SinKs without Spray Skirts

When I’m offshore in my sailboat, or near-shore in my SOT, I often see sit-in kayakers without spray skirts. I’m curious - if they somehow get swamped by a wave or just flip, how do they recover? I can picture righting the kayak, but out in open water how do they get the water out? I know there are bilge pumps, but I’m having trouble picturing someone hanging off the side of their boat and trying to pump it out. I guess this would also apply to someone with a spray skirt, but having to do a wet exit.

Just curious.

Bulkheads or float bags in the bow and stern keep it easily afloat even if the cockpit is swamped. You could still climb back in using a paddle float to stabilize the boat or the “cowboy scramble” and good balance. Then the fun continues with the bilge pump

First you get back in
Either with a reenter and roll or a paddle float reentry or a cowboy reentry or any one of several reentry methods. Then you pump the water out.

or empty before righting
Most often, instead of pumping the boat out, the paddler, or a fellow paddler lifts the bow of the swamped boat, allowing the water to flow out of the cockpit. Then the boat is turned right side up. Paddler then has to remount, either with an assist from a fellow paddler, or by some solo method.

Thanks…Forgot about bulkheads and float bags.

Those you see are betting that
wave and wind conditions are unlikely to put much water in the cockpit. As a sometime whitewater kayaker, however, I would feel spooky about paddling without a sprayskirt.

It is amazing how little water gets in
the cockpit of a high end kayak when it capsizes.

I do self rescue paddle float practice at least once a year for a hour or so.

when I tip my QCC-700 and then up right it, the cockpit is only half full of water.

I don’t try to pump any out before doing the self rescue, and then once I am in, as long as I am leaning a bit to the paddle float side there is no problem sitting there pumping it out.

I am one of those that very seldom wear a skirt unless conditions are rough when I am heading out, but I also don’t leave home without it, and can put it on a a few seconds if need be.



Many possibilities

– Last Updated: Sep-03-09 8:28 AM EST –

It could be:
Unskirted -
A paddler who assumes that they will never capsize so has never thought about swamping, and dislikes the idea of a skirt. There are more of them around offshore in the summer than there probably should be.
A paddler who knows better but finds it too hot or forgot their skirt and conditions are pretty tame. (and like Jack above has figured out how to handle the situation)

A paddler who has learned basic self-rescue and can dump water out of their cockpit in the process of flipping the boat upright.
A paddler in a boat like one of mine, that barely scoops water anyway because the cockpit is small and doesn't fall deep into the water when upside down.

As to stuff like foot pumps etc, most people I know who have them make use of them once in the boat and upright, whether by their own efforts or with help.

Thanks for your insights
The various scenarios make sense, and I guess it isn’t quite the catastrophic situation I thought it might be. And candidly, I can appreciate paddlers occasionally not liking the confines or heat of a spray skirt in mild conditions.

More splash skirts than watertight
Most recreation boats have skirts that protect mainly from splash, spray, and the sun. If you capsize, usually the skirt stays attached to the boat and the paddler falls out. $50-75 can seem expensive for mild protection of paddle drips and sun.

Amazing what you can do with no skirt
I took a friend of mine out on our biggest local lake last weekend for her first experience with “big” waves. At most, the biggest waves might have been shoulder high, but it sure looked too rough to get by without a spray skirt. I thought for sure she’d need her spray skirt, and she used it, but she reported that not a single wave splashed onto the skirt. She had about six inches of freeboard at the coaming, but just floated over everything, even with some curling whitecaps. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since my guide-boat only has about 8 inches of freeboard near the middle, yet it seems to be “made” for use in choppy conditions - of the inland variety! If I get a wave over the side of that boat, it’s usually due to “operator error”.

no need for one
except to keep rain and waves from coming in. Other than that, nope. To me practicing rolling so I “am good at self rescue” is like practicing smashing my car so I will be good at accidents. When the weather is bad enough that I have reason to worry, I do what every smart paddler does and get off the water.

You must be better than me…
at hanging onto a roll if you don’t practice it at least some. So far anyway, no practice eventually equals lose roll.

If I’m manuevering my Avocet the way I enjoy – with lots of leans – I’m putting the edge of the coaming under water. Not having a skirt would limit my ability to use all of the boat’s capabilities.

Besides, I like rolling – it’s a great way to cool off on a hot day.

been years
since I rolled. The only time I ever tipped over was when I was rolling. I don’t like being soaked while paddling, or even getting wet really, so I just never bothered maintaining it.

You mean there are two of us!
I have often wondered that of the people that roll, (sea kayaks) how many have ever capsized due to rough seas.

Also excluding surfing in on breakers.

I would think that those who roll are so good at

bracing that they would be able to keep themselves up right in rough conditions.

Honestly not trying to stir any pot, but just telling it as I see it.

I have paddled with many people from P-net over the past ten years, and some times in rough water, and none of them have ever capsized.



Depends on the boat
My Current Designs Solstice GTS really needs a hard lean to turn. If I want to turn it fast I need the rudder and a lean so deep the skirt is in the water, even then it doesn’t turn as fast as my other boats with no lean.

I’ll agree that in most conditions except really big chop, I bring the skirt but don’t use it in warm weather.

Lately in surf I’ve been using the Sit on Top and learning a lot…(read, really eating it!)

Thanks to all. It seems I never really understood the main purpose of a skirt. Makes much more sense now.

Rolling equals better brace, capsize

– Last Updated: Sep-08-09 11:19 AM EST –

As to having a good brace, having that or a good scull are very difficult without having a roll at least on one side. Without a reasonable assurance that you can get up should you blow the brace, most people including myself aren't willing to really commit to the paddle.

Capsizing - I didn't capsize for quite a long time. Then I decided to start getting better so started adding tidal races, surf, some WW etc. I found I capsized quite a bit once I started doing more aggressive paddling.

I suppose that tidal areas are the one spot that might be outside of your exclusion. You can encounter tidal effects almost anywhere, doesn't require terribly trying conditions to find some of that.

Part of it is being relaxed. I am much more likely to tense up and capsize when I am concerned about the results than when I am comfortable that I have some relatively risk-free options for staying in or getting put back into the boat. As conditions ramp up, that moves to meaning some likelihood of rolling more than going thru an assisted rescue while bouncing around or being carried by a strong current.

There is a practical reason for rolling, to cool off. It's not just about capsize.

Some of it is how far you push the boat choice too. I would have had quite a bit of rolling practice over the weekend if I'd borrowed the Nordkapp LV. In my Vela it wasn't an issue.

Fun and confidence inspiring
Taught myself to roll this summer and for me it was fun just to learn and practice. Nothing felt much better on a hot humid day than to spend an hour or so working on rolling.

The chances that around here I’ll find myself in conditions where I’d capsize are slim but now that I know I can roll back up I find myself pushing my boat a lot harder when turning and playing around. I’ll also feel more confident trying out bigger waters when traveling.

Also, I recently got a racing kayak (21’ long 18" wide) where the chances of me tipping over on perfectly flat water are pretty good. As long as I have my skirt on to roll it’s a bit less embarrassing.