Ballast: He Ain't Heavy, Brother

I have read on here in the past about kayakers using extra weight--even for day paddles depending on the boat--to help with stability of the yak. In fact, a couple paddlers mentioned on my prior post about my Prijon Barracuda that adding weight can be helpful (and in reading the Sea Kayaker 2003 review of this boat, all 3 reviewers mention same).

How do you add weight? Birdshot? Water bottles? Other? Do you secure it, leash it? Forehatch? Afthatch?

Does added weight help with anything other than stability?

And finally, how many of you actually do paddle with added weight (not talking about expeditions and camping, where weight is inevitable)? Thanks


– Last Updated: May-12-06 2:48 PM EST –

donuts and chips creame before bed....drink lots of malted beverages

Best of luck adding weight...some of us don't have that problem after the warranty on our bodies ran was really only an implied warranty

Best Wishes

If you can't eat enough , then you can always carry water jugs and fill them or empty them acordingly or carry a little more "what if" type gear

Water works well if it can be secured.
In my Magellan, I’ve used a couple 2.5 gallon water jugs with a float bag inflated over the top to secure. That brings the total load up to over 200# for me. The boat’s really too big for me, so I ride high without the ballast. With the ballast, rolls are easier, balance braces are possible, and the bow actually gets wet. My wife has about a 10-12’ waterline without a little weight up front (16.5’ boat).


Many boats handle better loaded.
Mine included. So I went to the dive shop and got some diving weights that are heavy pellets in a small square bag. You are supposed to slide them into the special pockets in your BC when you dive. But I just slide a couple under my seat. They stay put and are easy to remove.

Also aids trim
I’m very conscious about where I add weight to my boats depending on the boat and conditions.

Without notable conditions, I tend to put somewhat greater weight in the bow of my Romany as it is VERY loose and in the aft of my Aquanaut, which has a tight bow.

In head winds and seas I load either boat slightly bow heavy. In following seas, slightly stern heavy.

If I am using weight beyond needed gear, I use water in 2 & 3 litre Platypus resevoirs. The key in using these, beyond trim, is placing them so they don’t move. This can be accomplished with careful placement and wedging them in place with dry bags, etc… It is very important to keep added weight as low in the boat as possible - along the keel line is probably ideal.

When I’ve added any amount of weight to the boat, in addition to floating it to be sure the boat doesn’t heel and the trim is right, I will roll (or at least side scull) close to the launch to be certain that nothing moves.

I’ve gotten fairly accustomed to getting kicked around with the boat sitting above its ideal waterline, but learned the hard way you should always have enough weight in big water to be able to shift some around to create ballast front or back if the wind comes up unexpectedly. Water is good, anything on the heavier side - the trick is to have a dry bag that you can use that’ll stop it from knocking around and isn’t a huge job to repack. I like the v-shaped tubes that you can jam into those skinny noses and tails a lot - the tend to stay put and allow he addition of weight in a place that’ll help settle the boat down.

5-gal water bags
…Cheap insurance, I used to use them regularly while I adjusted to the “tenderness” of my Prijon Catalina. I haven’t used them in a couple of years now that the boat feels like a pair of old jeans. I still carry the collapsible plastic water bags, empty, in the hatches just in case I get caught out and the weather comes up.

Try a weighted dive vest…
with at least 60lbs. of led shot…maybe some ankle weights too.


Thanks for the replies

– Last Updated: May-13-06 12:32 PM EST –

Great ideas. Some scuba weights under teh seat might work, good idea; don't know if that is as flexible as empty water bags that can be stowed in the hatches. Do not fill on calm days, fill on stormy, choppy days. Appreciate the ideas about monitoring trim with the placement of the water bags, and of the dry bags to secure them in place. I see that extra weight is something that avid kayakers do use, as your replies are from some of the most eperienced kayakers here on pnet. And that Catalina, magoo, sounds like a great boat (except for the mild pearling of the British bow).

Sea Kayaker reviews for this boat, and all boats, I see have the arch curve diagram of righting and heeling moments for 150lb paddler no cargo, 200 lb paddler with npo cargo, plus each with 100# cargo. Here's the funny thing, and if you have any copy of sea kayaker open to any review... the 200# paddler either with or without cargo is less stable than the 150# kayaker. Could that be true? A prior issue of Sea kayaker explains their chart: "the steeper te slope of teh curve from zero, the higher the initial stability, and beyond the righting moment at the peak of the curve, the kayak enters a region of decreasing stability that does little to slow the rolling of the kayak." If this is true, with loads, the kayak is more stable, and significantly so. But a larger paddler, with more weight, is less stable?

Don’t make it too heavy.
I had to do an assisted re-entry last year for a paddler who capsized. I was struggling to get his boat over my cocpit so I could empty it.

Finally I told him he would have to pump it. What he failed to tell me was that he had added 50 lbs of ballest to the bow and 50 lbs to the stern.

No wonder I couldn’t lift his bow!!

A paddler’s center of mass(gravity) is higher than the cargo’s center of mass. The combined center of mass is probably higher with the heavier paddler.

100 pounds of ballast!
What the hell was that guy paddling? How did he manage to capsize it and end up out of the boat?

Swimming Pool Water Bags

– Last Updated: May-14-06 10:43 PM EST –

Here is an idea that I just thought of as we usee these on our inground swimming pool in the winter to keep the cover down (in winter winds and to prevent crap from blowing under the cover).

Notice the various sizes; the ones called "wall bags" seem to allow for the most flexibility. Notice the cheap prices. They are very thick, made for multiseasonal use. And notice that one would not need to fill up the bag any more than needed for certain conditions. They have large openings (about 2 inches across) and could be laid out fairly flat with water in them in the bottom of a kayak or canoe. I think there would be some slosh factor, but that is why buying a few of the $3 smaller cheaper ones rather than teh single 12 gallon ones might be the ticket. Our swimming pool is large, forty feet, so our water bags are too big for this use, but I may buy a few of the small ones and see how they fly.

All of this is based on your advice. Thanks for your tips.

Addendum: I ordered the pack of 12 Wall Bags which, with shipping and handling, comes out to $3.08/bag.! Thanks. Any other ideas about ballast and the trim of the boat (wilsoj2 those are great tips from you, and Celia, about how to use the bags, esp keep low and by keeel and get them secured, Angstrom, waterdoc, faddedred, and all the others), anyone please post.

He was in a bracing class
and didn’t quite figure out that when leaning a boat and not just edging, you need to use a paddle for support.

He was paddling a Seayak that was just way too big for his very small frame.

When he went over, the instructor (who knew me) asked me if I would just get him back in the boat.

All went well until I tried to lift it up onto my cockpit to empty it. I’m a big guy and have never had a problem lifting a boat. I even rolled my cockpit edge under his bow and leaned the other way to have my body weight lift it - no luck.

That was the only time I could not empty a boat during a re-entry.

I presume the ballast question is because you still aren’t comfortable in your Barracuda. Ballast will help, but I think that time on a balance board would do more for you, and they are pretty easy to build.

c2g: yes and no.

– Last Updated: May-14-06 11:40 PM EST –

You have a good memory (or did I say it in my original post)...yes, the Barracuda is tippy. I weigh 166 lbs and I got it in late September (no demo), and va voom, I was in the drink a few times. Defective boat crossed my mind. :) But pnetters kevin and rroberts who own and love this boat told me to keep trying, so this springtime I did, and have not dunked again, but come close. Flatwater, no issue. Waves, trickier. Confused inland water with shoreline rebound and motorboat wakes, plus a little wind, still very tentative.

The Sea Kayaker 2003 June review has even Chris Mason, from Wildwasser, stating "The Barracuda is a performance kayak and is best suited in the hands of an experienced kayaker. Working your way up to a performance design like the Barracuda begins by getting comforatble with the stability. Many other models have more of an instant gratification associated with the stability of their design. The Barracuda does require practice. Beyond the butterflies of your initial experience lies a myriad of possibilities." This from the design team.

Even the actual non-Prijon reviewers said, "The initial stability is low, especially when the boat was empty." Even secondary stability was rated by the experienced reviewers as "low" by one, and "moderate" by the other and "best in the hands of an experienced paddler" said the third. Can you imagine!

Not only was I not experienced, c2g et al, I thought a brace was something Little Timmy wore in Oliver Twist.

My dilemma now is not for the fun factor, as I love this boat and use it most all the time with nary a dunk in 2006 yet. The issue is, should I venture to Lake MI with my northern IL kindred spirits, or other points to surf zones, do I have an adequate boat? Will the rudder (don't fret, rroberts, I am just building up the cajones to drill the boat) be adequate tokeep me up? Do I need to add weight (sounds like yes, from celia and others)? Will that be sufficient to tame this shrew on the big waves, or do I simply need to relegate it to the conditons in which I do 95% of my paddling in central IL and get or rent a more stable sea kayak for the few times I might hit high seas? Therein lies the rub. :)

But I am a MUCH better paddler than I was even 6 months ago. Even today did turns and edges and plenty of sculling in the pond behind my home and remained a paddler, not a swimmer. Thanks.

It sounds like all you need is
some instruction and more time in the boat. A “performance” boat will handle all you can throw at it. It’s usually the paddler who needs work.

By the way, the rudder won’t help keep you up, all it will do is help you go straight in big winds.

More seat time, and rolling practice!
Tippiness is greatly increased by being tense and over-reacting. Time tends to take care of this, but there are shortcuts.

Learning to roll has benefit far beyond just being able to roll. It can provide a huge shortcut to feeling very stable, as you’ll really know how the hull feels at all angles through 360. This lets you know how much you can ignore the wiggles and just let the boat handle those while you stay loose and ready to react to larger forces. Plus, if you do need to brace, you’ll have a real brace.

Received the Wall Bags
Got the 12 Swimming Pool Wall bags in the mail this week( see link in above post), and they look absolutely ideal for adding water to a kayak. They look to hold, oh, I don’t know, maybe 3/4 gallon each. The opening is one inch, the cap is corded to the opening so as not to lose it, and it even has two holes in the end in case I wish to tie or bungee it down in the boat or dry hatch. The blue plastic is thick. With 12, I can adjust the trim of my boat well. So, off I will go for a test paddle with the water bags. Thanks all for your advice.

Don’t Use Ballast
Learn to keep your boat stable. Adding ballast will slow you down and wear you out quicker. A tried paddle is less stable.