Wind gusts; cockpit gear bag

Have you ever been blown over by a sudden gust of wind? It happened to me yesterday. I was paddling into a stiff wind coming consistently from one direction. Suddenly a big gust of wind hit me broadside from another direction. In a half a second I found myself in the water saying, What the heck was that? A new experience.

This incident made me rethink my habit of putting gear in a rubberized fishing tackle bag in the cockpit. The bag plus miscellanous items bungeed to the deck had to be retrieved from the water, with damage to my camera, binoculars, cell phone, wallet . . .

What’s your preferred waterproof storage container for the cockpit? (I know some people are against putting anything in the cockpit.)

Talking about lake kayaking here. I have a deck bag but I don’t like food to be exposed to the summer sun and a deck bag is a bit small for extra clothing.

stuff in the cockpit
anything that can get loose, will and shifting gear can keep you from wet exiting or keep you from promptly re-entering your boat. A underdeck bag is my prefered system if anything, like what Northwater sells. I either keep stuff in my PFD or in the dayhatch. The only thing under deck is a pump.

Any sort of lines or tethers are generally a very bad idea. That goes for leashes or tethers between you and gear too of course. I know of four incidents where stray leashes between gear and boat or gear and person caused fatal or potentially fatal entrapment.

If it won’t fit behind the backband…
Wherein I can secure some things pretty easily because it isn’t a terribly big space… it isn’t in the cockpit. But if you haven’t tried using that space, it is surprising how much you can fit there in the way of small but crucial things in a smaller drybag. And anything stashed there tends to stay put in other than a surf capsize.

Same here
I use a small dry bag (I think it’s 5L) behind the seat. The closing buckles snap around the back band on one side of the cushion, a cheapo biner hooks the other end to the band on the other side of the cushion so it can’t get away. Wallet, phone and car key are in a smaller dry bag inside it. That, a pump and a paddle float are the only things in the cockpit.

The only things on deck are a water bottle on a light (breakable) lanyard and a spare paddle. If I carried a camera, it would have to be the kind that fits in a pfd pocket. Lunch and a change of clothes goes in the hatch, sometimes a chair when I’m feeling creaky.

Occasionally when I know it’s going to be nasty I pack some of that stuff into a bailout bag (small fanny pack) and have it belted on.

Storage sponsons! Zippered for access!
I have a touring kayak, but for me, sea and touring kayak storage is kind of like all the SUVs I see on the road, stuffed to the gills inside, and then with a huge luggage carrier on the roof, ruining emergency handling.

If your load destabilizes what you’re paddling, you need a bigger boat.

happened one year at GGSKS
They had this happen a few years back on the Friday of the GGSKS. Multiple people all blown over at once in the Yellow Bluff tide rip. Wasn’t my group, so I didn’t see, but was supposed to be rather exciting for the instructors.

I am doing a long crossing this weekend, and will have a small dry bag with extra food between my legs. Likely have my phone in there for easy access in an emergency, but that will be inside a dry bag of its own (inside the larger dry bag).

Camera is waterproof, so stays in my PFD. VHF and GPS are waterproof, but will be in outer dry bags (AquaPac). VHS attached to me, GPS attached to front deck.

Wallet and the like will be in another dry bag (and key items, like the water and electronic key to car actually in a second dry bag - double protection) will be in the day hatch. Extra clothes will be there also.

So minimal stuff in the cockpit with me. And everything there will be protected from water.

Kayak lap bag
SKILS, a training organization in Canada, came out with a video talking about some benefits to rescues to having a kayak lap bag. Interesting food for thought:

Lap Bag…
I paddled for years with a Watershed bag as a lap bag, and still do when touring. Great piece of gear. Put my phone (in a case) car keys, vhf, first aid kit, flares, all handy in my lap. Also always keep my head lamp, aqua mira, a lighter, snacks, an extra layer, an emergency bivy sack, sun screen, sun glasses/case and a cleaning cloth. Only time it is every really not ideal is during surf landings, but the bag can be strapped into the deck bungies before heading in, or thrown up on the beach quickly. Also makes a great pillow. The Watershed bags are a little pricey but amazing pieces of gear, mine has stood up to three years of guiding quite well.

GREAT video! Thanks!
I learned a lot from that video. That’s an amazing bag—the guy made the reentry at the end look so easy using the bag.

It looked like the Watershed Chatooga

That one is $99. Any cheaper brands?

I like the duffel shape of that bag, and the handles. It’s hard to fish things out of the bottom of a dry bag.

Do you tether the lap bag?
Do you put your valuables in an additional dry case?

Try it in rough water

– Last Updated: May-19-13 9:58 AM EST –

Those self rescue techniques look pretty good on flat water, but I have to wonder what it would look like in conditions that are rough enough to cause a problem in the first place. The last one with the buoyant bag as an aid to turning the kayak upright is the only one that looked like it might work, but then why not just lay back and brace?

I tend to not tether things on the inside of the boat. Loose lines can become quite a problem even in sea kayaks. Since you don’t want stuff floating off, everything stored in the cockpit should be held in place to keep this from happening. Bungee cords, really short ties, etc. can secure anything on the interior of the boat that might float away during a capsize.

The lap bag may prove to be a useful addition, but I’m not completely sold on the idea. Things are tight in my cockpit and I don’t like any impairment of leg movement. Also, since I was assembled somewhat oddly at the factory, my feet toe out far enough that I can easily walk and leave footprints that are perpendicular to my direction of travel. I can turn my right foot 180 degrees without any problem and the left about 160 and they normally rest at about 45 degrees (let’s just say that when nobody was looking, I’ve left footprints behind at swimming/water polo events that make people stop and stare). I don’t like the idea of stuff around my legs since getting my feet out of the boat isn’t as easy for me as it is for others. They will snag on anything.

Everything I need to carry goes behind my seat in a small drybag. Anything electronic is double bagged and/or stored in a pelican box (or similar product) within a drybag and clipped behind my seat. I always carry a paddle float, but have tried to use drybags as replacements before. Rough handling of drybags increases the odds that they will leak and found that they degrade much more quickly when used as safety equipment, seat cushions, leg supports, or pillows when camping.

They are just not designed for such uses and they cost a lot to replace. That said, since equipment (including paddle floats) may fail, in an emergency, I will use whatever works.


day hatch?
To those using a lap bag, why not keep this stuff in a day hatch? It seems like a lot of work to me to get into a lap bag. Even when he’s sitting on land, it takes him two hands, and a couple minutes to close all the buckles on it. On the water, you’d need to have your skirt off.

And as far as the rescues, they suffer all the downsides of paddle float and stirrup rescues, plus they add the (to me, ridiculous) opportunity to loose all your most important emergency gear in the process.

This just seems like a very elaborate system that hasn’t been tried in rough water.

To each his own, but I’d caution that anyone who is interested in trying this lap bag idea, make sure you have a very cool head in a wet exit, even when it’s an unexpected one. I’ve seen people get stuck in their boats when extra gear got in the way, and it’s not pretty. I feel this lap bag idea invites that danger.

lap bags not for rough water
Ask any rough water kayak instructor and they would tell you a loose bag in your cockpit is a really bad idea. Even worse stick all your important stuff in it. Fine for trips to local pond but not anywhere you might come out of your boat.

The rescue techniques
in the video seem to be identical to paddle float rescues I’ve seen before. It should work just as well, as long as the bag stays waterproof.

My problem with using any storage device for rescues is still one of wear and tear. I have paddle floats that are 20 years old now and while the straps are less than perfect, they still hold air well.

My dry bags have fared much less well and I’ve treated them much more gently. Some last as few as 3-4 years, so I don’t think I’d treat them as safety equipment since they always seem to have something I don’t want getting wet. The big problem with dry bags is that they often end up on the ground and each time one picks them up, there is some abrasion on the bottom, particularly around the seams. I have a few with reinforced bottoms which are much better, but sometimes, they fall on their sides and experience the same degree of abrasion on the non-reinforced areas.

My paddle floats, however, remain clipped to the interior of the boat. I take them out only to put them back into the gear bag for the next use. They stay protected from the sun and get rinsed after each use. Only problem I’ve ever had is that I have seen mold form in the creases when I don’t shake off enough water after use.


Can’t use a day hatch as a pillow…

– Last Updated: May-22-13 8:01 PM EST –

Working in boats that might not have day hatches, I've found the lap bag to be the best solution. True you have to pop the pray skirt to get to it, but that just means you're taking breaks in protected spots. I'm used to traveling from protection to protection and using terrain to my advantage. The watershed bag just needs to have the top seal closed to make it waterproof and is quick, closing all the other buckles is superfluous. Really rugged piece of gear, much tougher material than 99% of other dry bags.

I wouldn't use it surfing, but do use it touring. If I was "rough" water touring I'd just stuff the bag in the day hatch, if I had a day hatch. Otherwise I'm relying on my skills, but more importantly my judgement and decision making, not my day hatch, to make me a safe and competent paddler. But to each their own...

And my trips to the local "pond" have included Alaska, Patagonia, BC, Baja, all with the use of a day bag, and I've faired just fine, paddling 15 foot swells and routinely making surf landings...

I would never tether it to me, but would stuff it under the deck bungies and clip it in before a surf landing.

Day hatches aren’t just for you

– Last Updated: May-22-13 9:59 PM EST –

This keeps getting lost track of - day hatches are about the stuff you might need for others as well as yourself when you are leading trips.

I do some leading for trips with a motley crew on local flat water. There are usually new or newer paddlers in the group. While we do insist on a PFD , this is a bunch where some people will show up dressed more lightly than ideal for a swim. It is not common, but once maybe twice a season someone ends up in the water on the flat stuff. I carry two cags, and every couple of years both of them are out on loan after a surprise shower.

I have also had to hand out antibiotic for the person who slipped at the launch and didn't say they were bleeding until on the water, nut bars for the low sugar person who forgot to bring a snack, hat or gloves for a late summer paddle where the temperature dropped surprisingly... that kind of thing.

I paddle low volume boats. Two cags, snacks, first aid kit, extra gloves and hats do not happily fit in the cockpit with me even if I did feel like taking the skirt off to get to these things.

I am also put off by the tone of this comment on the day hatch - seeming to relate low paddling skill and preparation with liking a day hatch. That is total garbage. For many people, it is just plain easier to have a loaded day hatch than to stuff crap around in the cockpit.

you’re relying on your lap bag

– Last Updated: May-23-13 9:35 AM EST –

placed in the cockpit where you have to pop the skirt to get at it, rather than a day hatch, that has a much smaller compartment should it get flooded after opening. And qualifying all that because it works as a pillow. I'm with celia regarding your tone, maybe it was unintentional but I don't know too many paddlers who want their cockpit crammed with loose potential flotsam.