Manual pumps suck

They suck out the water just fine but most often you need to pump and brace all at the same time.  I find an electric pump is better for sit inside kayaks and have started bringing along the Attwood WaterBuster Portable Pump.  I took the weigh off the bottom of it so it is not so heavy and have mounted it in the front of the kayak wedged into foam between the front bulkhead and the foot pegs.  

If I come out of the boat I simply re-enter and turn on the switch with my foot.  I have it mounted so I can yank it back by the hose and help another pump out  if needed.  My hands are free while it pumps so I can move the boat to calmer waters.  The pump it a bargain at:

Sit on tops are inherently safe because the cockpits hold much less water and they are often self draining. In  spite of this they can get water inside from leaking hatches and cracks or small holes.  So this might be a good pump for you to bring on long trips or surfing days.  Many in your group will have the hand pump, but may want to try the Waterbuster if you have it.

Boat Speed

Kayaks do not seem to follow the old ship building rule for hull speed.  For simple displacement hulls the maximum speed in miles per hour is easily determined by taking the square root of the water line length and multiplying it by one and a half. This works pretty well for all ships and the speed is easily attained with about 1 horsepower per ton.

So a I had a kayak with a little more than 16 feet of length which would equal about 6 mph max speed.  The problem is it weighs about a ton with me and all the gear so I can only touch 6 mph on the gps ever now and then.

This simple equation does not explain how I was able to easily paddle a Hurricane Cat 5 kayak with about a 15 foot waterline length to over 6.5 mph.  Nor does it explain how friends with racing kayaks paddle miles and miles at about 7 or 8 mph.

I read hydrodynamic design books that discuss speed to length ratios and skin drag and other issues, but I've yet to see a good model of what is happening with surfski and racing kayaks.  Don't even get me started on those flat bottomed 12 foot SUP's!  There is no way I can explain how a wide flat 12 foot boat can go so fast in flat water.

Once boats are up to planing speed the equation changes and about 100 hp per ton is required. I can understand planing on a wave.  Planing hulls should actually be slower than non planing hulls when they are not on a wave, because of the extra skin friction.

And yet whitewater boats with a Displacement hull speed of less than 4.5 mph regularly go upriver against faster current than this.  How do they do it?  Between the eddies there is fast flowing water they must overcome.

Kayak Seats and outfitting

Here is my favorite tripper all set up with the cockpit pump, thigh straps, inflatable lumbar support, surf leash, stronger rudder and all the other outfitting I've done to make it work just a little bit better.

Seat height and width
The basics of comfort for me start with my bottom being about two inches higher than my heels for all day comfort.  I can get away with less for short surf sessions or quick trips of an hour or two but one really long multi-day trips I want to be at least two inches higher than my heels and more is better.  To accomplish this I usually add an inflatable camping seat to the kayak or a foam hot seat with extra foam glued underneath.  I usually have most of my seats Velcro attached to the boat so I can take them out or move them around.  If it gets really rough I may remove the seat for increased stability for a couple hours.  The high position is more comfortable and it increases my sprint speed by up to 0.5 mph, so I think the body mechanics are much better.

Sometimes I've noticed that a seat that seems too narrow is much improved by adding a hot seat pad which raises the height and flattens the bottom of the seat making it better fitting for wider bottoms.

Back Support

For back support I like an inflatable lumbar support.  Sometimes I use a foam lumbar support, especially in a sit in side boat.  Most boats have built in support or a bulkhead to attach foam, but some boats like surf specific sit on tops have nothing.  In that case I like the low back bands sold here at

Foot Rests
I usually wear shoes while paddling because I have to get out in a lot of rough places so I no longer glue pads to the bottom of the boat where my heals rest. However I still have replaced the footpegs with a foam bulkhead in one boat and added padding to the foot bar in another boat.  I really push hard with my feet when paddling and the padding really helps.

Thigh Supports
I don't know whether it should be called knee supports instead but I use straps in a sit on top and sometime add a quick release seat belt is I know I'll be in really rough stuff and want to be certain I stay connected to the boat.  Wave skis usually only come with seat belt straps because they work best in the surf.  Don't add a seat belt strap to your boat without expert help.  If you do it wrong it might not hold you down when you want and if you do it really wrong you might get trapped upside down!

Thigh or knee support in a sit inside is easy.  I like a high deck because I keep my knees bent, but I want it padded to where I can still lock my self in and attempt to roll back up or get an Eskimo rescue.  If you do not want to fiddle with cutting gluing in foam there are seal adhesive pads available in kayak shops.

Hip Support
I know a lot of people want a boat with a wide seat, but I like it pretty snug.  I find a seat that fits right against my hips is comfortable even if it has no padding.  A snug fit does a lot to help you edge the boat just the way you want.

In boats that get occasional drips in them I like a simple foot operated pump that is a simple bulb on each foot peg.  On boats that can really flood I prefer an electric pump.  I still have boats I use with a hand pump.


Unless it is a surf or white water specific boat you should outfit it with a sail for fun and increasing your daily mileage.  Most of the time I mount my sails by using a Scotty fishing rod holder.  Under most boats not designed for fishing you will need to add 1/2 wood or plastic under the deck and through bolt your mount though the deck and the backing block.  A sail mount pulls on the deck just like a big saltwater fish so do not underestimate what it could do to your deck.  Think tarpon rod not bass rod mounts.

If a boat has a mount for a rudder, then you'll be better off with the rudder if you paddle in a lot of wind for long periods of time.  This is the reason most racers and many really long distance trippers prefer boats with rudders. Other wise the boat will weather cock or lee cock and wear you out with all the edging on one side all day and tons of corrective strokes.  Other than in those specific conditions I've found rudders unneeded and unwanted.  If you can avoid them, then you can avoid fixing them and fiddling with them.

Paddle Leash
If you paddle a sit on top in the surf you need a leash so you can slow the boat by holding onto the paddle.  Sit in sides fill with water and slow down a lot as they wash in.  Sit on tops come into the beach like an out of control jet when the pilot is ejected. You owe it to the swimmers and other surfers to control your boat.  Get the kind that coils or the kind with bungee inside webbing so you avoid tangles and strangles and get some lessons from other good sit on top surfers before you use it.  I paddle leash is often not recommended for sit in side surfers or paddlers but sit on top paddlers should use a leash.

Winter boat Maintenance

I really like the way the Tarpon 160 handles in the surf but I really do not like the way the hatches leak.  I read over on about how to make my hatches better. I added weather stripping and also found the original gasket material had come loose in a lot of places, so I glued and taped it back into place.

Sailing on Kerr Lake

I went sailing on Kerr Lake this past weekend on my friend's Slipper 17.  I think it is made by Seward.  It was a beautiful day and the boat is rigs to sail really well.  It's got a huge rudder so it turns on a dime for easy tacking. It has a longish keel for good tracking and self steering and it has a drop down centerboard so it sails pretty close to the wind.

It's a lot of fun to sail bigger boats where you stay completely dry even when there are whitecaps on the water.

Fear and Fun at Mason's inlet

On Friday I paddled Mason's inlet with friends. It was gorgeous weather but the water was 57 degrees which is much colder than usual for me.

At the beginning we went down to the inlet and I was too warm, but as I got smashed around in the water my hands and face got quite cool.  My knee straps were not adjusted just right because I had last used them on a different boat so they kept flopping off. This reduced the boat/body connection enough that I almost got washed out of the boat in some small stuff. 

 As the tide was going out and the wind seemed to pick up I told Lee that it was time for me to got back to the other side of the inlet where we launched.

So the group played on their side of the inlet and I played on mine. 

 After catching a few bumps I found some bigger stuff and managed to swim a couple times.  Once I had finally swum I became much more relaxed about the conditions and how I had dressed for the colder water.  I did take a break and add my hood for better head warmth which put me completely at ease in the water.  I was able to find some fun stuff and challenge myself enough that I swam two more times.

So I swam my normal four times which maintains my swimming average for surf days and I learned a couple lessons.  First I want to get separate straps for each sit on top I take in the surf. Or I need to put a seat belt type strap in the boats I surf.  About half the time I come out of the boat I am leaning on a good brace in the wave and feel stable, but the blade catches the green water and the boat catches the white water and I stay with the blade as the boat washes out from me.  So I think I could really improve my rides if I was better connected to the boat.

The second lesson I learned was that I need to swim very near the beginning of any surf trip to feel comfortable.  Next time I'll go out and play near the launch and make certain I swim in the first 15 minutes.

I'm really lucky to have friends who are excepting of my sit on top ways and allow me to go out with them.  I'm pretty sure everyone rolled at least once this trip. And one friend needed to do a re-entry and roll in the rough stuff, but I spend far more time in the water than the rest of the group.