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Mariner Kayaks User’s Manual
Note: there is a different manual for the Coaster. There is no sliding seat discussion in it but because it is mostly the same as this manual so we won't repeat ourselves. The Coaster also has a different standard deck rigging (see Outfitting) Either deck rigging  (and several others) is available on any model.



Congratulations. Your new Mariner is a state-of-the-art touring kayak incorporating several unique features that contribute to the most enjoyable of paddling experiences. It combines low paddling resistance and exceptionally nice handling characteristics with large cargo capacity in a very sea kindly kayak. It is well suited to the demands of extended exploration of every type of ocean coastline as well as lakes and non-technical rivers. You will appreciated your Mariner more and more as your skills and experience increase.

Please read all the manuals carefully and refer to them as needed to get the most out of your new kayak and to learn to use it in a safe manner.




Mariner hulls have a sort of built-in rudder. When the kayak is leaned to either side its hard chine (the sharp turn of the bilge where the side meets the bottom) becomes a curved keel that, in combination with the curvature of the side, provides a marked ruddering effect. Most boats when leaned will tend to turn to some degree due to the asymmetry of the underwater volume, the decreased draft at the ends and the shedding of water at the stern keel. But with Mariner kayaks this effect is very pronounced. You can carve turns while continuing to stroke evenly on both sides by simply tilting the boat to the side OPPOSITE the direction you wish to turn. To turn left, tilt the kayak to the right. To turn right, tilt left. Note: most beginners get this backwards at first trying to lean into the turn as if on skis or a bicycle. Once the turn is initiated the boat will continue to turn (even if you stop paddling) as long as you maintain the lean to the outside of the turn. To stop the turn put the kayak back on an even keel (or temporarily a little beyond) and paddle away on your new heading. Tip the kayak by lifting a knee (right for a right turn, left for a left) to the kneebrace and cocking your hip to that side.

The comfortable, secure thigh grips and the relatively low initial stability combined with excellent reserve stability make this lean easy and secure in your Mariner, but use caution when trying this in someone else's kayak for the first time! Lack of firm thigh or knee grips and excessive initial stability can make this maneuver risky. due to your knee slipping or teetering on edge between the hard knee pull trying to hold up the 'stable' kayak and your having to shift your body weight out over the water to get the leverage needed to lift the knee. With a properly fit Mariner kayak you can simply keep your upper body perpendicular to the water's surface to maintain balance while you tilt the kayak with your lower body.

Practice at first while at rest on calm water, holding the kayak steadily tipped up at as much of an angle as you can manage without using your paddle for support. With a little experience using this technique you'll find that course corrections can be made effortlessly without changing your stroke. Of course, for more powerful turns you can add sweep strokes on the proper side. This is sometimes called a "knee hang". When using it to zip along on boat wakes, wind waves or surf we call it "riding the chine". One of our customers described his feelings about it this way: "I really like the way it carves turns with a lean. It makes me feel like the boat is an extension of my body -- NOT like I'm just an engine churning away tromping on the rudder pedals and running the paddle like paddle wheels. It's really nice not having a rudder!" Another customer described its subtlety and ease of use as: "turning as if by will power alone".



Sliding seat -- Slidseat.gif (4364 bytes) Sliding seat/Footbrace unit



The footbraces are attached to the seat so that the leg length adjustment is maintained as the seat slides. To make the initial adjustment sit in the seat, lay your legs out flat and fasten the rails to the seat so the footpads are touching your arches. This way you can paddle with your legs in a relaxed position but quickly brace solidly in the boat by pressing the ball of your foot on the footpads, forcing your knees up under the coaming,. While paddling you want to be able to push on the foot pedals alternately by straightening a leg and pointing the foot during each paddle stroke, right leg on the right stroke, left leg on the left stroke. Getting your entire body involved like this adds considerable power to your stroke.

Once this is habitual you can demonstrate its effectiveness to yourself by placing only one foot on a pedal while you paddle with your eyes closed. After a short time open your eyes and notice how you are turning in a circle away from the foot that was on a pedal. You will soon appreciate your solid foot pedals and realize what your "rudderer" friend has traded away for that awkward piece of tin hanging on the stern of his kayak.

Near the footpad on each rail you will find a nylon bolt that runs in a channel for easy sliding. There should be a little play between the nylon washer and this slide track to allow it to move easily. This is set at the factory. Trying to adjust or remove the locking nut will probably result in twisting the head off the nylon bolt. Every sliding seat Mariner sold by us since 1980 has used nylon bolts. At first we worried that they might wear out or break and supplied an extra with each kayak, however, during all these years only about six or seven have been broken.



To remove the seat detach the footbrace rails at the seat by removing the wing nuts. Slide the seat forward until the plate clears its track on one side. Lift one side of the seat so the plate can ride up over the track, then move the seat back until it can be lifted out of the cockpit. This can be a tight fit as the seatback may contact the thigh grip pads at the extreme forward point in the removal procedure. If so pull up on the front of the cockpit to give yourself a little more clearance to lift the seat out of the track on the easiest side. Should you want to remove only the footbraces (maybe you've got a gear bag so bulky you're having a tough time getting it by the footpads even with the seat in its rearmost position), detach the rails at the seat, pull them back until the nylon bolt bumps the rear stop and lift them up and out. If you have a rear bulkhead you will need to move the seat forward and flex the aluminum strap around behind the seat to get the nylon bolt far enough back to lift it out of the track. If you lose one of the wingnuts that hold the footbrace to the seat you should find a spare strung on the bow access port's tether cord or else on the shock cord on the back of the sliding seat (Mariner II). If you somehow lose both wingnuts, and you are days from the nearest hardware store, wrap some duct tape or rubber bands around the seat bolt threads to keep the footbrace in place.



To move forward, grip the front of the coaming with both hands. Your paddle can be held across the coaming with your thumbs. Give a little hop to momentarily lift your weight up off the seat as you pull yourself forward with your arms. At the same time press on the footpads with the outside edge of the balls of each foot. It is important that you press with your feet as far apart on the pedals as you can get them. Pushing the pedals more to the middle of the kayak levers the front of the pedal tightly against the track, jamming it temporarily. Until you’ve gotten the hang of it this jamming might be annoying, but once you have coordinated the movements you will be able to move the seat more than a foot at a hop and will see this tendency to jam (unless you do all the right moves) as a positive feature that helps prevent the seat from moving when you don't want it too. A more advanced method for moving the seat forward works especially well at speed. Try it once you're at ease with the above method Pull yourself forward with one hand at the front of the coaming while holding the paddle up (where it can't catch the waves) with the other hand. When racing you don't want to loose even one paddle stroke (but might want to move the seat forward). We learned you can hop your butt off the seat while pulling hard on a stroke and kick both feet forward at the same instant. This can move the seat an inch or so forward with each hop.

To move back, place the heels of your hands on the coaming at your sides. The paddle can be held by your fingers so the shaft is just in front of your belly. Lift your weight slightly off the seat and push the seat back with your rump. Remember to lean your upper body forward a bit so your rump pivots back and is pushing low on the seat back. Pushing on the upper part of the seat back can pivot the plate in the tracks causing it to jam until you release the pressure. It's important to remember this: if you're sitting erect or leaning slightly forward your rump will push low on the seat and it will slide freely, but if you're tilting the seat back in the tracks as you push, it will not move easily. Also, your feet should NOT be pressing on the footpads at this time because that will prevent the seat from moving back.

Here is a helpful hint for sliding back while still maintaining speed: lean the kayak slightly to one side and feather the paddle blade on that side so that it will ride up rather than catch if hit by a wave top. Another method: while gripping the cockpit rim, hold the paddle with only one hand, the shaft angling back along that side of the boat with the trailing blade feathered to avoid being caught by a wave.

The key to sliding the seat is in the unweighting. With all your weight on the seat the friction of the hull against the seat plate holds it in position. When you give a little hop that momentarily gets your weight off the seat it is free to slide. With practice you'll soon be able to move through the full range in either direction with one hop. It's a good idea to practice sliding the seat on land at first to avoid capsizing during the initial trials. But, if the shape of the ground you're sitting on flexes the hull up pressing it against the seat plate, this could make moving it more difficult. If you are having trouble getting the hang of it, position the cockpit over a slight depression in the ground to prevent the hull from pressing against the seat plate. Note: if you grip (or press your back against) the top of the seatback and push or pull, the seat plate will probably pivot in the tracks enough to temporarily jam. if you put too much pressure on the inboard edge of the footpedal you will also temporarily jam the system by forcing the pedal against its slide track and thus pulling out hard on the sliding nylon bolt. These temporary jams help keep the seat from sliding when you don’t want it too, but can also mean it will take a little more practice at first to learn how to slide the seat easily. Remember to slide forward. pushing with the outside edge of the ball of your foot as close to the side of the kayak as you can, and to relax your legs or remove your feet from the pedals when sliding back.

The footbrace and seat slide tracks are self cleaning. The seat plate will slide even when the inside of the hull is covered with sand and gravel, but it's good sense to take a little trouble to avoid the unnecessary wear and tear this sand will cause by keeping the inside of your kayak relatively clean.

After you've acquired the technique of moving the seat back and forward practice sliding the seat back when capsized and hanging upside down in the cockpit because wet exiting will be more difficult if the seat is well forward of trim, especially for very large paddlers. When you first try this have a friend standing by to help you back upright if necessary.



That depends on what you need. If you need a chair in camp you could easily remove the seat and use it, however if you have been sitting in it all day already no matter how comfortable the seat is your butt may appreciate a change of scenery .



Moving the seat most of the way to the rear makes the cockpit temporarily bigger allowing most paddlers to bend their knees up inside the cockpit. Being able to sit in the seat and do this has several advantages. You can stretch out tight hamstring muscles during a long stint in the seat. You can lower yourself into the seat and into paddling position from a standing position. You can lower your butt into the seat starting with your feet inside the kayak or even from a position straddling the kayak. Dropping your butt in first is much more stable than sitting on the back deck and straightening your legs to slip into the cockpit. This extra room is especially valuable when faced with entering or exiting your kayak while it is floating because raising your center of gravity makes a kayak much less stable. Entering and exiting from a dock, large boulders, or even a boat ladder is no longer difficult. On a rocky or barnacle covered beach you might severely scratch your kayak if you couldn't straddle it in shallow water and then sit or stand up to enter or exit. Even though the cockpit is longer than some, there isn't as large an expanse of horizontal spraydeck that can be imploded by a wave in front of the paddler (where spraydecks are most vulnerable to implosion) because the trim position is further forward in the cockpit than with most other kayaks.



To trim a Mariner with no gear load to the designed waterline, move the sliding seat until your groin (most peoples center of gravity in the kayak sitting position) is about 14" behind the front inside edge of the cockpit. The top of the seat back should be about 6" ahead of the rear of the cockpit opening. Your center of gravity is now directly over the center of buoyancy of the level hull. This is the most efficient and fastest trim. Two inches either way won't make much difference. Far forward is nearly as fast and makes the kayak more maneuverable and easier to turn into a high wind when paddling forward. Far back is a few percent slower in a sprint, makes the kayak stiffer tracking, reduces weathercocking in side winds and minimizes broaching in following seas.



The seat can be moved to trim the kayak if the gear load is unbalanced fore and aft. However, in order to best utilize the full range of seat adjustment for its intended purpose -- performance modification -- a little care should be taken to balance heavy gear loads before setting out. When in doubt, always err towards too much weight in the stern. In a loaded kayak the advantages gained by sliding the seat back for a stern heavy trim in following seas and side winds are much more beneficial than any derived from a bow heavy trim. If conditions are calm you can always trim a sliding seat Mariner that is loaded stern heavy by moving the seat forward. Your Mariner's padded knee grips extend far forward so you can maintain good comfortable control whatever the seat position. (See section on gear loading.)



The greatest advantage of the sliding seat is in fine tuning the center of windage and the hull's center of lateral resistance to being blown leeward. Properly balancing these forces allows for easy tracking at any angle to the wind without dragging a rudder along at an angle.

An empty Mariner is balanced to a side wind at cruising speed with the seat in the trim position. If traveling at any angle to the wind presents course-keeping difficulties, experiment with the sliding seat until you can maintain direction paddling evenly on both sides. Angling into the wind, move the seat forward. Angling away from the wind, move the seat back. A heavy gear load increases the tendency to turn upwind (weathercock) so moving the seat further back and/or load a greater percentage of the weight into the stern. We advise putting about twice as much weight behind the cockpit as in front whenever your kayak is carrying a heavy load.



It is important to develop the best technique for turning into strong winds and to practice it until you are proficient. It could mean the difference between paddling back to a protected shore or being blown out to sea. (See the Mariner Owner’s Paddling Guide for detailed information on controlling your kayak in strong winds, the information here relates only to how the sliding seat can help.)

Slide the seat as far forward as possible to "loosen up" the stern. This is important and often overlooked at first. Moving the seat forward decreases the depth of the keel at the stern and increases it at the bow. This along with the increased windage at the stern and decreased windage at the bow moves the kayak's pivot point further forward. As a result, moving the seat forward gives your kayak greater maneuverability and a strong tendency to weathercock --both of which are helpful when trying to turn into a strong wind. A gear load is also beneficial here because the wind can’t pivot a heavy kayak around as easily as a light one.



Because we had found following seas very frustrating (to say the least) due to the strong broaching tendencies of the kayaks we first owned, several of the hull features of Mariner kayaks were designed in part to counteract broaching. They include the rounded and rockered bow, the long pronounced keel in the stern quarter, the hard chines of the stern sections, and the integral rudder effect of the hard chines and curve at the stern quarter (discussed at the beginning of this manual). It was actually a "we could do better than this" conversation that began on a particularly long and frustrating downwind paddle that eventually resulted Mariner Kayaks.

All boats and other long objects tend to turn sideways to the waves (even when not moving forward) because the surface of the water is moving FORWARD at the crest and BACKWARDS in the trough of each wave. As boats begin to travel at nearly the same speed as the waves they begin to surf forward on the wave faces. Once in this bow down surfing position the trough is retarding the bow to a greater degree than the crest is retarding the stern. If the boat is slightly angled to the direction of the waves the bow (held back by the trough) is overrun by the stern, and the boat ends up at right angles to the direction the waves are moving. Making matters far worse, gravity is always at work and the stern can be pulled down the face of the wave while the bow is already as low as it can get in the trough. Unless the waves are quite long, or gentle, stern mounted rudders or fins are of little help in overcoming this because just when they are needed most, the wave crest lifts them clear of the water to dangle uselessly in the air, unable to prevent a broach from starting. Once most kayaks (those without hard chines or strong keels or lots of "V" in the stern quarter) have started to broach they begin to slide sideways, skidding out of control until they come to a sideways stop as the wave passes them. Then, as if to add insult to injury, an unfavorable windage balance often makes it difficult to turn back downwind. The resulting struggle to stay on and get back to your course, plus the considerable extra effort of accelerating a heavy load up to speed every time you skid to a stop, can be very exhausting and downright infuriating. Skidding sideways at full speed on the face of a wave is almost certain to capsize an inexperienced paddler.

In sharp contrast, paddling a Mariner in these conditions is a delight. When you've got the feel of it you can take advantage of the following waves to surf along at amazing speeds while tilting the kayak and using subtle correcting strokes to stay on course. A little practice in your Mariner will make following seas an invigorating and exiting way to enjoy kayaking. You’ll find yourself looking forward to encountering the kinds of conditions that terrorize many other kayakers. (Warning: If you have used only Mariner kayaks and someday find yourself paddling a friend’s kayak in these conditions, don't be so carried away with your past success with a Mariner that you overreach the capabilities of the kayak you are in!)

To travel downwind in following seas (or quartering wind and seas) it is usually best to slide the seat all the way back. Trimmed like this your Mariner works against broaching in three ways: 1) At the stern the hard chine and keel are set deeper into the water to minimize the tendency for the stern to break into a sideways skid. 2) After it has broached (yes, even a Mariner will eventually broach, but it will do so in a slow and controlled manner -- we can only minimize and delay the effects of gravity, not repeal the law) a Mariner kayak has nice automatic unbroaching tendencies. As the wave overtakes you, it gently pushes the bow back on course as it passes because with the seat back the pivot point has been moved farther aft. (We should note here that a Mariner's broach is a slow smooth carved turn rather than the sudden pivot and unnerving sideways skid characteristic of many kayaks.) 3) Trimming the kayak stern heavy helps this unbroaching, The lighter bow is lifted and pushed forward more easily by the passing wave crest and added windage at the bow.

As you get better at surfing following seas you should experiment with moving the seat further forward. Sometimes the added maneuverability can allow an expert to turn back down the wave and out of a beginning broach (the Express is especially adept at this).

(See the Mariner Owners Paddling Guide for more information on weathercocking as well as controlling broaching and course keeping in following seas.)



Paddling into head seas the best seat position depends to a large extent on the wave length. Often in a strong wind the waves are short, steep and whitecapping. Surprisingly, in steep head seas, a forward position can work best. As the crest passes the bow drops down into the trough sooner to then ride gently up the next wave. When the seat is further back the bow drop may be delayed enough to plunge the bow into the face of the next wave while carrying maximum downward momentum or slap the hull down into the trough giving a more jarring ride (although this is also minimized by a Mariner’s narrower V shaped forebody). A forward seat position also helps keep the bow pointed into the wind by putting more bow keel into the water and cutting windage at the bow. Bow heavy Mariners still provide a far drier ride than most kayaks (even when they are unladen, so it is usually beneficial to move the seat forward going into waves.

If you are not carrying a load and know you will be paddling INTO strong winds and head seas, it is advisable (with any kayak) to add some weight, 60 lb. or more. You could use smooth beach rocks, logs or anything handy. The extra weight adds momentum so the kayak isn't slowed as much by the action of the waves and wind. Adding weight in the bow also helps keep a boat pointed into the weather.

NOTE: If you are not certain which direction you will be paddling to the wind and want to make the best compromise for all conditions, it is usually best to put the first 40 pounds just behind the seat. For best calm water trim and for head winds slide the seat forward to balance the load. With the weight in the stern and the seat all the way back, performance in a following sea will be excellent. Smaller and less powerful paddlers who may have difficulty turning into a strong wind will be helped by distributing the ballast equally into the bow and stern, up to about 60 pounds total. Put additional weight in the stern until 2/3 of the weight is in the stern, 1/3 in the bow. If the kayak has a bow-heavy trim it will be much more difficult to handle when running downwind or when the wind is on the beam.

Secure ballast from shifting by wedging it tightly in position, possibly beneath your float bags. An Eskimo roll is difficult if the ballast shifts to one side as the kayak is righted.



Many touring kayak skirts will fit the coaming but they may severely limit the slide range. The Snapdragon Neoprene/Nylon Sprayskirt we have had custom fit for the cockpit and sliding seat works very well and is of top quality. The adjustable shock cord at the waist allows a good fit for most paddlers. This adjustable shock cord combined with the adjustable quick release shoulder straps means the skirt can be held tightly up under the armpits for bad weather and seas or left loosely open for air circulation in hot weather without the risk of water easily getting inside as long as you stay upright or having to remove the skirt entirely for comfort. The spray skirt can be worn either over or under your life jacket. One warm or calm days we often wear it over the PFD, which provides better ventilation and easier access to the cockpit area. However, for heading out through or playing around in surf (or in any rough water and when it is raining) we put the spray skirt on first and then the life jacket on top. This 'shingle' effect does a better job of keeping one dry and keeping water out of the kayak. 

Caution: If you want to wear the PFD under the spraydeck make sure no strap ends or other parts of the PFD can snag on anything inside your cockpit. I cut off any folded back and sewn strap ends on my PFD that might possibly snag on something inside (or outside) the cockpit and make it more difficult for me to exit the cockpit. As long as we are on this subject, also be careful not to wear sandals or shoes with laces that might get caught on a footbrace or something else inside the kayak and prevent an easy exit.

The spraydeck releases with one hand or two by pushing the release loop forward so the shock cord clears the coaming lip and then lifting it up and back to remove it. Make sure that anybody who puts any spraydeck on any kayak practices taking it off a few times and reviews the procedure for 'wet exiting' under water. Once you have become confident in your spray skirt removal technique in a capsize, you can tighten up this shock cord somewhat for more security against it being "popped off" by a wave crest or dumping breaker. To tighten, grasp the front of the spray skirt with one hand (or step on it) and the shock cord with the other hand where it comes out at the rear. Stretch the shock cord out and tie off another knot (or move the first one). Again check that the shock cord is loose enough to allow you to easily get it on and off the rim preferably with only one hand. Push down on the front of the spraydeck, where it is stretched over the front of the cockpit, to check it against the danger of being imploded by a wave landing on top of it.  Anytime you use a different spraydeck make sure to go through this check procedure before putting the kayak in the water.



Try out alternate spraydeck removal methods. Try pulling the spraydeck off with the shock cords at the back. Try bending at the waist (or pushing both hands down and away on the rim) to make a wrinkle you can grab at your side and use to pull the skirt free from the cockpit rim there. Also try lifting your PFD up and slipping your hand down inside the waist opening of the skirt and then turning your hand palm up and sliding it to the side under the skirt pushing your straight fingers out between the skirt and the coaming thus forcing the spraydeck away from the side of the cockpit rim allowing you to lift it up and off the rim as you swing your hand forward to also clear the skirt from the front of the rim. Practice these methods several times with a wet spraydeck so you will remember the ones that worked best for you and your particular spraydeck in case you forget to put your front grab loop outside of the kayak when fastening the spraydeck (and then later capsize).

If you wear gloves while kayaking be sure you can feel and find the spraydeck's grabloop underwater with those same gloves on. Some paddlers add a caribineer to the grabloop to add some heft that make the release loop easier to feel and find with gloves on. The caribineer also makes the grabloop hang down when the kayak is upside-down so the release loop will be easier to find and grab underwater.

Although it has never happened to us (or any other surf kayakers we knew) during many years of surfing with our sliding seat kayaks, there is still the possibility that when paddling in bigger surf (or rock gardens and sea caves combined with ocean swell) that the kayak's bow could hit the bottom (or a solid object) hard enough that the seat might be moved well forward (even though the seat won't move forward easily unless several things are done in just the right combination). While we have always found the sliding seat to be especially easy to move to the back when we were upside down, if something were to block the seat's free movement to the rear (once it had been moved well forward) then it could conceivably be difficult to exit the cockpit. We strongly suggest you also practice sliding the seat while upside down. Do this in shallow water with a friend standing by to help should you have trouble. Remember to take the pressure off your feet anytime you want to move the seat backwards.

With the possibility of entrapment in mind, we suggest that anyone intending to paddle in extreme conditions (while using the sliding seat option), both make sure to not put anything behind the seat that could shift around and block it from moving freely backwards and to limit the forward slide range of the seat to a point where a wet exit would still be easy. The easiest way we have found to limit the seats slide range is by drilling holes through the cockpit coaming's (hung seat) hangers and through both of the seatbacks vertical braces (near the seat body and top of the braces) such that a stout 1/4 or 5/16 inch nylon cord can be threaded through all four holes in a relatively straight line. Next adjust the stout cord's length to limit the range of the seat to positions where wet exits are easy for you. The cord can be removed or loosened some for less extreme paddling and the full seat slide range restored.

Carry your flares, smoke bombs and other signaling devices in the spraydeck pocket so they'll be with you should you ever be separated from your kayak. NOTE: The spray deck pocket is not waterproof, so expect that the items in it may well get wet and prepare them accordingly.




For those unfamiliar with it, a sea sock is essentially a large bag made with "waterproofed" nylon material which fits into the cockpit of your kayak and seals with a shock cord at the coaming. You sit in the bag, separated from the seat, footbraces, and the rest of the inside of your boat. It goes around your lower body like a much oversized sock would go around your foot. By separating you from the inside of the cockpit, the flotation inside the kayak is maximized. A major advantage is that far less pumping is required to bail the kayak after a capsize. This is because your kayak will float so high with a seasock that very little water is scooped up by the cockpit when you right the capsized kayak. Another advantage of a sea sock is that it keeps the inside of your kayak clean of the mud, sand, gravel and seaweed you may track into it. I simply let a muddy sea sock dry and later shake out the dust to clean it. It can also be rinsed out if you prefer a more thorough cleaning.

To allow the seat to be slid forward and back without having to slide the seasock material between your butt and the seat, tuck all the excess material behind the seat when first sitting in it (your feet should go as far into the "toe" of the sock as is easily possible). As you enter the kayak make sure that you temporarily leave an opening on one side where the seasock attaches to the cockpit rim. This opening will allow air to escape from the hull as your body displaces it. If you don't do this you will feel as though you're sitting into a big balloon --the trapped air put under pressure by your weight holds the sock tightly around your legs. Once down into the seat, "burp" the sea-sock by moving your legs, feet and hands around, pushing as much air out from behind the sea sock as you can before closing it completely. This will help hold the sea sock away from your legs (air must get back inside the boat for it to collapse). Some paddlers use a sheet of Ethafoam™ (shaped a little smaller than the foot area) inside the sock and against the footpedals to hold the sock open and away from their feet, most don’t bother.

A hand pump and rescue float should not be stored where the sock would need to be opened to get to them. Any gear you want to get at easily while under way should be stored on deck. A sea sock should always be backed up with float bags and/or waterproof gear bags. Never use it as the kayak’s sole means of buoyancy. You might want to open the sea sock in order to get to your lunch or some other item, and if you capsized at that point it could be disastrous.

With many kayaks slippery nylon fabric between your thighs and the kneebraces can make it difficult to get a good grip if the braces, unlike a Mariners, are not at a steep enough angle to hook securely with your knees. Therefore use care if switching kayaks with a friend who doesn't yet own a Mariner. This slippery nylon fabric will also be between the coaming rim and the spray deck, possibly allowing the spray deck to release unintentionally. You may need to tighten the spraydecks shock cord some to prevent this when using a sea sock when surfing. 



Because a heavier paddler has more weight to move around to change trim and probably has greater strength for lifting it onto their car we recommend the sliding seat to them. Big paddlers also benefit more than smaller paddlers from the increased cockpit length (for entering and exiting) that the sliding seat allows. A lighter paddler gains less advantage from the sliding seat and is more likely to appreciate saving enough weight to make the difference between easily loading it onto their car solo and having it be a struggle. Therefore we offer the following options or the kayak without a seat so you can use your own or another manufacturers you have found comfortable.



This hung seat option can be retrofitted on a sliding seat kayak quite easily but the reverse is not true. This conversion saves about 4 lb. A kayak built with a hung seat  (and the lighter foot pedals) is about 5 lb. lighter than the same kayak with a sliding seat.



The foam seat saves about 2 more pounds than the fiberglass hung seats, gets the center of gravity lower, and does not need to be padded or insulated.




Since the rear decks are essentially flat, a variety of hatches and locations may be used. We offer three types installed on the afterdeck. Of the commercially available hatches we use only the 7 1/2" VCP or the 4" Beckson. The fastener holes on most others are so far apart that a permanent watertight seal on a somewhat flexible fiberglass deck is difficult to obtain. Another problem with the larger screw-in type hatches (such as the 6" PYHI or Beckson.) is that they are often so hard to loosen because of the larger contact area on the rubber O-ring that they become 'knuckle busters'. The 4" Beckson is only an armhole but it is often a help when moving the gear you have loaded through the cockpit into the bow of the kayak. If you get a permanent bulkhead installed behind the cockpit you will have to load and unload your gear through a rear hatch. (See the discussion of different gear loading arrangements elsewhere in this manual.) The 7 1/2" VCP hatches are used this way on many British expedition kayaks. Personally, we'd rather spend our time paddling than shoving and pulling a bunch of little parcels in and out through a little hole. For use with fixed stern bulkhead we recommend our 12" x 17 1/2" coaming hatch. Its fiberglass lid, with locking trim strip, and tight fitting neoprene cover make it one of the driest and most secure large cargo hatches available.



The 4" Beckson hatch is standard on the bow of all models but the Mariner II (which uses the 7 1/2" VCP), and is optional, although rarely used, on the rear deck. It allows you to get your arm inside and push gear bags to the very ends of the kayak easily, and also shove the bags up to where they can be reached from the cockpit for unloading. The lid is tethered to keep it from being lost or set down in the sand where it could pick up a lot of grit on the threads. One reason we chose the Beckson is because it has large easy to clean threads. In order to maintain a good seal keep the threads and the area where the lid seals clean! The stainless steel wingnut dangling from the tether cord is a spare for the footbrace length adjustment wingnut on the (sliding) seat in case you lose one. Because these wingnuts have to be machined and threaded they cannot be formed from the most stainless grades of stainless steel, and therefore will get some surface rust eventually if used around salt water. Surface rust on "stainless" steel isn’t a problem and won’t corrode further.

For most paddlers it is unnecessary to have an armhole behind the cockpit in the relatively short stern (and since the access port protrudes into the kayak about 1/2 inch it can even get in the way of sliding a large gear bag into the kayak)


7 1/2" VCP HATCH

This hatch has a heavy rubber cap that is held firmly in place with a cam lock ring. It is a very watertight hatch. It comes standard on the bow of our Mariner II. Since it doesn’t use screw threads, you don't have to be so careful about keeping it clean. But of course you should anyway. To open these hatches you lift up the locking lever (if it has one) and then you grasp the far side of the hatch lid and lift it upwards and towards you. Once you break the seal the rubber lid is just peeled off. If the locking lever on the stainless band won’t stay down put a slight bend in the stainless strap right at the front edge of the plastic lever.



Mariner Kayaks' coaming style hatches are among the most waterproof large kayak hatches. Of the hatches we offer the 12" x 17 1/2" rear deck hatch is the largest and most convenient to use when you have a permanently placed rear bulkhead. To 'batten down the hatch' first place the fiberglass lid in position on the coaming making sure the word "aft" is towards the stern. Next, starting from the front of the oval, push the vinyl trim strip over the edges of the lid and coaming around the entire perimeter pinching it into place between your thumb and fingers. The strip can be stretched or compressed somewhat as you complete the oval to make the ends meet precisely. Finally, stretch the neoprene cover over the whole assembly. This works best if you start from the front or back of the oval and stretch it on with both hands gripping the neoprene several inches apart. Finish by placing your thumbs against the rim for leverage and pulling the shock cord down over the edge with your fingers. It's possible to securely hold the hatch together using only the trim strip or only the neoprene cover, but using both is even more secure. The vinyl strip is reinforced throughout with metal staples. They are malleable, so if the strip starts fitting loosely you can pinch the edges together to make it fit more tightly. Expect a little rust at the cut ends from the steel staple that is not fully enclosed. The arm of the vinyl U-channel that has the little sealing lip on it should go up when you install it (this leaves more room below the lip for the shock cord of the neoprene cover). One of our customers uses the outside (of the curve) half of a 12" bicycle inner tube instead of the vinyl strip. This could be a very compact backup or replacement seal.

The neoprene cover will last a long time if you take a few basic precautions: Store the kayak with the hatch open (or at least with the cover off) so as not to prematurely stretch the cover out of shape. Storing it in the sun will fade and degrade the nylon surface of the cover. Finally when practicing the Mariner (outrigger paddle float) Self-Rescue and the paddle shaft must go over the rear hatch it might be wise to remove the neoprene cover so it doesn't get unnecessary abuse. Even without the neoprene cover the inner vinyl edging strip (or inner tube half) should keep out all but a few drops of water during rescue practice. (Note: The stern hatch is now usually mounted further aft with dedicated self rescue lines placed between it and the cockpit. However, the hatch can be mounted just about anywhere on the rear deck you prefer.)


OPTIONAL UNDERDECK CHART POCKET (Available only with FOREDECK CHART HOLDERS--which are standard on all models but the Coaster)

This option keeps your other charts, or any other relatively flat items such as gloves or pogies, handy but up off the floor and out of the way under the deck. Additionally, loops of 1/8" shock cord are attached front and rear to hold such items as hand bailing pumps or fish rod cases just under the pocket, also up out of the way.

We fold our charts to fit our Crystal Clear Chart Case (which are sized to fit under the shock cords on Mariner's front decks). Our chart cases are clear on both sides so twice the chart area can be viewed before having to open the case and refold the chart. The chart case is made from an exceptionally strong material (not vinyl, which often tears at the seams on other -- including our earliest -- chart cases). It rolls down and closes with Velcro. It seals out water quite well (not a zip-lock -- that often won’t seal because of a few grains of sand).


STANDARD FEATURES (except the Coaster)


The tension of the 3/16" shock cord can be adjusted by stretching (to narrow its diameter) the shock cord from both sides where it passes through the deck and then moving it in the desired direction. When released, the shock cord expands to fill the hole and seals it quite well. Their are several advantages of this system but the major reason we do it this way is that there need not be any eyelets or knots sticking up in this critical paddling area on which to "bark" your knuckles (this also allows us to make the cords longer across the deck in order to hold a bigger chart case. Because shock cord loses much of its elasticity over time if kept under tension, leave them as loose as possible, just snug enough to lie flat against the deck. It is easy to take up the slack if it loosens up. Stretch the shock cord to make it thinner and slide it through the hole. You can then retie the figure-eight knot under the deck and cut off the excess.

Even though we import (from the other side of the planet) the best natural rubber shock cord that we can find, the shock cord may eventually wear out, the Mariner system is designed for easy replacement. A pair of pliers is the only tool needed.

The addition of 4" cleats (recessed conveniently out of your paddle strokes way) in front of the coaming means the rear chart cord also makes a superb paddle park. (See paddle park section.)

The foredeck chart holders can hold a compass, whistle, air horn, knife, tow line, sea anchor, kite, fishing equipment, or other gear you might want readily at hand. The compass and other gear you don't want to risk losing should be clipped or tied to, as well as held down by, the shock cord.



If you have a task to do at sea that requires both hands, you may want to set your paddle down. If the task demands some time and attention, you'll want to attach the paddle to the boat so you can forget about it and not lose it. If you have bow painter cleats and the chart holding shock cords you also have a very secure and easy to use paddle park. Place the paddle on top of one cleat at the front of the cockpit and lift the nearest shock cord over the shaft and hook it on the back of the cleat.

Paddle Park using a cleat -- Padlpark.gif (1755 bytes)

This can be done on either side to hold one paddle blade in the water (or the paddle can be hooked to both cleats to hold it level and out of the water). We've found it best to hold the windward blade in the water, relatively flat to the surface. This keeps that blade from catching the wind or the water as the kayak drifts sideways with the wind.

We've used this set-up in 40+ mph winds, and it works well. Because the paddle is free to pivot when hooked to only one cleat it's unlikely that anything but a direct blow to the paddle/cleat joint from the right direction could knock it loose.

To get the paddle ready for use again, simply put both hands at their normal paddle grips (one on each side of the cleat) and pull back. You've got your paddle all ready to brace in a fraction of a second. The shock cord will snap back to its original position. If there's no hurry and you don't care to make a snapping noise, simply lift off the shock cord by hand and place it back on deck.



This consists of a line running from two 4" nylon cleats recessed just in front of the cockpit to the bow and back. The line has a snap at the end, and a small float to allow you to retrieve the line from the water. In the rest position the painter clips to itself to form a continuous loop which can be rotated from the cockpit. This means that lines from devices such as sea anchors, kites or tow lines can be tied to one of the 4" cleats in front of the cockpit, where it is easy to retrieve them or let them go quickly if necessary, but the point at which these devices pull on the kayak can be positioned anywhere from the cleat to the bow by rotating the line. This is done by clipping the snap on the bow painter over the line to the sea anchor or kite and then rotating the snap up to the bow or anywhere you desire in between. Test this: with smaller diameter line and some snaps the line can slip out of the snap as it twists. If this is a possibility push a loop of the light (kite) line through the other hole in the snap and then clip the loop with the snap. The line should still slide freely enough to allow rotating the bow painter while the line remains fixed to one of the cleats in front of your cockpit.

Bow deck rotating towline showing knots and float -- Bowdckrg.GIF (3458 bytes)

The snap can be unclipped from the other end of the bow line and used to tie up to a pier, float, log, tree, buoy, etc. by wrapping the line around the object and hooking the clip back to the line so it chinches around the object. This is an excellent practice whenever you will be away from your kayak on a shore where the water level could rise due to big waves, tides, dam releases or floods. If you lose your spare rope, you could even use the lines to tie the bow and stern to the bumper of your car when the kayak is on the roof rack (we don't recommend this as a regular practice). If you are in the cockpit, releasing your kayak from whatever you are tied to can be done very quickly if necessary by pulling out the slip knots that prevent the line from pulling through the cleat (see illustration). You are free, leaving the line attached to whatever it was tied to. NOTE: As the nylon line gets wet and shrinks upon drying, these slip knots become very tight. Check them occasionally to see if they can still be easily slipped undone, and retie them if necessary. We use nylon on towlines rather than Dacron™ or polyethylene line (which shrinks less) because it is stronger and stretchier. It provides excellent shock absorption for towing without needing any shock cord in the system. We recommend you also carry a towline of similar material that is at least 50 feet long. Use it for towing in rough seas where kayaks that are too close together could collide.

When the snap is clipped to the first slip knot (as pictured) of the two slip half-hitches the snap prevents the loop from being accidentally pulled out. This way even if the end of the slip half-hitch is accidentally pulled it will not release the snap or pull through the cleat.

The other knot is a type of taut-line hitch known as the Midshipman's Hitch. This knot can be slid by hand to shorten or lengthen the line as needed. You will soon want to slide the knot back to compensate for the shrinking of the nylon line once it gets wet. You should never have to untie or retie this knot in normal use. However, the Midshipman's Hitch is such a good knot we'll try to teach you to tie it anyway. We use it in tying kayaks to car racks and bumpers since it can easily be lengthened or shortened to take up slack yet holds firmly under a heavy load. One of our customers (who we watched tie it before we showed him how -- a unique occurrence) explained that it was the only knot that the Navy Air Corps allowed for tying cargo down on airplanes. Quite a testimonial.

Bowline and Midshipman's hitch -- Knots.GIF (4663 bytes)


This consists of about eighteen feet of 3/16" solid braid Dacron™ line laced through nylon eyelets. We use Dacron™ here because it doesn't stretch and shrink as much as nylon does with repeated soakings and dryings, therefore offering a more consistent and secure line for holding down deck gear. The eyelets are attached to the deck with stainless steel machine screws and Nylock nuts.

Back deck rigging -- Bkdckrig.gif (2600 bytes)


The first loop of line goes around all the nylon eyelets. This provides an emergency grab line and also helps to keep gear from sliding and possibly coming out on the otherwise slippery deck.

Because the Midshipman's Hitch slides to provide slack you should never have to untie or retie this knot to use the deck storage line. Just slide the Midshipman's Hitch and slip your bag of gear under as many lines as possible. Slide the knot back up the line until the slack is taken out and the gear is held tightly.

If you should untie it, the Midshipman's Hitch is described above. The knot that holds the other end of the line to the eyelet is the Bowline, it is also described above. These are among the most useful of knots. You should learn to tie them both. They're great for securing kayaks to racks and car bumpers.



Our holder is so versatile that there are dozens of ways a spare paddle could be attached. We will only discuss those we feel are most secure while still allowing the paddle to be removed quickly for use in an emergency. Our criterion was 'if you lost your paddle and capsized could you get your spare, put it together and still have time to roll back upright?' You can! And of course if you're an able Eskimo roller you need not waste time putting the paddle together since half of it is all you really need if you're practiced at it. The holder is arranged so the spare paddle can be held either over or under any gear that might be lashed to the deck. The paddle holding shock cords can also be used in addition to the deck lines over a deck load for even greater security. They can also be used to hold the paddle securely in place when it's being held under the rear deck gear lines for some time such as for use as an outrigger stabilizer or for rafting to other kayaks. Once you have slid the paddle under the deck lines behind the cockpit and in front of the cleat, just bring the nylon hook over the paddle shaft and hook it to the shock cord on the other side of the shaft.

For storing most spare paddles we recommend the following configuration. It is quite secure while still allowing quick and easy removal:

Spare paddle holding shock cord -- Sparepad.gif (2316 bytes)

First loop the shock cord around the cleat (front half under rear half works best). Next put the paddle shaft through the loop at the rear eyelet. (Note: face the 2-piece release button downward so it won't snag on the shock cord during paddle removal). Finally slip the blade under the front diagonal shock cord and pull it forward as far as possible without interfering with the cockpit rim or sprayskirt. (Note: if you have the rear deck gear lines, put the blade under those front diagonals as well.) To remove the paddle for use (from the cockpit) reach back and grasp the paddle by the outside of the blade. Push it rearward to clear the front eyelet, then move the blade out to the side to clear the diagonal cords. Finally, pull the paddle forward to free it from the loop in the rear. If the button hangs up on the shock cord loop flip the blade over (180 degrees) and try again. Since paddles are different, one method may not work for all paddles, but the versatility of the Mariner system allows it to handle any type of paddle in some way. Whichever way you decide to attach your spare paddle you should check to see that you can remove it easily from the cockpit, and attempt to foresee under what circumstances it might come loose accidentally.

Always store the kayak with the shock cords under the least possible tension. The shock cord will last a lot longer if you do. When the shock cord becomes too stretched out to lie neatly against the deck you can take out the slack by using the nylon hooks to hold the sides together in the middle. As the cord stretches out more with age you may eventually want to shorten it by tying a new knot at the end and cutting off the excess. Singe the end with a flame to prevent unraveling. We suggest using a figure eight knot to ensure that the knot is large enough to not pull through the eyelet. A simple knot can be rolled off the end of shock cord under tension but a figure eight knot (a simple knot with an extra half turn before threading the hole) prevents this.



This consists of a length of line attached (with two slip knots like the bow painter) to the 5 1/2" nylon cleat behind the cockpit (or clipped to a gear line when a large rear hatch replaces the cleat), with a snap hook at the other end. The line runs to the stern and back and is clipped to the bow painter in front of the cockpit. The cleat is placed at the ideal towing point on a kayak, about a foot behind the cockpit. This allows the towing kayak to maintain maneuverability and allows the paddler to attach or detach a towing line without help -- often using only one hand. The stern painter can be used as a short towline or the nylon cleat can serve as the point to tie off a towing line (or a sea anchor if you want your back to the wind). Several figure eight wraps around the cleat finished with a loop that traps the free end works well here for added lines. If towing with the stern painter for any distance it is best to pull the clip through the stern U-bolt so the line goes directly from the 5 1/2" cleat to the towed kayak. This way when the towed kayak yaws to one side or the other (as they continually do) you will not have to fight the yaw as it also pulls your stern over to one side.

NOTE: In large steep following seas a towing line at least 50 feet long should be used to insure that the kayaks do not collide. It works best to get the kayaks at least one wavelength apart (and both kayaks on the same face of their respective waves if the wavelengths are consistent).

The stern painter is held with the same slip knot arrangement as on the bow painter for quick release if necessary. (Retie this knot once the cord shrinks to insure easy release.) The on the stern painter snap clips to the bow painter, or around the front cleat or chart holding shock cord if there is no bow painter. The line needs to be long enough to make retrieval from the cockpit easy. To pick it up if it drops in the water, simply paddle backwards until the line is within easy reach at your side.


SEAT BACK SHOCK CORDS (available only with sliding seat)

The shock cords across the back of the seat will keep water bottles, sponges, rescue float, paddling jacket, sea anchor, kite, lunch, etc. secure and easily available. To secure a bundle or container behind the seat, put it between all the shock cords and the seat, then stretch one of the lower shock cords over the top of the bundle (or container) to hold it down.



For use in the Mariner Self-Rescue (the original outrigger paddle float rescue we invented, refined and popularized starting back in 1981). It is described in detail in our manual Kayak Rescues That Work. and our Rescue Float Plus Directions.



The Rescue Float Plus is still the best paddle float on the market. It is made of a durable urethane coated airtight nylon material. It has two separate air chambers and inflation valves. The two chambers are a safety back-up feature. Either large chamber alone is more than sufficient to do the job. A webbing strap and Fastex buckle at the top allow this device to double as a water resistant gear bag or protective camera bag. To attach to the paddle, slip it over the blade and inflate. The float is held in place by the pressure from the air chamber(s) on the side(s) of the blade. Click here for a photo of the Rescue Float Plus. If you have gear in the waterproof bag and don't want to open it up, you can attach it by wrapping the webbing strap around the shaft and clipping it with the buckle. This float can also be used to keep one blade on the surface when learning how to Eskimo roll. Slip the Rescue Float Plus over the working blade and inflate one side only, using it with the inflated side up. (Note: A quarter cubic foot of flat closed cell foam --3"x12"x12" or 2"x12"x18" -- with a slot cut in it to attach to the paddle blade works even better for learning Eskimo rolls because it can be skimmed across the surface faster on its flat sides).

In 1997 an item known as the "Back-Up" became available. It is a self-inflating float that automatically inflates when pulled out of its (3" diameter by 9" long) mount by a D-handle. It can be used to roll up immediately without exiting the kayak (This "float roll" is like a no paddle Eskimo roll. It is described in our Rescue Float Plus directions because you can also leave a paddle float inflated and ready to grab off the deck to "float roll" yourself back upright if you haven’t yet learned the Eskimo roll.). The "Back-Up" can also be used as a paddle float if you exit the kayak. It costs about three times as much as our paddle float but could give paddlers who can’t Eskimo roll many of the roll’s advantages and takes up less space on deck than an inflated or foam paddle float.



A collapsible 2 1/2 gallon plastic water container can be modified for use as a paddle float. Cords with nylon hooks are tied to the jug to attach it to the paddle shaft. Wrap a cord two or three times around the paddle shaft and hook the cord to itself. One cord is sufficient to do this rescue if you are in a hurry, the other serving as a backup. The spigot cap should be tethered to prevent loss if you plan to open it up to partially fill the float with water during the rescue. As you have probably guessed, this could be your water carrier while doing backup duty as a inexpensive spare to your Rescue Float Plus.

Hooking up a waterjug as a paddle float -- Jugpdflt.GIF (4304 bytes)


The advantage of a pump over a bailing bucket is that you can empty a kayak of water with the spray skirt in place. This means in very rough conditions the boat probably won't be filling faster than you can empty it.

Hand Bilge pump -- Bligpump.gif (2511 bytes)

Our portable hand bailing pumps (which we had modified specifically for use by kayakers) cost a fraction of the price of permanently mounted types, work much quicker, and are a lot easier to live with day to day. The hand pump can be operated with the spray skirt in place by inserting it between your stomach and the skirt. They can be stored up out of the way under the front deck where they are easily reached whether you're in the cockpit or in the water. What's more, unlike many built-in pumps the portable variety can be used (if you have a partner and conditions are not too rough) to empty flooded compartments at sea. They can also be used anywhere else you might need a pump, such as for bailing the kayaks of others who came unprepared or having both the victim and rescuers all pumping at once to quickly empty a kayak.

NOTE: A bailing container may be able to empty a kayak as fast or faster than a pump given 1) a reasonably sized container, 2) a cockpit large enough to not interfere with the bailing action, and 3) conditions calm enough that waves are not coming over the coaming into the swamped kayak.

CAUTION: If left filled with water the hand pump can sink. If pumped dry it will usually only float for a few minutes before sinking. We recommend tethering it to the kayak (especially if you paddle solo) or at least adding a float collar to it (we sell one--or one half of one which works just as well). If it floats and you let it get away at least it can be recovered by someone else (if you are in a group).

Our optional underdeck chart pocket also provides convenient shock cord loops to store the pump in a handy and secure position, out of your way just in front of the cockpit and under the deck.



The freedom of touring a wild, open coastline is one of the great rewards of learning to competently handle a kayak. Your Mariner is a traveling boat designed for extended coastal cruising. Its cargo capacity is sufficient to keep you going for weeks, or months if you know how to pack efficiently. Those folks who are familiar with the limitations of backpacking will be thrilled by the amount of gear and provisions their kayaks will allow them to haul into the wilderness, without lifting any of it on their backs! Luxurious campsites, with spacious tents and thick mattress pads, are possible. And real food for genuine cuisine! We often carry along small ice chests for salads and fresh vegetables. Soft ice chests are best. They conform to the space available and you get the storage space back as you eat the food and collapse them down. We freeze water in two liter plastic soda bottles. They not only keep the ice chest contents (and possibly the inside of your kayak) from getting wet but as the ice melts it becomes part of your fresh water supply. The tough plastic soda bottles flatten easily to save space when you aren't using them, but can be blown back into shape when needed again.



There are several flotation and gear storage systems available with our kayaks. It is essential that you use one and you should consider using two so that one system can backup the other.

This section will be useful in helping you decide which flotation systems you would be most comfortable with. To that end we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each arrangement.




  1. In a rescue situation, water entering through the cockpit will be confined to the cockpit area, which keeps the water from all running to one end and reduces the time required to bail or pump out once the kayak has been re-entered.

  2. Keeps the kayak slightly more stable when swamped.


  1. More expensive.

  2. Most of your gear must be loaded and unloaded through a small opening, such as the 7 1/2" diameter of the VCP hatch. (The 12" x 17 1/2" coaming hatch available for the rear deck makes this much easier for the stern gear compartment.) The size of individual pieces of gear is limited by the size of the hatch they must be loaded through and the need to 'turn the corner' when loading longer items.

  3. Bulkheads create stress-risers which can lead to damage in flexible areas of the hull and wear spots where the hulls are prevented from flexing. (Thoughtful manufacturers make the bulkhead the weakest part so that if something ever has to give it hopefully will be the bulkhead and not the hull.)

  4. Paddling solo it would be difficult if not impossible to remove water from compartments that are flooding due to poorly sealed hatch covers, seams, or accidental breach in the hull. Over a long period of time a small leak can create a dangerous situation especially for a solo paddler. (Backup flotation can prevent this from becoming serious.)

  5. It is difficult to know a compartment has a leak until you reach shore or your kayak becomes seriously out of trim due to the flooding. With the other systems leaks show up quickly in the cockpit area and you will feel them before the water gets very deep.

  6. The bow hatch often sticks up enough that water coming over the bow in rough head seas sprays off the hatch and is blown into your face and eyeglasses. Flush bow hatches are more likely to allow you to avoid this shower but often at the cost of being less secure, leaking, and/or taking up a considerable amount of storage space.



Many paddlers using hatches and bulkheads assume they don't need float bags, gear bags or other flotation in the kayak. Flotation is so important that we recommend that you back up bulkheads and hatches with float bags when paddling an empty kayak and use waterproof gear bags when gear laden.

Don't think you won't need to waterproof your gear with a bulkhead system. Words like 'watertight compartments' are often used in advertising kayaks with bulkheads and hatches. Ours are as watertight as any we've seen, and far more so than most, but we aren't claiming that our gear compartments will remain forever dry. ‘Watertight compartments’ we've seen on numerous kayak models leak at the hatch seals, through their deck fittings, rudder attachments or rudder cable guides. It is not uncommon for kayaks that use a vinyl extrusion between the hull and deck (and are therefore seamed together only on the inside) to take on water through the seam--some even after they have been sent back to the factory and 'fixed' for the second time! Take advertising claims with a grain of salt (even ours) and back up your bulkheads and hatches with waterproof (well, OK we sometime get a little loose with that word too, how about ‘very water resistant’) bags around any of your gear you don't want getting wet. If the bulkheads are fitted near the narrower more V’ed ends of the kayak stress-riser damage is less likely, however, more water will enter in a capsize because the bulkheads are further from the cockpit unless you have added supplemental flotation to areas not behind bulkheads.

For those that prefer fixed bulkheads we offer optional fiberglass bulkheads glassed or bonded in place at the stern of all models. Only Mariner II’s can be fitted with the optional bow bulkhead but that will mean you will have to load the bow through a 7.5" hole. A bow hatch should: 1)be smooth enough and flush enough with the deck that it doesn’t throw spray up in your face (or be on a kayak that rarely puts its bow under water--like Mariners) 2)be big enough to easily load gear through, 3)be totally watertight, 4)be easy to take off and put on, 5)not come off accidentally, 6)not take up too much storage space. Few bow hatch systems get three out of the six. We prefer to load the bow through the cockpit and if necessary use an armhole hatch to help pack and retrieve the gear.




  1. Less expensive than hatches and bulkheads.

  2. No stress-risers created by bulkheads and no hatches to leak.

  3. More room for gear and often easier to load, especially with a small armhole hatch near the bow of the kayak to help moving bags in and out of the bow.

  4. Often much quicker to load and unload gear on the beach because you can use fewer larger bags you filled in camp and slip into place once on the beach.

  5. Bulkier items that won't fit through a hatch, or longer items that won't turn the corner into the storage area through a hatch can usually be easily carried inside rather than have to go on the deck.

  6. You might be able to slide the seat all the way back and slip down into your kayak (if you are not too big, have left enough leg room behind the gear in the bow, aren’t using a sea sock, as well as not having a bow bulkhead in your way) for taking a rest or nap. In wet weather or rough seas you could partly close the spray skirt over you and use it like a hood. This isn't as far fetched as it might sound. It allows you to rest at sea if necessary due to illness, injury or extreme fatigue. If you want to try this, practice first in shallow water with help at hand before trying it out at sea. The trickiest part is getting down into the cockpit in rough water. Kayaks become quite stable once their centers of gravity are lowered like this though. It could be quite possible to rest in this way while lying to a sea anchor or being towed. We found it very difficult to capsize even our tippiest kayak (the 20.5" wide original Mariner) from this position even though we were trying by rocking it strongly side to side. Once someone helped us capsize we could breath the air inside the kayak for awhile if we wanted and could right the kayak again easily by just sticking one arm out of the spray skirt opening and taking a hard stroke from the surface down with that hand. I found that once down low in the kayak I could even let the kayak drift sideways in steep white capping freshwater (steeper than saltwater) waves without capsizing. This rest position could also be used with a stabilizing system such as with sponsons or a rescue float on each end of a spare paddle that’s centered and well fastened under deck lines on the back deck. In that case, don't get too deep into the kayak because righting yourself again with just a one arm stroke if you do somehow capsize seems unlikely to succeed. (See Kayak Rescues That Work)


  1. Large flotation bags that can fill the space you are not using are absolutely necessary if paddling without a full gear load, and you must check that they are in place and inflated before each paddle. Float bags should also be taken (packed away folded up) on overnight trips so you can leave your gear in your dry bags in camp and still paddle your kayak unladen on a day trip from camp.  The disadvantage here is you need to blow them up and probably don't have a vacuum cleaner or compressor handy to make that task easier. Normally (between overnight trips) you just leave your float bags in place and mostly inflated between day paddles so you don't have to blow them up each time you want to paddle. Leaving them mostly inflated between paddles also provides a ready check that there are no air leaks, even a slow leak, in the float bags.

  2. If float bags are cut or punctured they must be repaired. Leaks are rare and usually slow so the bag can be topped up periodically if you are out paddling until you can get back to your repair kit. It helps here to have float bags with inflation tubes long enough to reach your mouth while you are in the cockpit (like the ones we have made to fit Mariner Kayaks). CAUTION: Never pull the bags out of the kayak by pulling hard on the long inflation tubes. They can tear at the joint and repairs at this location are extremely difficult.

  3. With an open system, some sort of dry storage bags are essential. These can be anything from doubled up and knotted plastic garbage bags (protected inside fabric duffels) to expensive sets with waterproof NASA spacesuit (drysuit type) zippers. We prefer the nylon/urethane coated bags with roll down seals at one end. They can be made different sizes by simply rolling the closure more of less times. We prefer large gear bags that can fill up as much of the space available as possible. Small bags allow more room for water between them and therefore don't provide as much buoyancy. Smaller bags are also much more likely to float out of the cockpit during a capsize and rescue if not well secured. Well secured means, tied into place or with some netting or lines that they can't get through if they are in danger of being floated up out of position if a kayak full of water has one end pushed down. Large enough bags are often easily held in place by the seat or the foot pedals. We recommend using two tapered gear bags for the ends and two XL gear bags between the ends and the seat or foot pedals in most of our models. The shorter Coaster might need the XL bags filled less and turned crosswise or use the large size rectangular gear bags instead of the XL ones.

  4. Because some water can get around the bags and fill up the gaps between them and the hull, more water may need to be bailed or pumped during a rescue (obviously any comparison of flotation here depends on the placement of bulkheads and the sizes of the flotation bags or gear bags). Neither system provides as much flotation as a sea sock adds.



For those unfamiliar with it, the sea sock is essentially a large bag made with 'waterproof' material which fits into the cockpit of your kayak and seals at the coaming. You sit inside the bag, separated from the seat, footbraces, and the rest of the inside of your boat.


  1. No stress-risers due to bulkheads.

  2. The least water entry of all systems in a capsize.

  3. You can spill almost all the water out of a kayak that has capsized (and has no significant bow load) by pushing down on its stern and twisting the cockpit slightly to one side to break the suction at the cockpit.

  4. They can help protect a kayak against damage in surf by keeping it lighter and more buoyant so it might bounce off rocks rather than be wrapped around them.

  5. Keeps the inside of the kayak cleaner.


  1. The foot area is subject to wear and must be reinforced or patched when the time comes. Most sea socks have this area reinforced in advance.

  2. Any water that leaks into the hull is difficult to remove without opening the sea sock. A sea sock should always be backed up with float bags and/or waterproof gear bags. A built-in pump or some means of getting a hand pump through the sea sock could allow you to pump without opening the sea sock.

  3. Any gear you want to get at easily while under way should be stored in the sock or on deck.

  4. The slippery fabric between your thighs and the kneebraces can make it difficult to get a good grip if the braces are not at a steep enough angle to hook securely with your knees (not much of a problem in a Mariner since our deep kneebraces don't depend much on friction. Spraying the knee area with a rubbery contact cement and letting it dry carefully (i.e. without letting it contact itself for several hours) can add friction to the thigh and knee brace area.

  5. The slippery nylon sea sock fabric will also be in between the coaming rim and the spray deck, possibly allowing the spray deck to more easily release unintentionally. You may need to tighten the spraydeck's shock cord some to prevent this, especially if you’ll be paddling in the surf zone.

  6. Sea socks can increase the warmth inside your cockpit slightly. This could be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the weather.

  7. There may be a chance of tangling with the sea sock during a wet exit. We have never personally experienced this during numerous "wet exits" with sea socks while surfing and when practicing rescues but we have heard rumors of it happening. The most likely scenario where we can envision this happening would be someone attempting to exit a kayak too quickly and getting their feet twisted around inside the cockpit before being fully upside down. In this scenario the paddler’s feet would also have to twist the seasock around their legs. To minimize this possibility always burp out as much air as you can before sealing the last of the seasock's opening to the cockpit rim and wait until you are fully capsized before exiting the cockpit and then exit by tumbling forward--not by twisting around to the side. If your feet should tangle with the sock, remember to twist back the other way to untwist the sock before again trying to exit.



If you are a heavier paddler and are using a smaller kayak you should be especially concerned about buoyancy. When you are carrying a gear load and the kayak is fully swamped, there might not be enough buoyancy in the stern to allow you to climb back into the kayak without sinking it further as you lay on the back deck. You should overload your kayak and then see how high it floats when it is fully swamped and you are sitting in it. When you do this also practice rescues and pumping out your kayak so you can get some idea if you have enough buoyancy to succeed in rough water. If your cockpit is underwater it is much more difficult to remove the water. If on testing you find your kayaks cockpit rim is under water your kayak either needs a lot more buoyancy or less of a load. (In case you accidentally find yourself with your cockpit rim under water, try putting your spraydeck completely on the cockpit and pumping with the pump down your front between your belly and the spraydeck.



Other than with a rudder system, or rubber (or fabric) items there is very little maintenance required by a fiberglass sea kayak. It is probably best to sponge out a kayak after use so it doesn't set for a long time with a puddle of water in the boat. Fiberglass never cures on a surface that was in contact with air when it cured. This uncured surface can slowly be eroded away, one molecular layer at a time, by long term contact with water. If you have noticed milky white patches where puddles have sat, that go away when the kayak completely dries (except chlorinated, swimming pool, water which leaves a white residue) you are witnessing this process taking place. While this erosion is very slow, over a long period of time it weakens the laminate. With vacuum-bagged laminates, like the hulls and decks of all Mariner kayaks, this can only happen at the inside seams.

The outer surface of your kayak is fiberglass gelcoat. This is a very durable coating that prevents any erosion of the outside surface from releasing glass fibers from the laminate. Warning: kayaks without gelcoat (especially if stored or used a lot in the sun and weather) erode slightly at their surface. Glass fibers at the surface can become microscopic slivers. You may notice a satiny sheen and should avoid contacting a surface like this with any uncalloused skin. I was recently at a symposium where I watched dozens of people in bathing suits attempt to crawl over the deck and get into several of a kayak schools old kayaks that never had any gelcoat on their surface even when new. People were sliding around and off these kayak in great numbers and more kept coming to take their place. I bet there was a rash of rashes that night. Rashes due to fiberglass slivers are not serious and will go away in a couple of days. Your Mariner kayak is not like this, I just want to warn you to be careful about touching those kayaks that are. I never did find out if this school considered scambling into an unstabilized kayak a valid re-entry method or were they (as it appeared to me) demonstrating its futility for most people, even when in a calm swimming pool.

Long term exposure to sun and weather can dull the surface of gelcoat. It can be polished up again much like paint on a car. It is best to store a kayak out of the sun but also in a place where it can ventilate and dry out. I once grew a crop of fuzzy mildew in a double kayak I had stored outside with hatches and cockpit covers on it. It is not necessary to wax your kayak but if you do we suggest using a wax from a marine store that is designed for fiberglass use.

Some people keep their new kayak looking that way for years. You can too if you are careful to not let it touch a rocky or barnacled shore, never let it be sat on concrete or gravel (just set it on wood and grass please!), avoid ice-breaking and don't slide it on sandy beaches, but above all else, do not use it in the surf. However a few scratches don't hurt anything but the resale value so if you would rather have dry feet than no scratches like me get it up to full speed when you land on a sand or pebble beach. I try to avoid sharp rocks and barnacles. They make deeper scratches. Many customers call me because they can see light coming through a deep scratch and want to know how to fix it. All they have done is scratched through the thin surface layer of gelcoat and exposed the clear resin and fibers underneath (which are translucent). There really is no problem unless the glass fibers on the inside of the kayak are broken and it is seeping or leaking. water. In that case a temporary repair can be made with duct tape until a more permanent repair can be made with fiberglass. Fiberglass repair is fairly easy, contact us in the unlikely occurrence your kayak needs a patch job and we will advise you how to best proceed.

The keel at the bow and stern will get the most wear from beaching, etc. We have compensated for this with a heavier laminate in these areas and the keels are broader than most and rounded to minimize the pressure and wear on any one spot. If you eventually wear through the gelcoat in these areas, be assured that the damage so far is only cosmetic. Further wear will be into fiberglass and while it is extra thick in these areas you will be slowly progressing towards a possible leak. If only to maintain your Mariner's amazing resale value, we recommend that you avoid unnecessary abuse such as dragging a loaded kayak across wet sand.

To maintain hatch seals it is best to store the lids and covers off so the gaskets do not get stretched out or compressed (and you don't start a fungus farm inside your kayak). If you must store your kayak outside mosquito netting or something like it tied over the cockpit and hatch openings will keep out the spiders, slugs and neighborhood cats while allowing it to ventilate.



If your kayak is leaking the best way to figure out where is to put water inside and see where it comes out. Leaks are usually easy to fix unless it is in the hatch seal or vinyl seams (which any kayak you buy from the Mariner Kayaks store won't have). Areas to suspect: Rudder cable holes or even the tubes. Use silicon seal on the inside of the kayak where cables go through the deck and bulkheads. The rudder cables themselves can even pump water in through their tubes as they are worked. Silicon sealer squeezed into the back end of the tube minimizes this problem. The "endpour" may be cracked or have voids in it that don't totally seal the seam, holes for rudder pins, toggles or U-bolts. Bulkheads can leak if they come unsealed.

If you or a friend has a kayak with leaky vinyl extrusion seams, fiberglass patches or thickened resin applied to the inside of the seam often won't stop the leak. We have had the best success fixing vinyl seam leaks (in other companies kayaks) by using silicone sealer injected under the top half of the vinyl seam 18" to each side of the area of the leak. Heat the vinyl with a hair drier to make it flexible enough to get a sharpened (like a hypodermic needle) injection tip under it and try not to make a mess.

©copyright 1983 & 2003
Cam and Matt Broze
Mariner Kayaks