My Bulkhead Leaked(!) - why?

I have a 10’ Perception JoyRide recreational kayak, and I use it in calm salt water for less than 2 hours each time. I bought the JoyRide specifically because it has a bulkhead - I liked the extra safety component of floatation.

On my 7th excursion with it, I took on a bit of water (maybe 2"). When I finished my excursion, and came ashore, I found that the bulkhead also had about 2" of water in it. I was shocked, because my assumption was that this bulkhead was waterproof. Can you help me understand why it would have gotten water inside it? I care because 1) my safety, and 2) I store things in there I’d prefer to not get wet.

An unusual thing that happened during this kayaking excursion was that a friend hopped into the cockpit with me for about 15 minutes. (I was transporting this friend from one kayak to another.) During this time, we took on the bit of water (due to the major splashing that occurred to get the friend in & out of my kayak, and also a tip to the side that let in some of the water). The two of us combined were over the max weight capacity of the boat, although the cockpit rim was still plenty above the water level.

Would the overloading of weight capacity have somehow caused the foam bulkhead to leak? Would the salt water be more prone to seeping through the foam bulkhead wall? Should I fill my kayak from my garden hose, and see if it’s leaking somewhere specifically, so I can seal it?

I’d like to understand why this happened so I can prevent it from happening again, or so I can at least better understand the capabilities of my kayak.

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Yes, put a couple gallons of water in your hatch, replace the cover, then roll the kayak around while observing the bulkhead from inside the cockpit. That should show you were the leaks are.

Sounds like it must be very leaky if the water in the hatch was as deep as the water in the cockpit. Maybe the builder forgot to seal your bulkhead. So, you probably need to seal. Lexel sealant is usually recommended. Silicone caulk is usually discouraged.


I can’t speak as to this model boat, but my limited experience with low-end boats has been that their bulkheads are less than watertight. Among other possible reasons, the boats tend to have more flex in the plastics, which could easily compromise an already weak seal.


On my manufacturer’s suggestion I’ve successfully used Lexel caulk. Wear rubber gloves to help apply and smooth the caulk along the seam and not try and apply it with just a caulk gun. The dealer tried this and made a pig’s breakfast of the job. You might want to check with your manufacturers to see if they recommend anything different. Lexel dries crystal clear and does not mold like even mold resistant silicone caulks will.

These areas can sometimes be hard to see and reach. It sometimes helps to work with the boat both upright and then inverted on a pair of sawhorses or other stands. Although Lexel will cure under water, it’s best to have the seams as clean and dry as possible. Acetone helps with both. Let it dry thoroughly. Acetone is flammable and not good to breathe, so take appropriate precautions.

Be aware that Lexel, once cured is almost impossible to remove, so remove from any areas where you don’t want it promptly. Unlike silicone caulks, once opened Lexel does not immediately begin to harden in the entire tube. Properly sealed it is usable for a long time.

It’s not uncommon for bulkheads to begin to leak after a number of years, but easy to fix. While your kayak might still be under warranty, I would recommend that you make the repair yourself. For a warranty claim the manufacturer will just send the dealer the caulk and most dealers do not have anyone qualified to make the repair, as I found out. If you call the manufacturer, they might send the sealant for free.

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On a 10ft kayak this is kayak abuse… Like 10lbs, of crap in a 5lb. bag…

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I do think you over stressed the plastic hull, which also probably doesn’t have the same stiffness as the foam bulkhead.

But, because no kayak hulls are totally stiff you should expect some leakage for just about any boat. If you really want to keep things in that rear compartment safe, you should invest in a dry bag.

That rec boat also has no front compartment. Especially if you’re going to treat the boat roughly buy a flotation bag for the front as if you do get a lot of water inside you won’t be able to empty it and you’re only option will be to swim the boat to shore. NRS has flotation bags (and dry bags).

Never assume that things that you put in a hatch are going to stay dry. Always put them in a dry bag if you want them to stay that way.

Also, periodically check inside your hatches for water so that you can be sure it is dry in there. You don’t want to be growing things in your boat.

You carried two people. Likely the boat sat lower. Are you sure it was the bulkhead and not the hatch cover that leaked?

Yes, put a couple gallons of water in your hatch, replace the cover, then roll the kayak around while observing the bulkhead from inside the cockpit. That should show you were the leaks are.

Thank you. I will do that test and see what I need to do next. I appreciate the detailed info!

Thanks! I appreciate the thorough details. I will do that!

Are you sure it was the bulkhead and not the hatch cover that leaked?

I’m 95% positive the hatch cover did not leak. But I’ll test for that when I test my bulkhead (filling it with a hose, in my yard) to be sure.

The amount of water inside my bulkhead was the same amount (depth) as I had in the rest of my kayak.

Thank you all for the advice. I’ve been pondering it since you replied. I will take it to heart to not over-load my kayak again. I will definitely invest in a dry bag.

I’ll look into floats. Is their purpose simply to prevent as much water from being able to fill the kayak? If I put one in, can I permanently leave them in? Or do I have to remove them and put them back in each time I go out?

I’m going to test out the bulkhead by filling it with hose water in my yard, to see where it’s leaking.

Recently, my spouse’s kayak (same kind - Perception JoyRide 10’) had this same exact leakage into the bulkhead area. He had taken on some water in some waves. That kayak has NOT be over-loaded with weight, so we can’t blame that for that one. So this makes me think maybe the bulkhead divider is not good quality, or that (like some of you suggested) it’s not sealed well. But I’ll inspect and find out.

I really appreciate your kind replies. I’m a newbie, but I do care about getting it right.

I bought a new Perception Conduit 13 last spring for my kid. The bulkhead leaked in the rear from day one because the sealant separated a bit at the bottom. It could have happened in shipping or quality control may have missed it. These are not Eddyline boats so I am betting fewer checks are done. Applying pressure to the area where the bulkhead is located can cause the seal to fail so be mindful of that.

Use Lexel, that kind of leak is normal in plastic boats. The plastic flexes and the seal around the edge of the bulkhead gradually goes. I used to have to renew the area around the bulkhead annually in much stiffer boats than yours.

It is not a comment on the quality of the bulkhead, but on the relatively thin and lesser plastic used in rec boats that it was as big a leak as it was. It is the way it is. And in plastic boats you should also expect some leakage around hatch covers as they age.

Always use dry bags for stuff in your bulkheaded area. I do so on my glass boats, easier to spend a few bucks to keep things dry than not have crucial gear when you need it.

I also paddle with float bags in the bulkheaded area fore and aft, both to keep gear from rolling around and making noise and as protection against a leak I didn’t notice. You can just leave them in there and deflate and blow them up again for each paddle. Leave the hatch cover off on a warm day so they can dry out a bit.

The test method of filling boat’s cockpit and watching for leaks is a good way to check.

And if you put a few inches of water in the hatch, you could easily test the hatch cover by flipping boat over and placing so water is on top of hatch and seeing if water leaks out of there.

Plastic boats do get leaks over time, unfortunately. And the thinner plastic used in a recreational class boat could make them more likely to get them than a sea kayak (but sea kayaks are not immune).

Age and strapping during transport are 2 ways that leaks form - neither of which you talked about.

The sealant can degrade over time, hence age.

But flexing of the interface between the hull and bulkhead wall is a big reason. Most common time this happens is during transport if you strap the kayak down too much (if you see the plastic bending,you are too tight).

Keep in mind, even if water does leak in through the bulkhead, it likely is slow enough that the “sealed” bulkhead would still provide the safety benefit you are after. But as mentioned above, we never treat hatches as dry, and anything that needs t stay dry in a hatch s kept in a dry bag, dry ox, or similar.

Float bags serve two purposes. They do indeed reduce the amount of water in your kayak if it is swamped. This will make it less of a job to pump it out on the water.

More importantly it will provide sufficient floatation so that if the boat capsizes or swamps the boat will remain level and the cockpit rim will remain hopefully far enough above the waterline so that a self or assisted rescue will be possible and allow you to successfully get back in the boat.

Without any floatation some boats will actually sink and others will float, but the cockpit rim will be right around the waterline. With floatation in only one end the boat will again have the cockpit right at or somewhat below the waterline, and in a worst case scenario, will end up vertically in the water. This is sometimes called Cleopatra’s needle. A fully swamped boat will weigh hundreds of pounds and be nearly impossible to rescue and extremely difficult to even tow to shore.