White Kayak Visibility on the Ocean???

I found a good deal on a kayak I am thinking of buying and it is white on white. I am wondering how visible this boat would be on the water. I like a boat that is highly visible so that I can be sure I will be seen by boaters (or rescuers if it ever came to that). I’m not sure how visible white would be on an ocean of whitecaps. I have heard some people say that white boats are highly visible on the ocean. What is your experience?




I have this DVD, and in it they specifically mention white as a very poorly visible color in the ocea, particularly in whitecaps and chop.

paint an orange stripe on the back deck
if it’s really a good deal there’s no reason you can’t paint a bright lime/orange 12" wide stripe diagonally across the aft deck. Two 4" sq. ICR reflective patches on the foredeck will look kind of gray from a non reflective angle but bright as headlights when lit up. So yeah, white won’t stand out in whitecaps but how often do you paddle in those conditions. I got a light grey hull/deck because I liked how blended in. A flourescent orange hunting cap or highway vest will stand out more than any bright yellow deck/hull color.

or a bright pfd or drysuit

The Bumble Bee look
helps also. http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2760170200040906646kVNQQN

Paddle Blades
Are far more visible, due to their height above the waterline and accompanying movement. A growing trend in SA and OZ is to paint the blades hot pink-supposedly studies by GC, etc. have shown this to be the most visible color from the air. Short of going to this extreme, some reflective decals on the blades make quite a difference when in motion.

One of my boats is a grey/grey tandem, and noted this past week while on vacation that it is hard to see out in the chop. Thinking about either painting a stripe or even easier, applying some decal film in a bright color.

Many people feel that red is the most easily seen speck in the distance.

yeah but
those fabrics seem to lose their brightness after a years regular use.

A simple test would be to have some buddies in different colored kayaks pass a flourescent orange cap between them and paddle half to one mile away then look back. The bright colored kayaks won’t look so bright.

I paddled up to a group of paddlers at a demo once and could see them about a mile away,at first I saw flourescent orange blobs, I didn’t see the bright yellow/orange kayaks until I halved the distance. Most of the visibility was the orange safety vests, secondarily was the height above the water. I didn’t see the white/black paddles at all. But maybe it’s time to get glasses.

it looks black as light levels go down. I was on the GG bridge once looking down at a kayak about a 3/4mile away. It looked black as the sun was behind clouds.

White is invisible in whitecaps; red is
invisible in low light.The paddle blade comment above is good. I painted my carbon paddle blades white and the tips flourescent yellow.

Also, you can get reflective marine tape in virtually any color from West Marine.

I can attest to that!
after seeing Redmond coming from a mile out on one paddling trip, I painted the blades on all three of my paddles yellow and Black bumble bee stripes!

personal experience
I was on a charter fishing boat this summer and was looking for kayakers (slow fishing day). There were 1’-3’ waves so the kayaks we saw sometimes were not visible, but the paddler was always visible.

But just my personal experience. I’m not sure how many boaters are intentionally looking for kayakers.

Seakayaker Magazine did
a study a few years back that claimed Robins’ Egg Blue was the most noticable color. It is like nothing else seen on the water. That said, if it were me, I’d go for Hunter Orange, Bright yellow or Shocking Lime if I wanted to be seen. But having that color in front of me on a long paddle might be overkill. The reflective patches on the paddle blades is a good compromise.

robin’s egg blue
Looking across a choppy bay earlier in the year, at a group of kayaks over a mile away, it was the robin’s egg blue the stood out. I had remembered reading about that color standing out and it certainly did, much more than all of the other colors.


Blades and blue…

– Last Updated: Aug-16-07 10:00 AM EST –

Bright blades and robins egg blue! Several experienced paddlers in my usual group were discussing this just the other day as we hung out for lunch on a remote beach. My bright red poly kayak literally "outglared" the yellow, white, orange, and darker colors on the sunny beach, but once on the water, we could all see the robins egg blue in another group far off across the bay. Then consensus, though, was that a bright color on the paddles was the best way to be seen at a distance.

Ironically, we had a number of power boaters complain to us as we made our way across some channels. Go figure.

robins egg blue
maybe that’s the popularity, besides the unatural light hue it’s not as jarring to have in front of your eyes all day. If one had a hard shell aft hatch simply painting it flourescent orange/lime would be adequate.

White is OK

– Last Updated: Aug-16-07 11:15 AM EST –

White might not be perfect but it's still pretty good. White is a generally good color for a kayak (it's cool when it's sunny and it's fairly visible).

If it's a good deal and you like how it paddles, don't worry too much about the color.

With respect to boaters, the best approach is for you to see them and keep out of their way. (Anyway, boaters probably are used to seeing white boat-like objects.)

Recall that most (the vast majority) fiberglas kayaks have white hulls. In a "real" situation, your kayak might be upside down (making the deck color largely irrelevent).

can’t be as bad as battleship grey
Can’t be as bad as the battleship gray boat I bought - http://picasaweb.google.com/donohue.peter/PeterDonohueSPersonalBlog/photo?authkey=HWgTns-lU1Y#5020521361521209378

I have gone a bit crazy with reflective tape and colorful gear. I have even changed out the paddle jacket I was wearing in the photo for a yellow one.

Maine Fog
We spend a decent amount of time paddling on the Maine coast where fog is common.

White, quill, and grey boats disappear more quickly than blightly colored ones in the fog. Dark decked boats often blend into the dark seas.

Also, on such waters Robin’s egg blue, and teal seem to be very visible.

Don’t sweat boat color
What matters most are the highest things — your paddle and your hat.

I have a white boat and a wood boat, so I go for bright clothing. I have a bright yellow wide-brim hat that is very visible, and yellow PFD. Since I’m a GP’er 98% of the time, paddle is kind of a non-issue. But when I use an EP, the blades are bright yellow, too. I have no problems being seen when it’s needed.