Float Bags, Retention Systems

I’m in the initial stages of considering a float bag system for my Penobscot 16’. Anyone have any experiences with float bag systems for tandem downriver canoes? Bow stern/bag systems only, necessary to have a center bag? Installation suggestions (Pad eyes, hull drilling, etc on vinyl gunwales). Thoughts on if the bag systems will interfere with sitting/kneeling? Outfitting system recommendations, Mike Yee, Bell, NRS, others?

Many thanks,


My Swift Dumoine
a 16’4" tandem, is outfitted with a 5’ NRS center bag, tied to thwarts and held down by portage yoke and crisscrossed lines between thwarts. I have tie down pads but use one for bilge pump in the stern and dry bag in bow. Under stern seat and tied to seat and stern handle I have an OLD TOWN bow bag, reversed so the pointy end is facing forward. This allows footroom when kneeling. No bag in bow as my son needs legroom.

I messed around quit a bit with a

– Last Updated: Jul-07-06 8:17 AM EST –

Grumman double ender. Gave up on inflatable air bags. Got a buoyancy bullet from the home center, cut it to fit perfectly, put it in a canvas bag and tied it in with parachute cord. Even made one with a tether to aid in reentry.

North Water Kits
North Water makes a canoe air bag tie down kit that is pretty slick.

Looking for more information. Anyone here ever outfitted a Penobscot 16’ with float bags?


Clever use on stern bag. Some
tandems, though, may lack the end volume to permit reversal of the end bag. Our Bluewater Chippewa, for example, just does not have the width in the ends. I have the Voyageur mini-bags for the center, and for the ends, if I felt I had to add to what is provided by the flotation cells, I would consider short, fitted pieces of 3" thick minicell.

Thanks, I just downloaded their pdf
catalog. They have a lot of interesting stuff.

finished float bag setup on Psector 16
Here are two pics of the tie down points installed on a Novacraft Prospector 16. I was going for maximum versatility. I have 32" end bags and a 5foot by 4 foot center bag. The tie down point locations were studied over several weeks and at least as many beers.

I wanted to be able to kneel solo, paddle one child (either end), paddle with two kids (me kneeling). I also placed the tie downs to maximize the use of the tharts for bag retention.

I want to also give credit to either Jsaults or Canoeswithduckheads. I’m sorry but I can’t remember which one posted the pics of their outfitting with rope run the length of the boat for over-bag lashing. It really suited my goal of maximum versatility. Ta!



Sorry no pics with bags installed in various locations. I’ve got a lot of chores after just returning from a week at the the beach. Here is family photo of all five of us at the beach:


My system
mentioned above, worked well today. Hit a rock (so I was told). All I know is water was height of my sons shoulders in the bow, then canoe was on it’s side, then we flipped. After I finished bouncing off the rocks on the bottom, using my back, I decided to come to the surface and see what was going on. Canoe was upside down, resting on bags. I swam for shore with tow line and pulled canoe in. Time for some reiki for the knee, back and arm now.

Why that much flotation?
I’m curious why you are putting this much flotation in a Penobscot. Are you using it for down river racing? As a tandem or solo? Regarding your question on outfitting; Mike Yee is pretty expensive and in my opinion you’d only need all those bells and whistles if you were in really narly water. Bell uses a Bob Foote minicell saddle that requires some getting used too, this is not the old molded plastic saddle that Bob Foote manufactured several years ago. NRS sells the Padz pedastal that is very basic. Many canoe tinkers(?) buy the minicell blocks from Sweet Composites and carve their own pedastal using a band saw and belt planer and dragon skin. In one of my ww solos I’m using a strap in Voyageur-Gear TKO pedastal and find it comfortable side to side but a bit short for my somewhat chubby derriere. Today I had an opportunity to paddle an Esquif Vertige outfitted with the new Esquif foam saddle (not the one that NOC.com has in their catalog). This new bulkhead saddle is reminescent of the old Perceptions plastic saddle that some people swear by and others swear at. The Esquif bulkhead saddle is super comfortable. It eliminates the need for thigh straps, but it also takes away that safety factor of being able to release your thigh straps. It’s possible to get wedged between the bulkhead and toe blocks. The price I was quoted on the Esquif bulkhead saddle is $250. Add in the battery powered bilge pump for another $150, and you’re still cheaper than a Mike Yee rig, for example.


– Last Updated: Jul-15-06 10:31 PM EST –

I'm really just thinking that float bags would help to enable a rapid reentry/control of the boat. There have been times (today, for example) where a dump without them could have been bad. Probably not death/dying bad, but without the boat floating nice and high it could have made a swim to shore, sans the craft, a distinct possibility. Also, it would give me a little peace of mind knowing that if my canoe "chooses" to run a class II+ without me that it has a better chance of coming out the other end looking like a canoe. I'm really not looking at downriver whitewater racing, nor saddles, just float bags for (Edit....Tandem) kneeling/sitting recreational canoeing.

(Edit) Ohhh...thanks for the info above folks!

I found during yesterdays self inflicted carnage that a decent rope attached to bow and stern really came in handy. I surfaced next to canoe and started swimming to shore holding onto bow. Canoe was upside down resting on air bags but I was still making no progress due to current. Remembered rope, grabbed end, swam for shore easily, and pulled canoe in. Also would say that center bag really is a neccesity. Canoe gunwales were out of the water, stern and center airbags taking the load well.

Tandem Float Bags (only…LOL)

I understand your concerns and I appreciate the question. I’ve outfitted several solo’s but I just purchased a Wenonah Rogue and I too am searching for answers.

In the past I’ve drilled gunwales for the lacing as well as using the eyelets… drilling is defiantly more permanent. The eye’s are nice if you intend to remove the lacing on a regular basis as the drilled gunwales are a real pain to thread. My intention is to utilize 3D end bags for regular downriver tripping. The secured gear bags (load) DO provide flotation and displacement in the center. I will be set to lace and strap in a center bag when we use the boat for strictly WW play… I’ll definitely use lacing eyes in the center with a nylon strap on a pair of D rings.

As for the appropriate end bags and how to secure them… that’s my current search… I’ll let you know what I find and I’ll defiantly be watching this string for any info other’s may provide. The Wenonah site had little information re flotation and most other WW outfitting sites show center bag details or only solo riggings… I’ll try to post a pic or two when I get it figured out :slight_smile:

Paddle Safe


OK Seeds… Try this web site for Northwest River Supplies (Great Guys… ) http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product_list.asp?deptid=1215 That page should take you to the canoe outfitting page… the upper right corner shows the eyelet tie downs that should work quite well… as well as the flotation bags.

The center bag will need a strap in addition to lacing, and I’ll probably mount 1" d rings for the end bags as well… though the lacing would probably be enough.

Good Luck!


different lashing method
I ran across this method and wanted to see if anyone has tried this method before. In essence, you take a 4in pc of webbing, fold it in half, glue the ends together, put a hole in the ends where glued and then pop rivet each piece of folded webbing on the bottom side of the gunwales 6in apart.

This method would allow for lashing in bow and stern float bags (or a center one for that matter) or easy removal of lashing for paddling without float bags, but still have the loops for clipping in gear.