Rec kayaks in South puget sound

Just got an old town vapor 10 from work with a splash deck, any areas in South puget sound that would be ok for some light fishing, maybe crab pots? I am new to kayaking and definitely want to keep myself on the safer side, I’ve read some other posts and it seems the general consensus is a no go. I was thinking harbors and inlets

Can’t speak to Puget Sound but…
Inlets are often where the strongest current is. Worst place to be in a small rec boat. Harbors, some are ok with speed bumps around and some working harbors work out best for all concerned if you go into or out of them. Not hang around. You are wise to seek local knowledge.

Currents are no joke, and remember our water stays around 48 degrees year-round. Where are you exactly?

not a good idea
That boat is too small and lacks any safety features whatsoever for open cold coastal water. It’s designed for shallow, warm inland ponds and slow creeks.

You would not take a tricycle onto an interstate highway. And you don’t take a 10’ rec boat into Puget Sound.


  1. cockpit is too large to support a spray skirt that won’t implode with water pooled on it (a half deck is almost worse than nothing at all)

  2. the boat has no bulkheads and if swamped or capsized will fill with water and sink and you would be unable to climb back in. Stuffing flotation bags in the stern and bow would help, but nothing is going to make this boat “safe” for that environment anyway. By the way, if you are going to paddle it anywhere, even in a pond, you should add float bags. That’s a $50 to $100 expense.

  3. short wide boats are difficult to paddle in wind and against strong current. You can easily get pulled off shore and be unable to paddle back in. I used to live on one of the Great Lakes and even though they did not even have tides there (like your waters do) the Coast Guard got so tired of having to rescue people in small rec boats and inflatables who got swept out past where they could get back to shore under their own power that on windy or strong undertow days they would prevent people in such boats from leaving the harbor. And don’t think because conditions appear calm when you launch that they will stay that way. Coastal weather can shift in seconds.

  4. The cold water in Puget Sound requires protective clothing. Average temperature IN JULY is 53 degrees and it’s even colder right now. You would quickly become immobilized if you dumped into waters under 55 degrees. Are you willing to invest $600 to $1000 in a heavy wetsuit and windshells or a drysuit? If you question what I’m saying, go to the beach in your street clothes now and wade in until you are over your head and see how well you can function.

  5. Short wide boats may feel stable in calm water but they quickly lose that quality in waves and will get tossed around, even be more likely to capsize especially if hit broadside.

    Bottom line, if you want to paddle in the Pacific, you need a seaworthy boat and proper equipment. Talk to a local kayak outfitter about your intentions and have them guide you to the right boat and gear.
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All of Willowleaf’s points are valid

– Last Updated: May-01-16 12:32 PM EST –

While I do see people paddling short rec kayaks in bays and close to shore, it really is not a good idea. There are kayak rescues needed in this region every year, most of which involve people paddling rec kayaks. A day with blue skies, warm air temps, and little to no wind brings them out. Yet they still get in trouble. You don't need current or wind to cause a capsize. They just make it more likely.

Even if you could find a full sprayskirt to fit the boat, there are two more obstacles to overcome in the event of a capsize:

1. You MUST be proficient in doing wet exits and re-entries. The wet exit part is easy, the re-entry less so. That requires practice.

2. The re-entry will be greatly hampered by the huge cockpit and the lack of sealed bulkheads fore and aft. These rec kayak traits result in massive flooding when it flips. Can you say "submarine"? You might not even able to get the boat upright, let alone re-enter it with such heavy, unstable ballast inside.

The fact that you intend to go crabbing with it adds to the risk. If by southern Puget Sound you mean lower Hood Canal, water temps are higher than other parts of "the Salish Sea". Still cold, though.

My first kayak was an Old Town Castine and my husband's was an OT Loon. We went to a lake to practice wet exits and paddle-float re-entries. The boats had such large cockpits that we simply fell out of them when capsized. BUT what happened after that clearly demonstrated why sealed bulkheads are necessary. Fortunately, we had chosen to practice right near shore.

I was able to right my Castine, which had sealed bulkheads, a rare feature in rec kayaks. My husband's Loon, whch had no bulkheads, flooded so much that the two of us together could not right it. We ended up swim-pushing it to shore. It was so heavy all we could do was to use TWO pumps simultaneously to remove some of the water. Then, when it was finally light enough, we both shoved it onto the sloped shore and tipped it to pour out the rest. Even that was difficult.

Now imagine what would have happened if he had been alone, farther from shore. He would have had to swim ashore, enlist a powerboater to go out and rig it to tow in. Maybe. I suspect that boat could flood enough to sink low enough nobody could tow it. More like dredging.

I know the Vapor was free, but what is your safety worth? A short but more capable kayak would be a so-called crossover style (14' or so) with fore and aft bulkheads, deck rigging, a smaller cockpit, and better hull speed. Add some lessons and practice, plus adequate clothing, to make a suitable package for Puget Sound.

I have seen people with kayaks of that type successfully use them for pulling crab pots. Remember that you will also need to carry or float/tow them back somehow.

South Pugett Sound Definition?
My son went to Evergreen so I’ve been to what I consider the “South Pugett Sound” near Olympia north towards Tacoma; south Hood Canal.

I think if you dress for the water temps and pay attention to tides you would be fine if you talk to locals in these areas about where to launch and paddle. The biggest danger seemed to be getting stranded on mud flats during low tide and eating polluted shel fish.

Find a reliable outfitter and get local advice ( probably not Cabella’s, I know they sell a ton of rec kayaks in Lacey.).

There are places in Puget Sound that are no more formidable than a local pond, but probably a lot deeper. Even so, you would have to be very aware of conditions. One such place would be on the Totten Inlet. There is a very nice launch at Arcadia I believe is owned by the Squaxin Indians. The last time I was there, it was free and the good thing about it is that you don’t have to worry about mud when the tide is low.

From the launch, it is a short paddle over to Hope Island (State Park) and there is a neat little bay over on Squaxin Island to explore. You might want to stay away from Hammersly Inlet, but down by Shelton you probably would be alright.

There are also some spots around Olympia that are pretty tame in the Eld and Budd Inlets. Also if you don’t get too far out, right around Boston Harbor is nice. Tolmie State Park is nice when the tide is in, but don’t go too far, because if the tide goes out on you, you might have to cross a very big mud flat to get to shore.

The main thing is to not get any further from shore than what you can swim with your pfd on. Even in the best sea kayak with the right gear, you can get into big touble if you get beyond your experience and good judgement.

ACA skill/equpment level and conditions

– Last Updated: May-02-16 12:45 PM EST –

Recently was going through a new book, Basic Illustrated Sea Kayaking by Roger Schumann (Link to it on Amazon - and found a page he did which I really liked. He summarized the American Canoe Associations level information and talked about what kayak is appropriate. Here is a photo of that page:

It appears that your boat doesn't have enough flotation for deep water rescue, so you would want to stick to level 1 conditions. Flat water, slight breeze at most, no current, no surf, staying within swimming distance of shore. Keep in kind, he water is very cold, so swimming distance will vary greatly by what you are wearing - I would strongly recommend a wet suit along with your PFD.

Full disclosure - I have this book so early (was released a few weeks ago) because I helped him with photos (and in a few cases, being a model for photos). I don't get any financial benefit from sales of the book - my pay was 1 signed copy of the book. That said, I do think it is a very good book for those getting into sea kayaking.

Thanks for all of the input, I have cold weather and dry gear I’ve used rafting, I did not however consider the lack of bulkheads and floatation, it doesn’t appear I could add bulkheads to the vapor, maybe to a swifty I already had, either way I will likely keep to lakes and slow rivers to work on paddle and reentry techniques, as well as learning to roll (not in the recs) again thank you

same here

– Last Updated: May-05-16 10:25 AM EST –

asking abt S. Puget or the Hamma Hamma arm's tidal bore ...response is BORING not bore.

Not Juan de Fuca.

If you look the area over using tide chart for slack vs ebb n study the proposed situation that's a go but yes you need a full wetsuit or more.

Join a club.

Small bays are ok within the small bay. The outside entering main flow gets rough.

When equipped camp at Sequim Bay SP n paddle out to the sandbar at J.Wayne

then to Dungeness and out to the Lighthouse and Juan de Fuca for a look at the rip there. Go at slack toward incoming ....

in 'edit'...yes I see naked paddlers in 10' yaks..when pressed I watch people jump off cliffs in batman suits...who's to say ?

Thanks for the link, Peter
I knew he was working on another book; I have his 2007 Sea Kayak Rescue book, which has been very helpful. Also regularly visit his ACA Strokes & Maneuvers videos.

Is there much navigation info in the new book?


8 page chapter
There is an 8 page chapter on navigation. So obviously not a BCU level navigation course, but covers the basics. Piloting, dead reckoning, chart & compass, using compass to navigate in fog, using compass ring to find bearings are the main subheads.

Reading charts, weather, tides/currents are all dealt with in different chapters.

Float bags
They are the usual alternative in a boat withut bulkheads, though in boats like the Swifty and Vapor it would likely require a bigger fatter one rather than the split bags common in the back of white water boats.

The issue, and it is one, in the really rec type boats is fining a way to secure the thing(s) so they don’t pup out the minute the boat actually gets wet. That is likely to take some thought - just being expanded won’t do it.

As to on water re-entry… it can be done in a big, wide, fat boat without perimeter lines but it ain’t fun and it is exhausting. Stay near shore for your first experiments on that.

Float bags aren’t always enough

– Last Updated: May-05-16 1:03 PM EST –

My 6'7" WW kayak has two stern float bags. There is not enough space for bow float bags.

I have flooded it several times and can say that even with float bags and a tiny boat, water is so heavy and fills the boat so fast that sometimes it is impossible to lift even one end. It requires bailing some first, and that needs to be done on land if the boat is already flooded. Because at that point the coaming is level with or below the surrounding water.

Fortunately, I already knew how to roll, from learning in a sea kayak. So these floodings were done deliberately, in practice, except for one time when repeatedly capsizing, rolling up, immediately getting thrown down when the boat swirled into another eddyline. I was able to just wet exit and swim with boat to shore,,,but shore in a narrow river is a lot closer than in open locations.

flotation in longer boats
As someone who has used skin boats for 14 years, I always use very large flotation bag setss that fill most of the bow and stern voids, in fact roughly similar to the space that is isolated by bulkheads in a hardshell sea kayak. In a 15’ to 18’ boat this makes sense.


But it seems to me than a 6’ or 7’ white water playboat is not going to have enough void space for inflation buoyancy beyond the cockpit to effectively compensate for the weight of water that fills that cockpit in a capsize. Better than none at all, but not a whole bunch. The same applies to a 10’ boat.

That, combined with the oversized cockpit, mean that even float bags are not going to render your rec boat really a safe option for coastal waters. But you really ought to try to find a way to obtain and secure them for use in appropriate waters.