Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Advantage of Proper Flotation

I took two skin-on-frame kayaks to the beach today, one with skin and one without skin. The one with skin had no extra flotation. The skinless kayak had flotation bags fore and aft.

Here, the Madeline 16 floats on a nice, even keel when she's empty.

But, fill her up with water and things change. The only thing preventing Cleopatra's Needle here was the bottom of the Lake holding the stern in place.

Now, here is the skinless Abatross 14, no skin, but full flotation.

And, even with a 245 pound paddler on board, she floats level in calm water.

The skinless kayak needed some bracing occasionally, but I was able to paddle it away and back to the beach.

I would liked to have tried the skinless kayak with a sea sock and a spray skirt as well, but, as you can see, I didn't have the coaming installed on the Albatross. I think the spray skirt would have held a lot of air in place inside the sea sock, though, which would have provided additional flotation.

Lesson learned: If you're not going to use a sea sock, you need to have flotation bags if you are going to paddle on open water with your skin-on-frame kayak. Ideally, you should have both flotation and a sea sock.

The first time I ever capsized my kayak I had no spray skirt and no float bags. I did a sculling stroke, the paddle dove, and pulled the kayak over with it, flooding the entire thing. That was before I knew even how to do a self-rescue, much less dewater the kayak. I swam it to shore and hauled the heavy kayak out of the water so I could empty it.

You need to have flotation, and, ideally, it should be backed up with a sea sock.

You can find video of the test here:

Monday, May 26, 2008

How To Float Your Camera

Your Camera, your GPS, even sunglasses, have something in common - most of them sink when you drop them in the water. When I was in college I got a very nice Walkman after I saw a kid drop it in about twenty feet of water. I went home and picked up my snorkeling gear and dove after it. The kid was long gone, but I saved the Walkman.

So, the waterproof camera may be able to survive a dunking if you drop it in the water, but unless you can dive after it, waterproof won't matter. It's an easy problem to solve, though. A neoprene glasses strap, available for about two bucks from Wal-Mart, will easily float your ultralight eyeglasses or plastic sunglasses.

And, a piece of closed cell foam will provide plenty of flotation for your camera or GPS.

The closed cell foam is attached to the tripod mount of the camera, where it's out of the way. I should add a washer to the thumb screw to make sure it doesn't pull through the foam.

You may also be able to use a large sized floating foam key chain.

Disclaimer: You should test the flotation in a controlled environment before you drop your gear in open water.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Black Dog Flotation Bags!

Black Dog Kayaks Flotation Bags add safety and storage space to your Black Dog Kayak. Flotation bags displace water, meaning that if you swamp your kayak, you'll have gallons less to pump out. We can't stress enough how important it is to have proper flotation in a kayak, which is why we're happy to be offering these flotation bags made exclusively for our kayaks by Spirit Line. The flotation bags are sold in pairs, front and rear and can be ordered from our Safety page.

Flotation Bags

Made for Black Dog Kayaks by Spirit Line, the rear flotation bag is constructed with a unique 3 ply material. The design allows you to store your gear in one compartment and inflate the other compartment for flotation. Each compartment is the full size of the bag. Hidden solid plastic inserts gives an incredible seal for a submersible seal in the gear chamber. The bow flotation bag is smaller in size and is made with the same 3 ply material as the rear flotation/storage bag. Flotation Bags are $89.99/pair, or, $55 for the Gear Bag, $45 for the front flotation bag (air only). Watch for pics of the flotation bags installed in our kayaks soon.