kayak seatbelt?

-- Last Updated: Nov-03-09 7:38 PM EST --

Hey, everyone, I am a new member here, and a new kayaker as well. I fish from a SOT, on the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia. November and December are some of the best times of the year to catch trophy striper, so that means cold weather/water exposure. Here is my question, and I hope I dont sound like a complete and total fool when I ask this. I have all the proper drywear for the weather, gps, of course a pfd, and all the safety electronics I need on my person, but I am thinking of worse-case scenarios, and that is flipping my SOT, and being separated from it for any amount of time. Even with proper drywear and layers under the drywear, 40 degree weather will still drain your strength, and radios, especially from water level, are sketchy. So I was thinking, would having a 15' piece of rope tied to the kayak, and then connected to the paddler's pfd with a quick release carbiner clip be a death wish? having the rope neatly coiled, stuffed in one of the pfd straps, so it would unravel, but keep the paddler connected to the kayak, to me, sounds like an OK idea, but like I said, I am new to this, so please, dont go to hard on me :). I always carry a knife on my PFD, so between that and the quick release clip, one could easily release themselves if they were being dragged, and of course it would not be used in the surf for launching and landing, and if offshore conditions are so rough that being dragged by the yak was a threat, I probably wouldnt be out anyway. So what do you think? Am I a total nutcase? Thanks for your time, any advise for a newby is much appreciated!

attach yourself to your boat! If you want a safety line of sorts, use a paddle leash. If you capsize you only have to grab hold of the boat or the paddle and both are still with you. The leash is nice while fishing as well, you can fight the fish without worrying about your paddle floating out with the tide.

Sounds like you appreciate that it’s a tradeoff – the risk of entanglement vs. the risk of being separated from your boat. I’ve heard arguments both ways.

If you do it, use floating line, and carry a knife that you can reach and use safely with either hand. I’d also think about keeping the line in a small pouch – like a mini throw-bag – to minimize entanglements.

Another option might be to trail a piece of light floating line astern in bad weather – it’d give you a better chance of catching your boat.

Do you have good thigh straps?
Properly adjusted,they maintain you in very close contact with your boat.

Seat belts are used by a few
whitewater c-1 paddlers, usually with a quick release or easily manipulated buckles. The rest of the c-1 community remain uneasy about the idea. Whitewater paddlers can get knocked out when they flip, and are more likely to come loose from the boat and be brought to the surface by their PFD if they stick to traditional thigh straps.

Us older people might fibrillate or have a stroke or heart attack, and if the SOT flips and we don’t pull the release, we won’t be pulled to the surface very well by the PFD.

Based on long experience monkeying with thigh straps, I think that you may find a setup that makes you feel secure.

I wouldn’t say “never”

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 11:07 PM EST –

Much is made of the entanglement issue, but I don't believe in hard-and-fast rules about such things. Instead I believe in looking at the actual situation and deciding what the risks are. Using lakes as an example, I've never swam in conditions where I couldn't have dealt with a length of rope that ended up where it shouldn't be. I won't say a dangerous tangle couldn't happen, only that in that situation losing your boat seems more likely and in almost all situations a worse possibility. In rivers where there's current AND stationary obstacles I would be MUCH more conservative about this, but when bobbing around in the waves with my boat, a tether wouldn't scare me much much in conditions which were reasonably comfortable for paddling to begin with. I think a person's comfort level when swimming would be a very important factor to consider here (just as it is when you find yourself upside-down but still in the boat). An empty boat will drift much faster than any normal person can swim, even in moderate wind, but the boat won't drag you unless caught in a breaking wave (which isn't the water situation you are describing anyway). It drifts so rapidly when wind-blown because with no big weight on board, the resistance to motion is minimal, not because the wind is generating a huge propulsive force. Like you, I'd be much more concerned with losing the boat than the slight chance that I'd need to deal with an unruly rope. I think it's an individual decision, and anything you can do to increase your options for getting un-tethered is good thinking on your part.

Here's an example of a possible way of making it safer. I like the idea of a trailing line, but finding that line might not be as easy as expected (I think you could swim right over the top of it and not see it). Add two or three small floats to the line and it will be easy to see and easy to find, but now you don't want to be dragging it while paddling, and especially when fishing. So how about attaching a long line to the back of the boat and wrapping all the excess around a fishing float and strapping that contraption lightly to deck behind you using elastic. Now, attach a length of low-breaking-strength line from your PFD to the fishing float. Now, if you become separated from your boat, you will automatically pull the fishing float free of the deck with your tether, but you can break the tether if you get tangled. In the meantime, as the boat drifts away, the fishing float drifts much slower (hardly at all) while un-reeling line to the drifting boat. Swim to the fishing float before all the line reels off and you are good to go!

Just to clarify, by "fishing float", I'm talking about the kind of float you can drop in the water to mark a location, where a weighted line drops to the bottom as the marker un-reels the line. Freshwater fishermen use these a lot to mark drop-offs or weed lines located by means of sonar but which otherwise can't be seen or "kept track of" from a moving boat.

Just a thought
What if the line from your boat that went into your pocket wasn’t connected to your PFD but to a drogue? If you were separated from the boat, the drogue would deploy and that would significantly reduce the drift of the boat allowing you to stay close.

I also don’t see the problem with a boat tether, if set up well and one were familiar with how to escape the system if something went bad. I could see it setup like a PFD mounted short tow. I’ve certainly towed boats before and had to roll. While it wasn’t my boat I was attached to, it was someone elses’s and if I missed a roll, then I’d have to pull the quick release in what usually was gnarly conditions, so it definitely can be done.

That’s a really good idea, …
… and a little bit more simple than the one I proposed. A sea anchor can fold up very small, so this idea definitely has potential.

Buy a paddle leash …
You can also attach a paddle leash to your ankle and the boat… disconnect it before going through surf landings, they are velcro straps and very easy to undo if you need to.

Entanglement is not a huge issue. Losing your boat far from shore is.

Expedition kayakers use leashes and tethers when off shore.

Sailor’s Trick…
…, especially for singlehanders, is to stream a floating line astern. If you end up overboard, you swim to cross your boat’s wake and find the line. Should work even better if you’re just contending with drift, and not having to counter the fact that the sailboat is still underway.

Choose the right rope
This is one of those cases where you really just need the right rope or a linkage on your side that will release with a small amount of force. You want it just strong enough to pull yourself back to the boat without breaking the line.

That means put away the Spectra and the Climbing rope and go get some of the cheap 3/8 inch poly line at Wally World. Something that’ll float and break with a hundred pounds of force or less. And still carry a knife.