Time for sea kayak air bags

What happens if the ‘watertight’ compartment on your sea kayak starts to leak…

Pumping out a sea kayak

A pump is very useful. Airbags reduce the amount of water

If you paddle a sea kayak with bulkheads, most of the time you only have a few items of gear in each hatch. That’s an awful lot of empty space just waiting to be filled with water.

On a couple trips this year I’ve been out with paddlers who encountered leaking hatches.

One hatch was not put on correctly and started leaking (if you use Valley style ones ensure the edges are well bedded down). Another lost a hatch and we even had a hole in one compartment after another kayak hit it in surf. Luckily we had plenty of repair tape and were on an accessible beach for that incident.

If you do not have some secondary bouyancy in the compartments there is going to be a lot of water slopping about. Why not add an air-bag to each compartment in case you get problems. I usually find that I end up lending air bags to others who get a leak. A pump is also a great idea.

Sea Kayaking Tip: Consider carrying a neoprene spare hatch cover in case someone in the group loses their hatch. They come in a range of sizes and are easy to store in a day hatch.

Sit-on-top hatches and voids

If you paddle a sit on top kayak once you open a hatch there is just a large void. Many hatches on SOTs are still not very watertight. The problems are similar to those we used to face with sit inside sea kayaks hatches over twenty years ago.

Holed sea kayak

Oops! Easy to fix on land but what if you'd hit a rock offshore?

Post production checks can also be a bit varied on some makes of Sit-on-top kayak. Watch out for any hatches that are going to be frequently immersed e.g. if mounted on a sloping stern of a SOT.

When buying a new sit on top kayak check fittings are secure and sealed. Water has a nasty habit of getting into things.

There are a few stories of leaks developing around drain hole seams. This is usually a result of trolley units being pushed incorrectly into the holes.

Whatever the reason, whatever the design of kayak, even a small amount of water is going to cause problems.

While it may not completely remove the risk by adding extra buoyancy either in the form of inflatable air-bags, foam,old inner tubes or even empty wine bags (a good excuse to empty the contents) will reduce the amount of water slopping about. Hopefully this will give you time to get ashore.

Sea Kayak Tip: Check any drain plugs are securely fitted.