SINK floatation

I was thinking about getting float bags for my kayak (15’ WS Cape Horn) which has both bow and stern bulkheads. However, I would like to use the stern bulkhead to store some gear in. Specifically, a kayak cart, dry bag of clothes, and some other small items.

How can I add stern floatation without losing the storage space in the stern bulkhead? Is there some kind of external float I could tie to the deck in back? I have no problem putting a float bag to fill up the bow bulkhead as I don’t usually store anything in there.


Put your gear in the back and insert the float bag on top of the gear. Then inflate it and close the hatch. It holds the gear on the bottom wear it best stabilizes the boat and the bag provides plenty or flotation. This is common practice for most paddlers with loaded boats and float bags.

The only problem I see is you are only putting stuff in the back. You might want to distribute the load between the front and the back.

How thick/durable are most float bags? I thought of that but was afraid the gear could puncture the bag.

never had a problem
I keep float bags in my bulkheaded compartments, to stabilize my gear, and provide backup flotation, and I haven’t had trouble with wear on the float bags. Most stuff is in drybags anyways, and they’re not so pointy. I guess the sharpest thing I put in my boat is tent-poles.

Instead of putting the float bag on top of my gear, I usually leave the float bag in the end of the boat, pack the gear towards the cockpit, and then inflate the bag to keep stuff from shifting around.

You do, of course, realize
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, you do hopefully realize that unless your hatches leak like a sieve, the air trapped by your bulkheads provides as much flotation as an air bag of equivalent volume will. Putting an air bag in the storage compartment will provide no additional flotation, although securing stored gear may have some merit.

Why do you want to put air bags
in a watertight compartment ?

seems like kind of a waste of money

Jack L

Have you ever blown a hatch cover, or had a serious leak?

If you’re away from shore, it’s an almost impossible problem to address on your own, and a difficult one to deal with as a group.

A $30 airbag can secure your gear, and also keep you afloat in case of a problem with the compartment’s integrity.

I know of one pair of skilled paddlers who had to call for a rescue on Lake Michigan because of a hatch problem that proved impossible to address (after repeated attempts) in the seas they were encountering.

I know another paddler who had a hatch cover completely blown off in pretty big surf, and would have been left sitting in the water - forced to abandon his boat and swim for it - if he didn’t have an airbag in the back of that boat.

Personally, I had a hatch cover knocked off by a swimmer during rescue practice in a tide race once. If I had a float bag blown up, it wouldn’t have been a problem. As it was, I just got into the eddy, with my bow about 2 feet up in the air, and water up to my waist.

Watertight hatch covers
Most advanced kayakers don’t have float bags in water tight hatches. If it was my boat, I would work on getting the hatches to seal well with additional gasket material or a hatch cover of neoprene under the hard hatch cover rather than going the float bag routine. Even a Valley VCP can leak if it not put on correctly and you need to make sure you batten down the hatches well as regular practice. There’s nothing wrong with back-ups of back-ups but normally, having float bags in supposed water tight hatches is over-kill. Once you start to lean to roll, hatch leaks become apparently annoying and usually get addressed. My first Necky, had hard hatch covers with noeprene covers under them that were pretty good but not quite 100%. I did more stupid hard core paddling in that boat than I do now and I never died.

The Cape Horn 15…
…actually doesn’t need float bags. The neoprene covers beneath the hard hatches do leak a little during rescue practice, but it’s cupfuls, not gallons. The hard hatch covers are secured with strong webbing clips - I can’t imagine what it would take to tear one off…

You might want to test how well the hatch covers work. Try flipping the boat over, and let it rest in the water for a couple of minutes, then check the compartments. Tae a garden hose and blast the hatch edges, and then check for leaked water. if you find only a small amount of water, you’re good to go…

Box wine bladders
work really well for securing items in my day hatch, and one or two are the perfect size. My usual outings always include a lot of fun rolling practice and a way to beat the Florida heat. Keeps everything in place at the bottom of the compartment where you want it. Also handy for carrying water. My forward and rear compartments are usually empty. As for any flotation benefit, I suppose it’s a bit like wearing a belt and suspenders. Can’t hurt.

If the rabbit didn’t stop to take …
a poop, the fox would have never caught him !

Why not put sponsons on too ?

Jack L

Watertight hatches
Thanks for all the replies. I realize the hatches are watertight, but the idea was having a backup in case of failure. The Cape Horn does have nice rectangular hatch covers that are strapped down, as well as neoprene covers beneath. Maybe my thinking is overkill? Just trying to be safe.

While I haven’t flipped it over yet, I was out in some swell the other day (waves breaking over bow/stern) and found a very small amount of water in the stern compartment. It looked more like a little mist than anything - definitely less than a cup. I’m guessing it came in by the day hatch.

Most kayak hatches leak a little, it’s normal.

Bill H.

Can we say OCD!

Not at all excessive
If you roll or scull a lot, you want float bags in the dry bulkheads to keep stuff from flying around. Usually not fatal, no, but noisy and distracting.

I generally go with float bags inflated in my boats event the ones that are bone dry, for this reason.

when it comes to staying afloat
I don’t mind a little redundancy '-)

People who kayak in open water, alone or with others, are wise to consider backup.

I’ve already used mine to help someone whose hatch fell off, untethered, a gift to Neptune. Hatches get lost, bulkheads do fail. It happens.

does make rolling, sculling etc a bit easier and more peaceful.

OP, there are combination drybags/float bags. The ones I use are made by Wildwasser. They’re called Overnighters and come in two lengths. Very well made. of a much thicker material than some of the ordinary float bags.

You put your gear inside, shove it into the nose of the Cape Horn, then use the blow tube to fill it w. air, and it will snug up nice and tight in the bow and stern.

Or you can leave the Overnighters empty, strictly for floatation.

Nice to have either way.

Add another thing to debate…

– Last Updated: Aug-30-10 2:37 PM EST –

Rudders vs skegs!!! NDK vs VKP vs P&H !! US-design VS Brit Boats!!! Paddle leash vs no paddle leash!!! BCU vs ACA vs nothing!!! Now we can add another thing to spend time talking about when it's too cold or too windy or too anything -- Additional flotation in a boat with bulkheads.

I don't use float bags and never have in any of my sea kayaks and neither does the husband. It's just something we never did nor saw a need for. HOWEVER, we DO carry float bags for the proverbial emergency, just as we both carry garbage bags, extra bungees, and Reed and Valley emergency neoprene hatch covers. We've also found that a paddle float, which I use as a sit upon and occasionally as a seat back but never for its "intended" use, works well stuffed in a hatch as flotation and then covered with a garbage bag, for that unfortunate time -- and it's happened to both of us -- an untethered hatch cover takes a powder and decides to live off the shoulder of a major highway.

However, one of the people I paddle with always has inflated bags in his rear hatch. Always has and always probably will. And, while the sound of my gear shifting around in my hatches has never particularly bothered or annoyed me, I can understand why some people feel the need for minimizing noise in what is a quiet sport, quiet sport depending on whom you paddle with.

One of the nice things about kayaking is that it is, essentially, an individual sport that can be used to fit the needs of individual paddlers. While there are things I'm somewhat anal about -- PFD wearing is one, paddling with at least another person is another (and no, I do not want to start a "thread" about this....) -- I pretty much realize that what works for me may not work for another and I try and respect that.

As for the paddle leash: I kayak pretty routinely with a certified, did-it-in-the-Bitches 5* paddler who, even if he hadn't decided to go the BCU route, I would trust with my life on the water. He uses a paddle leash, except in surf.