Can I make my rec kayak safer?

I am new to kayaking and recently purchased a Perception Sundance 12.0. It has very high initial stability, and I never take it out in heavy waves. However, I am wondering how easily I could perform a self-rescue if I accidentally capsized the boat.

I have never tipped the boat over, although I realize it would be wise to practice this under controlled conditions. I’m guessing it would take on a LOT of water. It does have a rear bulkhead, but only a small foam pillar in front. The cockpit is huge (56" x 22") and extends nearly a foot behind the seat back. Because of this, there is not a large, flat deck surface behind the cockpit rim (in front of the rear hatch lid) for installing paddle float rigging. A picture of the boat can be seen at Perception’s website:

I have read that skirts for cockpits this large do not stay on well. Because of this, and given the boat’s 28" width, I don’t think I can depend on being able to stay in cockpit and roll it back upright. If I capsized, would I most likely have to do a wet exit?

I have considered installing a front bulkhead or using an airbag, putting something in the cockpit space behind the seat to displace water, and possibly installing paddle float rigging over the rear hatch lid. I have a bilge pump and a bailing scoop made from a plastic jug. Would these make self-rescue with a paddle float a reasonable option? Are there other things I could do, other than trade the boat in on a sea kayak?

Any advice appreciated!


White Water Airbags
Stick tape measure as far up the bow as possible and measure back to where your foot pegs are. Also measure across from the pillar to the side of the hull just behind the foot pers. Go find split bow or stern float bags that fit. NRS has them.

If you have drybags, put in your extra clothes or whatever, leave some air, seal and stick in behind your seat to take up more space. If the cockpit has more room than you need, find spare foam – e.g. the white ethafoam that comes in computer box packing – and stick em along the side of the hull where it’s not in your way. You can displace a gallon or more of water this way.

Then go to a pool session and practice.


What Sing said.
Here is some anecdotal stuff for you… We played with my Son’s Perception Antigua (another good boat!) and could T resuce (like canoes) easily enough. (The Anitgua is 28 wide by 12 long). Get the bow or stern up onto the other boat, roll it over and dump the water. Bail for awhile then pump. Next, we added a rear bulkhead (your one step ahead already) then a float bag from REI. The generic “kayak float bag” they carried in stock. It fit perfectly up into the bow, attached to the rivet that used to hold the little foam block, leaving him (he’s 5’ 9") plenty of leg room plus gear-stuffing room up front. We played again and what a difference! The boat stays high enough in the water after flooding to climb back in from the bow or stern. Two paddlers, one braces and you could climb in from the side. Good luck with your learning. Don’t forget to get out in warm weather and shallows to see all that can happen. Then wade out to treading depth and try again. You’ll have fun.

One Thing…

– Last Updated: Feb-05-04 4:10 PM EST –

I removed the the foam pillars in my son's Umiak and replaced with large float bags. The potential problem with this approach is that when the bag is deflated, you can easily oilcan or crease the plastic if you put weight on it. If you leave the air bag filled entirely and leave it on a roof rack and forget on a hot day, you may end up with a burst bag.

Don't ask me how I know... That's why at his point, I favor using the white water split bags and leaving the foam pillar in place. The pillars help the boat retain it's shape.


Air bags
recomended, they help alot, Davidh next time you try the assisted try an X rescue instead. keep the boat already upside down. It drains as you lift. When you pull the boat up onto the rescuer’s boat have the swimmer go around to the other side and Slowly pull down on the bow. I say slowly so not to drive the rescuer’s boat down into the water and not to fill it up with water from the other boat. Flip it rightside up slide the bow to the rear and do your rescue No bailing works slick!

Thanks Sing
I had wondered how to work an air bag around the foam pillar…never thought about putting one on either side. Also, thanks for giving me another excuse to buy those new dry bags I’ve been thinking about!

That’s encouraging!
Once you installed the rear bulkhead and the air bag, was it easy to roll the boat back to the upright position after capsizing? How did you do it?

And you were able to re-enter from the bow or stern! From a safety standpoint, do you think I should still buy a paddle float and install paddle rigging on my Sundance…just in case?

Did that too.
Works great!

Thanks for bringing it up.

air bags link

Paddle float and rigging
Yes. A paddle float is “required gear” in each of our boats. Whether it’s in a gear bag lashed inside or in a easy-to-reach compartment, each boat owns one that is checked out annually by practicing or playing around.

A paddle holder is great for putting your paddle someplace if your sitting in the reeds relaxing. Or fishing. Or whatever.

did you try that?

Hi Lee.

– Last Updated: Feb-05-04 6:03 PM EST –

Yeah, that's when Dennis straddled the back and climbed up from the stern. Having 20 gallons of water in it seemed to be a help stability wise. He just strapped his paddle with float into the deck bungees, wedged under his deck bag that was velcroed there(important note here as this gave a good purchase for the paddle blade) then pulled the stern down into the water, tucked it between his legs and pulled the boat back towards him as he lifted his body upwards with his hands on the deck. He did it from the bow too but failed the first time and it was a pain getting his paddle-side leg over the "boom" of the floating paddle. We forgot to remove the Fishing Rod holder too! It was much harder from the bow but done. Best from the stern. The trick was for him to lie flat immediately after the tuck and thrust routine, then crab "up" the deck to the seat hugging the boat. As soon as he got up that direction, the 28 inch width's stability coupled with the paddle float outrigger gave him the lee-way he needed to sit up and actually lean his torso towards the stern, lean one way while getting a leg in, lean the other way and get his other leg in, sit up and slide on in. I hope I am describing this ok!

I have a perct.
sundance 9.5 Recommend air bags to help keep water out. Have not tried to roll yet. A "t "rescue is easy and works well. Also climb on stern an work toward cockpit. Wet exits have not been a problem. Am gonna try to roll this summer ,also more self rescues. Have really enjoyed my boat, and very happy w/ the purchase. Hope you like yours as much as I like mine.

pumping it out
how was that? not to make this 21 questions but I had the damndest time making a self-rescue with a Pungo realistic.


– Last Updated: Feb-06-04 8:47 AM EST –

this was all done post-floatation bag and bulkhead so water volume was way down from what a bare boat would be. Even "full" of water it was feasable with these enhancements. We totally flooded the Antigua by turning it over on it's side and then forcing it under by submerging the stern, then checked out the float level (which was still enough bouyancy to support my 140 pound son), simply rolling it on it's side spilled out water. While treading water, quickly sloshing it sideways then back upright removed a good 5 or so gallons. Then he set up his paddle float and got back in it. He bailed first with the bailer which was a 1/2 gal sized clorox bottle bailer with a lanyard I made for him (he didn't want a "big" one like mine...), then pumped for awhile. He tired of this but we both agreed that he could easily make it back to shore after simply bailing... Or, he could alternate between sponge and pump and get a dry boat unless he was also fighting a beam sea. Totally flooded, he could be in the boat and paddling to shore as well, but slowly. During these tests we got about a half gallon of water in the aft compartment, but never found where the water was seeping past my silicone caulk. The float bags in both the Loon 138 bow and in his Antigua bow are stock items from REI. I've lost the size info (sorry) but they are in stock at both REI's around here and dark blue in color. Cone shaped. About the same volume as a large beach ball. Even mounted up into the bow, the valve tube still comes back comfortable into the cockpit for inflation and deflation.
Note about the stock foam pillar: This pillar is not in there (in the Antigua) to provide deck rigidity, it is in there as "built in floatation" by Perception. Removing it makes the deck more flexible, agreed, but this is a non-issue. These type boats (as well as my 3 mm radiused deck Chessie) are stored/hauled upright or on their sides, as these thinner poly boats should be.

When doing paddle float rescues…
…the blade should not be in the rigging, the shaft should be. Push the blade through to the off side. Otherwise, you stand a good chance of snapping the blade off. This is a very common mistake.

One thing no one has mentioned…
…is installing perimeter deck lines. Most rec boats don’t have them and they are critical to being able to grab onto the boat at times. If you’re in water rough enough to toss you out of a rec boat, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to hold onto it when you wet exit. Being able to grab it quickly and easily can be the difference between losing the boat or not.

added foam
I have a Mallard withthe same fear.

So I found some closed-cell foam blocks and glued it to the underside of the decks for added flotation.

Then I glued D-rings all over the inside and make certain that everything I carry has a clip to the boat.

It may or may not be safer but I ‘feel’ safer.

This is an option.
Not an imperative. You should word it that way. the blade wedge worked very well for him. The balance/weight is on the boat.

If you were using the paddle shaft to heft yourself up then you would be cautioned to have the shaft up under the rigging versus the paddle.

What I’ve thought of…
…doing w/ my wife/grandkids’ Old Town Otter is stuffing pool noodle segments into both ends. They can’t spring leaks, and are much cheaper than bags. As the kids’ legs grow, material could be removed. But I haven’t done it yet, so can’t vouch for it.