Most kayakers know that they should carry a spare paddle, because getting a broken paddle on a kayak trip — even on a day trip — is a pain. I know, because I’ve done it, and I didn’t have a spare. I limped back about a mile to the place I launched using my snapped Greenland paddle canoe style. Although, it got me back, it took extra time, and if I wasn’t an avid solo canoeist who knows the “C” stroke, the paddle would have caused misery. Since that day, I’ve always carried a spare paddle, and you should, too.
On the Kayak’s Front or Rear Deck
It’s best to carry your spare on the deck, because if you break a paddle, it’s easier to get to than if you carried a four piece in your hatches. Because most kayaks have bungees designed to carry a paddle on both the front or the back deck, you can carry it on either. Both have advantages. On the front deck, the paddle is easier to get to, you can monitor it, but it’ll often throw up spray into your face and surf tends to push it out from under the bungees. On the back deck, it’s more protected in the surf, stays out of the way, keeps the foredeck open for maps, etc., but it’s hard to grab and hard to monitor. Your spare could float away without you knowing. I always carry mine on the front deck.
How to Carry It
There are lots of ways to carry and attach a paddle to the deck, but the three most common solutions involve fabric sleeves, PVC pipe or just deck bungees. The first two solutions protect the paddle and the kayak’s gel coat from scratches, and can make it easier to pull the paddle out when needed. Kayakers that use PVC pipes claim that it stops the paddles from coming out in the surf. To see the many fabric and PVC pipe solutions, check out Gnarlydog’s post. For a commercial version, check out Northwater’s Paddle Britches.
Personally, I’m a fan of using bungee cord. I like it for a couple of reasons. First, it’s light. Second, it’s versatile. My current setup includes three parts. I use the foredeck bungees to hold the blade to the deck. I like to face the back of my spare paddle’s blade to the sky and the spoon towards the deck. This helps prevent scratching on the boat’s deck and the paddles blade, but I think scratching is just the norm. I use the bungees in front of the hatch and compass to hold the paddle’s shaft. I use a third bungee with a plastic cliff to hold down the middle of the shaft.
For the shaft bungee, my kayak features three plastic padeyes. I run a long length of bungee through all three. I tie double knots on the outside padeyes to prevent the bungee from pulling through, and pull a bight of bungee from the center padeye. I slide a plastic cordlock over the bight and slide it down to the padeye. When I secure the paddle shaft, I loosen the cordlock, wrap a loop of bungee around the shaft, and then tighten the cordlock. See the picture.
Even though I feel that the kayak’s foredeck bungee and the shaft bungee holds the paddle tight against the boat, I picked up a trick last year from ACA Coastal Kayaking Level 5 Advanced Open Water Instructor Trainer Educator Sam Crowley. To further secure his spare paddle, he girth hitches a loop of bungee cord with a plastic snap hook on it to one side of the kayak’s perimeter deck line over his kayak’s front hatch. Then clips the snap hook to the other side’s perimeter deck line. This further secures the paddle. To get at the hatch, you just unclip the snap hook. See the picture.
Preventing Deck Scratches
With any spare paddle setup, you’re not going to prevent deck scratches on a composite boat. It’s just going to happen. When you accept that, you’ll feel better. But, if you like to keep your composite boat looking shining and new, consider covering the deck areas susceptible to scratches with Helicopter Guard Tape, which is the tape used to protect the edges of helicopter blades from damage. It’s tough and clear. Keep in mind that any tape you cover your deck with will help prevent the gel coat from fading, which means when you peel it off, the gel coat will be darker under the tape than in surrounding areas. That’s not a big deal if you always use tape.