How Do You Empty a Capsized Canoe?

How Do You Empty a Capsized Canoe?

Canoeing is a thrilling water activity enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts. However, there may be instances when your canoe ends up capsizing, leaving you stranded in the water.

Knowing how to properly empty a capsized canoe is crucial for your safety and getting back on track. In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of emptying a capsized canoe.

Gather Your Equipment

Before you start emptying the canoe, it’s essential to gather all the necessary equipment. Here are some items you’ll need:

  • Bilge Pump: A bilge pump helps remove water from the canoe efficiently.
  • Bailing Device: A bailing device, such as a bucket or a sponge, can be used to scoop out excess water.
  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Always wear your PFD for safety while working on emptying the canoe.

Secure the Canoe

The first step in emptying a capsized canoe is to secure it properly. Follow these steps:

  1. Retrieve Your Paddle: Grab hold of your paddle and ensure it’s within reach.
  2. Tether the Canoe: Using a rope or cord, secure one end to the canoe and tie the other end around yourself or another stable object nearby.

Flip the Canoe

To begin emptying the water from your capsized canoe, follow these steps:

  1. Position Yourself: Stand on the side of the canoe that is facing up. This will help you leverage your weight to flip it over.
  2. Grab the Gunwales: Hold onto the gunwales, which are the upper edges of the canoe.
  3. Leverage Your Weight: Use your body weight to push down on the gunwales and flip the canoe back over. This step may require some strength and coordination, so be careful while performing it.

Remove Excess Water

Once the canoe is flipped back over, it’s time to remove excess water. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Use a Bilge Pump: If you have a bilge pump, insert it into the canoe and pump out any remaining water. Move it around different areas of the canoe to ensure you remove all water.
  2. Bail Out Water: If a bilge pump isn’t available, use a bailing device like a bucket or sponge to scoop out water manually. Focus on removing as much water as possible from both ends of the canoe.

Recover Your Gear

In addition to emptying water from your capsized canoe, it’s important to recover any gear or belongings that may have fallen out during the mishap. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Retrieve Floating Items First: Look for items that are floating nearby and collect them before they drift away.
  2. Dive for Sunken Items: If some items have sunk, dive down carefully to retrieve them. Make sure you are confident and capable of diving safely.


Emptying a capsized canoe is a vital skill for all canoeists. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can effectively empty water from your canoe and get back on track in no time.

Remember to always prioritize safety and wear your PFD during the process. Happy canoeing!

Photo of author

Emma Gibson