Is your kayak too tippy?

A lot of people are searching for new boats this spring.  Sometimes people ask, "How can I tell if a kayak is too tippy for me?"

Well stability is often an individual issue.  Lots of play boaters and racers think stability is last on the list of boat traits when compared to turning ability or speed, because these paddlers rely on bracing skills to keep their boats upright.  For them, the boat stability doesn't matter; it is all about the stability of the paddler.  However, these paddlers cannot let go of their paddle and take a picture or their boats will often go right over.  When I see the fastest paddler I know, he is working very hard to brace his boat and keep it upright in the calm water of the launch area.  He claims that speed really helps stabilize his boat. I wouldn't have a clue, because after he takes a few strokes he is out of sight. At a distance he looks like he is eating up the lake at about 10 MPH!

For me, having stability is a good thing. It lets me rest and get a drink or a snack. It lets me put down the paddle and take a picture. And it is faster in the long haul because I can concentrate on my forward stroke.  So if I'm paddling a little sprint of a few miles then a tippier boat is fine, but for all day paddles I want a stable boat.  The funny thing is I think almost every boat is very stable.  Only the skinniest kayaks are not stable for me, but you will feel differently.  So try the stability test when you are trying a new boat.

In calm water sit on the back deck and put down the paddle. Now cross your arms.  How do you feel?

If the boat is too tippy you can make up for it by lowering the seat, improving your balance or adding ballast. Lowering your seat may change the fit of your boat in ways you do not like, improving your balance is the best way but it takes a long time and lots of training.  Adding ballast is quick and easy if you do not mind the extra weight.  Usually just 8 - 12 pounds of ballast will make a big different in how stable a boat feels.  The best material to use for ballast is water because it has neutral buoyancy so it is heavy but will not cause a flooded boat to sink.  Optimally you want the weight very near your seat.  In a canoe right under the seat might be good but in a kayak you'll want it right behind your seat or right in front of it.  Sometimes paddlers put it just in front of their foot pegs.

Securing the ballast is very important.  If the ballast can move around then it can make the boat less stable instead of more stable.  You can tie the ballast in place or wedge it in place.  I have had the best luck with wedging the ballast in place with inflatable flotation. Kayak float bags or even snorkeling float vests work well.

To contain the water I've used  hydration bags and 2 liter bottles with equally good results.  In a Sit on top or other kayak with a higher seat you can often fix a water bag under the seat inside the hull.  This lets you carry your water in a place where other things will not fit.

SO if your new boat still feels a little tippy after the first 10 hours or so, try some ballast when you are planning long paddling days.  As you get better balance you may decide you need less ballast.

If water will not give you enough weight for ballast you may like to try something heavier.  Check out the link below for another ballast option:

Another great Video!

I really think this video captures the concentration needed and resulting joy of paddling in rougher water:

North Carolina Challenge

For the past two years I have helped out at the WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge.  This year I've signed up for it.  I'm looking to crew on a sailboat but I may end up doing it in the worlds most comfortable paddling vessel, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160.  My sail for the Tarpon is over a meter square so I'll have to use a different sail or run in class 3 even though I do not use outriggers.

 This Summer I'll practice napping in the Tarpon without falling out.  I did pretty well on the "Other Side of Hell" trip last year.  Mitch said I kept paddling while I fell asleep.  Unfortunately when I sleep and paddle I veer off to starboard.  Should I design an autopilot for my kayak?

Ode to a Mallard

My first kayak was a Trinity Bay Mallard like this one:

It was about as fast as my family size canoe when I tried to paddle it solo and it was 30 pounds lighter.  In the canoe I had to row in rough water but this kayak I could paddle in rough water.  With float bags and a skirt I took up surfing in it.  The huge cockpit collapsed almost every time I paddled out so I learned from the white water canoers and added an electric pump.  As time went on this boat became my sons.  I think it is still the best sit inside 10 footer I've ever paddled.

Thanks Sea Kayak Carolina!

While we were down in Charleston, Scott from Sea Kayak Carolina introduced us to some local paddlers and arranged for us to paddle in the salt creeks with them.  While on the water Scott instructed Maria in how to do a boat to boat transfer and they swapped boats so Maria could try Scott's composite Capella.  Then Scott was kind enough to lend Maria a P&H Delphin to paddle to the inlet the next day.

We were really impressed with the speed, handling, stability and comfort of the Delphin.  The flat bottom gives it better initial stability than a Capella but the design responds very well when edging for turns.

Later I found the boat to be comfortable for even a big paddler like myself with size 12 feet.

Thanks Scott!

Don't hesitate to click on the link above or give them a call.  Their shop is best outfitted sea kayak shop I've ever seen and it was worth the drive just to see all the boats and gear.

Canoe Sailing not Popular with the ACA and Kayak sailing is Uncovered

The ACA is a great paddling organization and one of the many things they do is sanction canoe and kayak races and help with the insurance for them.  Unfortunately for Canoe and Kayak Sailors if you are not Sailing in New York then there is no coverage for your event on their site.

The ACA does have a lot of great information about canoe sailing here:

They have another really good sailing site here that has links and instructions on how to make and ACA rig:

And a great paddling blog here:

Congratulations Dawn!

Congratulations on a great effort and on having excellent judgement!  I cannot wait to hear the stories from this years race.  It looks like one of the toughest in years. You know it is a challenge when the best and most expert paddlers and sailors from around the country have a finish rate of less than 50%.

I talked to Pelican, the Everglades Challenge Manager, tonight and so far they have all hands safe and a lot of busted boats.  

Solway Dory Expedition Rig

Solway Dory has new size expedition rig that looks a lot like my favorite rig for my old sailing canoe.  In the picture above it is set as a balanced lug rig. Below it is set as a standing lug rig.  I liked setting up my old canoe best as a balanced rig but under certain conditions I'd set it up standing as well.

Their very nice website is:

Congratulations Paul and Alan!

I've been following their results in the Watertribe Everglades Challenge over at the Log of Spartina.  They won their class and had a very fast race!  Great job guys!

Book Review

I read this book in an afternoon and I still refer to it to help friends with the basics of kayaking.  If you are just starting out paddling, then a Sit on Top is a great first boat.  If you are an experienced paddler but not an instructor this is a great book to share with beginners and to review with the friends you take along.  

It's available at at:

Tom's Store has most commercial kayak sailing rigs and many other paddling accessories, and he is a very helpful guy.

Lucky Number 7

As far as I can tell this is the seventh kind of sail I have made.  I think I will like it better than the balanced lug rig because it is so easy to reef.  Thank you Matt Layden for the great ideas and advice!

Here is the sail at it's full one meter square size.

Below the sail is reefed about half way.

And here it is reefed as small as it will go.

I tried to put too much edge curve into this sail to get the draft I wanted.  I learned my lesson. With modern non stretchy sail cloth you want to have very little edge shaping. I should have copied Matt on this aspect as well and put in darts. But I would have not learned as much that way.  I think I'll like this 1.5 ounce cloth for this winter spring sail, but I may go back to 3/4 ounce for the larger one I plan to make later.

This sail has some special tape from Sailrite and no sewing has been done.  It will be interesting to see if any stitching will be needed by summer.

I'm getting to where I can make a sail in a day so let me know if you'd like one.  I'd love to have races at the local lakes.