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What is a Setting Pole?

A setting pole is a long, sturdy stick used by boaters to navigate shallow waters, allowing them to push off the riverbed for propulsion and steering. It's an age-old tool that connects us to the waterways of history. Curious about how this simple instrument can enhance your boating experience? Dive deeper into the art of pole navigation with us.
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A setting pole is a tool used by canoeists and other boaters to propel the watercraft forward, usually in shallow water. This setting pole is a handheld pole that can be quite long, and it is used to push against the bottom of a body of water where paddling is not feasible or easily achieved. The pole may also be used if the boater wishes to propel the craft upstream against a current. The bottom end of the setting pole is usually cased in metal to prevent the wooden pole from splitting, cracking, or chipping when it is jammed against rocks and mud at the bottom of the body of water.

The metal cap at the end of the pole is also used to help weigh down that end, thereby making submersion of the pole much easier on the user. The rest of the pole is made from wood, usually ash or another wood; ash is a popular choice as it is resistant to water damage as well as the pressure of being pushed and compressed regularly. The length and diameter of the setting pole will vary according to the user's needs. Only one canoeist will use the setting pole to propel the craft forward, and it is usually the person sitting in the stern, or rear, of the boat who uses this pole, since the craft is being pushed rather than pulled or otherwise propelled with paddles.

Punts require setting poles to propel.
Punts require setting poles to propel.

A quant pole is very similar to a setting pole, except the submerged end often features a prong at the bottom to prevent the pole from getting stuck in mud when used in murkier waters. This type of pole is usually made from metal, and it is buoyant so it will float to the surface if the user happens to lose his or her grip on the pole. It is usually used to propel smaller barges or watercraft known as punts, which are flat-bottomed. The quant pole is used not only for propulsion, but also for steering, as the long pole can act as a rudder for the craft if used properly.

Setting poles and quant poles are usually used in watercraft that do not feature engines or other means of propulsion. Canoes, barges, and punts are the most common boats on which to use a setting pole, though other, larger boats may also require the use of a setting pole from time to time. The larger the craft, however, the less effective the pole will be at propelling the craft forward, as the pole is operated by one person and the weight of the boat will work against that person.

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    • Punts require setting poles to propel.
      By: Kaisi
      Punts require setting poles to propel.