So you’re ready to get out and go canoeing in Florida, hmm? And you’re all caught up on the trendy terminology? Know the difference between a back stroke and a sweep stroke? Know what a scupper is? And what a J-hook is for? No? Well, before you hit the water, let’s get you caught up on all the terms you need to know to get out there and start having fun! It’s not hard at all, and will be the most fun you’ve had at learning something new!
Especially useful for fishing canoes, anchors are weighted metal pieces that help keep your vessel in one place while fishing, taking pictures, or just enjoying your surroundings. The anchor is attached via a line or rope. You’ll want your anchor to be heavy enough to keep you from drifting, but not so heavy that it’s a burden to bring along. Canoeing in Florida often means slowing down and enjoying your surroundings, so an anchor can come in very handy!
The blade, part of a canoe paddle, is the wide, spoon-shaped end that interacts with the water and creates movement and momentum. Most canoe paddle blades are specially curved or “spooned” for efficiency, however, many types of blades exist, including variations in width, length and shape.
The bow refers to the front end of a canoe or other vessel. The bow is shaped in a way that allows the canoe to efficiently move through the water.
Back stroke is used to either stop a moving canoe, or to move in reverse if the canoe is still. Basically the reverse of a forward stroke, the back stroke is performed by slicing the blade of the paddle from one side of you to behind you, using your core and torso to generate the power needed.
Canoeing in Florida is one of the most popular outdoor pastimes in the state. A canoe is generally recognized as a long, small boat, typically made of metal, with the rider sitting on a raised seat. The paddler uses an oar, which is similar to a kayak paddle, but with a single blade.
Capacity refers to the weight in pounds (lbs) or kilograms (kgs) that a canoe can hold and still safely stay upright and afloat without swamping. Smaller canoes might only allow for 200 to 250 lbs of capacity, while larger ones might hold up to 500 lbs or more. When calculating capacity needs for a canoe, remember that you’ll need to include both body weight of the passenger(s) as well as any cargo or gear loaded on to the boat. Canoeing in Florida with an overloaded boat is dangerous and easy to avoid by doing a few accurate calculations.
The deck is generally recognized as the top half of the canoe that stays above water. This is where the paddler sits when operating the boat and where all gear is stored.
This specialty stroke is used specifically to move the canoe sideways towards a launch or dock, or to bring the canoe close to another boat. This stroke is performed by angling the blade horizontally, dipping it in the water directly to the side of the canoe, and pulling the blade towards you. This is repeated until the canoe is in its desired position.
Dry bags are specifically made for use on the water, and allow you to carry small personal items in your canoe without having to worry about them getting wet. Dry bags come in various sizes and colors, and are typically used to carry car keys, cell phones, wallets and other smaller items. Typically the bag is folded down and then secured with a snap closure. These are a must when canoeing in Florida, and will help keep these items out of the area’s humid climate as well.
A type of canoe that is best suited for cruising calmer waters, dropping a line and fishing. These canoes are usually wider, extremely stable, and offer additional features such as the ability to support 350 to 500 pounds to accommodate additional gear, fishing rod holders, tackle box storage, as well as compartments and mounts for electronic fish finders and transducers. This type of vessel is perfect for canoeing in Florida, and is one of the best ways to enjoy the landscape and wildlife we have here.
In order to paddle efficiently, you’ll need to brace your lower body during the strokes; this is what foot braces are for. They are either molded into the body of the canoe, or are constructed of attachments on pre-installed rails that are adjustable and can be moved to accommodate different rider heights.
This is a multiphase stroke used to propel the canoe forward, and is the first stroke beginners who plan to go canoeing in Florida should learn. The stroke is executed by grasping the shaft of the paddle, moving one blade through the water by twisting the entire body, generating power in the torso, not the arms, and pulling the blade to the side. Alternating these forward stokes on either side of the canoe will push the boat forward on a straight track.
Grab handles refer to any point on a canoe that is intended to be used while carrying or lifting the canoe. Some rotomolded canoes have handles molded directly in the body of the boat, while others attach handles to the hull, made out of either fiber, nylon, plastic, or a combination of these.
Most modern canoes come equipped with hatches, which are simply storage areas built into the hull of the boat, and then sealed with a cover, either latched or fit tight over the opening. Hatches can store larger items, and some are dry, featuring a waterproof bag in the opening, and some are simply large areas in the canoe separated by a bulkhead.
The hull is the actual bottom half of the canoe itself; these are made out of many materials, but usually a form of toughened plastic, and are sometimes assembled from pieces, and other times molded out of one single piece, called rotomolding. The shape, length, depth and width of the hull determines the performance characteristics of the canoe, with length and width adding additional stability and improved tracking. Canoeing in Florida can sometimes mean shallow waters and protruding objects. A strong hull will help in these situations.
J-Hooks are also known by other names, such as J bars. They are all the same product: J-shaped holders that attach to cargo roof racks of vehicles for the transporting of kayaks or canoes. Made out of metal, and very durable, the hooks are usually attached to roof racks with brackets and bolts, and can be moved along the racks to accommodate different sized canoes. Canoeing in Florida means transporting your boat to where the good spots are, and J-hooks are some of the best ways to accomplish this.
Kayaks are small vessels that are either sat in, or sat on top of, and propelled through the water using a dual-bladed paddle. Kayaks can accommodate one or more paddlers, and are generally wider and more stable than canoes.
Paddles, along with the paddler, are the ‘engine’ of a canoe. Paddles are usually made of aluminum, fiberglass, nylon or carbon fiber. Stronger, more durable paddles are usually made of carbon, with fiberglass also being a great choice for durability and strength. Taller people generally need longer paddles, whereas shorter people do better with shorter paddles. Some paddles can be adjusted for length.
The PFD (personal floatation device), is the single most important piece of equipment necessary for paddling. You are required by law to at least have one in your canoe at all times (although you are not required to wear it), and although they do not keep you face up in the water without effort, like life vests, they will make it much easier to stay afloat in case you roll out of the boat, and also make it easier to get back in. You simply can’t go canoeing in Florida without one.
A rack is the most common way of transporting canoes to the water. Racks come in countless styles, materials and configurations, and attach to the roof of your vehicle. The canoe is then lashed to the rack, usually with adjustable straps. Most racks are removable and not permanently attached to the vehicle. However in some cases, rack systems can be attached to the vehicle frame for added stability. Like J-hooks, racks are a useful way to make canoeing in Florida an easier and more enjoyable experience.
Rigging refers to the lines, bungees or thin ropes used on a canoe for various functions. Usually rigging is elastic, and used to hold down and secure gear. Some kayaks feature adjustable rigging points, allowing you to accommodate different shapes and sizes of items.
Rotomolding is a manufacturing process used to make many items, including many canoes. This process allows the manufacturer to form their boat design out of a single piece of polyethylene plastic, with no seams. Rotomolded plastic canoes are generally much more durable and cost efficient than their counterparts.
While rudders are typically thought of as a steering device in boats and ships, for canoes, rudders are primarily for improving the tracking of the canoe, which is the ability to sail in a straight line. While not required for paddling, stern-mounted rudders generally make it much easier to keep the boat centered and moving along the intended path. The angle of the rudder is usually controlled by foot operated pedals in the cockpit of the canoe, and allows the rudder to be used as an aid in steering. Most rudders can also be flipped up and stowed when not in use.
These are small plastic whistles that are required (just like PFDs) by law when canoeing in Florida and must be carried aboard every canoe. These are used in case of emergencies to alert nearby boaters if you’re in distress and need help. Typically, one blast is used to get someone’s attention, and three blasts is generally viewed as calling for help or assistance.
Scuppers, featured on sit-on-top canoes, are small drain holes situated around different areas of the boat. Their primary purpose is to drain water from the deck of the canoe. When paddling through rougher areas of water or waves, water can accumulate in the interior of the boat. This can also happen over time from runoff of paddle strokes. This feature means you won’t have to manually bail water from the canoe.
The trade off of scuppers is that it will be easier for things in the cockpit of the kayak to become wet, including your clothes and other items. Scupper plugs are small pieces of fitted plastic used to plug one or more of these drain holes, allowing you to find a good balance. The more plugs used, the drier the interior of your boat will be, but your ability to automatically drain water from the canoe will be reduced.
Part of a canoe paddle. The shaft is the cylindrical part of the paddle in the center that the paddler grasps during the stroke. The shaft is commonly made of aluminum, but can also be made of fiberglass or carbon.
A skid plate is a tough and resistant piece of plastic or other material mounted to the lowest laying portion of a canoe to prevent damage when the boat is being dragged along the ground. Canoeing in Florida usually means rocky, sandy terrain when entering the water, and these plates will help minimize any damage this terrain might cause.
One of the two primary types of canoe, a sit-on-top canoe is usually rotomolded out of one piece of plastic, with the paddler sitting on top of the hull, instead of inside the structure, as with a ‘sit-in’ canoe. There are many advantages of using a ‘sit-on-top’, including stability, being able to enter and exit the canoe easier, and not having to worry about bailing water from or swamping the craft. Many paddlers canoeing in Florida choose sit-on-top models due to how easy they are to fish from.
Stern is a nautical term referring to the rear, or back end of a canoe or boat. This is where rudders are attached, assisting in tracking and steering of the canoe.
A sweep stroke is a modified form of the forward stroke, and is generally used to more efficiently turn the canoe without losing too much forward momentum. This stroke is performed by placing the blade of the paddle further ahead in the water towards the bow of the boat, and sweeping back to the stern of the canoe in a wide arc.
A tandem canoe is one that transports two or more paddlers, each with their own paddle, and working together, synchronizing their efforts to move the canoe through the water. Although generally longer and heavier than single canoes, tandems are very stable and can hold a lot of weight, including multiple paddlers and extra gear. Many couples who enjoying canoeing in Florida together opt for tandem boats.
Tracking is the ability of a canoe to maintain a straight course while paddling. Many factors contribute to this ability, including the shape, width, and length of the boat, the type and proficiency of paddle strokes being used, and whether or not a rudder is being used to aid the craft. Good tracking in a canoe usually means less effort is needed to keeping the boat on a straight path, and more efficiency with paddling.
We hope this glossary will help you make the most of your time canoeing in Florida. Canoeing is a fun, enriching experience that can connect you with the world around you in so many ways, and the more you know about the sport, the better you will be equipped to enjoy it even more. Get out there and get paddling!