torsdag 5 februari 2015

Crossing thin ice with a canoe

The thing about canoes that amazes me the most is how you can pass through pretty much any terrain with them. On lakes, rivers, sea, and on land. So why should we let some ice by the shore stop us from paddling?
Last 2 years during my outdoor/friluftsliv course at Sjöviks folkhögskola we got to practice crossing the ice by the shoreline and get out to the open water with the canoe. We did this by leaning on the canoe with one hand on each gunwhale and pushing it forward. This distributes our weight so we can get out on really thin ice. Here it helps to have chose with a good grip so you don't need to put much weight on the ice. The moment the ice breaks, we jump into the canoe. The ice always breaks under our feet, not under the canoe. And you can feel it starting to break under your feet so you have time to jump into the canoe.
Canoeing on ice in winter
Two different methods of pushing the canoe. Another one is to go with one leg in the canoe and one on the ice. Photo by Matthias Crommenlinck
Now for the next part we have a special tool, it's a stick about 1m / 3 feet long with 2 points at the end, one going forward and one sticking out to the side. Traditionally these were used for log driving and you can sometimes find them on ebay or second hand (called pike pole). I believe there are modern versions too, but I think they lack the weight needed to get a good hit in the ice. With this you can either use it in the stern and push the canoe forward, or in the bow and pull it forward. And voila, you're out on open water!
Pike pole for ice canoeing.
The pole in action.

I guess I don't need to say it, but this is dangerous and you should not do it alone. Since your weight is distributed on the whole canoe you can get very far out on thin ice. So it will be hard to get back to shore. Bring ice nails and a waterproof change of clothes.

Tie the canoe to a rope so a friend can pull you back if needed.
When practicing it's a good idea to have a rope in the canoe and a friend on shore who can pull you in if you get stuck. Photo by: Matthias Crommenlinck
I got lucky the other day and found an old pike pole cheap on the Swedish ebay. It was covered in rust and didn't have a shaft so I started off by removing the rust. A quick google search adviced me to soak it in vinegar over night. I did that, then brushed it with steel wool the next day and that did wonders. I had to repeat it a few times but now it looks like new. I finished it up with some linseed oil. The shaft I made from a slow grown spruce (about 50 years with a diameter of 5 cm / 2 inches) that I had lying around.
Rust removal using vinegar.
The hook before and after vinegar treatment.

And finally, some photos of my latest winter paddling.

Paddling in winter.

Ice formations

Cottage covered in snow

Canoe on ice.
Back on thick ice, you can see the track made by the canoe.

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