Tips!My experiences say..

Posted by Robert N Pruden on Aug 10, 2007

Well, if you plan on paddling through rough waters, you will get all the tips that you want. ;) I do not know what your paddling experiences are so I will assume that they are nil for your own safety. I will hit you with both barrels so that I know for myself that I have informed you as well as I can.

Ok, seriously now (I can be serious sometimes):

Ignorance is your worst enemy when in a kayak. You can easily blunder your way into a dangerous situation that can kill you. With proper knowledge and experience, however, such situations can be a lot of fun instead. Kayaking is an inherently dangerous sport when conditions are ripe for trouble. It is incumbent upon yourself to know what the hazzards of paddling on any body of water are and to take the proper precautions to allow you to paddle safe and for may years to come. There are many books on the market that instruct the reader on safe paddling. I use the Guillemot Kayaks site's to chat with experienced paddlers who can advise me well on what I should/could/want to do on the water. I didn't always heed their advice and I did pay a price years ago for not listening. See the link below for that story. Basically, an innocently started kayaking trip became a near-death expereince. Extreme that I should tell you my story - hell, no! Read and learn!

If you have never kayaked or canoed before, read up on water hazzards for moving water (lakes or tidal areas) and still water (lakes and ponds). Each typeof water has its own unique hazzards that can catch you off guard and either seriously endanger your health or kill you quickly (drowning or being dashed onto rocks or hit by powerboats, bumped by whales, seals, you name it). DO NOT underestimate the tranquility that you can find while paddling a kayak. Acute awareness of your surroundings includes watching the weather, watching other water craft and watching terrain changes that can quickly cause water to suddenly become dangerously turbulent. Tranquil lakes and rivers can very quickly become raging torrents of standing/cresting waves that can grow from one foot to four feet depending on wind speed. Such waves will often be found on rivers that are set deep in valleys or on lakes that have a long fetch. Fetch is the length of open water that the wind can accelerate across unimpeded. A cresting waves is a wave that the top part falls over in front of the bottom to create that white water edge. Waves that I have described can cause your kayak to turn suddenly so that your kayak is sideways to the waves. That is dangerous because the waves then hit the broadside of the hull (and you) thus creating a very tippy situation.

Don't land hard and fast on gravel or coarse sand - the grit will chew away at the keel and you will have to do annual repairs. If possible, consider coating the bottom of the bottom of the hull with a graphite powder/cabosil mixture which will provide your kayak with excellent abrasion protection.

Make certain that you have no less than 5 layers of varnish on the kayak. That will seriously minimize damage from ultra violet light. UV light can break down the epoxy and cause it to become chalky and weak, thus compromising the structural intergrity of the kayak.

Always use strong tie downs when transporting the kayak on a roof rack while driving on the highway. Use redundant tie downs for long highway trips or during high winds. Bungies can work but are not the best method for tying down a kayak. Web strapping is ideal because it can be cinched very tightly. Rope is next best. Also, use bow/stern lines to ensure that the kayak doesn't twist on the racks.

Always paddle with adequate safety gear. For local paddling, a pfd, spare paddle and rescue rope are essential items, as are a hand pump for emptying water out of a flooded cockpit (will happen sooner or later), a paddle float for self-rescuing and, believe it or not - duct tape. The duct tape will allow you to seal off a crack or hole in the hull and let you get to shore safely. You can also use it for prolonged periods of time if you are on a long paddling trip and don't want to end the trip because of a damaged leaking hull. I've had duct tape on the hull of my kayak for three months now (too lazy and busy to do the proper repair) and it has held true for some very long paddling trips on very deep lakes. A hat and polarized sunglasses are important to protect your eyes from direct and reflected sunlight. Too much reflected sunlight off the water can slowly degrade your vision. Polarized sunglasses minimize glare and allow you to better watch for those annoying powerboats that quite often get too close for comfort.

For wilderness trips, you need survival gear including a radio/cell phone, flares in case you need to signal help (radio/cell+flares go hand in hand), good first aid kit in case of injury, power bars for emergency food supply, carbiners for tying onto the ends of extra rope so that you can make easy and quick attachments in emergency situations (like rescues - you or someone else).

I hope some of these ideas help.

Robert N Pruden

Rob's Near-Death Paddling Adventure

In Response to: new to boat building by steve swanson on Aug 10, 2007