Cant stay in cockpit when inverted

Good morning everyone from the very Hot Northeast (today is cool< Finaly)

I constructed a shearwater merganser 17W over the winter

Ive had it out a buch of times (fun boat havnt pushed it yet)

anyway Im at the point with the boat that I need to be to start practicing some High bracing strong leaned turns …and figure out a Roll or two that will work with this boat BUT I HAVE AN issue that makes this learning experience difficult.

I cant stay in the cockpit, I have a keyhole 16 3/4 x 31 with kneee braces, good foot pegs and fairly snug hip pads.

as soon as I get to the tipping point and go over even with my knees tight against the braces I slide out of the cockpit like a squid, my seals SPRAY SKIRT COMES OFF ON ITS OWN AND thus IM IN THE WATER.

good thing is that I was wondering how easy a wet exit would be as Im a 245LB guy and the cockpit is fairly snug and with lots of stuff hung under the deck. wet exit is pretty easy.

I never had a problem hanging in my white water boat when I was a Teen (tight fit and neoprene skirt) Im stumped on this one at the moment.

  1. tequnique Just isnt quite right with large boat (suggestions)

  2. Do I need to add padding to Knee braces to keep things tighter, more hip padding?

  3. spray skirt is a Seals Tropical tour and Its Chinched up pretty tight although it comes off on the sides on its own with a fair amount of pressure

    again as soon as I get past 90 deg I slide right out.


    suggestions please

    many thanks


Foam and glue

How are you fitted to the seat?
If you have done nothing the seat that might be your problem.

spray skirt
Just ruling out a couple of possibilities, but is the spray skirt the right size for the opening? I’m guessing that’d be a 1.4 but not sure. Also, what does the profile of the coaming look like? Is it a sharp 90 degrees like on a fiberglass boat, or more rounded like on a poly boat?

The skirt may be cinched up a lot, but can it be tightened up even more? Of course, be sure on land that you can easily pop it off when you need to before launching.

Thighs not knees
If all that is holding 245 pounds against gravity is knees, it’ll be hard to stay in the boat. The cockpit you describe is narrow enough, but depending on your length of thigh and the shape of the cockpit (like does it really have thigh braces or just a minor pass to the idea stuck less than ideally at the side), you may not have enough over your thighs to give you that part of the grip.

The only other thing I can think of is that you may need to wear pants that have a material that’ll provide some grip. I find that bare skin is slippery as heck when I actually have to go for the roll - long paddle pants work better.

cant stay in cockpit
Hi steve thanks for reply,

Yes the skirt is a 1.4 we fitted it at the kayak shop.

I have more room to cinch up but do realise that the skirt will not keep me in the boat.


cant stay in cockpit

– Last Updated: Jul-19-10 2:45 PM EST –

Celia Thanks for the reply,
and thanks for everyone elses replies.

the common denominator seems to be Not enough support at the hip/thigh makes sence as I do believe I have too much wiggle room.

one of the Kayak shops near me stocks minicell foam so Ill enlarge the hip pads and actually add some padding on the knee braces and then try again,

My hip padding is thin and I do have contact but its minimal at best and I have no padding at the knee location just the ply cutouts.

many thanks


Once I learned not to stand on my head
in the cockpit, my problems with inversion were over.

Are you wearing a PFD?
When inverted, my legs support my leg and hip weight but my PFD supports the rest of me. Are you having this problem while wearing a PFD?

Even without the PFD, It sounds like an unusual problem since your upper body should float or be neutral. Your legs don’t have to support your entire weight, just legs and hips. The rest of you is in the water.

Other than those observations, I don’t have any good advice.


Thinking like Dave
If you have a gulp of air, generally people float. So, I am thinking like Dave, that you are not falling out. There shouldn’t be any “falling” since you should have positive buoyancy and, other factors being equal, be lifted toward the surface.

You do need to maintain some tension in the boat–feet pressing against the pegs, pushing you back onto the back band, and with your thighs locked into the braces.

If you are falling out, you are unnaturally dense (specific gravity, not logical capability) or moving, perhaps unconsciously, to push yourself out of the boat.


I never heard the …you can’t fall out of your boat theory before…

Does that work with rec boats too ?

If it does I’ll pass the word along.

good morning,

as a Former Scuba instuctor and swift water rescue instructor saftey is always paramount.

PFD for sure, perhaps IM too bouyant (POP OUT LIKE CORK??) XXL pfd…

I sat in My boat last night and Im realy not in good contact with the hip pads. I purchased some 3" thick minicell and will fit new pads.

probably my spray skirt needs to be a tad tighter too Not so much to keep me in But so it doesnt come off so easy and flood cockpit before I want to wet exit.

many thanks


spray skirt
The spray skirts job is to keep water out of the boat, not you in the boat; that’s the job of the thigh hooks, seat and foot braces. Perhaps the angle of the thigh braces allows your thighs to slide off?

It’s not the skirt

– Last Updated: Jul-20-10 9:54 AM EST –

The skirt is a red herring. No matter how loose the skirt is, it won't make you fall out of the boat. You can test your boat fit without a skirt entirely. It will not affect whether or not you can stay in your seat when you capsize.

I'd guess that the problem is one or both of the following - you don't have decent thigh contact, and/or you're getting distracted by rolling, and you're not actively keeping your lower body engaged in the cockpit.

Your cockpit is not oversized for your measurements. You don't need really aggressive thigh hooks, but you need a surface that your lower thighs can comfortably reach. Adjust your foot pegs so your back is against the back band, and your knees are bent so you can press them up against the deck without taking your feet off the pegs.

If all that is as it should be, then drop your paddle, sit in your boat, and just concentrate on holding pressure on your thigh braces, butt, and feet. With your nose staying over your belly button, rock the boat back and forth by moving your hips. Try it slow and smooth. Try it quick and jerky. Feel how you can control the boat with your butt and hips.

When you're doing that, you're engaged in the boat. If you can maintain that position and feeling when you capsize, then you will stay in your boat. Don't try to roll, in fact, don't even capsize with your paddle. Just practice capsizing while your lower body is engaged with the boat, and concentrate on hanging out in the boat for a 5 count. If you're working with a friend, have them stand in the water next to you with the bow of their boat in hand. When you capsize stay in your boat, and bang on the side of your hull - your friend can take your hand, and put it on their bow, so you can pull yourself up on it.

Those sorts of exercise might help you get acclimated and comfortable underwater, so that you can concentrate on staying in the boat. That might help if the problem is thinking about rolling with your upper body before your lower body has the natural feel of holding on to the boat.

Good luck!

Going along with what Celia said, I wonder if when you are upside down, you totally forget to keep your thighs locked and accidentally release them or loosen up your legs ?? Because to come out, your body has to be in the same position you slide in with. You can’t really enter the boat in your paddling position. - nor can you come out in your paddling position.

Because of your heaver weight, you can also try a seat that is more cupped like the tractor type seat that may aid in holding your position better ?? Interesting delema that will probably take some experimenting. Maybe more aggressive thigh braces that slant in and downward rather than flat ones ??

great advise
many thanks,

all good advice, I agreee skirt is a non issue,

padding and acclimation is the key.

Ill do some hang exercises this week.


Perhaps it’s having started in whitewater, but as soon as I’m over, I go into a tuck (face down on the deck). This essentially pinches braces and deck between my abs and my thighes, and keeps you locked in.

Put in some better thigh braces
I built a Merganser 16 from a kit years ago. The little plywood “ears” that serve as thigh braces are too far forward for someone as short as me, AND they have no curve or hook at all. I first put in some shaped minicell and could roll it but wanted more of a hook. Later I added some shaped fiberglass pieces I bought from someone who didn’t install them in his boat. Those made the fit slightly more secure.

The thigh braces in my Explorer LV are also nonaggressive but the coaming is very narrow with a long tapered shelf, so more of my upper leg can get contact–not just where the thigh braces are. It would be hard for me to fall out of this boat even though I have lots of wiggle room. Most sea kayaks I would easily fall out of if they didn’t have good thigh braces in the right place.

If I were you, I wouldn’t just leave as is. When I was using a borrowed WW kayak in ocean surf, the owner had removed the adjustable footbraces and I couldn’t put my feet on anything. In addition, he had taken out the hip braces, and we didn’t move the thigh braces back where they should have been on me. They sat barely above my knees. I could roll it in calm water, but when I capsized in surf, I got sucked partway out of the boat. If another wave had hit me while capsized, my legs were in a very dangerous position with the kneecaps jammed against the edge of the thigh braces. I did not have that problem with the sea kayak I used even though it was a very roomy cockpit–the thigh braces and bulkhead foams allowed me to keep my body where it should be.

knee/thigh contact
i’m pretty sure that it’s not how much padding you have in there or you weight. I weigh more than you do and i can stay in the boat inverted even in rec boats with huge cockpits and no additional padding, like a swifty, with or without a skirt. In the swifty i have a lot of extra room around me and a lot of wiggle room, but i don’t find it any harder to stay in it than in my sea kayak. Also having or not having a PFD doesn’t affect it either. It all has to do with keeping your knees tight against the coaming, or your thighs tight against the thigh braces. I doubt that you boat needs modification, just focus on pressing your knees/thighs against the boat and you should be able to stay in no problem.

PS. one of my friends is rail thin and he has no problem staying in the swifty either, again with no extra padding.