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PaddleWise Discussion on Floatation

The following discussion occurred on the PaddleWise mailing list. All original comments are presented in their entirety. Some quoting of previous posts copied into subsequent replies are excluded from those replies to improve readability and reduce redundancy. Full archives may be retrieved by PaddleWise members from the PaddleWise digest by sending a message to with the word "index" included in the body of the message. These posts may not be reproduced or redistributed without the author's permission.

Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 15:04:08 -0700 (PDT)
From: Darian Dunn 
Subject: [Paddlewise] Kayak floatation in a Nautiraid Grand Raid  kayak

Kayak floatation in a Nautiraid Grand Raid kayak

I think it is time to buy some additional flotation for my kayak.
On a recent trip I ended up with a boat full of water.  At that point I
found the boat had “equal buoyancy”.  It didn’t sink but it didn’t
float either.

Can someone recommend where and what bags I should purchase?


Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 15:26:44 -0700 From: "Mattson, Timothy G" Subject: RE: [Paddlewise] Kayak floatation in a Nautiraid Grand Raid kaya k I hate sea condoms (also known as sea socks) so I am a "float bag" fanatic with my folding boat. I used to use standard kayak float bags to fill up the whole boat (other than the cockpit --- I have to sit somrwhere). It took six bags to do it, and tying each one of them to the frame was a pain in the posterior, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I like my boat to have so much flotation that I can safely paddle it when its flooded with as much water as it can hold. Now I get the same float bag coverage with 4 feathercraft bags. I use their standard large bow and stern bags and their more rectagular shaped mid section float bags (that's not the official name, but it gets the idea across). These are very expensive float bags. They work well, however, and in the final analysis, that whats most important. Tying them in is still a pain. I am going to experiment with making netting from nylon webing and creating "webbing bulkheads". These would fit right in front of my feet and just behind the seat. Water would pass though the netting, but the float bags and other dry bags wont. I'm all thumbs when it comes to building anything, but stiching webing into two loose nets should even fit my meager skills. - --Tim
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 20:10:55 -0700 From: rdiaz Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Kayak floatation in a Nautiraid Grand Raid kayak No folding kayak should be paddled without additional flotation. The sponsons will do exactly what you found out they will do, i.e. keep the boat afloat and awash. I have a photo in my book of a couple in exactly that predicament in a double Klepper. I wanted to hammer the message home, but I still find people who look at the photo and don't realize it could be them. Any standard set of air bags from any of several manufacturers will do. I use Perception standard sea kayak float bags but others are out there too. You want to fill the under deck area as much as possible. Don't forget, no matter what float bags you use, to run some straps across the cross rib at the back of the cockpit in order to prevent the air bag from floating out in a capsize and do something similar to keep the flotation bag in the bow from coming out. You should also add airbags in plastic sea kayaks, bulkheads or no bulkheads. They are subject to leaks or popping and the supposedly watertight compartments will then flood in a capsize. Even if the bulkheads have not shown any sign of leaks, the pressure of a flooded cockpit could pop the bulkheads and complicate your situation. ralph diaz

Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2000 11:10:28 -0800 From: ralph diaz Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Nearly Fatal Reeves, Debbie (Debbie) wrote: > > Exactly what does "built-in floatation" mean. I had always thought that > statement meant that the boat gunnels would be above the surface. It does > not. The boat was floating, but it was submerged. Let me reemphasize, it > did not sink to the bottom, it floated just below the surface. Personally, > I consider that misleading, but I am sure the manufacturer does not. It > boils down to interruptation. One possible (cheap) solution would be to add > 4 tie-downs in the bow and stern to tie in float bags. But how do we (the > user segment) get them (the manufacturers)to do that? > > Debs To my knowledge the term means that the boat won't sink to Davey Jones Locker, i.e. it will float in some retrievable fashion at the surface, more or less. It doesn't mean that it will float with freeboard if the average weight number of paddlers (single or double) are sitting in it. So, while it is a correct statement it is misleading in that people can easily make the assumption that it will float fully flooded with them in it and still be usable or be able to be pumped. It can't. Cockpits will be submerged so part or all of the coaming will be underwater and therefore no amount of pumping could empty it. All you have to do to establish just how effective built-in flotation is is just to look at the boat. If the flotation is just thicker walls on the perimeter of the boat that is filled with something bouyant, you can see that it would not be sufficient to create freeboard were the boat to be filled with water. I have been known to get pretty worked up on this regarding folding kayaks, none of which will float with sufficient freeboard for emptying out if the paddlers rely on the built in sponsons alone. I also clearly stated this in my book, and to underline this, I included a photo of a couple (who were Twiggy and Woody Allen size) in a double Klepper with just the sponsons inflated and no flotation bags (page 104). Their boat had half the cockpit submerged and would have been impossible to empty with them in it. On second thought, perhaps I should have used Jackie Gleason size paddlers as they would have displaced more water and of less weight than the water they replaced; and therefore provide some more bouyancy :-) But that is counter-intuitive and so thinner people looked better to illustrate the point. ralph --
Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 11:11:02 -0800 From: ralph diaz Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Rescuing a swamped Old Town Loon (was Nearly Fatal) Bob Volin wrote: > > Hi Jan.. > Hope you don't mind my posting this to the list instead of staying > back-channel. > > The situation you describe is indeed difficult. With no one else around, > I'd imagine that the best course would be as follows. > > Right the boat without trying to empty it, since it will be impossible to > lift in this condition. There was an earlier postiong that had some outfitter saying to someone that you cannot self-rescue in a double. I was meaning to answer that one and perhaps can do so via comments on this post. First, of all doubles are not difficult to self-rescue in. It has been done for 50 years in double Kleppers with excellent results if the paddlers know how. I would differ with the point about not trying to empty out first. You can get an amazing amount of water out of a swamped double. Leave it upside down, and have the heaviest of the two paddlers crawl up on the stern. This will raise the bow and water will come pouring out. Another routine is to go under the upside down boat (this is something that Bill Lozano was big on when Atlantic Kayak Tours was strictly folding kayaks, mainly doubles). It is a routine borrowed from righting canoes. The two paddlers get underneath and almost invariably they will find an air pocket there to breath and relax a few seconds in the relative quiet (it is called the zone of silence among canoeists). Get themselves composed and agreed on which way to turn the double right side up, they first rock it a bit to break some of the water's adhesion to the inside walls of the kayak, then flip the boat. It will then be rightside up and largely emptied. So do try to empty it first. Another trick that works for a quick partial emptying out, but only in a folding kayak is to take advantage of the bouyancy of the air sponsons. If you can get the boat up on its side (this works better in an assisted rescue but doable in a solo rescue), do so. The boat will rise quite a bit on the lowest sponson and water will come cascading out of the cockpit. > With one swimmer (the one who paddles in front) > holding on to one side of the boat to steady it, the rear-seat paddler > climbs up and into the boat in the usual way. This might be a little easier > than usual, since the boat will be very low in the water. Since you use the > word family, I'll assume we have a child here in addition to two paddlers. > Next, the child is helped aboard while the first paddler stabilizes from > outside and the second paddler stabilizes with the paddle and/or helps to > pull in the child. A paddle float will be VERY handy here! Next, the > rear-seat paddler stabilizes the boat using the paddle (with float, > hopefully) while the first paddler comes in. Generally in a rescue of a double, you want to get the rear person in first as Bob suggests as they then are in a position to control the rudder (most doubles are ruddered). This is handy for keeping the boat pointed into any seas or wind while getting in the second person in. You can come in from one side as Bob explains while the other person holds the other side. Or the boat can be held surprisingly steady with one person hugging the bow, albeit this latter works better in a folding kayak. The second person can come in the way Bob suggests or crawl in from the front bow, a longish trip but easier on the rear person's bracing skills. When crawling along the bow, keep both feet in the water as this will act as virtual outriggers. > If there is bailing equipment on board, now's the time to use it. Bailing out a fully swamped double boat, even one with sizable flotation bags in the bow and stern, is a difficult task. Try some of the quick emptying tactics mentioned earlier in this post as it will get rid of at least a third if not most of the water. None of this double kayak rescue stuff is new. I did a whole chapter on it in the FK book specifically because most folding kayaks tend to be doubles. I have not seen much in other sea kayak manuals about doubles. They are the threadbare stepchild of the glamourous world of sea kayaking where people prefer singles and frown on doubles. --
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