Tethered to your boat?

I have read both Deep Trouble books and gave them to a friend of mine for her to read. In EVERY story I saw it coming. I laughed it was so clear what was wrong from the start.

Not coming out of ones boat is NOT plateau of ones skills. Its just learning that leaving the best flotation you have your boat is unneeded. I find this coming out of the boat thing a euro paddler fear. True geenland paddlers its laughable. Children learned to roll there boat before ever getting into one via rope practice.

Now putting a massive whole in ones boat would require leaving your boat. That is what a PLB is for. That is why I mentioned carrying one IN your PFD. Radio too.

Maybe for most a tether is a good idea. But I still say paddling alone in high winds and big waves (3 foot or larger) way out in large water and not being able to roll up is dangerous.

Great books DEEP TROUBLE I have both they were good to reinforce my pessimistic nature.

I started a thread back in the innocent days of March 2020 on the subject of leashes lots of good feed back there too. I am a big fan and use my simple leash almost always. Especially when I am alone. I know a fellow surfskier who died of hypothermia when his boat blew away from him. He wasted a lot of energy trying to catch his boat and wasn’t successful. By the time other paddlers got to him it was too late and he was too weak to climb on the back deck and get out of the cold water. I have done a lot of summer capsize practice with my leash to get the correct length and anchor locations.

Paddle-on Lads


So what’s everyone using for a tether? Paracord and carabiners?

I use one coiled phone cord type

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This thread has been focused on the pros and cons of leases. I have started a new thread focused on existing designs HERE

Solo outrigger canoe paddlers frequently wear coiled ankle leashes, and infrequently wear life jackets. The hull is your “PFD”, so it is anathema to risk losing it out in the ocean. Solo outriggers can’t be rolled but are easy to re-enter because of the great stability provided by the ama, and collect almost no water in the footwells.

I have known some top whitewater open canoeists who, when paddling tough rapids alone – yes, not recommended – would tether themselves to the canoe with a long belt rescue rope having at least two breakaway points in case of entanglement. In this way, the dumped solo paddler can swim to shore and then pendulum the canoe back to shore without losing it forever downstream.

I can’t argue the value of a tether, especially in cold water. The issue of whether a short tether would be a problem because it keeps you in proximity of a possibly kinetic boat seems questionable to me…if you DON’T have a tether, you’ll be holding onto your boat with your arm, so you’re going to be close enough to be pummeled regardless. The only issue I see there might be an inability to get to the safer side of your boat due to the tether’s short length. If you’re holding on by hand, you could theoretically move around your deck lines to get to a safer position, assuming the forces don’t rip the boat out of your hands in the process.

I’m concerned about having a longer tether, not because of possible entanglement, but because, say you get back to your boat and successfully reenter it. Now you’ve got an unspecified length of rope trailing out in the water. If the conditions were bad enough to toss you out of your boat in the first place, it’s hard to imagine having the ability to coil your rope back up and stow it in the same conditions. I suppose there’d be no harm in just leaving it out there until conditions improved, assuming everyone around you was aware of it. I can’t imagine the drag from a floating rope would be significant.

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Most leashes are coiled. So you have a little play on elasticity. This will solve the issue of a long tether dragging in the water and also the ability to get to the other side of the boat.

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If your paddle is tethered to the boat and you want to get to the other side all you need to do is toss the paddle over the boat and then work your way around. No more dangerous than not having the tether plus you now have both hands free since you don’t have to hold onto the paddle.

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I have never used a tether, but for windy conditions, big water and paddling solo I sure would. I would be tempted to make one out of a material like paracord. I always carry a knife on my life jacket at the ready. It could easily be cut with one hand in an entanglement. A half serrated and half regular blade works best for cutting lines.


One of the worst things that can happen to a paddler is to lose his or her boat. The push-back on tethers from sea kayakers is often comical and it makes no sense. The skills argument is fundamentally flawed as is the fear of entanglement. See this personal account of my little swim back in the day. National Center for Cold Water Safety. I also wrote an article on it in Ocean Paddler - Issue 63: Kayak Tethers - A Paddler’s Lifeline

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Paracord is an accident waiting to happen. Too thin, and too easy to wrap around a finger or wrist. With tethers, short is better. See Ocean Paddler Issue 63: Kayak Tethers - A Paddler’s Lifeline or this account: National Center for Cold Water Safety.

See the picture here National Center for Cold Water Safety. The line moves back and forth across the deck. If you want to quickly get to the other side of the kayak, the time to do that is when the kayak is upside down. You duck under and pop up on the other side. Getting familiar with the tether is just like everything else in our sport: it takes practice.

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What is comical is a person who thinks what applies to most applies to ALL.

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Paracord is strong enough to hold a paddle and weak enough to break if you need it to. Most experienced paddlers carry a knife on their life jacket. Paracord is easy to cut.

Paracord doesn’t break easily. Easy to cut with a knife. I even have my knife tethered on thinnest bungee…

It does when skydiving.


Mr. Avery -
Thoughts on pros and cons of using this in conjunction with your deck set up? Hitching the loop to the ring on the deck line, and attaching the shackle to your PFD?

That looks like a fall harness. Seems bulky and overkill for a kayak tether. If you got pulled away from the boat hard enough to have the shock protection part trigger, you probably are losing the battle anyway.