Kayak Modifications

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame kayak that I use has proven to be a very durable and reliable craft for exploring the rugged wilderness areas that I love so much. I have to admit, I was a bit concerned spending a lot of money on an inflatable kayak, since I hadn’t had any previous experience with inflatables, and the very word ‘inflatable’ conjured up images of being way out in the middle of a lake when, all of a sudden, I hear a hissing sound.

However, now that I have a lot of trips with this kayak under my belt, I can say, with some authority, that I no longer feel any apprehension whatsoever, when I take off into the far reaches of wilderness lake kayaking.

Also, it’s important to note that I do not take any special precautions regarding the fact that I’m paddling an inflatable kayak, and not a hard shell kayak or canoe. I do anything in this kayak that I would do in the hard shells and I have not run into any problems doing so.

After I’d had the AdvancedFrame for a while, I started to consider some ideas that might enhance the already durable construction, especially in areas that might be more prone to damage. It’s a fact that even the strongest materials can suffer damage from repeated use over abrasive surfaces. Things like pulling the kayak ashore on rocks and sand. A common thing that most people might do is to grab the front handle on the kayak and drag it up on shore a bit, with the rear part of the kayak grinding on the bottom.

These Advanced Elements kayaks have an aluminum bar inside the front and rear stems of the kayak, that is the pointed ends. In my mind, this was an area that was ripe for damage, since those ends take a lot of abuse bumping into objects such as rocks and logs in the water, and having a hard surface inside the relatively thin hull material would certainly make it easier for a hard surface on the outside to damage that hull material.

Even though damage in these areas would not cause a puncture in any of the air chambers, it could allow water to enter into the kayak, which is something I didn’t want to happen, so I started to think about how I could mitigate any damage to the front and rear stem areas. This is what I came up with.

This is a piece of common 1″ wide flat braided nylon strapping. It is extremely light and strong. I happened to have a quantity of this strapping on hand, but it can be had, very cheaply, at most sporting goods or hardware stores. I had considered other materials, but this one fit the bill best because of it’s light weight, flexibility and strength.

I used this material on the front and rear stems to protect them from the constant bumping and banging that they get when I’m out paddling in rough areas. I also increased the protection by extending this strapping material under the botom of the kayak, right up to the back of the skeg, and under the front up to the beginning of the skid plate. Here’s what it looks like;

As you can see, this will not only protect the stems of the kayak, but also the underside of the hull, in an area that is prone to abuse such as grabbing the kayak by the front handle to pull it ashore, therefore this rear underside area would be scraping on the bottom. I did the same thing on the front stem and I brought the strapping down under the stem to the front of the skid plate on the kayak.

The strapping was bonded to the kayak material using Aquaseal, which is a product you can get from Advanced Elements, or some hardware and sporting goods stores may carry it. Scuba diving shops also carry it for fixing wet suits. I didn’t get it from any of these locations though. I bought mine on ebay for ten dollars a tube, that includes shipping. I used two 3/4oz tubes for this project.

First, I cut the strapping to the length required and I melted the ends a bit with a flame, to prevent any fraying, just like you do with any nylon rope. You don’t want any big blobs of melted nylon on the ends so just a light melting will do. Then I applied a small amount of Aquaseal just underneath the the fabric lip at the very top where the stem starts downward towards the bottom of the kayak. I put one end of the strapping material on top of the area where I had applied the Aquaseal, and I found a couple of small pieces of wood and clamped the strapping and the fabric lip at the top of the stem together so it would keep pressure on it until it dried.

I wanted to get one end firmly in place so that I would be able to pull on it from the other end in order to keep the full length of the strapping taught while the Aquaseal dried. After I had the one end clamped onto the fabric lip at the top of the stem, I then applied the Aquaseal to the hull of the kayak along the path that the strapping would lie, and gently pushed the strapping into the thin layer of Aquaseal. You don’t want to apply too much Aquaseal, because it comes out of the tube like an opaque gel, but it will become clear and runny with exposure to the air and you don’t want it running all over the place. Once I had the full length of the strapping embedded into the Aquaseal that I had applied, I used masking tape to hold it in place. I used a long piece of masking tape at the very end to keep tension along the length of the strapping so that there were no waves in it. Here’s how it looked while I was doing it;

Here you can see where I have used a vice grip to clamp the strapping onto the fabric lip so that I could keep tension all along the strapping using pieces of masking tape to hold it in place.

Once this part is done, it has to sit for 24 hours so that the Aquaseal can set. I didn’t do both stems at once, I finished one at a time. Part of the reason for this was because, when I first came up with the idea, I wanted to test it out, to make sure it would work as I intended it to. I suppose both ends could be done at the same time though.

When the Aquaseal had set, I took the clamp and the tape off. Since the strapping is 1″ wide, there will be a slight overhang on each side of the stem, which is the black part of the hull. I put the inflated kayak on it’s side, so that I could apply a bead of Aquaseal into the small gap caused by the overhang of the strapping. This part certainly would have been easier if the Aquaseal tube came with one of those pointed type caps like caulking does, but there is no tip provided with the tube of Aquaseal, so I did my best to get the Aquaseal into this small gap and spread it along the gap as even as I could with my finger. You can only do one side at a time because the kayak must stay on it’s side until the Aquaseal cures, otherwise it will run all over the place. You don’t have to wait a full 24 hours, just wait until it seems firm enough that it won’t run, that might be after a few hours. Both sides of each stem were done in this way.

Once the gap at the sides of the strapping had a bead of Aquaseal in there and it had dried, I applied some Aquaseal to the flat part of the strapping all the way along. I just squeezed some out of the tube along the strapping and spread it into the fibers of the strapping to prevent any fraying of the nylon threads that might occur during use of the kayak. I also applied a small amount of Aquaseal along the edge of the strapping where it meets the grey hull material, to prevent any peeling away of the strapping. I did all this just using my finger to apply the Aquaseal.

The same process was carried out on both front and rear stems. Actually, I completed my front stem first and then used the kayak for a while to determine it’s effectiveness. Once I was convinced that the added enhancement was worth the effort, I completed the rear part of the job.

After many trips into the rugged wilderness up here in Northern Ontario, I’m convinced that the enhancements I’ve made using this nylon strapping were well worth the effort. Both cost and added weight were minimal and, in my opinion, the added durability is substantial.

Another enhancement I have made to my kayak is inside the kayak. All the air chambers in this kayak are enclosed in a heavy duty fabric, except for the floor tube. This air chamber looks something like an air mattress and I was very concerned about stepping on it, especially since I always wear my hiking boots when I’m kayaking because I get out of the kayak in some really rough and rugged areas, so I need the proper foot protection.

I wanted to find a way to protect the floor of the kayak from any damage due to getting in and out of the kayak, and I also wanted a way to better control the amount of sand and dirt that got into the kayak from my boots. I did have a problem, especially with sand getting into all the little nooks and crannies of the inside of the kayak, and it was hard to get it all out.

My first idea was to get one of those sleeping pads that backpackers use. They are made of something like a very thin memory foam type material. I placed this sleeping pad on the floor of my apartment and I placed the uninflated floor tube of the kayak on top of it and traced the shape, leaving an extra half inch on each side. I then put the uninflated floor tube back into the inflated kayak and spread it out into the correct position. Then I put the cutout piece of sleeping pad on top of the floor tube and tucked the edges underneath the main tubes of the kayak. I then inflated the floor tube. It looked great, partly because the sleeping pad just happened to be exactly the same colour as the inside of the kayak. When I took the kayak out the next time, with this new floor arrangement inside, I found that, although it felt pretty good, the foam material was not that durable. I could see that after repeated uses, this material would probably break apart, especially in the areas where I needed to tuck it under the main tubes.

That didn’t work as well as I wanted, so I put on my thinking cap again. I needed a material that would be stronger than the foam sleeping pad, and would provide all the features that I required. After some time, I came up with another idea. I could use what is commonly known as outdoor carpeting instead of that foam sleeping pad. This outdoor carpeting is quite thin with a very low pile and it comes with a thin rubber backing on it. I went to the local building store and I picked up a piece of grey outdoor carpeting that was two feet wide. It cost me just $5. I did the same with this as I did with the foam sleeping pad. I traced the shape of the kayak floor on it and cut it out. I installed it in the kayak in the same manner, by leaving the floor tube uninflated, installing the carpet by tucking it under the main tubes, and then I just pulled the inflation tube for the floor out from under the carpet and inflated it to the proper pressure and tucked the inflation tube back under the carpet. Here’s how it looks;

This addition to my kayak has worked out better than I could have ever expected. It collects any sand that gets into the kayak from my feet and holds it there until I can carefully remove the piece of carpet at the end of my trip and shake it out, leaving very little dirt or sand remaining in the kayak. It stiffens up the floor in the kayak quite a bit. It protects the vulnerable floor tube from any kind of damage. It will also collect any water that may splash into the kayak from the paddles. It provides a flat surface on the floor, instead of the up and down air mattress-like floor tube.

The addition of this piece of carpet does provide an extra step when setting up the kayak, but I don’t mind that at all, considering what it adds to both durability and comfort. I just keep it rolled up inside the duffel bag with the kayak when not in use.

Both these enhancements I’ve made to my Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame kayak have turned out to be winners in my opinion. I was already pretty happy with the kayak, but now I’m even happier.

Also, did you know that you can make a nice temporary spray skirt from a garbage bag? For those that don’t often need a spray skirt, like me, a big garden-style garbage bag makes a pretty good spray skirt, for times when it’s raining and you’d like to keep your legs, and the inside of you kayak dry, or, you’re getting some wave splash in your kayak and you don’t have a spray skirt. Take a look;

IMG_0003

No need to spend big bucks on a spray skirt, just tuck that garbage bag underneath the inflated coaming around the cockpit. It does help if the coaming is inflated quite firm, to hold the plastic bag in place. This is not meant to be a spray skirt for whitewater or extra rough conditions, but for most applications it will work just fine.

IMG_0002

Of course, you do this while you’re sitting inside the kayak, and bring the plastic tight around your waist to make a nice seal. It helps if you’re wearing a waterproof top also. It’s very easy to keep a garbage bag handy for this purpose.

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by koolz on September 26, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Hi NP….

    I have read your modifications. It is a well thought idea and very impressed by it.
    Simple yet so practical…Why don’t you share it at the AE forum …? Many would definitely appreciate your idea… šŸ™‚

    Double thumbs up for you !!!

    Cheers,
    Koolz

    Reply

  2. Looks good. Should be snug enough so it won’t affect the tracking of the kayak in the water. Hopefully you will get a chance to try it before the White Death comes calling!

    Reply

    • Yeah, the modifications work real well, I’m really happy with them. If the weather holds up I will definitely be back out there again. It has gotten real cold at night up here but I don’t fear the White Death up here as much as I used to down there. There’s lots to do up here in the winter too. I like to hike in the mine sites in winter.

      Reply

  3. NP your hull mod is a great idea. So far after 25 or so trips out on the water we have not had any scratches to speak of but as a precaution I am going to use your idea this winter after the paddling is finished here in Wisconsin. THANKS!

    Reply

    • Hey Frank, thanks for the feedback. It really depends on how the kayak is used. Many people may not find it worthwhile, if they don’t paddle in the more rugged areas like I do. Everywhere I come ashore up here has it’s challenges, so I felt that this modification was a necessity for me.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Suzanne on August 10, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share this information. I just found a split in the stern of my kayak, where it forms a joint on the black part of it. It is about 1 inch long. I know I wouldn’t sink, as it does not affect the tubes, but I would certainly get wet. So am going to try your suggestions to modify it. I can’t afford to buy another one at this time and so love my kayak. I think what happened is the u-shaped piece of metal at the stern got itself out of line and hence created too much strain on that area. I’m even having difficulty just getting my hands way in there to try and straighten it out. So will blow it up until I can manage to put the metal in place, then do the modifications you mentioned. You are my hero of the day! Thank you.

    Reply

    • Hey Suzanne;

      I’m glad that you were able to see the value in this small, but effective, reinforcement of the ends of these fine kayaks. Since you already have a split in the black part of the PVC covering, I would recommend that you repair that first, before you add this modification to your kayak. You will need to put a patch on both the inside, and the outside of that split using the kayak repair kit. You could also contact info@advancedelements.com to see if they can provide you with some of the black PVC that will match a bit better.
      Yes, you would definitely take on water if that split is close to, or below, the waterline, not at all desirable. You didn’t say which model kayak you have, but I’m assuming it’s the AdvancedFrame, like mine. I feel that it’s a good idea to take the whole kayak apart after about every three, or four times out, so that you can thoroughly dry it, but also so that you can get all the sand, and dirt, out from inside the cover. This sand can wear holes in the grey hull material, if left in there. When reassembling the kayak, you will need to make sure that, when you reinsert the aluminum ribs, that they are, indeed, in the right position. What I do is, after putting the main tubes back inside the tube cover, I semi-inflate it, to a point where it will still bend quite easily. Then I attach the bow rib into the little black pockets provided on the front of the tube cover, lift the unzipped cover up, and push the main tube, and rib, inside until it reaches the front of the kayak. You can eyeball it, to make sure it’s in the middle. Then I sit down on the bottom of the kayak cover, and push the main tube forward, with my feet, a bit, while holding onto the cover material, right beside where the zipper ends. Once I feel that it is securely in place, I do the same with the stern rib, and I just bend the semi-inflated main tube, so that I can get that rib under the cover. Then, again, I use my feet to push the main tube into place, making sure I line up the inflation valve with the hole in the cover. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you’ve done it a few times, it goes very quickly, and easily.
      If you’ve read some of my blog, you will know that I get a lot of use out of my kayak, and some of my most enjoyable times have been spent paddling on quiet, remote lakes, so I do understand about the kayak being so important to you.
      Just give me a shout if you have any other questions. I’m definitely no hero, but I do like to help, when I can. šŸ™‚

      Reply

      • Posted by Suzanne on August 11, 2014 at 7:48 pm

        Thanks for your reply and suggestions. Yes I have an AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak, model AE1017-0. Length: 10.5. It sure looks like yours.
        I live in a tiny apartment so it pretty much fills my living room right now.
        I will take all of your suggestions and ideas and hopefully I can rectify the problem.
        I will let you know what happens, as soon as I can get the supplies I need.
        šŸ™‚

      • You’re welcome Suzanne, my kayak is a 1012-R, which is referred to as an AdvancedFrame Single, or just an AdvancedFrame. It is a bit different than the Sport model that you have. However, I believe that all the suggestions I made in my comment, and all the modifications that I’ve made, so far, to my kayak, will be the same for the Sport model. They aren’t that much different. My apartment is not all that big either, and I also have my kayak setup in my livingroom right now šŸ™‚
        I think that probably the hardest part for you will be getting the patch inside the cover, at the stern. What I would do is, apply the outside patch first, let it dry for 24 hours, and then do the inside patch. Make sure that the surface is clean, before you apply the patch, and follow the directions in the repair kit. Also, make sure that you bring those torn edges right together, when you apply the patch, and hold it there until it sets enough to keep those torn edges together. If you do a good job on this repair, it will be better than new.

  5. Posted by Suzanne on August 12, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Ok, I finally got the stern rib back in place. Now, can I use the glue that came in the repair kit that came with the kayak? the slit is in the black part, the rubber part and there is now way I can get into the bow, which is where the cut is and not the stern, as I mentioned before. Any more advice? I went looking all over town and no one seemed to carry this aquaseal.

    Reply

    • Hey Suzanne;

      In Canada, you can find AquaSeal at Mountain Equipment Co-op, Amazon.ca, or most scuba diving shops, you can also get it from ebay, if you are familiar with buying stuff from there. You can also get it from Advanced Elements, so, if you are planning to order some black PVC from them, it would be easy to get the AquaSeal from them also. I should point out that, if you plan to do that modification, adding the flat nylon webbing material to the bow and stern of the kayak, you will need at least two tubes of the 3/4oz AquaSeal.

      I know that it would be difficult to get inside the front of the kayak, to repair the tear, but I would advise it, in order to get the best fix possible. However, if you feel that you just can’t do it, then we’ll just try to make the outside patch as good as it can be made.

      It would help a bit, if I could see a picture of the tear. If it’s possible to take a picture of it, then you can send that picture to the EMAIL ME link on the front page of my blog. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that I do understand, and we will just proceed without it.

      The trick is not to rush the job. Slowly, step by step, inch by inch, as the Three Stooges used to say. šŸ™‚

      Reply

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