Peter Witt - Manufacture, Wooden Canoes & Paddles

183 Sunny Corner Road
(PO Box 66)
Portland NSW 2847
Ph 02 6355 5144,
Mobile 0408 427 534
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Canoeing Dictionary

Which Boat Is Best?
The best boat is the one you like to paddle. If you do not enjoy it you will not paddle it and a boat sitting in a shed is a waste of money.
Some Terminology
Access point A location where water craft can be launched or landed
Aground Bottom of boat stuck on rocks sand logs etc
Amidship The centre area of a boat
Astern Behind the boat
Backpaddle To paddle backwards to slow a boat or to stop it
Bail Removing water from a boat with a sponge, tin can, plastic scoop etc
Beam The width of a boat a its widest point
Bilge The interior of a boat below the waterline
Blade The flat section of a paddle
Boil Water swelling upwards, usually upon striking an underwater object
Bottom The underwater section of a boat
Bow The front end of a boat
Bow Person The front paddler of a tandem boat
Brace A paddle stroke used to stabilise a boat
Broach To turn broardside to oncoming waves or curent
Buoyancy The ability to float. May be enhanced by the instllation of tyre tubes foam blocks or air bags
Capsize To tip over
Carry A portage where a boat and or gear is carried around a section of unnavigable water
Centre of Gravity The point of resolution of downward forces or weight within a boat, including cargo and paddlers
Channel The course through which the bulk of a stream flows also the navigable route amoung obstructions
Chine The curving section of a canoes sides where they blend or merge into the bottom
Chute A fast section of water, often where it is compressed between obstructions and dropping faster than adjacent currents
Classification A rating applied to a stream or section of current describing its navigability
Combination Stroke A blending of two or more basic strokes
Confluence The point where two or more streams join
Course The route chosen in paddling your boat
Crest The top of a wave, in lake or sea paddling a whitecap
Cross-current Water moving at an angle to the main current
Cross-draw A draw stroke where a paddler switches sides without changing thwe position of his hands
Deck Covering on the top of a canoe kayak
Depth The depth of a canoe kayak measured vertically amidship from the bilge to gunwale height
Displacement The volume of water displaced by a boat, its cargo & paddlers
Double Blade Paddle with a blade at each end used to propel a kayak and some canoes
Dowstream ferry Back paddling while a canoe is at an angle to the current, which then propels the canoe to one side
Draft Depth of water needed to float a canoe, or the vertical distance between the waterline and the keel line
Drag Resistance caused by friction between the water and hull
Draw Stroke The flat part of the paddle blade is drawn directly towards the canoe to pull it sidewards
Drift Moving with the current or wind without the assistance of paddles
Drop A sudden pitch or unusually sharp dip in a section of rapids
Dry Pack Same as wet pack, a waterproof bag that keeps clothing or other items dry
Duffek stroke A high brace stroke especially useful when entering or leaving an eddy. Also known as a high brace
Eddy A section of current, downstream of a major obstruction, where the water flows upstream, often used as rest stop
Eddy hopping Paddling from eddy to eddy, usually to scout what lies ahead
Eddying out A 180-degrees turn in direction from the main current into an eddy. Entering an eddy
Eddy line A fine line between a swift downstream current and the circulating  or upstream current within the eddy
Even keel Properly trimmed to float in a level position
Face A paddle blades surface. The power face  is the one drawn against the water. Also refers to the sloping face of a wave
Falls Free falling water, at least part way, over an obstruction. Heavy rapids are also called falls
Fast water Generally conceded to mean rapids, but can be applied swiftly flowing water without obstructions
Feather To bring the paddle forward with one edge leading thus reducing resistance to the water
Fend To push off, as from a dock or beach
Ferry Angling the canoe so that the current, striking the canoes upstream side drives the craft towards the sure
Flare A canoe design in which the beam is somewhat greater than the gunwales than at the waterline
Flat water Lake water or river section where no rapids exist. Sometimes a misnomer, since wind can create large waves on so called flat water sections
Flotation Usually foam built into a canoe to keep it afloat when swamped. Additional flotation may include airbags, foam blocks, even inner tubes
Following sea Waves that overtake a canoe from astern
Fore Toward the bow, or front of a canoe
Forward stroke The basic or cruising stroke for propelling a canoe forward
Freeboard The vertical distance between the water and the gunwales measured amidship
Freighter Large canoe used for carrying heavy loads
Gate Poles hung from overhead wires for a slalom course
Gauging station Streamside station that automatically measures water flow in cubic metres per second
Grab line A line attached to each end of a canoe in case of a capsize
Gradient The average rate of drop in a river, generally express in meters per kilometer
Grip Top of a canoe paddle, shaped to fit the hand, which controls the pitch of the blade
Gunwale Also known a gunnel. Strips along the top of a canoes side extending from bow to stern, providing longitudinal rigidity
Hanging stroke The high brace stroke and its variations, during which the paddler leans out over the gunwale and literally hangs the paddle as the blade is pressured against the water
Haystacks Standing waves at the foot of a swift sluice or rapids
Head Volume of water or sudden rising of river level as the result of opening dam gates
Heavy water Large volume of water in a set of rapids, creating greater-than-average turbulence
High brace See Brace stroke
Hog A canoe is said to "hog" when it is bow-heavy and thus moves forward erratically. Also applies to a canoe whose backbone has been broken, so that the keel line is higher amidship than at the ends
Holding position Stopping downstream movement to appraise upcoming passages
Horizontal line Looking downstream, the surface of the river seems to drop away with nothing in view but the sky. Indicates a sharp drop-off. Can be very hazardous
Hull The main body of a canoe
Hung up Aground or caught on an obstacle
Hydraulics A term applied to the movements and forces of moving water
Hypothermia The lowering of the body's inner core temperature as a result of exposure to cold water or air
Inboard Within the inside of a canoe
Inside bank The slower and shallower water in the bend of a stream
Inwale The inside half of a gunwale
J stroke Thrusting the paddle blade away from the canoe at the completion of a forward stroke, used to keep a canoe on course
Keel Strip of wood or other material along the bottom centre of a canoe, running from stem to stern, designed to reinforce the hull bottom and to minimise drift during lake paddling. A detriment in white water, since to interferes with manoeuvrability
Keel line A design line running from stem to stern along the exact centre of the hull
Knee braces Supports, designed so that a paddler can lock his knees into position for better control of a canoe during precise manoeuvring
Knee pads Usually foam, either worn on the knees or attached to the bottom of the canoe for added comfort and protection
Knob Same as Grip; at top of paddle shaft
Lead canoe A trip leader's canoe, leading a group and selecting passages
Lean  Tipping a canoe to one side during manoeuvring or to stabilise the craft
Ledge Projecting stratum of rock that confines or partially dams stream flow
Lee Section of a waterway protected from the wind
Left bank The left side of a stream facing downsteam
Life vest Personal flotation device worn like a vest, popularly referred to as a "PFD"
Lining Guiding a canoe downstream through rapids or shallows by means of a rope or line
List The lean of a canoe, resulting from improper positioning of its cargo or paddlers
Lob tree Old-time portage marker, consisting of tall tree with upper limbs removed
Low brace Brace stroke with entire paddle almost flat on the surface of the water. Used for stabilising a canoe
Off side Opposite side of the canoe from that where canoeist is paddling
Open canoe Also known as a "Canadian" canoe; not enclosed or fully decked
Open gunwale Characterised of wood-and-canvas canoes; sections between the rib ends are open, permitting quick drainage when the craft is overturned on shore
Outside bank The side to which the water is thrust by centrifugal force in a stream bend, usually deeper and swifter than on the inside bank
Outwale The outside section of a two-piece gunwale; that portion of the gunwale on the outside of the canoe
Overall length Extreme length of a canoe, as opposed to the waterline length
Paddle sensitivity A sort of rapport between a paddler and his paddle; a "feel" for its responses to his efforts
Painter Same as Grab line
Pear grip Also known as a "palm" grip, semi-rounded to fit paddler's handhold
Peeling out Exiting from an eddy
PFD Personal flotation device; a life jacket
Pick pole A canoe, or setting, pole
Pillow Bulge on surface created by an underwater obstruction, usually a rock
Pitch Steep section or sharp drop in a set of rapids
Pivot Turning a canoe within its own length
Planking Longitudinal strips that form the hull, as in a wood-and-canvas canoe or stripper
Poling Propelling a canoe, usually in a standing position, with a pole, either up or downstream
Pool Still or slow-moving water, usually deeper than surrounding sections
Port The left side of a canoe, facing forward
Portage Same as Carry
Power face The side of a paddle blade that bears against the water
Pry A paddle stroke that uses the gunwale as a fulcrum to thrust the canoe to one side
Pudding stick Derogatory term applied to a poor paddle
Rapid Commonly referred to as "rapids" even when singular.  Swiftly flowing water, tumbling among obstructions, creating considerable turbulence
Recovery Part of a paddle stroke in which the blade is recovered from the water and dipped for the next stroke
Resistance Resistance is created as the canoe displaces water at its bow; by surface friction between the hull and the water; and the eddy or suction effect of its wake
Reversal A vertical and circular motion of water, usually highly aerated, as it drops over a steep obstruction and flows back over itself
Ribs Curved strips that run from gunwale to reinforce a hull
River rating Same as Classification
River reading Appraising river conditions, possible routes, and potential danger spots
Rocker Upsweep of the keel line from amidship to each end, a prerequisite for manoeuvrability in white water
Rock garden Navigable rock-strewn set of rapids requiring precise manoeuvring
Rollers Standing waves forceful enough to roll back upon themselves to some degree
Rooster tail A wave formation occurring when two currents come together, forcing water upward in the form of a rooster's tail. Does not provide stable support
Ruddering Using a paddle blade strictly as a rudder
Run A section of fast water, sometimes rough. Also applied to a passage through rapids
Sandpaper Small, choppy waves over shallows, as in a set of riffles
Scout/Scouting Examining a set of rapids to determine difficultly and best possible passage
Sculling A side-to-side movement, edge first, of the paddle blade, usable in many combinations with other strokes
Set over Same as Ferry
Setting pole Same as Canoe Pole
Shaft The handle of a paddle, between the grip and the blade
Shake out To rock a swamped canoe back and forth, thus splashing out most of the water
Sheer The upward curve of the gunwale line from midship to the ends, best seen in profile from one side
Shoe keel Also known as river keel. A shallow, usually rounded projection found on some aluminium canoes. Principal purposes is to hold the two halves of the hull together without interfering with manoeuvrability
Shoot To "shoot" the rapids; a term falling into disuse
Sideslipping When a canoe continues to slip sideways despite also making forward way, as when "eddying out"
Slack water Slowly flowing or still water without rapids
Slalom A zigzag course with a number of gates on white water. Competitors are timed and must negotiate the gates, some of them upstream
Slap support An emergency low brace in which the flat of the blade is literally slapped onto the water's surface to stabilise the canoe
Sleeper Barely submerged rock marked by little or no surface disturbance
Slough around To veer erratically, out of control
Sluice Same as Chute
Smoker A particularly violent and hazardous set of rapids
Snubbing Using a pole to slow or stop a canoe's motion, usually during downstream runs
Soloing Paddling alone
Sousehole Highly aerated water flowing into a depression from several directions, with surface level below that of the surrounding surface
Splash out Same as Shake out
Sponsons Elongated air tanks on the outside of the hull, formerly used to provide secondary stability. Foam pads are now used on some canoes
Standing wave Same as Backlash
Starboard The right side of a canoe facing the bow
Stem The extreme front end of a canoe, which cuts through the water
Stem band Same as Bang plate
Stern Rear section of a canoe
Stopper A reversal so powerful it may stop a canoe, or slow it markedly
Stripper Canoe built of thin strips, usually 1/2-by3/4-inches, assembled on temporary forms and fibre glassed inside and out
Strainer Fallen tree or other debris through which water flows, but which will hang up a canoe. Potentially very hazardous
Surfing In lake paddling, riding downwind on the crests of large waves. In white water, riding the upstream side of a wave, with the current seeking to drive the canoe up and over, gravity holding it from doing so the canoe may perch in this position for some time
Swamp When a canoe fills with water without capsizing
Sweep canoe The last canoe in a brigade, usually paddled by experts ready to assist those in front
Sweep stroke A wide, shallow stroke, the blade barely submerged, used to pivot the canoe
Tandem A two-seated canoe; two persons paddling
Technical Describes a set of rapids where intricate and precise manoeuvring is requires
T-grip A paddle handle in the form of a T
Thigh straps Straps attached to gunwale and to the centre of the bilge. When in use, these bind across a kneeling paddler's thighs, affording him better control
Throat The flare of a paddle shaft where it blends into the blade
Throw line Length of rope used in rescue efforts
Thwart Crow braces running from gunwale to gunwale
Tip Bottom end of a paddle blade
Tippy Refers to an unstable canoe
Tongue Smooth V of swift water at the head of a pitch or between two obstacles, usually indicates deep water
Track Paddling in a straight line
Tracking Towing a canoe upstream with a tow line
Trim The manner in which a canoe rides on the water: its level fore and aft, as well as port and starboard
Trip leader Person in charge of a group who oversees safety aspects
Through The hollow or depression between two waves
Tumblehome The inward curing of the sides of a canoe from a point at or slightly above the waterline to the gunwales
Waterline The level of water on the canoes sides when afloat
Waterline length Length of a canoe measured at the waterline, as opposed to the overall length
Way Forward or rear motion; momentum; as in "under way"
Wet pack A waterproof bag used for carrying extra clothing, sleeping bags, etc
Wet suit A close-fitting garment of foam sandwiched in nylon that provides insulation against cold water
White eddy Pool at the front of a drop-off, creating a market back-flow on the surface; usually highly aerated
White water A set of rapids
Windward Direction from which the wind is blowing
Wrapped When a canoe is pinned and bent around a rock
Yoke Device attached permanently or temporarily amidship, usually padded to protect the shoulders, for portaging a canoe

Solo Touring
Day Tripper, Weekender Cruiser
Child's Kayak
Wilderness Tripper
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Child's Kayak

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Malecite 18

Gordon 17.5
Gordon 17.5

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