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Kayak Glossary

Aft Toward the rear, or stern, of the canoe

Airbag Used to keep water out of kayaks and provide extra buoyancy, essential in all boats. Can be used to rescue a flooded kayak.

BA buoyancy aid, see also PFD (US)

Bail To empty water from a craft by scooping it out with a sponge or bailer

Beam Width of a canoe or kayak measured at its widest point

Bilge The lowest point of the boat, and where water collects

Bivvi bag Emergency shelter plastic bag 2 x1m, can be Goretex and used as very small tent

Blade As you can quess it is the wider end of the paddle. The bit in the water

Bothy bag Group shelter for slowly reheating hypothermia victims, or temporary stop

Bow Forward extremity of your canoe or kayak

Break in/out To paddle into or out of the main current

Broach Broadside to any obstacle wind, waves, current, or rocks; usually the prelude to an upstream capsize. Don't broach!

Bulkhead A ‘wall’ sealing off one end of a kayak to form a watertight compartment. Normally seen in sea kayaks

Buoyancy The capacity to remain afloat

Buoyancy aid Safety jacket to help keep a paddler afloat. Note it is not a Life Jacket as it will not keep your head out of the water when unconcious.

Cag Nylon canoeing anorak, normally sealed at the wrists, neck and waist

Canadian Canoe The common term for an open canoe

Capsize When a canoe tips over

Carabiners Pear or oblong shaped metal ring with a spring clip, used in mountaineering to attach a running rope to a piton or similar device.

Chute A fast current where part of a stream is compressed and flows between two obstructions

Coaming A raised rim or border around a cockpit designed to keep out water

Cockpit Entry hole to kayak, in various sizes; ‘keyhole’, ‘ocean’ etc

Collision Regulations Also known as ‘Col Regs’, the International ‘Highway Code’ for the sea. N.B applies to the Thames and any other tidal rivers.

Cow’s tail Towing harness incorporated into a buoyancy aid

Creek boat Similar to river running boats except shorter with more volume, softer edges

Deck The enclosed area over the bow or stern of a canoe

Deck Lines Safety lines on the deck of a kayak to manoeuvre the kayak when its capsized or for someone in the water to hang onto. Usually seen on sea kayaks.

Displacement The amount of water displaced by a floating vessel

Draw A stroke taken at right angles to the direction of travel

Eddy A current at variance with the main current, and where the main current either stops or reverses its flow upstream; caused by rocks, obstructions, or the bends in a river or stream

Edging Putting the boat on its edge to increase its manoeuvrability

Eskimo Roll Using the paddle against the water to right a boat that has tipped or rolled over

Fathom A nautical measure of depth: 6 feet

Feather The angle between the two blades of a kayak paddle, usually 45º to 60º

Freestyle boat Short 2m boat designed for cartwheeling etc at the expensive of other criteria

Full plate Footrest designed to spread the forces of shocks, good for WW boats

Gaffer tape 5cm wide waterproof sticky tape, used in emergency repairs

Get-in  where a boat is placed in the water, a slipway or launching site

Get-out - opposite of get-in

Grab loop A loop of rope on the bow or stern of a kayak, useful in an emergency

Hatch An opening through the deck into a compartment, and closed by a hatch cover

J Stroke A stroke on which the paddle is turned to act as a rudder, keeping the boat on a straight course

K1/K2/K4  fast and generally unstable racing kayaks K1 = one person, K2 = two people etc 

Kayak A decked craft in which the paddlers sit with legs extended and propel the craft with a double blade paddle

Kevlar Du Pont’s trade name for poly para phenylene terephthalamide synthetic material five times stronger than steel

Keel A strip or extrusion along the bottom of a boat to prevent side slipping

Knot Unit of speed equal to 1 nautical mile per hour

Lash To make gear secure, usually with a rope

Lee cocking - characteristic of a boat to turn away from the wind or down wind. potentially dangerous

Leeway The sideways movement of a boat away from the wind

Outrigger A form of paddle racing, usually at sea, derived from Pacific Island outrigger canoes

Neaps A tide with the least amount of movement occurs every two weeks– opposite of ‘springs’

Paddle The implement used for propelling a kayak or canoe. Canoeists use a single bladed paddle.

PFD Personal Flotation Device. Buoyancy aid BA

PLA Port of London Authority, governs all users of the tidal River Thames

Pogies waterproof mittens that attach to the paddle shaft

Playboat Over 2m long and designed for ‘moves’ as well as running rivers

Port The left side of a boat or river– opposite of Starboard.

Portage Derived from the French word for “carry.” A fancy name for carrying your boat around a difficult rapid or other obstacle

Rapids An area of a river, stream, or course where the current is very rapid and flows around and over various obstacles

Rigging The system of ropes on the deck of a kayak used to stow gear and in self rescue manoeuvres

River Left The left side of a river from the peddler’s point of view when looking down stream

River Right The right side of a river from the paddler’s point of view when looking down stream

River running boat - Approx 2 – 2.5m good 2D control at the expense of 3D control

Rocker Describes the curve of the hull as seen from the side,

Roll Technique to right an overturned kayak or canoe without getting out of it

Rudder A device commonly used for steering a craft

Shaft The handle of the canoe paddle between the grip and the blade

Sheer The fore and aft curving sides of a hull

Skeg An adjustable fin fitted to most sea kayaks to counteract the effect of side winds

Slack water A period of no tidal movement between ebb and flood tides

Sit-on-Top (SOT) Popular open craft without a cockpit

Spray deck skirt in neoprene or nylon used to enclose kayaks from water

Springs Largest tides occurring twice a month – opposite of ‘neaps’

Squall A quick, driving gust of wind or rain

Standing wave Wave formed by fast moving water hitting still water

Starboard The right side of a vessel

Stern The rear end of a canoe

Stern rudder Using the paddle as a rudder to maintain a straight line

Stopper Recirculating wave that can be dangerous to paddlers, often created by weirs to reduce water flow in rivers

Strainer pierced obstructions which allow water through but not a swimmer - dangerous

Sweep Stroke Used to turn the boat by reaching out and ahead, then “sweeping” in a wide arc fore to aft

Take out Where you end your trip; the take out or get out point

Throat The area of the paddle where the shaft meets the blade

Throw bag Bag of rope used to throw to a paddler in difficulty

Tracking How straight a kayak moves as it is paddled

Trim The angle at which a boat rides in the water.

Weather cocking designed characteristic of most kayaks to turn into or towards the wind (opposite Lee cocking)

Weir A low dam used to divert or slow the flow of water; frequently built by commercial eel trap operators to catch eels and confuse canoeists. To be watched out for !

Whitewater A long stretch of foaming waves and rapids

Wind terms – Beaufort Scale

 Force description Speed
 Description Waves m.
 0 0-1  calm 0
 1 smooth1-3
  light air
 2 smooth
4-6  light breeze 0.1 - 0.3
 3 slight 7-10  gentle breeze
 11-16  moderate breeze 
 5 rough
 17-21  fresh breeze
 6 rough
 22-27  strong breeze
 7 very rough
  near gale
 8 very rough
 9 very high
  severe gale 
 10 very high48-55 
 11 very high56-63 
  violent storm
 12 phenomenal 64+  hurricane 14+

Yaw When a canoe swerves from its course