How watertight should a spraydeck be ?

-- Last Updated: Apr-14-12 12:26 PM EST --

Hi All,

This might sound a little silly but how watertight should a spray deck be?

I have recently bought a new spraydeck, a Palm Roanoke Touring Spraydeck.

I am a relatively new paddler and I am trying to learn the basics of rolling. One of the exercises that I am beginning to practice is lightly holding onto a pontoon, keeping my head down close to the water and tilting the boat to a level which would equate to about 120°. The idea of the exercise being that of learning to work with your hips/legs, in preparation for the hipflick and also to learn to keep your head close to the water until the boat hasa been uprighted. At this tilt the water level easily covers about 20% of the spraydeck.

BUT, water leaks into the boat, after doing the exercise a few times there was about 1cm of water in the boat. I thought that my new spraydeck would have kept me completely dry........

I am sure that the spraydeck is the correct size for my cockpit. There is no damage on my combing and everything appears to be in good condition.

I know that there a lot of parameters that come into play but in general when you guys do a roll does water enter your boats ?

where leaking?

– Last Updated: Apr-14-12 12:44 PM EST –

I would try to figure out where the water is coming in from. Some options - at the rand (between pray deck and combing), through spray deck, at tunnel, or coming in some place not at all related to the spray deck. perhaps put the spray deck on while you are not sitting in it and mimic your 120 degrees and see if you can see water coming in. Sounds like you are getting a little more water in than I would expect.

pretty normal for me
With a typical neo skirt on my composite coaming i usually get a small amount of leakage like what you are experiencing.

Never water tight.
Spray decks are never water tight. Don’t let anyone tell you they should be. If you are rolling, dropping the coaming below water level or out in conditions there will always some water geting in. If it’s flooding heavily then that’s another matter.

One cm…
…doesn’t sound unreasonable, especially if you are laying your boat on its side in the water.

Keep up the wet work and always pack a good pump and sponge.

I learn a little more every day.
Thanks guys,

I believed that they were supposed to be watertight and I am glad that you have confirmed that they are not.

I am not being flooded but now I know its simply normal to have a little water getting in, I will just have to deal with it and accept it as part of the game.



The pump

– Last Updated: Apr-14-12 4:12 PM EST –

It's funny that you mention it but today was the first time ever that I have tried to use the pump due to the leakage whilst exercising. I also realised that 1 cm of water is almost too little for the pump and that the sponge is just as effective, albeit much slower and colder.....

…we under-appreciate our pumps and humble sponges. I’m still using my original hand pump and plan on replacing it soon. Getting excess water out of one’s kayak is too mission critical to rely on aging equipment. In my case, I’m always paddling solo and can’t count on anyone else for saving my bacon.

No matter how I tried, I could not figure how pump+kayak works in rough seas. Once you have capsized and got back into the flooded boat, you are faced with the same conditions that have capsized you plus you can not use the paddle for balance as you have both hands busy pumping. I found it much easier to use paddle float+leg kick to raise the bow into the air, empty the water, flick the kayak right way up and try to get in. If you fail - rinse and repeat. Pump’s great for flat and calm, but how many capsized do you have in flat and calm?!

And I did try pump option in moderately difficult conditions with back-up… could not make it work reliably. 50% of the time overwatch had to “rescue” me.

raft up with another paddler to stabilize your kayak, or use a paddle float on a paddle as an outrigger for stability.

Once I was able to pump with one hand by squeezing the pump between my legs, but it wasn’t very efficient or comfortable.

If I flip…
…I don’t get out of the boat:)

Except for last October. I was perhaps an 1/8 of a mile from shore and a breaking wave sent me over. I went for a roll but found out I was in only two feet of water… couldn’t get the boat back up with the crashing waves knocking me around while laying on my side.

Did a wet exit and luckily there were others nearby because while I could have walked/swam to shore, I couldn’t handle the kayak in the waves. It would have ended up who knows where.

Anyhow I don’t try any pumping while in rougher water. Always wait until things settle down.

Just because some leak …

– Last Updated: Apr-14-12 9:40 PM EST –

Does not mean they all should leak!

I've been fortunate enough that the same spray deck fits on my WW kayak as well as on at least four of the sea kayaks t I have owned over the years.

On three of these, including on my WW boat that spray deck does not let any water in, excep through the tunnel. The seal is just about perfect. On my last kayak it does let a minimal amount of water in.

So it is a mix and match... If you find the righ t combination of spray deck and kayak you might get lucky and not get water in. And when I say it does not leak, I don't mean just during edging. It does not leak under lots of rolling and plenty of green water or foam going over it at speed. It is not unusual after a couple of hours of play boating with a few rolss and plenty of time with water over the deck for me to be completely dry: my dry top and PFD offer enough pressure on the tunnel so even that lets no water in. The only time I do get some water in is if I get trashed in a hole or roll while surfing a wave on a fast rapid - there the gushing water gets through the tunnel and gets me wet. But I don't get more than a cup or two in this way - not enough to come out through the drain plug on the boat (a light sponging out is all it needs to take it out)...

If i were to go in open water somewhere, I would not be comfortable with a spray deck that lets much more than a cup or two after hard use.

Good points, Kocho. I have some
skirts that leak, and some that don’t. With a drytop properly mated to my best sprayskirts, there is no leaking whatsoever from rolling.

As others have pointed out, it is possible in most cases to figure out why water is getting past a sprayskirt. What the original poster has experienced seems excessive to me, for modern sprayskirts. Adding even a paddle jacket with snug neck, wrist cuffs, and waist may show whether tunnel leakage is the culprit.

On leakage past the skirt bungee or rand, most often either the rand is a bit loose, or the sprayskirt deck is too tight (can pull the rand up at the sides) or too loose (doesn’t seal well against the top of the cockpit rim.) Some composite kayaks may have uneven rims and/or uneven surface under the rim so that the rand doesn’t seal right. Some poly kayaks have rims that are too narrow relative to their length. No good way to fix that, though some skirts may still sit properly.

So, even though one may have good reason to think that a skirt from a particular maker is the right size for the boat, it sometimes happens that it leaks anyway, and must be replaced. It’s happened to me.

Drynes versus safety

– Last Updated: Apr-15-12 7:48 AM EST –

There are skirts that tend to be tighter, generally WW skirts are tighter than flatwater spray skirts out of necessity. A WW boat is constantly getting water splashed on it or running over it when it goes thru a drop or a hole, so the skirts have to be tighter to prevent too much water from entering it. And skirts are under more stress there, so one that is to easily loosened by water pressure is downright unsafe. I had to send my first skirt for a WW boat back to the manufacturer to have them tighten it up because it was pulling off of one side in pool rolls.

But even my WW skirts aren't strictly speaking dry. I am not the only one pulling out my drain plug to get water out of my boat at breaks in a WW run.

And - real important - the tightness of the skirt has to be counter-balanced by safety margins if you have to get it off. I know that if I get tired, which is often when things go south, it can be hard to maybe impossible for me to pull off a skirt with a heavy rand or too massive a bungie edge. So I won't get a skirt edged like that. As a result my skirts tend to let in a bit more water than friends who have tighter skirts.

There is also the matter, as above, of fit. One of my skirts that is as close as I can get without going custom is a smidge wide for my smaller sea kayak along the sides. It is the correct size, it's just that the shape of my cockpit in that boat is particularly narrow to its length. So I get a little more water into that boat. But it's not so bad I've ever wanted to bother with a custom skirt.

Dryness is only one attribute of a skirt. Fit, reliable hold and accessibility for exit matter too.

Bigger question …

– Last Updated: Apr-15-12 10:29 AM EST –

Go to the side of a pool and tip the boat all the way over with your hand on the side, count to ten, flip yourself back up, do this five or six times. Do you still only get 1 cm in the boat -seems a lot in a sea kayak or is it a lot worse. The tunnel design looks a little light weight, the breathable section joining the neoprene is probably suspect, as is the integrety of the water seal with your clothing of the breathable material, with a tight fitting skirt it's possible to have very little water coming in the boat more like a thin film. If you get hit with a series of real waves with this skirt you may find it works loose or lets in a ton of water. Best to find out in a pool. An imploding skirt when you need it most is not a good idea.

A sprayskirt is never completely dry
It cannot be because it will always leak through the tunnel. The amount of water you are talking about is normal for leaking through the tunnel when practicing rolling. No need to be concerned.

Yes, water enters
Using a spray skirt with a dry top with a tunnel for the skirt to sit in stops a lot of the water. But in shorts with the skirt on your outer body, is not a water tight seal. Plus, no matter how tight it is on the boat, the neoprene seal against the coaming is not watertight as well. I have been paddling for 18 years and never had a totally watertight seal during rolling practice no matter what I used. But with a dry top with a tunnel and a fairly tight coaming fit, I get a few cups of water after doing a dozen rolls.

If mine wasn’t completely dry around
the coaming or on the deck portion, I would get rid of it.

I expect it to leak a bit around my body, but not much.

Just this past fall my wife and I retired our old ones, that were leaking badly. We replaced them with the same, and I was glad we did when we went across Tampa Bay in six foot breaking white caps.

I am sure we would have been in trouble with the old ones

Jack L

How it fits…
Is also important. I’ve seen many people paddle with their spray skirt too low on the body. The end result is that it creates a water holding pouch when seated in the boat. This puddle will tend to allow more water into the boat. The spray skirt is best fit higher so that there is a small downward slope for the water to follow. Nylon is less forgiving than neoprene here, but both will leak if the water is allowed to puddle over the cockpit.


I disagree
My new SnapDragon has had puddles for hours on end, and not one drop leaked through.

That is why we bought new ones. the old ones reached the point where the puddles did leak through.

Jack L