore with a month’s worth of gear aboard.

Tie an overhand loop at the keel line and clip your lining rope to it.
Tie an overhand loop at the keel line and clip your lining rope to it.

My preferred method uses one loop of rope passed around the thwart and under the hull, with an overhand loop at the keel line. This creates a doubled length of rope with a small loop at the keel line, to which the carabiner and lining rope is clipped. Using this method, I can clip the lining rope to the bridal before I secure it to the thwart–meaning I don’t have to wrestle a heavy canoe onto its side to clip my line into the bridal. You can tie the ends of the bridle together at the thwart, or join them with a second carabiner as I do. This makes quick work of rigging and de-rigging for lining. This is the rig I use in the video.

Use strong rope for your bridle and lining rope. This way, should you pin, your rig can be used to free your canoe using a pulley system from shore. Half-inch diameter, 5,000 lb test floating tug boat rope is the way to go.

Each Wednesday, C&K will release a new episode of Lessons From the Trail, presented by Nova Craft Canoe and Brunton, makers of the TruArc compass.