Among the Wavewalk modifications I considered over this extended Northeast winter was an alternative way to install floatation in my W500 kayak. This article explains a new approach that I think many of you may want to implement.
Foam “pool noodles” have proven themselves to be a very good solution in many ways. They are extremely buoyant, virtually rot-proof and highly flexible. And available in a wide variety of colors! Attaching 2 is standard on all W500s and more can be added as an option, either by a dealer, factory direct or by Wavewalk owners themselves.
Installation is typically done in one of two ways, both using bungee cord threaded through the center of the noodle. First is to attach them on the outside of the kayak running along the and just below the gunnel. The other approach is to bungee them to the “ceiling” of the kayak’s underside which is, in fact, the underside of the saddle. This is the method I have used (with 4 noodles) until now.
It is important to remember that the purpose of the floatation is to aid in recovery of a swamped boat and not to increase the load-capacity. As a result, where they are attached is a matter of personal preference, as long as the connections are secure.
As you can see in the pictures, this new approach is remarkably simple. Each noodle is positioned inside the kayak, under the gunnel. The noodles are barely wider than the flared edge of the gunnel so they protrude into the passenger compartment by only about 1/2 inch. 4 noodles (2 per side) will fit easily as the hulls are over 11 feet long and the noodles are each about 5 feet. Fixing them in to the kayak is even easier than the traditional way. For each noodle you simply make 2 holes along the gunnel, each hole just wide enough to accommodate the zip-ties.
The noodles will droop slightly at the unsupported ends which extend into the hulls, but really has no negative effect other than cosmetic. If you want the noodles to stay straight and tight to the top of the hull, just insert a narrow wooden dowel into the noodle prior to installation.
If you want even more floatation you can take 4 additional noodles, cut each into 3 pieces and bundle them together with waterproof twine. Then you extend the dowel so it is halfway in the zip-tied noodle and halfway inside one piece of your noodle bundle. No additional attachment points are needed.
I believe this approach offers a number of benefits:
The noodles are out of the way and almost invisible (a slight exaggeration).
They are completely protected from water damage as they are shielded from the rain and in the case of under-saddle installation, from splashing.
Any water that may reach them will quickly drip away.
They are protected from the wind and rain during transport so there is no stress on the mounting system.
Wind resistance while car-topping is reduced because they are inside the kayak.
Up to 8 noodles can be installed with almost no impact on internal storage.
You now have a comfortable, cushioned handhold whenever you grab the gunnel to lift, load, unload or move the boat.
I was concerned that they might interfere with draining the W500 but, it is not an issue. When the boat is flipped over to empty any water that may have gotten in (rain has been the only time for me) the noodles leave the gunnel channels unobstructed so the water can flow to the 3 drainage holes at each end of the kayak.
Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
Late this season Al Arioli purchased a W500. He is working on a plan to add a rowing system for the coming spring such that he will be facing in the direction of travel rather than the traditional method where you are always looking where you’ve been.
In the meantime, Al has devised a method to get his Wavewalk on and off of his Prius (see car-topping story W kayak attached on top of Toyota Prius at the Wavewalk blog) without even touching it!
The system is effective and low-cost. Just some rope, a few pulleys and some 2 lengths of dowel.
Al just pulls into the garage, slides the dowels under the handles at each end of his W500 and pulls the rope. When its time to head out he just reverses the process.
I get a chance to go fishing with life-long fisherman Al Lunn from New York in his new Wavewalk fishing kayak. The day was very windy even though it doesn’t look like it in the movie because we kept moving to protected areas. Despite the wind, Al stood and cast from his W500 like it was second nature.
View to the end to see Al conquer car-topping a kayak. (Best viewed @720P)