I've been canoeing many times with my family and never sit in the stern of the canoe. Just like this article explains, it is generally the child or wife who sits in the bow while the man is in the stern of a canoe. The stern person controls the streering of the boat whereas the bow person will power stroke.
Kevin Callan, the author, clearly states the most import thing on a canoe trip is to be able to comunicate with your partner. He says it's the only way you will ever get anywhere. I strongly agree with this point. He points out that if the bow person is always in charge of power, when a couple comes to a more difficult trip, such as a rock in mid-rapid, a canoe will not be able to manoeuvre unless both people know how to control the canoe.
Following, Callan teaches the four basic steering strokes for bow paddlers (all of which will be most likely used on our canoe trip this Monday). In short there is the draw, which is reaching outwards and pulling the water towards you. Next is the cross draw, when the paddle is brought over to the other side of the canoe and you draw the water towards you. There is the pry, when you place your paddle beside the canoe and push away. Finally, there is the forward and backward sweep (two we hav not learned yet). The forward sweep is when you form the shape of a "C" in the water starting in front of yourself and ending behind, whereas the backward sweep is the same motion in the opposite direction.
I enjoyed reading this article because it shows that the bow paddler can help more than most people give them credit. It also made me want to help out as a bow paddler instead of leaving all steering to the stern paddler. This article has made me feel prepared for my canoe trip tomorow.
Callan,Kevin/Bow Paddlers Are People Too/June5,2011/web/http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticles.html?176