Sit-in vs Sit-on-Top Kayaks

Today we’re going to discuss the merits of recreational kayaks, both from a sit-in perspective and a sit-on-top’s perspective. Sit-in kayaks are characterized by a low center of gravity. They’re wide and stable, have a generous cockpit for ease of entry and exit, typically have a high back seat, could be framed like a Jackson or an Liquidlogic, could also just be a high back with lots of adjustability. They’re relatively lightweight in compared to a recreational sit-on-top kayak, but they’re definitely more efficient moving through the water due to their sharper bow entry on the ends, allowing them to cut through the water more efficiently. Some are going to have features like a Scag. There’s a fin that drops out of the bottom of the boat.

Other popular styles of recreational kayaks are thermoformed. It’s a two halves of ABS plastic formed together. They give you a much lighter weight boat. Sit-in kayaks are lighter than sit-on-tops, in any regard, just due to less plastic in their manufacture. But these thermoform boats can be 20 to 30 pounds lighter than a comparable length sit-on-top. They’re also shiny and bright, have great UV resistance, and they’re relatively durable despite their lightweight nature.

Other sit-in varieties include hybrid canoe/kayaks, like a Wilderness Systems Commander, the Jackson Kilroy, or the Native Ultimate FX12. All have high back adjustable seats. All are extremely stable to the point that you can stand in these boats, but like any other sit-in, they will hold water if you tip it over.

Sit-on-tops, on the other hand, like this Tarpon from Wilderness Systems or a Manta Ray from Liquidlogic and Native, are characterized by a wide open cockpit, self-bailing. The scupper allows water to drain out, allowing you to paddle it in almost any type of conditions, from ocean to lake to river. Any water that comes in over the side of the boat would drain out, leaving you wet, but the boat empty. Also, high back seats, which are nice and comfortable and adjustable for just about any paddler. These two models are recreational, and there’s also a fishing sit-on-tops. They give you a lot more gear-carrying capacity and weight-carrying capacity for all types of paddlers.

Here in an Attack 120 by Wilderness Systems, frame seat gives you a higher vantage point. It’s also a high and low and recline. Lots of attachment points for rod holders, fish finders, all kinds of accessories. Some are pedal driven, like this Liquidlogic Manta Ray or this Radar 135 from Wilderness Systems. Again, gear tracks allow for a myriad of accessories to be placed on the boat for ease of access, and also in this Coosa HD from Jackson. Lots of attachment points. Many of these boats are set up for micro anchor power poles and have rod holders installed in the back for rods, nets, anchors, et cetera.

Which is Best Sit in or Sit on Top Kayak?

Before answering the question “Which is Best Sit in or Sit on Top Kayak?” I would like to express my gratitude to Bryan Ward. His article “Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks” helped me a lot in preparing this material.

Although sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks have different designs, they share some common similarities, with the major difference being that sit-in kayaks have an enclosed cockpit, while sit-on-top kayaks have an open cockpit.

Choosing the best one among the two designs comes down to your preference and your intended use. To help you decide, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each design.

Sit-in Kayaks

Pros
• They have a better build quality and can perform much better than sit-on-top kayaks in most scenarios.
• They have a cockpit rim, where you can attach a spray skirt to prevent water from getting into the kayak.
• The storage space is located inside the enclosed cockpit area, and some models come equipped with waterproof storage compartments.
• They come in many varieties, each excelling in different tasks. You can get one suitable for anything from whitewater kayaking, long distance travel, wilderness exploration, or even casual use.

Cons
• They can fill up with water or sink when they flip. Spray skirts help minimize the amount of water getting in, but it all depends on the spray skirt’s quality and its compatibility with the kayak.
• They tend to be more expensive than sit-on-top kayaks. However, you can get a cheap entry-level kayak, but the more specialized designs cost much more.
• You need to purchase a spray skirt separately if you wish to stay dry.
• They require more skill to navigate than sit-on-top kayaks.

Sit-on-Top Kayaks

Pros
• They are quite affordable, making them an excellent choice for an entry-level kayak.
• They don’t sink when they flip. This is because they are entirely enclosed in plastic.
• They are very stable, making them perfect for beginners.
• They come equipped with scupper holes that drain water from the cockpit.

Cons
• They don’t do well in rough waters and long-distance travel. They are, therefore, only suitable for calm waters near the shore.
• They have limited storage space.
• There are pretty limited in their use. Most sit-on-top kayaks can only be used for leisure purposes.
• You stand a chance to lose your cargo in the event of a flip.

Till next time, stay safe and happy paddling.

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Kayak Navigation Basics

Taking bearings, triangulation, and a couple of quick tips for navigation.

The last time we had a live session, we talked about maybe breaking down some navigation items. Just breaking them down into easier little nuggets of information. Not too long ago, well, now it has been a long time but it doesn’t feel like a long time I was out on the water with my buds, Felix and Jorge. And while we were having lunch, Felix said, “Hey, let’s just do a quick triangulation exercise.” And it was awesome because we were just sitting around talking, having fun. Why not do something that we haven’t really touched in a while? And this topic I’ve been thinking about for a little long, because it’s very easy to use and is really, really useful when trying to give someone else your position or trying figure out where you are on a chart.

So what I’ve done is I’m here in Bay living room is a very well known to three people in this household. And what we’re going to try to do is try to figure out where we are sitting right now on this chart using one, two or three items of interest that we could see while we’re sitting here on this Bay. One is the coast guard helicopter over by ukulele falls, it’s a very well-known area. Our second item with interest is the Paw Patrol lookout tower. Those Paw Patrol pups are always there to help and it’s very visible from far, far away. And then the third item of interest we’re going to be using is the monument to Mr. Buzz Light year, he’s been a very big advocate when it comes to navigation and interstellar travel.

I know it’s silly, but the idea is when you’re out on the water using either a deck compass or a hand compass, taking bearings to a couple of items that you might be able to see on your chart, and then you can translate what you see around you and figure out maybe and almost pinpoint where you are.

One thing I will mention is when you take a bearing and taking a bearing is when you use either a hand compass or a deck compass or anything, to get a reading to an item of interest that you’re looking at, you do have to remember that from the time that you took the bearing to when you make your calculations, or when you figure things out on your chart, you might be in a different position because the wind or the current might be moving you around. I’m also going to oversimplify everything just so we can get through the concept and the exercise, but we should expand and look into other items that might affect how we take these readings and how you might translate them from your compass to your chart. Things like true north versus magnetic north, how to read a compass rose, et cetera.

When you look at your chart, a lot of times you’ll see things listed on it, maybe it’s a buoy, maybe it’s a lighthouse, maybe it’s a bridge in the distance that you can get a nice, easy reading too, maybe it’s a mountain peak that you could see from the water and it’s very clearly labeled on your chart. Looking around you in all directions and figuring out one, two, and if possible, three items of interest then you can triangulate and figure out a small area in which you might be sitting.

So let’s get on with how to take a bearing. You might have a deck compass, you might have a hand compass. What’s great about the deck compass is that the number you see and the bow of your kayak will be pointing at whatever reading you are getting. Now, if you’re using a hand compass, a hand compass will usually have different parts, but you’re still overall doing exactly the same thing. So with this hand compass, what I will be doing is, there’s a base plan on the bottom and there’s a dial on the top. And once I get the needle pointing at north, I will then keep the dial lined up with the needle and then move my base plate, which happens to have a very useful arrow, I will move that around to take that bearing. So then that arrow will tell me exactly on the dial. What my bearing number is by keeping that needle pointing to magnetic north.

First, we’re going to take our deck compass and make believe that we are turning our kayak around to try to find the three items of interest. So, and look at that helicopter and ukulele falls happens to be at 90 degrees, wow, what were the chances of that? So for our hand compass, we’re going to line up our base plate and we have an arrow right there. We’re going to line up that with our item of interest. And then we’re going to turn our dial until we’re lining up that dial with magnetic north. And that gives us, if we look right here, a reading of around 90 degrees. We have found our helicopter and ukulele falls right here. And we know that it’s at 90 degrees.

So then we’re going to take a straight edge. We’re going to go on that 90 degrees, try to keep that straight edge, put that item, and then draw a line that we think is taking 90 degrees into account. So now that means that at the moment that we took that bearing, we were somewhere on this line, this is also known as the range. We were somewhere along this line because when we were looking at the helicopter, we were looking at 90 degrees magnetic.

For the statue of Mr. Buzz Lightyear and I’d say he comes in at around 180, that’s useful for our calculations. Lineup our base plate with the statue of Mr. Buzz Lightyear, our dial with magnetic north, we see that the reading for our bearing is indeed 180 degrees or magnetic south. Now, when we were looking for Buzz Lightyear is statue at 180 degrees. So what do we do? We find 180 degrees due south magnetic. We’re going to take that same straight edge, try to translate it and then somewhere along this line is where we took that measurement. So that means with two lines, unless the wind and current moved us around, when we took those bearings we must have been somewhere around where these two lines connect.

All right. So Paw Patrol tower, I’d say that’s around 260. So if here’s 270, 260s probably right around over here somewhere. So if we take this spot and we draw, now, on another line on the 260 line, and we extend this line, we can see now that with these three lines and I might’ve drawn things not really to scale, but if we take these three lines and we assume that these we’re all taken right around the same time before anything moved us around. We could say with some kind of certainty that we are somewhere within this triangle.

And that’s the idea of triangulation. We’re getting three different bearings if we can, we put them all together and we try to find out where we are. So the idea of taking bearings is very easy. A deck compass is great in that you’re already pointing at what you’re looking at, but at the same time, that means if you want to turn around and take many bearings at once, you need to spin the kayak around to get all of those different bearings. Where a hand compass on the other hand is a lot easier to just turn your body, take lots of bearings, write things down. But at the same time, that also means that you’re using your hands and you don’t have your paddle in your hand while you’re working with it. So just pros and cons of different compasses.

The last thing I’ll mention is along with your compass, it’s always good to have a grease pencil if possible because that’s easy to write with on any surface, like let’s say the deck of your kayak, even if things are wet, you could always shut down a couple of numbers and then have something quick to look back to. So, as I said, that is an absolute over-simplification of this exercise, but I think the concept is just a really fun one. It’s also very easy to then translate that to someone else if you’re able to give them those three bearings. Someone that’s somewhere else and has exactly that same chart can draw those same lines that you just gave them and figure things out.

So if there’s anything I missed, anything you want to help explain or anything you want to add to this exercise or things that you might do that help or make navigation a little bit easier, please do comment below. And if you have any stories using this method, I’d love to hear them. I hope that was helpful.

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How to Hold and Cast a Baitcaster and a Spinning Reel

There’s a couple of different fishing reels that you may use when you’re out with us. And so I wanted to give you a quick overview of what those are and how to fish them and what it should look like when you do that.

So the first type that you may see is a bait caster. You go into a Bass Pro, a Cabella’s, a Walmart, an Academy, you’re going to see a bait caster. Basically, the thing with this reel is it can have a handle on the left side or the right side, and you’re going to cast your bait out and it’s going to come off of this spool. But that spool is going to keep turning and so you have to make adjustments. This is a more technical reel, so it takes a little practice to be able to throw this reel straight away and you kind of have to stop the line with your thumb for most of the reels that you’re going to move. And so to throw this reel, you push down on the lever, you hold that spool, you lean back and you’re going to throw it out. And then as it gets close to the water, you’re going to press down with your thumb again. That’s going to stop it. And then you just reel it in, in a steady retrieve like so.

Now the other type that you’re going to run into is going to be a spinning reel. Now, if you don’t want to end up on a blooper reel somewhere, there’s a correct way to hold a spinning reel. Now a spinning reel is what I started my kids off with, and it looks like this. So you’ll see it looks quite a bit different. The spool, instead of being left to right is top to bottom. And so the line will come off of here. One thing that you don’t have to worry about with this one is stopping the line because it won’t overrun on you. So what we do with this is … let me straighten out our hook here … is to cast this one you have to hold the line again. And so you should always remember with a spinning reel, the rod should be on top and the reel should be below. And you can change these handles that can be on the left side or the right side, depending on how you like it.

So we’re going to take this. This right here is called a bail. And what that does is if we turn it like this, it allows all the lines that come off the spool that we need for the cast. We flip it back like that, it spools the line back onto the spool for us. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take our index finger and we’re going to hold that line, right like that. And we’re going to flip the bail. By holding it with our finger, that keeps the line from running off the spool. Then we’re going to lean back for the cast and as we move forward, we’re going to move our finger out of the way. So it’s going to go like that. And that allows us to cast that. Then you flip the bail back over, and then you start to reel in. And you’re just going to work the bait like that and you’ll see how the reel is working.

So those are the two different types of reels that you’ll probably use with us here at Heroes on the Water. If you have questions, we have fishing guides at all of our events. Please pair up with somebody. We can give you some casting lessons. If you want to learn how to throw a bait caster and you’ve only used spinning reels, we can help you with that. If you’ve never used any of this equipment, we can help you learn how to use that, too. Please let us know.

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How to Hold Your Kayak Paddle

Hi. Today, we’re going to give you some overview of some stuff that you may need to know if you come out to one of our events. So first off, you can probably see this big orange thing right here. If you come to one of our events, PFDs are required. You’ve got to wear them when you’re in the kayak. Safety is priority number one when you’re with us. Now, another thing, if you’ve never been in a kayak, one of the hesitancies that people have, or, “Oh, is it going to be super tippy or am I going to fall over?” or that kind of stuff. All of the kayaks that we have are very wide kayaks. They’re built for stability. We want to make sure that you feel comfortable in your experience here with us at the Fort Hood chapter of Heroes on the Water.

Now, let me give you another tip. Probably the biggest thing that I see is people not knowing how to orient the paddle when they actually sit down in the kayak. So when you’re sitting in the kayak, what it should look like … let me come a little closer to you … is, if we’re facing out this way, you should have your paddle blade to where you can read whatever’s on it. It needs to be right side up. It needs to be on the top half. And what you want is if you’ll notice how that kind of scoops out, you want the scoop … see that right there? You’re going to want that scoop to go away from you. That way, when you’re pulling through the water, it’s propelling you. If you flip it like this, you’re just kind of pushing water back and it’s not efficient. So if you’ll remember, hold this out here, hands are going to be about shoulder width and make the reading to where you can actually read it left to right and up top. That’s going to allow you to hold the paddle properly.

Now, when we’re paddling, what you want to try to do is keep your elbows bent. If you lock your elbows like this and you’re chopping, it’s going to cause a lot of strain on your back. So keep your elbows bent and try to make a square. So if we look at it, if I lean over, you can see how this kind of makes a square right here. What you want to do is you want to bend at the elbows and move your core, and try to keep that square in place. And we’re going to move your core. Move your core.

One of the things that I’ve seen people do quite a bit is they bring their paddle in too close to their chest and they move their nose over their shoulder and that causes instability. What you want to try to do is let your arms and let your core do the work and keep your nose lined up with your belly button. If you’re able to do that, that means you’re not going to lose your center of gravity, which will cause you to lean to one side. And it’s not the leaning to the one side that usually gets people. It’s the leaning to the one side, feeling nervous, and then over correcting to the other side, that causes an issue. So if you remember, keep your nose in between your shoulders and lined up with your belly button, you’re going to be in good shape. You let the paddle and your core do the work.

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