Sea Kayak Customization: Deck Lines

This is the simplest of all tasks for a new boat. In fact, it’s also the simplest maintenance task that you can perform on your boat, overall.

It’s this: Check your deck lines for fraying or wear, and check the security of each deck fitting. If you’ve done assisted or solo rescues, you should know the value and importance of solid, trustworthy deck lines and deck fittings. Those lines can carry hundreds of pounds of force when dealing with loaded boats and a failure can result in injury or boat damage at the worst possible time!

First, make sure that the bolt or screw holding each fitting is tight and the fitting is secure. After using the appropriate tool to snug each screw or bolt, grasp the deck line and put generous pressure on the fitting. The fitting should be solid.

VCP Deck Fitting and Slotted Screw

P & H Deck Fitting and Hex Screw

Next, inspect each deck line, including the static perimeter lines and bungie hold-downs. Look for areas of abrasion, fraying, or weak splices. Even brand new boats may have frayed or weakened deck lines thanks to the rigors of shipping and storage. Immediately replace any lines that have issues or damage. This is also a great time to upgrade the common 3/16” deck bungie cords to stronger, more durable 1/4” bungie cord. While your local hardware or home improvement store may have bungie cord, it’s worth the extra few cents per foot to purchase high quality stock from your local sea kayak dealer or outfitter. If you don’t have anyone local, online marine supply stores usually stock the good stuff, too.

While you’re working on the boat, note that the tension of your deck lines is crucial. The static, perimeter lines should be tight enough that they don’t sag or hang loosely in a manner that presents a snag or entanglement hazard, but they should also be loose enough that you can easily slide your fingers under them. Completely taught lines can be difficult to grasp and hold during rescues, so you may want to experiment and find the tension that is right for your boat and deck line material.

Bow Deck Fitting, Valley Canoe Products Nordkapp

The deck bungies should also be adjusted so that their tension meets your specific gear and hold-down needs. The only hard and fast rule with deck bungies is that they should never hang loosely from the deck or create loops that could entrap your body or paddle. Otherwise, feel free to adjust the tension to match the size of the gear and desired security for each section of your boat.

If you like to modify your spare paddle lines with small whiffle balls, vinyl tubing, or PVC pipe, this is a good time to do that, as well. I use the standard deck line arrangement for my split, Euro paddle and can’t offer any specific benefits or personal preferences for the modified versions of attachment.

P & H Hatch Cover Tether

Non-Factory Hatch Cover Tether

This is also a great time to ensure that your hatch covers are all secured to the boat, either via factory installed tethers or by making your own with thin cord.

P & H Cetus MV Repair Items

Finally, when you’re done with your deck line and fitting inspection, you should stock your repair kit with any hardware or tools for the new boat. When I added my new P & H Cetus MV to the fleet, I also added a few spare, boat-specific deck fittings, fitting screws, and the corresponding hex wrench to my on-the-water repair kit for repairs in the field. I also carry a short, 10 foot length of spare deck line and about 4 feet of spare 3/16 inch bungie cord. The deck line can be used for either complete replacement of a short section of line or to splice a damaged, longer section of line, while the bungie can be used to replace deck bungies or the skeg deployment bungie. Carrying these short lengths is sufficient to make workable repairs and a full set of spare deck lines is probably overkill for even the longest expeditions.

Taking the time to inspect and maintain your deck lines ensures that they’re available and ready when you need them. Make sure that they aren’t neglected, or they may fail at the worst possible moment.

Click here to read the main Sea Kayak Customization article. 

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