20 March 2012

Outfitting a sea kayak

Here is a summary of the outfitting and modifications that I do to my kayaks.
Not all kayaks have the same amount of work done and some outfitting is not shown here.
Some kayaks have more work than this one but those modifications (camera mounts) are not relevant to general paddling.
Most of the work depicted here is only possible on a composite lay-up and I use exclusively West System for my fiberglassing.
I currently don't have any ruddered kayaks in my fleet so there are not details of previous modification done to rudders.
Here is on overview of outfitting of a recently acquired British style kayak.

Kadtzait on Lego_1

The numbers are referring to modification or additions that I have permanently attached to the kayak. Other items that are added for a particular outing are not depicted.
Each item that is light-blue has a hot-link pointing to the relevant article in GnarlyDog News.

Kadtzait bow
1) retractable grab handle, replacing factory looped ones
2) pulley (block) for Flat Earth sail. Attached to deck anchor via Dyneema line
3) short tether line for quick anchor to piers (no article)
4) mast base for Flat Earth sail;  under-deck is reinforced
5) recessed anchor for side stays (sail). Dyneema loops
6) protective tape for mast/boom joiner (possibly scraping deck when sail lowered_no article).
7) 3M Dual-Lock fastener for removable compass (often removed when surfing).
8) pulley (block) for boom of Flat Earth sail. Secured with recess anchor and Dyneema loop

Kadtzait midship
9) bungee loop for stowing lowered sail
10) cam-cleat for trimming boom
11) slim profile tow-line
12) cleat for up-haul on sail
13) paddle leash (anchor point)
14) magnetic switch for bilge pump
15) replacement DIY fiberglass seat
16) replacement back-band: Immersion Research (no article)
17) electric bilge pump
18) bilge pump outlet, away from the cockpit to prevent water being pumped back in
19) drinking system (below deck)

Kadtzait stern
20)  protective "deck thread" tape for spare paddle (prevent scuffing)
21)  retractable grab handle
22) clip-on flag for car topping transport (removed before launch_no article)


  1. Hi Gnarlydog, thanks for sharing theese superb informations!!!
    Can you please comment about knee and other support pads?
    Thank you!!!

    1. Leonardo, I am a big guy with thick thighs therefore I don't often have to add padding to create a good fit, actually sometimes I shave some of the thigh braces to fit my legs.
      On two occasions I have modified the thigh braces that were too small to create good contact for boat control (edging, rolling). I extended the "flange" by fibreglassing an extension of the same thickness and I curved them to create a small pocket for my legs. In one kayak I had to pack the flange with closed cell foam to create an even contact with my thighs since they were incorrectly angled for me. On one kayak I shaved off a bit of flange that was too long and was digging into my legs.
      I don't believe in a super tight fit in a touring kayak where I want to move my legs around a bit and possibly have them together and not just splayed apart in a constant brace position. Very few kayak designs address the need for having decent braces and at the same time room for ergonomic efficient paddling. I might write a future post on outfitting and modifying a cockpit but I don't have a lot of images of the work I have done.

    2. Hi, would you tell me, which kind of glue you're using for glueing in the closed cell foam? Thanks a lot...



    3. For closed cell foam (minicell) outfitting below deck I use contact glue; it seems to hold up to salt water very well.
      Occasionally I use self adhesive thin sheets of minicell on deck (padding under spare paddle) however that glue does not hold that well on rougher surfaces like the under deck.

  2. Thanks, Gnarly! I wrote because here we don't have this kind of knowledge, first because there are few sea kayakers and second because we don't have a nautical 'tradition' or 'culture' - the informations in portuguese language are very poor and a lot of kayakers don't read english. I can read reasonably well (but have trouble when speaking or writing), so your source of knowledge and your approach as an independent thinker are very useful. Thanks!

    1. Leonardo, often I use Google Translate to access information in Norwegian and Swedish. While it does not translate perfectly Google Translate is good enough to give me the essence of the article. I wonder how good is the translation from English to Portuguese.

  3. Great post. I highlighted it as a great resource for my readers on my Paddling Instructor website here: http://www.paddlinginstructor.com/gear/4480-gallery-of-sea-kayak-customizations-with-instructions.html


    David J.

  4. Your "outstanding gear" links may need updating....

    Thanks for the outfitting summary!

    1. Anna, thank you for alerting me. It has been a while since I checked those links; fixed now.

  5. Since one of my boats has a rudder. I'd love to see any rudder modifications you have made.

  6. Great article and thanks for all that info. Can you advise how you secure your helmet whilst paddling to ensure it does not get washed off?
    My day hatch is usually full of lunch, extra water, etc


    1. my helmets are too big to fit inside the day hatch. I clip mine onto the deck perimeter line/bungee cord with the chin strap buckle. On one kayak I placed some self-adhesive thin closed cell foam to the deck so it minimize the banging/scratching. Not pretty but it works..


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