I am new to kayaking, and bought a cheap kayak from Dunahams, it was around $200 and all I could afford. I’ve talked to a lot of experts who have said my kayak is unsafe because it doesn’t have floatation. I am a rather large fellow, so I can’t really fit anything in the front, my legs take up all the space. In the back, the seat is molded to the kayak, so I can’t fit anything in back either. Do you have any advice on how to add floatation to this kayak? I’ve heard fill it up with expanding foam, but others said that was a bad idea, another one was to slip those pool noodles back there, as many as I can. Any other ideas? Please don’t say get a new kayak, I can’t afford one.
Where do you plan to paddle?
Do you know what your kayak’s weight capacity is? Are you only planning on paddling small, flat waters?
I live in Michigan, so nothing very severe. Mostly small lakes and pretty calm rivers. I have never rolled my kayak or anything, it is I guess wider than a normal one so it has some more stability maybe, or I could just be lucky. My fear is someone pointed out if I do roll it and it fills with water it will sink to the bottom and I’ll have a hell of a time getting it out.
I hit sent too soon. Unfortunately I’m not sure what the weight capacity is, although I am about 6’4" with long legs, 250 pounds, and it holds me fine to give you an idea of the dimensions of it.
What brand and how long…
…is your kayak? My first kayaks were cheap Sun Dolphin Aruba 8s (8 feet long), but I am a shorty, so I was able to cram a vinyl beach ball way up in the front to supplement the blocks of foam the manufacturer installed behind the molded seat (I have noticed other brands of inexpensive, molded-seat kayaks have this). I doubt the foam blocks would be much help if the boat flips which is why I crammed the beach ball in the front. The Sun Dolphin 8 has a very deep cockpit (15-16 inches),so a 15 inch ball fits in the bow very snuggly. It should displace about as much water as a float bag would.
This spring we picked up 2 Pelican Trailblazer 100 (10 footers, $199.00 on sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods) that have shallower cockpits (13 inches), but I found a couple of 12 inch balls to cram in the front of those, as well. The Pelicans are surprisingly stable and we have taken them out on a large lake (Sebago, in Maine) with some 10-15 MPH wind and motor boat and jet ski wake and did fine, although we did stick close to shore. I doubt I would venture out to visit the off-shore islands on that lake in those conditions in those boats. Maybe if there was almost no wind I would. My husband is not much of a swimmer, so even with PFD’s I’m not going to take unnecessary risks.
A note about weight capacity…go online and look up your boat’s manufacturer- the specs should be listed under your boat’s info somewhere. Our Sun Dolphins are rated to 260 lbs, the Trailblazers are rated 275. Don’t forget to consider the weight of any gear you bring along. If you are close to your boats weight capacity, you run the risk of getting swamped by waves more easily.
Having said all that…
…I know the experts here (I still consider myself a noob) will have lots to say about this subject.
My advice is: Know your boat’s limitations, ALWAYS wear your PFD, check and re-check the weather conditions for where you will be paddling, always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back…basic safety stuff.
I often paddle alone, so safety comes first. I don’t want fishes eating my eyeballs!
I have seen…
…float bags made for rec kayaks. They run about $25.00. I am poor, which is why I am using beach balls as float bags. The advantage to real float bags is they generally come with cords to secure them inside the boat (so if you flip, they won’t float out). I have difficulty prying those beach balls out of the bow, so I am hoping they stay put in the event of a flip. That, and I avoid sketchy situations that might cause me to flip in the first place.
Have you tried sinking it?
The purpose of flotation in sea kayaks is to hold the cockpit combing out of the water so the boat can be bailed out on the water allowing a self rescue. To do this the boat must float evenly at the bow and stern.
You will never be able to achieve this in a rec kayak.. At best you may get one end to bob so it floats standing end up and down which will not help with an on water rescue.
I am willing to bet if you out your boat in a pool and fill it with water it will sink to just below the surface. It's not going to go to the bottom like a steel ship unless you involve some good whitewater current action.
As far as stuffing floaty things in, when the boat fills will water the floaty things will pop out and drift away. Anything added for flotation must be secured in somehow.
If you capsize, or even swamp your boat you are going to have to drag it ashore and dump it. Tie a piece of floating rope to the front carry handle (a painter would be the nautical term) to make it easier to drag behind you. The water inside the boat is neutral weight while it's floating behind you. Once you hit the shallows it becomes too heavy to move so you are going to want a bilge pump.
If you stick to the waters your boat is intended for it is very unlikely you will accidentally tip and if you did manage that somehow a capsized boat is not going to fill with water unless you hole the hull.
Let me add, expanding foam will absorb water and become very heavy. You would be better off using cinder blocks to displace water.. If you want to add something it needs to be "closed cell" so it doesn't absorb water.
Obviously I can’t tell because I don’t know the kayak. But I suspect that once you get this wet you will find that you are sinking pretty low in the water if you can’t fit anything in front of your feet and you are seriously concerned that “and I’ll have a hell of a time getting it out”.
That is why people are asking about the weight capacity of this boat. A boat carrying over its rated capacity tends to be on the unstable side.
Seriously, if you are wedded to this boat the first thing you need to do is take it into shallow water and take it over on its side and figure out how difficult it is to extract your legs. If that works out OK try it in a few feet of water.
The point is, do this in shallow enough water where you can retrieve the boat should it fully try to sink down. It is amazing how heavy 50 gallons of water is, so deep water is not good place for this experiment.
Once you do that you will have an answer to the first question, which is whether you should be paddling this far enough from shore to need flotation in the first place.
If you can’t find any way to get some flotation into it after trying this, your need to paddle about that close to shore. For what it is worth, so long as you were willing to work on learning how to make it go straight and were OK with going slower, you could get a used older style big guy white water creeker for about that money.
Most rec boats have enough built in flotation that they won’t sink to the bottom, but not enough to allow you to reenter a boat on the water. If you stick to small water, where you can swim to shore shoukd you flip, you should be fine as is. Stuffing pool noodles behind the seat wouldn’t hurt.
Not a bad idea to take it to a beach or shallow water and flip it and see what happens.
Most everyone here is being nice
but I’m hearing warning bells clanging here. I’m sorry you can’t afford a different boat, but I am questioning the safety of this. You are a rather large person in a very tight boat with no flotation. Adding anything forward will make it more difficult to exit and adding anything to the rear will just turn your boat into a “cleopatra’s needle” situation (bow down toward bottom, rear bobbing at or near the surface).
As was advised, flood the boat, see how it floats. If it sinks, make very certain you can climb out of it before it does. Even with a spray skirt, this is not a situation I would recommend.
Water is dynamic. You may feel that you can handle any situation that arises where you paddle, but wind, waves, boats (particularly powered craft/jet ski category boats), changing conditions, current (if any), all pose risks to this situation.
Ok, I admit that I’m looking at the bleakest scenario here, but without more details, I can’t be any more optimistic.