Can't swim but want to go canoieing?

I have a question for you guys I cannot swim but my friends want me to go canoeing. Will I be ok with a lifejacket on? Its going to be on the ocotova river by Hattisburg, Mississippi. I hear they are class 1 rapids. Sorry if this is the wrong forum. But do you think I would be farily safe with a lifejacket on?

You should be fine. Lifejackets are specifically designed to keep you afloat with your head above water, even if you’re completely unconcious. Class I rapids are little more than fast stream, with only a few ripples and few obstacles like rocks and such. I say go and enjoy yourself. River canoing is a really nice experience and a heckofalot of fun, IMO.

Class I rapids is pretty darned calm. You’d be hard-pressed to tip over a canoe under those circumstances. Which doesn’t mean it can’t happen if someone plays the fool in the canoe, or if you run against a rock. Unless you were comfortable in the water, I would not try Class II or higher whitewater.

To what degree can you not swim? Will you instantly panic in the water? Or is floating on your back acceptable? You may feel more comfortable if you practice floating in a life jacket first, just to build confidence.

From this site , here’s some good advice:

I’m not an expert on canoes and I don’t know that river. From jetskiing, I know that you should always test your life jacket in a controlled area (ie. in a pool or along the shore). It’s not just a buoyancy issue. You need to make sure it fits you properly and that it doesn’t ride up on you when you are in the water. It doesn’t do much good if the life jacket is floating, but your head is still under water.

Canoes will tip, but the flat bottom versions are actually pretty stable as long as the occupants don’t lean way out over a side. Take precautions in case there is a tip (ie. put your wallet in a baggy, etc.). A lot will depend on your friends. I have had many canoe trips without tipping. I’ve also had trips where we tipped many times, but it was because we were tipping each other over.

It sounds like a fun time. Have a blast!

How much time do you have before the trip? You should be able to learn to swim and get pretty comfortable in the water in a day or two day. You can probably already swim you just need to get comfortable so you don’t panic.

Also, testing the life jacket is a good idea.

I can dog paddle and just stay above the water I just can’t hold my breath underwater. There is a total of 3 waterfalls which are all 3 feet long… So I hope I will be safe. I am going to post a link if i can find it. It will probably be fun.

A class I river doesn’t have rapids. It may have a few riffles, tricky turns, and obstructions, but it’s the easiest-to-navigate classification. Here are the definitions: http://centralamerica.com/cr/raft/rioclass.htm

I’m not familiar with that river, but the streams in the Ozarks tend to have calm stretches where you’d have to do something intentional and stupid to tip over, with the water depth sometimes over your head, and faster areas where tipping is more likely but the water depth seldom exceeds waist height. I would expect most class I and II rivers follow the same pattern.

In my experience, ability to swim very seldom comes into play. It’s more important to be with a group that can provide aid if needed (in other words, canoeing with no other boats in your party is risky). And a life vest is more likely to help than swimming ability – if one were to fall in and get hit in the head by something hard, there wouldn’t be a chance to swim. If there’s any apprehension about it, wearing a life vest should be more than sufficient.

In my opinion, you would be better served by paddling lessons than by swimming lessons. Making a canoe go where you want it to efficiently aids safety and increases the enjoyment. If you think the way to go straight is to constantly switch sides with the paddle, you’ve got lots to learn.

You will most likely be using either a Class I or a Class III PFD. A Class I is those large blocks that you probably first think of when you think of a PFD. A Class III is more of a vest. Personally, I prefer a Class III, because it’s much easier to do things in while wearing. However, it won’t give you the lift a Class I (or Class II, which I believe looks similar to a Class I but is meant to automatically keep your head above water if you become unconsious) will. Either way, I agree with the others that you should be fine, especially if you can at least tread water and don’t panic in case you do go over. It can be a little tricky getting back into any boat while in water, so I might suggest you try it a few times before you get started down the river.

Learn to swim.

Odds are that you will not dump in class I, that if you do your PFD will stay on, and that if it stays on you will make it to shore.

But why play the odds. If you want to play in or on water, put a little effort into learning to swim.

just remember that the lifejacket won’t do you any good if you’re sitting on it. wear it the whole time you’re on the water, even if it’s hot, even if you’re uncomfortable, even if your friends sneer at you, and keep it buckled.

It’s always better to know how to swim if you’re going into water, however, it’s not necessarily dangerous to be a non-swimmer. As stated above, wear your life vest! Wear it even if the water is very shallow. Make your friends aware that you are not a good swimmer so that they can watch out for you. If you do fall in, do not panic.
And one more very important safety tip, absolutely do not consume alcohol or rec drugs while paddling. A class 1 is pretty safe, so you should be ok and have a great time…
A word of warning, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to become addicted to paddling. :wink:

Is one of your friends Chester Gillette? I’d say “no, thank you.”

I agree with the “learn to swim” crowd, assuming you have time.

If you don’t, I’m sure you’ll be fine anywa. Class I rapids, as others have pointed out, are basically just a moving river. If the boat tipped or you fell out, you’d just go floating down the river, not very fast and with very little danger of being pulled under. Just keep your feet up to avoid getting tangled in anything (assuming there is even anything for you to tangle in, I’m not familiar with that river).

Will you be going with a guide? If so, listen to whatever they tell you. Canoes aren’t all that easy to tip over once you’re in them - I’ve never tipped in one, and I’m not that coordinated. I’ve tipped a kyak getting into it, but never once I was actually seated, though I’ve never been whitewater kyaking, just rafting.

Good luck, have fun, and wear your lifejacket all the time! :slight_smile: