As regular readers of the Rhodes List are aware, my two sons & I are
planning a cruise to Isle Royale National Park in Western Lake Superior next
summer. We are planning to sail our Rhodes 22 from Grand Portage, MN across
22 N.M. of Lake Superior to Windigo Ranger Station in Washington Harbor,
Isle Royale. From Windigo, we will circumnavigate Isle Royale in a
clockwise direction, ending up back at Windigo about a week later give or
take a few days, depending upon Lake Superiorís moods. We will be using 3
Old Town Loon 138 kayaks to help explore the islandís rugged, rocky
coastline. Previous articles have described how we plan to tow the kayaks
behind the mother ship (Rigging Sea Kayaks For Towing, 8/23/01) & how we
will transport the kayaks while trailering our Rhodes 22 over the road
(Carrying Kayaks On Vehicles or What I Did On Labor Day, 2001, 9/8/01).
Our float plan intrinsically implies the ability to get into & out of the
kayaks from the mother ship numerous times. Lake Superior water is very
cold, even during the summer when weíll be there. We donít want to have to
1st get into the water every time we want to use the kayaks. Because of the
difference in deck heights between the Rhodes 22 & the kayaks, getting into
or out of the kayaks involves momentarily standing up in the kayak. Now,
kayaks are very stable craft when youíre sitting down in them. But, have
you ever tried standing up in one, especially a kayak loaded with beach
camping gear & the only food available for 20 miles in any direction? Just
for good measure, imagine thereís also a 2-4 Foot Lake Superior chop. When
youíre sitting down in the kayak, you can attach the spray skirt to the rim
of the cockpit. With the spray skirt in place, a capsize is no big deal,
the water stays outside, the precious gear stays inside, & you Eskimo Roll
yourself back upright. But, when youíre standing up, the spray skirt canít
be attached & youíre vulnerable to whatever Lake Superior dishes out, just
at the moment when your elevated center of gravity makes you the least
This problem canít be entirely eliminated, but it can be minimized to the
point where we feel the risks & consequences are acceptable.
Pictures of how we mitigated this,potentially show-stopping, issue. The 1st
is a close-up of the cockpit & side decks on one of the kayaks. Note
the eyebolt & deck cleat with the coiled-up line on the port & starboard side
decks. The attachment points of these eyebolts & deck cleats are equally spaced
fore & aft of the Center of Resistance (CR) on the kayakís hull when it is evenly
loaded & floating on its designed waterline. The coiled-up line would be led from
the eyebolt, up around the stanchions on each side of the side gates on
Dynamic Equilibriumís railings, & back down to the deck cleat. When you
stand up or sit down in the kayak, put a little more weight on the side
closest to the mother ship. This offset weight causes the kayak hull to
heel slightly until the slack in the line is taken up & the kayak is
supported. As long as you keep your weight slightly off center towards the
mother ship, the relative rolling motion is very small. Having the lineís
attachment point centered on the kayak hullís CR means that wind, waves, &
chop cause a minimum amount of relative yawing (side-to-side motion in the
bow & stern). Having the mother ship & kayak tied together in this manner
causes them to rise & fall together in any sort of reasonable swell, thus
minimizing the relative pitching (up & down motion in the bow & stern).
The 2nd picture shows my 15-year-old son, Gary, practicing this boarding
maneuver off our dock on Sanford Lake.
Gary waits for a powerboat to go by & then uses the boat wake for practice. Our
dock height is about the same as the deck height on our Rhodes 22. By moving around
to each side as well as the end of the dock & using both port & starboard sides of
the kayak, boarding practice with waves coming from various directions can be
simulated. Note that practicing off our stationary dock is actually
somewhat more difficult than off the deck of our Rhodes 22 because the
relative motion is greater with the fixed dock. Although itís MUCH easier
than before, this boarding maneuver is by no means bulletproof even with the
new system. You donít want to stand up in the kayak any longer than you
absolutely have to. Proper wave timing & a certain amount of balance &
coordination are still essential. Standing up is more difficult than
sitting down. But, at least itís possible now as opposed to VERY difficult
before & it gets easier with practice. These built-in dock lines & deck
cleats will also be useful for tying up the kayaks anywhere.
Even with the new system, it is still possible there will be a kayak capsize
during boarding at sometime during our cruise. Isle Royale is the most
remote; least visited National Park in the lower 48 states. There will very
likely be no help available nearby; so, we must be prepared for self-rescue.
In the 1st picture, there is a hand bilge pump under the gunnel on the port
side of the cockpit. All 3 kayak cockpits are set-up the same Ė P is for
pump & port side. The bilge pump is a Beckson Thirsty-Mate kayak bilge
pump, Model No: 318P1/FPS3R. Note the built-in orange floatation collar on
the pump in case it is dropped overboard. Under the starboard side gunnel is
a kayak paddle floatation bag. These safety devices are mounted in Beckson
Clipper Clips. They are held in place very securely & donít interfere with
the paddler, but also simply snap in & out when needed. The Beckson Clipper
Clips are also functioning as the backing plates for the 10-24UNC oval head
stainless steel thru bolts on the side deck eyebolts & deck cleats. It
turns out that the mounting hole spacing on a Beckson Clipper Clip & a
Schaffer Model No: N3200080, 3 inch nylon deck cleat are nearly the same,
close enough to use them together with minor machining. To eliminate
protruding threads & nuts inside the hull & out, the Schaffer deck cleats
are mounted with, 10-24UNC X Ĺ", Beckson barrel nuts instead of conventional
nuts. The paddlerís legs are right in the vicinity of the deck cleat
mounting & I wanted to eliminate the possibility of chafing or cuts on
In the event of a kayak capsize, the bilge pump would be employed by the
person in the water to get as much water as possible out of the hull.
Kayaks have some built-in floatation, but not enough to support the hull,
gear, & paddler when the hull is full of water. Once the hull is pumped
out, the kayak paddle floatation bag is manually inflated & secured to the
blade on one end of the kayak paddle. Kayak paddles float & each kayak will
be equipped with a spare paddle in case a paddle is lost during the capsize.
The blade on the other end of the kayak paddle is secured under the bungee
cords on the kayakís foredeck just in front of the cockpit. The kayak
paddle with the floatation bag will now function as an outrigger allowing
the paddler to climb back into the cockpit without flipping the kayak again.
Once back inside, the paddler uses the bilge pump to remove any remaining
water. The 3rd picture shows Gary practicing this self-rescue maneuver in
deep water just off our beach in Sanford Lake.
Finally, we will mitigate the consequences of a boarding capsize by
following certain procedures:
No one kayak will carry all the food, gear, & other consumable supplies such
as water, stove fuel, etc.
We will load only the supplies & gear necessary for that particular beach
camp into the kayaks, usually an overnighter + a contingency dayís supplies
in case we canít get back to the mother ship due to weather or some other
reason. The rest will be left on board Dynamic Equilibrium.
We will carry 3 days extra supplies on board Dynamic Equilibrium.
Gear & supplies will be loaded into water tight "Baja Bags" & secured inside
the kayaks. I will be adding some internal padeyes to all 3 kayaks to
We will always be wearing shorty wet suits & PFDís when we use the kayaks in
order to provide floatation & some protection against hypothermia if we end
up in the water.
Based upon on our degree of boarding/kayak handling competence at the time
of the trip next summer, we will establish go/no go weather criteria for use
of the kayaks & the Rhodes 22. There may be some days when we have to stay
on board Dynamic Equilibrium or in camp ashore waiting out the weather.
This boarding stability issue is a major reason why inflatables are
preferred as yacht tenders. We have a 10 foot inflatable sport dingy. Itís
rated to carry over 1000 lbs and nearly all the floatation is around the
perimeter. I weigh 230+ lbs & I can stand on the side tubes, walk around
inside the boat, or climb in from the water anywhere around the boat without
flipping it. Inflatables are so stable that boarding stability is simply
not an issue.
Those of you using small hard dinghies, folding boats, or canoes for your
tender may want to consider adding some side mooring lines similar to the
ones discussed in this article. If it works for something as squirrelly as
a kayak, it can only work better on anything more beamy & stable.
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
09 Sep 2001