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Easy way to weigh-down kayak for realistic rescue practice?


New Member
Apr 10, 2023
Metro Vancouver
Long-timer lurker, first time poster: First off, you guys are amazing! The level of knowledge here is incredible and the tone is amazingly positive for a web forum!

I'd like to practice self- and assisted-rescues under more realistic trip conditions. When I'm out for a week my boat is heavy! When I go out to practice rescues, my boat is close to empty.

So, what's the easiest way to weigh-down my boat? I'd like to put ~80lbs into the boat in a way that it won't flop around.
Well without having to install ways to secure weight in the hull to keep it from flopping around as the boat rolls, probably the easiest way is to stuff it with gear- tent, filled stuff sacks, etc. without being too particular about "do I have everything" more just filling the spaces.

Also you can put bags of heavy stuff in (rice, etc.) then fill the remaining voids with empty dry bags.
Gallon (filled) water containers from the grocery store are pretty cheap. And when you are done using them for water ballast, you can drink the water and refill them.

Note, however, that a loaded boat may be easier to roll and reenter. That's because done right, you'll have non-shifting weight at the bottom of the boat. So the boat won't want to be upside down. Also, with gear in the boat, it won't take on nearly as much water.

If you can do your rolls, rescues, and reentries, with an empty boat, it will even be easier when the boat is loaded - assuming you've packed it so that your belongings don't drift out and float away.
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So as noted above, righting and rolling the boat can actually be easier with a properly packed boat - with weight down near the keel line, the boat can be almost "self-righting" like some lifeboats and surf rescue lifeboats.

What can be a challenge during assisted re-entries is dragging a loaded boat far enough across the rescuing kayak's deck to drain the cockpit of the swimmer's boat. One way I do this is if I'm the "savior" is to get the bow partially across my sprayskirt deck, then grip the bow decklines of the swimmer's boat firmly, and lean aggressively away from the swimmer's boat. This pivots my boat up on edge, lifting it higher to drain the swimmer's cockpit, but lets me accomplish that with my body weight rather than my back muscles. You'll need a reasonably tight sprayskirt for this, as the far edge of your cockpit coaming will be submerged.
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Considering the lumpy (choppy waters) environment where this scenario might play out, some would be hesitant to lean their boat over. An instructor pointed out that between your (savior) boat and the boat partially on your deck, you have hundreds of pounds of floatation. You are NOT going to sink your boat in the process.

Also, if the swimmer pushes down on the back of her boat, it will assist in lifting the bow onto your deck. These things seem obvious while casually reading at your computer. Unless you practice them, they can easily be forgotten in the heat (or cold) of the moment.