Getting that sinking feeling?
Kayaks should be water tight, after all, they are boats! But, if you buy a second-hand boat, or you’ve had yours for a while you may find that’s not the case. If you find yourself sitting with a pool of water in your boat at the bottom of a rapid, then hopefully this may be of use…
Think about where the water could be getting in. Unless some kind person has undone the bung, the first thing to do is check for cracks, or holes where the plastic has worn thin, or hit a rock. It’s pretty unlikely that there’s a hole in your boat without you knowing about it. So the next step is to check the spray deck. Are there any holes in it? Does it seal properly with the cockpit rim? Is it tight around your waist? A quick test is to swap your deck with somebody else’s (one that you know works!) and try some “wet” skills – high brace, sculling and rolling. If theres no water in the boat after that, you need to repair your deck or buy a new one. Still getting water in the boat? Read on…
To rule out everything, think about the other item that keeps water out of the boat – the dry cag/suit. Is the material still working? After a while the waterproof materials used to make dry gear will degrade from use. Is the material itself leaking water through? You’ll probably know if it is already if you find damp patches on your baselayers after paddling. It’s unlikely that your dry kit would have reached the “teabag” stage without you noticing it, so the last things to check are the screws on your boat.
Unless you’re a Jackson owner, your kayak will probably have lots of screws in it to hold the outfitting in place. Screws for the thigh braces, central pillar, seat bolts etc are all possible places for water to get in to your boat. First of all, make sure they’re all tightened properly and give that a try. If there’s still water getting in, you may have this problem:
A lot of boats have rubber washers on the bolts to help keep them watertight. These may perish after a couple of years, letting water in to the boat. So before you reach for the silicone sealant to try and glue the holes up, have a hunt around inside your boat to see if there are any of these washers that need replacing. It’s fairly obvious when they’ve perished, as they’ll be cracked like below:
Luckily, as far as I can tell, the washers aren’t a specific size. Instead, a normal tap washer can be made to fit. If you take the bolt in to a plumbing merchant, they should have a range of sizes to try. The washers should only cost a few pennies each.
Insert the bolt through the kayak shell and push/screw the washer on to it. Usually a metal washer will go on next, followed by a nut. When these are in place, you’re boat should be back to being watertight again, for less than £2.