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SAFETY: Float bags and a bilge pump


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  #1 Kudzu

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 05:53 AM

I relearned a lesson a few weeks ago and it got me to thinking that we never talk about safety. This is one of those I know better things, but I let myself fall into some bad habits.

I will start by saying EVERYONE needs to know how to get back in you boat in deep water. You don't plan to capsize no more than plan a car wreck but it happens. You need to practice self rescues!!

A few weeks ago during a particularly hot and boring paddle we both needed to cool off and decided we could practice our rescue techniques. Phil just got certified as an Instructor so I was all for this. I rolled the boat upside down, swam out and enjoyed the water for a few minutes.

With the boat upside down, Long Shot I think, I went to the stern, lifted it above of water to allow water to run out of the coaming. I struggled a little but that is normal, it's heavy with water in it. Then I move to the bow. Because of the way my boats are designed when you lift the bow the high point of the coaming is now the lowest point and the water will drain out rather than go to the back of the boat. Once you have most of the water out you flip the boat upright and then you get back in.

For some reason the boat was heavier than it typically is and I could not lift the bow more than 2-3 inches before it pushed me under water. I tried it a couple times with no luck. I went to the stern and started over but to no avail. I have never had that problem before. Having no other option I rolled the boat upright and decided to get in, paddle to the shallower water and drain it.

I got on the rear deck OK, I am straddle the boat but when I tried to sit up so I could scoot forward the water in the boat shifted and the boat would roll and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I tried 3 times and at that point I realized I was in a bad spot. Thankfully this was just practice not a real situation. Of course I still had to get back in!

Phil helped me by doing a t-rescue and I got back in the boat. But he boat was so unstable with all the water inside it wasn't easy to keep upright. I pulled along side Phil's boat, grabbed his pump and found it had froze up. Reality really sat in that point as to how complacent I had become.

To keep this short I rolled and bailed out of the boat. Phil helped me lift the boat and we got 90+% of the water out no problem. And we went on with our paddle with a HUGE lesson learned.

Here are my two mistakes:
#2. Not having a pump was my second mistake, not my first. I could have pumped it out while swimming along side but it is a slow process. You have an amazing amount of water in the boat. But we both should have had pumps and check the from time to time.

#1. My first mistake was no float bags. I kept bags in my boats for a long time, but they developed leaks. I got complacent and never replaced them.

After all the boats won't sink because of the wood. right?

The main purpose of float bags is not to float the boat but keep huge volume of water out of the boat. That is where I messed up. With bags in the boat, it would not have had all that water in there and I would have been able to lift each end of the boat clear of the water and drained most of it out. Then I could have scrambled back in and then pumped out what was left.
Jeff
Kudzu Craft SOF kayaks
www.kudzucraft.com

  #2 P Douglass (WA)

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 07:01 AM

Well this reminds me, I have all the parts and instructions for making float bags. Been sitting in my workshop for months! Maybe I had better get to it.
P Douglass
1st build - Curlew

  #3 ricknriver

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 07:39 AM

With boats like VARDO that can accommodate hatches, is it feasible/practical to install well fitted and sealed bulkheads out of maybe 1/2-3/4" thick mini-cell foam to seal the compartments without adding a lot of weight? A good hard sealant should seal between the bulkheads and frame pieces ok, but will a flexible sealant stick ok to the nylon/poly skin? Otherwise I guess filling the storage areas with gear filled dry bags (or float bags) would reduce some of the water volume in a swamping and reduce the pumping needed. A paddle float on one end of a yak paddle and the other into the deck rigging makes a good outrigger for remounting from the side a lot easier. R

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  #4 Hirilonde

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 09:08 AM

I can't imagine sealing a bulkhead completely , or if you could, expecting it to last. It would be a nice way to do it, but I bet moisture if not water would get by it and then you have another problem (a wet compartment with almost no breathing). I have been considering placing blocks of foam into the frame before skinning. They would be big enough to be trapped into a section by the frames yet small enough to allow ventilation around them. The key to longevity for these boats is the ability to dry out some what quickly after each use.

The paddle float outrigger is a great idea.

Dave Finnegan

1967 Pearson Renegade  "Hirilondë"

Spindrift 9N #521 -  many KudzuCraft SoF kayaks


  #5 Kudzu

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 01:13 PM

Bulkheads are not practical. I won't say it can't be done but get them to seal would be a major undertaking and it would create new issues with construction. They are just not designed to have bulkheads. Float bags are much better idea and you use them with hatches just fine.

One thing I have wanted to try for a long time and if I build myself a new boat this winter I may just do it. That is to install float bags and attach them to the hatches. Your gear is placed inside the float bag, the hatch sealed, closing the bag and away you go. I am sure the seal will leak a little but you not looking at a balloon under pressure either.

Dave, I have mixed feelings about paddle floats but they can work. You have to have deck rigging tight enough to hold the paddle firmly and bungee cords could be to loosely installed. Most boats I have seen probably don't have suitable deck lines for a paddle float to work well, but anything is better than nothing.

Most importantly is to practice it and see if and how it work. Then you know what to do in an emergency
Jeff
Kudzu Craft SOF kayaks
www.kudzucraft.com

  #6 Hirilonde

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 04:49 PM

Dave, I have mixed feelings about paddle floats but they can work. You have to have deck rigging tight enough to hold the paddle firmly and bungee cords could be to loosely installed. Most boats I have seen probably don't have suitable deck lines for a paddle float to work well, but anything is better than nothing.


I don't know that you have to secure the paddle to the boat, though if possible that would be ideal. Just having some flotation beyond the kayak to help give a leg up, or in could help. I will have to do more practicing next year, fall is already here in NE, too late for a planned swim.

Dave Finnegan

1967 Pearson Renegade  "Hirilondë"

Spindrift 9N #521 -  many KudzuCraft SoF kayaks


  #7 Ward

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 07:31 PM

Love the paddle float. The one I have is international orange which makes it a great thing to wave at an approaching power boat. Due to my old aching joints, the paddle float is also a nice assist getting in or out when things aren't moving so well. They also would make great rescue throws.

  #8 yggmeanhorse

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 09:47 PM

I have float bags in my Firefly. I also have a paddle float. It works great. It is a good idea to practice getting in the boat. My paddle is not secured all that tight to the boat but it still works. I don't know if you can see the set up in this picture. I have some wood block thing that will hold the paddle down pretty secure but I found that it still works ok even if I just put it through the ropes going around the deck.

 

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  #9 woodman

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 01:14 PM

I have been considering placing blocks of foam into the frame before skinning. They would be big enough to be trapped into a section by the frames yet small enough to allow ventilation around them.

 

I stacked pcs. of foam in the bow and stern on my last build worked fine ...I'm doing it on this build...

 

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  #10 Hirilonde

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 02:59 PM

I think that will work just fine, and it is cheap.  Just be careful to allow room around the foam for ventilation and drying between uses.  If it takes too long to dry you will get mildew.


Dave Finnegan

1967 Pearson Renegade  "Hirilondë"

Spindrift 9N #521 -  many KudzuCraft SoF kayaks


  #11 CaptainSparrow

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 10:29 PM

First post for me, I just bought your book and received my signed copy immediately. I thank you for that... I'm in this thread for a quick question about float bags. They are not that expensive but I am inherently cheap. :-) what are your feelings on using something like this lil $2 kids ball. With an air needle, you could flatten the ball and slip it between the stringers of a finished frame and air it back up. They are very light weight and durable and would allow for plenty of airflow to dry the boat, and once aired up, could not escape the boats framework. Can you provide your thoughts on this?

  #12 Hirilonde

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 08:20 AM

It sounds like a great idea to me, though you may want to check the volume compared to recommended air bags.  You may need 2 each end to get the needed volume.  The ball covers all the needed characteristics as I see it........

 

flotation

air flow/ventilation for drying out in storage

trapped in place

it is even easily removable should that be necessary

 

Oooh, can you get a color to match your paint? :P

 

 

Dave Finnegan

1967 Pearson Renegade  "Hirilondë"

Spindrift 9N #521 -  many KudzuCraft SoF kayaks


  #13 Kudzu

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 11:23 AM

The biggest reason for float bags is not to keep the boat afloat, but to keep as much water out as possible. While the ball would work to keep the boat afloat, looks to me it would slow the escape of any water that got past it. Everyone should know how to do a cowboy Scramble. I found a good video on line, watch this: 

 

 

Very good video but keep two things in mind, this is a boat with bulkheads ( I assume) and it doesn't look like she got much water in her boat to start with since she made no attempt to empty it.  A boat with water in it makes getting back in VERY hard. When you lean the boat to one side, the water starts to roll and there is not stopping it. Odds are the boat is going to keep going. Especially once your straddle of the deck and you have raised the center of gravity. Been there, done that!

 

She didn't show you hot to get the water out.  Well, they say she lifts the bow but if it had any water in it to amount to anything she wouldn't empty it that way. You climb up on the back of the kayak while it is upside down, using your weight to push the stern down and the bow starts to lift out of the water. The water in the boat runs starts to out out the cockpit. Once it mostly empty you can roll it while the bow is in the air. 

 

If you don't have bulkheads or floatbags  this helps but you can still have a lot of water in the boat. Enough that you can't get in because of it shifting around as try to enter. It's very important to get as much water out as possible.  Without bags or bulkheads is very hard and very tiring. If you haven't practiced it, your probably not going to be able to do it.

 

Now here is my my problem with the balls and some other ideas I have seen. They do not fill all the cavities in the boat. Before you say it, a float bag will not fill ALL the space, but it will fill most if you have the proper size bags. With the ball I can see a lot of water could get past it. Then when you out in the water trying to empty the boat it will act as a dam for any water trying to come out. It could make it very hard to empty unless you can stand on bottom and lift the boat. You might be able to get two or three in place but it's going to be a real pain to do and then inflate them

 

This is why I think float bags are the better choice. You put them in place, fill them up and they will fill most of the empty space in the boat. If something happens and it will sooner or latter, then you can empty the boat fairly easy and get back in. 

 

I don't take safety lightly and think most people do. While I am guilty of paddling without any flotation that practice entry was a reminder of just how stupid I was being! I am working on getting bags in all my boats now. That way I don't have to swap them out and I don't forget them.


Jeff
Kudzu Craft SOF kayaks
www.kudzucraft.com

  #14 CaptainSparrow

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 11:27 AM

The ball is 13" in diameter. A volume calculator, if I did it right says that it has 1.15 cubic feet of air. With one on each end, would that be enough for freeb? Also these come in a pile of diff colors. I like the color of this one, so I could easily match the paint to the ball. :-)

  #15 CaptainSparrow

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 11:51 AM

While the ball would work to keep the boat afloat, looks to me it would slow the escape.... With the ball I can see a lot of water could get past it. Then when you out in the water trying to empty the boat it will act as a dam for any water trying to come out. It could make it very hard to empty unless you can stand on bottom and lift the boat. You might be able to get two or three in place but it's going to be a real pain to do and then inflate them
 
This is why I think float bags are the better choice. You put them in place, fill them up and they will fill most of the empty space in the boat. If something happens and it will sooner or latter, then you can empty the boat fairly easy and get back in. 
 


It looks like we posted almost simultaneously, I can see your point except one thing, if it was inflated to the point of not filling in between the stringers and skin, the water could still flow past almost uninhibited. I don't know what volume of air is needed for a kayak as I've always had canoes and pirogues.

  #16 Joe Feager

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 07:19 PM

I don't know if this is appropriate here but FWIW.  See the link to the article http://www.seakayake...10/icyriver.htm of a very good friend and paddling partner of mine for the last 10 years.  We have upped our safety practices because of this.  And, believe me Randy and I had already practiced a lot before this.



  #17 CaptainSparrow

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 10:49 PM

That was an eye opening read. Its easy to get complacent. It might be worthwhile to make some outriggers for solo fishing days.

  #18 Kudzu

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 05:33 AM

Safety is always appropriate to post about and something I have not talked about nearly as much as I have meant to.

 

I don't know you friend but I find it hard to believe any experience kayaker would head out without a dry or wet suit in 30 degree water. I understand many people do not understand about hypothermia but we have refused to let people paddle with  up that didn't have proper gear.

 

Glad you posted that.


Jeff
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  #19 Joe Feager

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 07:19 AM

He didn't even own one at that time. She who must be obeyed has seen to that being remedied.

  #20 DURRETTD

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 02:21 PM

Sea Kayaker magazine runs safety articles in every issue and is worth the subscription price, even if that's all you read, and even if you aren't out in the open ocean. Some time in the last year or two they ran an article on using a paddle float/heel-hook re-entry. I've practiced it a few times and it works very well. The biggest advantage over the cowboy re-entry is that it keeps your center of gravity low. 

 

1. Make or buy a paddle float. Mine is a 1/2 inch thick dense foam sleeping pad rolled around a paddle blade and tied in place through two holes at the outboard end of the roll. It lives on my spare paddle. It doesn't provide as much buoyancy as an inflatable, but it doesn't have to be blown up.

2. Store the float under bungee cords on the deck.

3. In use, the end of the paddle opposite the float wedges under very tight bungees or low-stretch nylon lines behind the cockpit at a 90 degree angle to the long axis of the boat.

4. To re-enter: Float along-side the boat with your feet toward the bow and your back against the paddle shaft. Drape the arm against the boat over the back deck and grip the far-back edge of the cockpit rim (aren't you glad you built a nice, smooth cockpit rim?). The arm away from the boat can drape over the outboard portion of the paddle shaft while you enjoy the nice warm water.

5. Lift the leg on the side away from the boat over the leg nearest the boat and hook the heel over the cockpit rim. Yes, you use the outside leg, over the top of the inside leg to grab the cockpit. Remember to wear booties.

6. Reach across your body with the outside arm and grab the near side of the cockpit rim.

7. Using the outside heel and the outside arm to hold onto the cockpit and the inside arm to hold onto the back deck/aft edge of the cockpit, rotate your body into the cockpit. Keep your body more-or-less straight. At 90 degrees of rotation your inside leg will be down beside the boat. You will be facing across the boat, looking away from the paddle float.

8. Continue rotating. At 180 degrees of rotation your belly will be above the near edge of the cockpit, the (formerly) inside leg will be parallel to the boat outside the cockpit, and your inside arm will be under you.

9. Continue rotating and begin to slide your feet under the forward deck.

10. At 360 degrees of rotation you will be facing up, mostly inside the boat and laying back on the aft deck. Your butt is not yet lowered into the seat. Do not sit up yet!  The 360 degree rotation can be slightly disorienting, so give yourself time to ensure you know which way is up. 

11. Before you sit up, grip your primary paddle, get it extended out to the side to brace, and sit up slowly, dropping your butt into the seat. 

12. Pump out the boat and re-attach the skirt.

13. Re-stow the spare paddle and float. This seems pretty obvious, but I forgot once.

 

I typically get some bruises from this, but it doesn't take a lot of strength or a lot of practice. It does require some attention to weight distribution; try to keep your weight distributed slightly toward the paddle float. With my low-volume float it may be possible to sink it if I don't stay right against the boat. Any excessive shift of weight toward the side opposite the float can dump you back in the water. It works better for me than the cowboy.

 

It's a lot easier to do the heel-hook re-entry than it is to describe it, and a lot faster. There are also lots of other solo re-entry techniques and it's worth googleing "kayak reentry".






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