Kayak Flotation

-- Last Updated: Jun-05-05 8:55 PM EST --

Hi there.

I am relatively new to kayaking and have a question regarding some kayaks we've just purchased. We just bought two kayaks from Wildernedss Systems - a Pimlico 100 and a Pungo 120.

We use these boats to paddle in the many sheltered coves and inlets around the island we live on in coastal Maine. (We would've bought sea kayaks, but we're not sure how long we'll be here and wanted boats that would be ok for ponds and rivers if/when we move.) Occasionally, we do traverse a relatively open sound / bay or have to deal with wakes from ferries and fishing boats.

Since our boats are not sea kayaks, we are very concerned with the possiblilty of capsizing - particularly in the frigid Maine waters. Looking into the flotation issue, I was surprised to find that all the Pimlico has is two small foam blocks and the Pungo only has a rear bulkhead (nothing up front).

I'd like to add some flotation to the front of the Pungo and a little extra to both ends of the Pimlico. I've looked all over the web and found some differing advice on my options. I've heard that inflatable flotation bags can be undersized, can leak or can be washed out of the boat. I've heard that some foams are not extremely buoyant, absorb water, or harbor molds. If I were to use rigid foam - what kind of foam do I need and where can I get it??? How big should the flotation bags be for a 10' (w/150lb passenger)and 12' (w/200lb passneger) kayak???

Many thanks in advance!!!

Serious consideration is required
I own a pamlico pro. That boat was sold with maximum sized float bags front an rear and I believe they all should be. Go with tied off float bags as big as you can fit under the deck. Then practice flat water self rescues close to shore. you will see that in conditions self rescue might be more than you can handle. what if you capsize two or three times, are you ready for that?

maine waters are cold; by using a boat inappropriate to the task, you are at heightened risk. Why not buy a couple of used sea kayaks and sell them at the end of the season. Take a small loss and be safe. Besides, I use my sea kayak on ponds all the time. for relaxation and rolling practice.

If your willingness to paddle far from shore is riding on that increased flotation and not the experience of rescues in those boats I don’t think getting more flotation will matter in the big picture,although I have seen those blobs of foam float out.

Tie off to footpegs
I forget the exact details, but Sinf hasd posted a way to tie off floatation bags to the footpeg rails so that they would stay n the boat. Since it is the front that lacks flotation, float bags handled that way would probably work the best and most reliably.

That said, we paddle in Maine each summer and I would suggest getting and living with a weather radio w/alert feature if you are going to take these boats on the ocean side.

just get some float bags
buy big ones and then find something to tie them to. you can always drill a hole in the deck and put something to attach them to there. I’d attach them at a couple of points if your hull is wide enough that you’d worry about them coming out if entirely swamped.

most of my boats have lacked bulkheads (mariner, thunderbolt, k1) and take it from me- swimming back to shore with a completely swamped boat is not a whole lot of fun, and definitely not something to contemplate far from shore. good float bags will improve your whole paddling experience.


Andrew, the Mariner and Tbolt are not
rec boats and I would feel as comfortable self rescuing with them as with anything on the ocean.

We are talking rec boats with huge open cockpits and very small decks(in porportion). Even wiht float bags self rescue in conditions is a huge task.

I am not going to argue further with you about it, but would you realy want a family member to be in a situation of steep chop where self rescue in a pamlico was all standing betweeen them an Davy Jone’s? Maine is not a lake and the water is still very cold there.

not at all what i was implying

– Last Updated: Jun-06-05 8:48 AM EST –

actually, i completely spaced that whole part of this dynamic- my apologies. no, of course you shouldn't take something like that out in open water in maine. but the general notion of "flotation good, no flotation bad" seems reasonable, no?

calm, calm.


think more what is needed and why
perhaps more productive to think what is needed and how to have it.

Floatation does keep the boat from sinking, unless compromised by leaks, rocks, punctures, etc. However, also important to know that it is harder, not impossible, to have floatation bags minimize cockpit volume of water entry from capsize.

Otherwise, even though boat does not sink, difficulty of emptying water or impossibility of emptying water increases risk significantly if not lethally.

As usual, nothing better than having a mother motor boat nearby and sink the sucker and try all this out when cold, wet, tired and no food for a while! And then do it three or four more times to similate the real deal.

Pool Noodles…
A couple of pool noodles, cut to length and placed inside the hull as close to the top of the hull as possible UNDER the deck will add a great deal of flotation and put it where it’s out of the way…use a little silicone if needed to hold them in place. (Built in sponson?)

Realizing that the word SPONSON elicits negativity here, I apologize, but the picture it presents in the mind clarifies what I mean. I have seen these used interior hull of SOT’s for the same reason. Adding additional flotation that prevents total sinking of the boat should you hole a flotation bag or simply swamp the boat should never hurt.

I’ve said this here before: Outriggers.

I have them, and I use them whenever I plan to press the envelope…Like Solo Nighttime Open Water Paddling, using the sail, etc…They ride up out of the water by approximately 2 inches(Adjustable), so no drag, but if the boat gets away from me they keep it hull down for me…so far that hasn’t happened, but it’s just a matter of time. I have stood up in the boat and tried to turn it over with them attached, to no avail.

to clarify…
Hi. Just wanted to say that we do plan on going out in the small cove in front of our house and flipping the boats to see how they react when swamped and practice wet entry. But I want to get the floatation to a reasonable level before then - I know we need more in both boats, particularly the front of the Pungo - that way we can practice now with what we will have in the boats long-term.

We are aware of the limitations of our boats and keep a close eye on the weather and water conditions (we only go out when its totally calm and don’t take long trips where the weather could change dramatically and strand us somewhere). Where we are at, it is possible to paddle many miles in many different places around this island without ever having to be more than about 50 yards from shore or be in open or exposed water. There are a lot of sheltered inlets, coves, and bays (protected by chains of outlying islands) here, and those are the areas we plan to stick to.

Thank you for all the advice so far - we will keep it all in mind. Thanks!

sounds like fun! How do we get there?
Sounds like you are in a kayak paradise. How about some directions for a fellow new englander. (I paddle/sail a Wilderness systems excel tandem, also an open cockpit, under the right conditions)… :wink:


Good For You!
for restating that you’re not headed out into “open ocean” but would be in protected waters. Also immersion gear is helpful if you go over.

Anyway, with float bags, getting bigger ones is better than smaller ones. You an always roll up the small end to make it smaller but you can not make a small bag bigger. Always secure the float bags to the foot pegs or the seat rails.

Pamilico will require a big single bags while the pungo will require split bags in front (each side of the foam pillar.



(Former Pamlico and Loon 138 owner)

Pungo has a “foam pillar”???
Don’t think so. There is a small bit of hard foam in the very pointy part of the bow of my Pungo, but that is all. I put a single large inflated float bag in the bow. It is tied to the rail of the foot braces and cannot move.

If Not, That Makes It Easier…
seems like a lot of the rec/light touring boats are using a back bulkhead and the foam pillar up front. It really doesn’t matter except in the type of float bag to use.


Thanks for the advice - I think we’ll go for some flotation bags then - nice big ones. We don’t go for long trips, so we don’t need a ton of cargo room anyway.

Our pungo has NOTHING in the front, not even a small foam pillar, so you can see my concerns…

The pimlico has only a small pillar at both ends, probably not enough.

Thanks for the advice!

Kayakers Paradise
We live out on Vinalhaven, which is 15 miles off the coast of Rockland, ME - its a very rugged, convoluted place with probably close to 100 outlying islands (though most are quite small) around the main island, which is roughly 30 sq. mi. It is indeed a kayakers paradise, which is why we were so compelled to pick up boats!

Nice Island
My husband and I have gone over to Vinalhaven for a day a few times when visiting Maine. In fact the first time we went we almost spent overnight there too, in our car, but luckily asked a local about the line of parked cars at the ferry. Since then we brought bikes.

Great paddling to be had around that island!

Brother andderw I’m sure
the experts had told you many times that you need hatches and bulkheads to be safe.

By now the newbies know what they should and it’s all good.

Anythign but calm 'cause great things are happening!