How to care for your new kayak
Congratulations on becoming the proud guardian of a modern sea kayak - a craft with a distinguished and illustrious past not to mention a fun future. To help you care for your new acquisition and thus maintain its co-operation in future ventures, we have compiled some tips from careful kayak lovers. The golden rule is to "Respect they Kayak". Consider it to be a friendly beast which, when out of the water is out of it's element and needs your care. Almost all damage to sea kayaks occurs when the boats are on land. Most of this comes when they are either on automobiles or being stored.
Putting Your Kayak to Sleep
The second most common casualty time for kayaks is during storage (the first is transportation. Frequently the offending element is water - both in its solid and liquid forms. All too often the kayak is left hanging beneath a sundeck or leaky garage. Water gradually trickles in and fills the boat. Damage then occurs with freezing or when the surprised owner releases the ends of the boat in the spring and six hundred pounds crashes onto his/her foot, exploding the seams if it landed flat or breaking it around the cockpit if one end hit first. Another casualty zone is the area beneath the eaves of the house. Snow falling from the roof, off trees, or in some places, just piling up to a significant depth can break the hull of a fibreglass kayak.
AVOIDANCE: Store the boat in a dry place.
Nursing Your Kayak
Most sea kayaks are fairly resistant to the elements and do not require a great deal of maintenance. The exception however are the rudder parts including cables and the moving parts in the rudder assembly. These should be kept cleaned on a regular basis. Flushing with fresh water is usually enough. Avoid using lubricants, as they tend to attract sand and cause major jamming action.
Fibreglass and Kevlar boats usually have a gel coat layer, which protects the structurally significant reinforced fabric against damage from Ultra Violet rays. Plastic boats and the decks of most folding kayaks usually contain UV inhibitors, which will prolong the life of your kayak by a few years.
Scratches and those inevitable scars of memorable adventures are normal. If a gelcoat scratch is especially deep and you can see the hairs of the fibres sticking up then its time for a small gelcoat repair. These are easily done on a warm summer evening in the garage rather than the living room. Repair kits are available. Small scratches should be left untouched as a testament to your experiences. Cracks where you can see whiteness in the fibres on the inside of the kayak need to be patched on the inside. Duct tape can give a temporary reprieve in the field.
Plastic kayaks can only be repaired by the manufacturer.
Folding boats need special care. In particular sand can be destructive to joints and ribs. It lies between the skin and the frame and abrades the protective surfaces allowing water to enter the wood or for electrolysis access the aluminum.
Dragging is not done with folding kayaks. Their Hypalon hulls are quickly destroyed by sharp rocks and barnacles. They must be dried thoroughly before being stored for more than a few days and ideally they should be powdered lightly with French chalk when they are folded away at the end of each season.
Loading A Sea Kayak
The way you load your kayak can effect boat handling. Ideally the boat should sit evenly in the water, but sometimes you can deliberately load it bow or stern heavy to enhance its performance during predictable conditions. For example, when paddling into a head wind, the load can be shifted aft so the bow lifts more readily into oncoming waves, providing a drier ride and therefore a faster one. Be sure to load items you may need during the day in a readily accessible position. Flares, compass, charts, towrope, flashlight, water bottle, jacket and snacks should all be located within reach while you are seated in the kayak.
Seating in a Kayak
Whatever we say about sitting in a kayak, you will almost certainly get weary of that position after an hour or so and will start inventing new yoga positions of your own. With that as a given, the so-called "right" position involves sitting well back into the seat with the backrest adjusted so lower back support is at a maximum. The knees are then spread wide so they (or your thighs, depending on the boat) grip the deck between the coaming and the gunwale (the sides at the seam). The feet meanwhile rest in an approximately vertical position on the foot braces. In this position, it is possible to apply pressure through these three points (feet, thigh and seat) and lock yourself into the boat. Various options can enhance your throne. Inflatable seats and seat backs achieve this but be cautious about raising your height, this will alter you stability dramatically.
Lifting Your Kayak
Kayaks are difficult creatures to lift. This is not because they are heavy but because they are awkward. Indeed it is probable that statistically the most dangerous part of sea kayaking is lifting the kayak. Back injuries abound. To reduce the risk:
- Do not lift with your back.
- Do lift with your knees bent and back straight
- Do not carry a boat alone if you can get assistance
- Do carry a boat with someone at each end. Wrap your arms around the hull and carry under the armpit rather than using the carry toggles.
- Don't carry a kayak full of gear at least unload the heavy articles from the center section. There is a possibility of bursting the bulkheads when there is weight in the middle.
Using Your Friendly Kayak
Your sea kayak does not like:
- Being dragged over sharp rocks (please!)
- Being dropped
- Sand on your feet (it clogs the rudder controls)
- Being tied along side rough objects in waves
- Being towed at speed by power boats
- Being stored in strong sunshine all summer.
Your sea kayak likes:
- Being washed down with fresh water after use
- Being partly unloaded before you carry it up the beach
- Sitting in a snug cradle on your car
- You remembering to tie it down on the roof of your car
- Being locked up when you park in sleazy streets on dark nights
- Being stored in a secure dry place
- Having an endearing name
For more information about anything to do with your kayak or even if you just want to share a unique kayaking experience; we would be happy to hear from you.