Kayaking with my 8 year old kid advice

I am taking my 8 year old kid across Tomales Bay, California to camp the night on a beach on Point Reyes. The crossing is probably only a mile but that is big to a kid. I am trying to be prepared and welcome any good advice. I have done the trip 3 times myself with no problems.
My biggest concern right now is a practical way to tow him if he gets tired, scared, has a meltdown, etc. I was thinking a 10’ length of PVC pipe with a cord threaded inside, cord connected to the back of my boat and the front of his. Maybe caribiners at each end to make connection easy. What do you think?
Other suggestions / advice welcomed regarding kayaking with a kid. Thanks.

If it was me I’d rent or borrow a tandem and I wouldn’t do it in cold water. Not very cold, anyway.

What do you know about tides & currents in the area. What is the expected sea state for both days? If the weather turns bad over night do you have a plan B? Do you have a VHF radio to check the marine forcast? Is your 8 year old comfortable in a kayak? What type of kayaks will you be using and will they have spray decks if they are sit-in kayaks?

The tow rig you have described strikes me a a bad idea. The rigid pipe sounds like a recipe for disaster in waves and current. Typically, a 30’ - 50’ fope is used clipped to one of the deck lines on the towed kaysk and with some quick release attachment to the tower. Here is a link to one type of towing system: https://www.nrs.com/product/1829/nrs-kayak-tow-line

We towed an inflatable full of firewood across this same bay before and the repetitive jerking of the towed boat on the towing boat was very annoying. The rope through pipe arrangement is something used successfully when snowshoeing and towing a sled. What do you see as the problem with using that arrangement? I am not committed to it.
Tomales Bay is a long narrow sheltered bay. This is not extreme kayaking. The great white sharks seldom come closer than the mouth of the bay…

We people in the 21st century seem to have forgotten that the people of the pre-1800’s were all traveling with infants, from day-old babies to 10 year olds by canoe, horse, kayak, carry, wagon and whatever. In 1805 Sacagawea took her 50+ day old on his first canoe trip which last a year and half with the Lewis and Clark expedition.
I have some friends take their 2-year old on a two month kayak expedition in Alaska and another who has
taken his 2-5 year olds on two month long canoe expeditions.

Has the 8 yro ever paddled before? We talking sea kayaks or 30" wide barges? Look at “contact tow” with Gordon Brown on you tube. Also look at tow lines with bungee and belt around towers waist. Note. You should try this before towing long distance. Length of tow line can damped wave jerking.

A towline without a quick release is a bad idea. You can bring both of you in a dangerous situation if you get caught on an obstacle and can’t free the towline. Especially in flowing water or wind. I have tried getting caught on a buoy in open water during towing training and it caused a capsize for both of us.

I think you should also do a bit of training near to shore together with your kid first. At least some towing and a T rescue.

The T rescue can also be trained with the kid saving you, perhaps skipping the part where he empties your kayak. Just remember to grab a deck line on both kayaks with one hand while you pull yourself up - this will stabilize the raft a lot so the kid doesn’t have to use as much weight.

Here’s the video about using a contact tow referred to above. https://paddling.com/learn/how-to-tow-a-kayak-contact-tows/

A contact tow is easy to make and if you have a tired, scared, tense eight-year-old, the child would feel better being closer to you than 20-30 feet behind you. Naturally sea conditions are important. Here’s a video on making a contact tow:


I borrowed an old keowee kayak for my kid. It is ridiculously wide. Contact tow looks interesting. I do plan on being roped together in some way. I am certain I will be towing him at times. Not certain of the best rigging for the task.

Heading out tomorrow morning. I am putting him in my 11.5 ‘ dagger blackwater. Too big for him but a solid and trusted boat.
I quit the pvc pipe idea and rigged 3 different ropes: long tow and two contact tows of slightly different lengths. Attached to belt over my life jacket with quick release buckle. Plan on keeping him on long tow on the crossing.
Weather forecast is good, it is a go. Don’t tell him about the sharks.

PFD and a good whistle for the kid.

I second the tandem - kids that age have a short attention span, and you don’t want them running out of steam half way there. Looks like a great trip.

Another vote for tandem.

Also let them take a squirt gun or other water toys to stay entertained. Practically, you are better off paddling solo from the rear seat as opposed to constantly banging paddles, etc.

As your child learns to love kayaking, you’ll want to look for a used youth size boat that will be both lighter and narrower thus less frustrating for smaller paddlers. We have a Perception Arcadia Scout Which was the perfect boat up through age 13. This model is discontinued, but still crops up regularly on Craigslist.