Personal Tethers for Inflatable Kayaks

Would you recommend using a personal tether attached to the Sunny or Safari to prevent it from running away in windy conditions?

I think it’s as like I was told in the military, “it depends on the situation and the terrain.” Most paddling is nearby a shoreline in calm conditions, so a boat tether does seem unnecessary to me then. However, if I was going to paddle by myself, in an exposed crossing well away from shore, in wind, a boat tether makes sense as a backup. However, I don’t recommend ever paddling alone in those conditions. I also would never have a boat tether on me in a fast river.

A boat tether is also a potential entanglement for you in the water. If you are wearing a PFD and the proper clothing for immersion, you will have time to sort out your paddle, the boat, the various leashes and tethers, and get back aboard.

The best advice I can give you is to get your kayaks into reasonably warm water and try dumping yourself out and reboarding. Try it in the calm, in a little wind, with and without the leashes. Your Sunny will be easier to re-board than your Safari. The important thing is to try your safety gear in real conditions. You might find that the length you thought would work on a leash is actually a liability, or that you guessed right.

Setting Up a Safari for the First Time

I just purchased an Innova Safari. Can you offer some recommendations for setting it up?

It’s important to set up the foot rest for your leg length. You want your knees slightly bent with about 6 inches of air below your knees. Then wear the thigh straps even when paddling on flat water. They will connect you to the kayak and give you more control as well as power, and your back will be better supported. Try different inflation pressures in the seat back to get the best feel.

Congratulations on your new boat! I think you will like the way it paddles. It’s also quite fun in surf and rock gardens. Dressed correctly, you will feel invincible paddling the Safari in challenging water.

Rolling the Safari

Do you know of anyone who rolls the Safari? It would be fun to learn. I saw a Japanese video of a Safari rolling but it was taken from so far away that it was almost impossible to see.

As to rolling the Safari, what I do know is that for lay-back roll techniques, it helps to let some air out of the back rest so you can really lean back.

Paddling the Safari

I noticed quite a bit of weathercocking when paddling the Safari. Is it the hull design? I did notice that it can turn on a dime.

I was thinking about what you call weathercocking in the Safari. From what you say, I think you mean the side-to-side movement of the bow as a reaction to your paddling. Because the Safari is short — only ten feet — this is a natural tendency even with the fin installed. This bow-wag can be minimized by modifying your paddle stroke to have a more vertical entry and exit; less of a sweep stroke. Longer rigid kayaks have considerably longer keels and can tolerate almost any kind of paddle technique and not have bow-wag.

The Czechs who make these boats are pretty adept paddlers, and the folks with whom I have paddled use much more vertical strokes. Because of this they didn’t think the Safari needed a tracking fin! Because of my touring experience I had real trouble making the Safari go in a straight line without the fin, but I later got the hang of it. The tracking fin makes a huge difference in bow-wag.

Try experimenting with some different stroke techniques. Here’s a link for tweaking paddling technique: http://www.roguepaddler.com/tweak.htm

Weight Capacity in Safari

I bought a Safari which has a weight limit of 225. I am 245. When I fill it up with air it tips over as soon as I sit in it. If I deflate the center, water comes in but it doesn’t tip. I was told that I shouldn’t do that though. Any suggestions? Does being 20 pounds over the weight limit, make it that unstable?

No, the Safaris should not be that unstable — even at your weight. I weigh 220 on a good day, and 20 more pounds should not affect the boat that much.

How about the thigh straps? Do you wear the thigh straps when you paddle? I recommend that you use these even in flat water. First adjust the foot rest so that your knees are slightly bent when your feet are on the rest, then place the straps inside your knees and tighten the straps. The thigh straps will give you much more control and stability.