This season my Y2010 Explorer moved to Jonesport, ME. So it’s time for me to tweak up a new, fresh boat. (It has been 10 years.) Darn! Thought I’d share a few of the tweaks and tunes I’ve found helpful for my use in coaching and guiding.
Front Bulkhead Foam Footbrace
Most of us prefer paddling by driving our kayak against a foamed front bulkhead. NDK builds our boats to our requested distance from the seat to the front bulkhead. This dramatically strengthens the boat, as the bulkhead is now closer to its bigger cross section. It also increases front hatch storage volume by inches, reduces the thickness of foam needed for a bulkhead footbrace, and, of greatest importance, reduces water in the cockpit for re-entry rolls, cowboy or paddlefloat re-entries. This system gives the paddler more specific adjustment than normal sliders with their ¾” spacing, and offers greater choice of foot angle and placement which can help relieve tight hips and sore backs. We don’t glue in the foam bulkheads; they’re pressure fit. Note the upper center notch that holds one end of the under deck pump, and helps us pull out the foam bulkhead for adjustments.
Front bulkhead foam with cutout for pump.
Underdeck Pump Storage
Even with NDKs’ low foredecks, many of us like to store our boat pump under the foredeck’s center line, where it’s out of our way and always with us. Note that one end of the pump is held firmly by the front bulkhead foam cutout, while the paddler end is held by a bungee loop secured to anchor points glued underdeck.
Anchor points glued underdeck hold pump securely in place.
Footbrace Slider Rails
Many private paddlers we service do not have their peg sliders installed to save weight, and instead use the above bulkhead footbrace. I’ve installed peg sliders for other paddlers’ possible use, but removed the pegs. As the pegs are aluminum while the bolts are stainless, we treat the stainless threads with salt water resistant lubricant to reduce corrosion, so the bolts remain removable.
Footbrace slider rail with peg removed. Note bolt with stainless threads at the end of the rail.
Footbrace slider rail bolts on the hull exterior.
Many of us appreciate NDKs’ low cockpit rims which increase our effective lower body contact and retain less sea water. To defeat the backband’s tendency to slide down toward our seat, I’ve glued a triangular pad to the seat back to hold up the backband. I’ve also added a small pad glued to the backband to enhance lower lumbar support and assist keeping our pelvis tilted forward to best access our super secondary stability. Finally, I like to separately tie off each of the 4 little backband bungees, which allows for individually adjusting their tension in support of the backband.
Backband with custom foam supports.
Backband bungees separately tied off.
Skeg Pull Down
To more easily free up the skeg blade when it gets jammed with gravel or small stones after sliding off a beach, we drill the skeg blade’s end and tie on a loop or line. This helps you to pull down the skeg blade to free it, whether you’re on the beach or your paddling partner can reach underneath your boat after launching. Also note the foam plug inserted behind the skeg slider knob which prevents a skeg from vibrating or falling down during transport.
Hatch Cover Attachments
Many paddlers like to attach their hatch covers to an inner hatch anchor point. I often find these limiting in my transporting and loading functions, and can easily tear through the little rubber tab. Alternatively, our tensioned bungee line encircling and lying in the hatch cover’s outside edge groove holds the hatch covers on with greater grip, and can easily be tied off to the deck line if desired. This bungee can be quickly removed if you want to store the hatch cover separately from the boat. The biggest advantage of the tensioned bungee around the hatch cover is its far greater and tighter contact with the hatch rim, further reducing chance of loss or water infiltration. One picture shows a single bungee, while the oval stern hatch has a thinner doubled-up bungee.
Bow hatch cover with single bungee attachment.
Stern oval hatch cover with doubled-up bungee.
Day Hatch Cover
While NDK hatch covers provide excellent watertight seals, I prefer a Valley cover for my day hatch. It snaps audibly onto the hatch rim, and it floats.
Boat Mounted Tow
For longer towing periods, or in longer swell, I may carry a rear-deck, boat mounted, long tow. This pictured system couples a cam cleat with a separate center-mounted fairlead. We’ve included a photo with yellow plastic washer-like plates under the anchor pieces. This is included as an example of how we reinforce the rear deck anchor points; in fact, these yellow plastic plates are glued in under the rear deck to reinforce the contact point’s potential damage from the towing forces on the fairlead and cam cleat bolts.
Also note how we’ve secured the tow bag and line on the rear deck. Your system of holding your boat mounted tow system to your kayak MUST allow for complete separation from your kayak when you release your cam cleat (or other anchor point). Test it please; lines and water are dangerous.
Above: various cam cleats and a fairlead.
Right: cam cleat and fairlead set to be mounted on the deck. The yellow plates will be attached to the underside of the deck.
Here at MIKCO we say that any coach or guide that shows up without a tow…is a client. Most of us use waist tows plus another system. I like the large paddle biner, easier to manipulate with cold hands, easier to attach in bumpier, up and down water with the bigger gate. Note I’ve ground off and rounded the big biner’s sharp edges to assist attachment and release. Suggest your biner gate go over your paddle shaft so you can use it as a paddle leash while attending to a rescue, holding onto another, etc. I like a length that will reach across my deck to another’s deck lines. Caution, all will advise you to have a quick release in your tow system. I agree but really like that small French clip that hasn’t shown a bit of rust in 10 years. Tom will make up a contact tow for you if you’re interested.
Next Up: The Science and Art of Custom Foaming your Cockpit Contact.