Wow,,,,,,,I REALLY need to gain more balance

When you get your spray skirt, be sure the forward grab loop isn’t trapped under the elastic rand. You want the loop readily accessible so that if you capsize, you can easily grab it and pop the skirt off to avoid getting trapped. I’d recommend practicing pulling the loop and popping the skirt a few times (while upright) just to get the feel. I’m also in the habit of running my hands down the cockpit edge from front to back and lift the edge of the skirt higher just to be sure it’s not catching on anything. And, make sure any rear deck cargo (like a pump) doesn’t keep the skirt from popping off fully.


Yes 1890, that’s exactly what I was doing. If I put a lot of power to the paddle I’d just pull myself over. Yesterday I found that by adjusting the angle of the blade in the water I could make that go away. By grabbing the blade at a slight angle the plaining action can be made to pull up or pull down.
It was me. I knew it was me. I just had to figure it out myself. I did that yesterday and once I saw my mistake it seemed obvious, But when I did it the 1st time in the wind I was upside-down before I knew what I’d done wrong. Charlie in LA told me last night on the phone “Remember that because you just figured out one of the basic things you need to know in rolling. Paddles are wedges for water when you need them to be”
Ding (little light goes on in my brain)

Celia, my idea was to have the float in the place I’d use it when I flipped over. I have a rope on it and can get it over a leg and then ride it like a pony, which boosts me up high enough for me to to lift the bow so I can get nearly all the water out of my cockpit. BUT, I’d not used it in wind on the Chatham. So it was catching wind, and causing me more problems then it solved.

I would not want to carry it inside the front compartment (even though it will fit) because the times I need it is when the kayak is upside-down. I was using the blue line float to do that technique on the Loon 106 kayak and it was easy, but the float fits in the loon cross-ways behind the seat. On the Chatham, the cockpit is far smaller and I can’t carry the float inside the cockpit. So I bungeed it to the bow at the very front.

That was not such a good idea!

And it never occurred to me it would be that much of a problem in the wind. I just don’t have enough experience yet to see what is obvious to folks like Grayhawk and Kevin1. and probably you too.
We all need to crawl before we can walk or run.

Lesson learned.

I think after all this typing we need videos like a GoPro.

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Most of the crap that people try to stick in a deck bag can and should live in the day hatch. It is intended to be opened on the water. The Chatham has one.

I have no idea why an inflatable paddle float cannot be carried behind the seat, since you only need it when you are out of the cockpit anyway, or nearby the cockpit under the bungies. It makes zero sense. If it is one of those big foam ones it’ll still fit in the bungles behind the cockpit, l had one for a while.

The Chatham is a properly equipped, garden variety Brit influenced sea kayak. There are far more challenging kayaks to work with in terms of outfitting and attachment of stuff to it. All that is required is to pay attention to how other people have set up their boats, easy to see in looking at the learning stuff on this site.

That’s a good idea.
I’d ask folks to post some pictures. Make comments as to what you carry, why and how.

Threads on what people carry come up regularly, you can search topics on this site.

Frankly, your inability to use readily available resources, combined with an apparent belief that people will be impressed by your going out in conditions where you capsize a lot, is far more resonant of a teenager than a 60-odd year old adult. Especially one with military experience behind them. My father was a Marine.


From all your actions you have posted I think there’s a ton for you to learn on YouTube for free. Try video series by Gordon Brown. They’re clips of some of his videos on YouTube. Anyone digging on a paddle so hard it flips them has a lot of finesse to learn.

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My favorite was when he said his loon was wider, thus more stable…in conditions

Hey szihn,

Please don’t get discouraged or offended by some of the recent responses you are gettting.

Kayaking efficiently and safely is a skill that takes time and dedication. It is very much a journey. But unlike many hobbies or sports there are serious dangers with kayaking in water. Especially when done alone. People die horrible deaths doing this. This is almost always due to errors in judgement.

I think some of the experienced folks on this forum are quietly concerned that you are rushing this and skipping basic steps. They don’t intend to be snarky but I 100% get their point.

Practice kayaking in SAFE water. Especially if you are alone. If you can’t paddle with someone experienced then the reality is you have zero business being out there capsizing as much as you seem to be doing. There is a lot of muscle memory with kayaking. Capsizing a lot is not good. You need experience and probably experienced guidance. Sorry!

As mentioned: filming your experiences with a waterproof action camera might be very useful.

All of these “newbie” questions have been asked countless times before. Before you create more threads asking for pictures of what folks pack on the decks on thier boats do some reading on this forum and other forums. There are a ton of excellent videos on YouTube. Spend your evenings watching them.

Buy some used copies of the famous kayaking books on Amazon.

I sense you really have the kayaking “bug”. That is AWESOME! Just slow down a little…




I have a whole library of books and videos I bought. After 12 years of kayaking winter and summer sliding them off my dock I’m still learning, reading, & reviewing. I have been boating since 1966. I have never lost respect for the water. I raced offshore boats for years and seen the water take people.

Kayaking is a long process. Kayaks are short a shallow. Waters are big and deep. But even 5’ can do you in.


Thanks Photomax. I do appreciate the comments. And no, I am not easily offended, unlike some here that make their thin skin and weak character obvious. In fact it’s actually amusing to read those comments.

I was out tonight again. I try to go every day but I probably average 5 days a week instead of the 7 I’d like. Today the water was reflective it was so smooth. The wind came up right as I was getting the Kayak out of the water and tying it on my truck rack.
I do understand the dangers of any water sport. So I set my training up in places the wind will blow me to safety or I simply do the paddling, edging and attempts to roll in about 4 feet of water. So far in all the trips I have been on the water the ONLY time it was a real emergency was something I had drilled and drilled and when it came time for the real thing, it went like clockwork. I did the practicing many times in advance instead of giving up or believing I can’t do anything without paying someone else and being a whipped dog.

It’s a very cool part of living where I do --------as a beginner. The other day I did capsize myself in some choppy water, but I did find out what I did wrong in pulling myself off balance and by doing it wrong and now I see a better way. When I dug in deep and pulled for all I was worth I had the blade slanted to dig at its lower edge and if I’d pull hard the cockpit of my kayak was just pulled under the water. I now have a spray skirt and if doing the same thing, I don’t catch water like a cup forced forward into the surface and I don’t capsize now.

But there was a comment above about finesse. It was indeed very helpful to me. The word grabbed me, even if it may not have put out as a friendly correction. I thought “that’s got to be true”.
So I went back out and paid attention to the blade angles and the light came on. Now I see 3 ways to make that work for me instead of against me and by slowing down and being very firm and steady with the blade spilling water a bit “uphill” the whole idea of bracing became more real to me. I see how the sculling effect works now a lot better too. I spent about 3 hours just today doing it and seeing how it works. I like it. Once I saw it, it was easy.

I was taught to paddle in Amphib/Recon/UDT training in using IBSs (Inflatable Boat-Small. 7 man boats) and digging deep and pulling back and lifting upward at the end of your arc was the way you kept the bow of the boat down hard, to bust serf and break out when doing beach operations in high serf or wind. I tried that in my Chatham 17. NOPE! That’s NOT the correct way to do it.

The word “finesse” grabbed me and I went out the very next day and thought about how I pulled my gunnels under water, so I changed the angle of the paddle to near neutral and pulled only sideways and backwards, not down, back and up, thereby forcing the boat to set down hard. (in a kayak, it sets only the one side down, and that swamped me. Should have been obvious, but it was not----- until it was. 2 feet is not as wide as 6 feet and with no counter weight on the other side, I just sunk one side of the kayak.) In a 12 foot long, 6 foot wide inflatable raft that style of paddling works well to overcome big ocean surf get out out to sea. I have done that in California, Oregon, Alaska and Japan in IBSs. In those rafts we have 6 Marines pulling and one acting as a coxswain, so we have a lot of bodies pulling with every once of power they could muster. In Oregon we bucked surf that was about 2/3 to 3/4 the height of our boat’s length. Brute power, coordination and endurance was key. In that kind of serf, it was common for the waves to beat 7 Marines in a rubber boat, but once you get the hang of that drill, smaller surf is easy.

In my kayak (that’s only 24 inches wide) that kind of stroke pulls the gunnels under, and in the chop I was over and in the water before I even knew it. I didn’t have a spray skirt that time either. It only took me 1 time to figure out that I was doing that wrong.

So the man above was 100% correct. Finesse IS what I needed. Another lesson learned. I think you sir.

The comment saying I should not do that without a spray skirt is 100% spot on too.

I can take (and even enjoy) good criticism when I can learn from it, but it’s easy and amusing to read (and then ignore) those that just say in effect “spend a lot of money that you don’t have, or quit trying”.
I believe they are sincere too, so that’s why it’s funny.

It’s not enough for them to be convinced in themselves they are superior, but they have to post things to try to convince others too, because of their pettiness. The want to be right. Well…that’s OK with me! Let them be right! I encourage it.

If they can get others to join in with their anger, that’s OK too. That only means others can be easily manipulated by them. (Meaning their followers are that easy to influence.)

But I am going to keep learning no mater what they say in insult and personal insecurity, or in hate.

I good teacher (or even just a good person, with some 4th grade level manors) sees problem and doesn’t say “fit it---- and pay more money” and then end with low-level insults.

A good teacher (or person) tells you when you are wrong, and tells you what to DO right, and HOW to DO IT RIGHT.

So you need not worry about insulting me. I have been cussed out by the very best, and was in a job that was literally life and death for years, and so having thin skin is something I out grew about 47 years ago. When flies insult me I don’t really take them very seriously.

But the really good news is that I am now corresponding with 9 different people I met on this site and from connections from one other kayaking site, who are REALLY giving me good tips and I am VERY thankful to them. I see improvement nearly every day because of the good advice they give me about techniques. Someday I hope to meet them all and see if I can give them something in return. I am very grateful to them all. One has even offered to pay my way for a set of instruction and allow me to pay him back, and that was 100% unsolicited by me. THAT’S a man with a good heart and I am betting he’s a wonderful soul.

But those that pine away for my failure are welcome to do so.

I have made friends here and elsewhere on line, and those self appointed enemies and adversaries don’t bother me at all. They actually amuse me a bit.

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Your enthusiasm for kayaking is truly splendid. You are spending lots of time reading, on the water, and making progress. I wish I was a youngster like you with that level of energy.

I have a suggestion for you. Of course, many people suggest that you take lessons. Typically those are far away and for just a few hours, a marginal investment of time and energy. So my suggestion is to go really far away, but for several days i.e. take a kayak ‘course’ spread over several (e.g. 5) days. I have something specific in mind. The Canadian border opens for us, starting Aug. 9. There is a kayak instruction outfit whose web site is

They offer a wide selection of courses that you can peruse including several on Vancouver Island. Make such a course into a kayak vacation.

The obvious downside is that you will become more enmeshed with kayaking, leave Wyoming, and move to some remote location on the west coast.

What paddle are you using?

You might want to watch these two videos on paddling.

The Paddlers Box - How to Kayak - Paddle Education - YouTube

Kayaking 101: How to Forward Stroke, Sweep Stroke, and Edge - YouTube

Well, I can’t say really. It’s what was sent from REI with the Old Town Loon boats when my wife ordered them. Aluminum shaft and plastic asymmetrical blades. Anna got 2 long ones and one shorter one when she got the 2 loons and other then the Greenland paddle I made, they are the only ones I ever owned.

I made a Greenland paddle, but I have not learned to use it as well as the spoon shaped large bladed paddle. It’s 7 feet long and had blades that are 3.5" wide at the tips and taper down to the shaft (loom?)

I did find the Greenland a lot easier to scull with however, so for bracing and then tipping it 90 degrees to remove it back out of the water, it’s easier to use. But for forward and reverse movements it seems a bit “weak” to me. I am sure I am not using it well. I see others on videos use them, and seem to do as well with them as they do with the wider, shorter blades. I just need to develop the skills, but I am not there yet with the GL paddle.

I met a man who had a carbon fiber paddle and he let me try it. It was very light, but it was shorter and had smaller blades then the ones I have and although it was very easy to use, my ability to turn my 17 foot boat with it was very much behind what I can do with the bigger and heavier paddle that I own. . Again…it’s my lack of experience that makes the difference, not any lack of quality or “virtue” in the expensive super light paddle.

I have 2 “cheap paddles”, one is about 6 feet and 8 inches long and one is about 7 feet 4 inches long, both with the same sized blades. The blades are about 19 inches long and about 1-1/4" wider then those I see at Wal-Mart.
But I don’t know if I am answering the question or not.

I do better with the short paddle in the 10.5 foot rec-kayak and better with the longer one in the Chatham 17. The 17 foot boat I can turn (on calm water) 180 degrees with 4 sweep strokes of my long paddle. 2 forward and 2 reverse. My short Loon kayak I can turn 180 with only 2 strokes. I need to edge my Chatham to do that, but with the loon I can do it without edging at all. I do edge it, just because it’s fun and it makes the turnaround very quick, but I don’t actually need to.

How much better (or worse) I’d do with something else I can’t even guess. I’m too new at this to even answer with detail.

I am not knowledgeable enough to give you a good answer to that question. But maybe that’s enough info you could tell me, instead of me telling you.

Sounds more like a trim problem than a balance problem.
Or the boat could be poorly designed.
And I’d work on my braces, if I were you.
If a boat is bow heavy, it will turn into the wind.
If a boat is stern heavy it will turn away from the wind.
In the situation you describe, you’d probably want more weight toward the bow.

The Chatham 17 is a fine, overall solid sea kayak. Has showed up in sea kayaking symposiums all over the place. I would suggest that people who are unfamiliar with the craft refrain from positing that the design is poor. Especially when the paddler in charge is really not because they don’t understand how to use it yet.

Later add - I get the idea of quirky boats. I regularly paddle one and another is hanging in my basement. Chatham 17 is not.


Agree with that. Back in the days when I’d rent, the Chatham 17 was one of my favorites of the rental fleet. I was a noob with only a couple days of lessons under my belt and didn’t find it to be overwhelmingly challenging.

When I went from paddling my hard chined Chesapeake 17 as my go to boat to buying a 3" narrower Epic with an entirely different hull design, it felt far less stable under any conditions.
Time in the seat paddling is about the only thing that you can do.

I have a different touring kayak with skeg (Current Designs Caribou S), and what I have found is that if you set the skeg right and are not in a burning hurry to get turned in the direction you want, all you have to do is just paddle normally (evenly on both sides) and the kayak will go in the desired direction after a fairly short while. Though that’s with balanced loading (and balanced windage, I guess).

In windy conditions, you set the skeg position based on your desired direction of travel and then you can paddle evenly and make progress in the desired direction. Skeg all the way up for going upwind, all the way down for going downwind, proportional for other directions (e.g. halfway down to go perpendicular to the wind).

In little or no wind, the skeg has a different effect, basically skeg down leads to straighter progress/less waggle regardless of whether you are going upwind or downwind or something in between.

My personal experience is that giving your all to a paddle stroke in rough conditions is nearly always a mistake, it’s too easy to misjudge your timing and “catch air” or otherwise destabilize yourself. I stay loose and relaxed, always looking far ahead at the horizon or shore, and my balance seems to take care of itself.

And I like being comfortable, so to avoid waves dumping into the cockpit, I choose straight upwind/straight downwind travel. Going across the wind means waves breaking against your side (cold!) and dumping into your lap. Spray skirt needed.

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