The Practical Stuff – Tow Lines & Deck Bags
First and Last – A Sea Tech Towline Odyssey
My first towline was a North Water Sea Tech tow line. It got its first use at Skookumchuck Narrows while I practiced rescues in the turbulent currents. I have since carried that tow line with me to Patagonia & Australia, it has traveled hundreds of miles with me up and down the BC coast, it has helped me solve problems in the tide races of North Wales and Scotland, and those are just some of the highlights – still it continues to deliver.
I only recently decided to retire it because of how much I have used it over the past 10 years and I felt as a professional that I should keep my gear current, especially for rescue scenario practice. I was sad to retire it, as it seems like it has got more life left in it. I have loved the simplicity of its design and use.
As I pulled the latest version of the Sea Tech tow line out of the box, I was excited to see that its function and use had not changed in any fundamental ways. Why mess with a good thing? In fact, when I look at them side by side, the old and the new together, I do notice a bit of wear on my old retired line, but other than the red of the fabric being a bit sun bleached, they both look ready to use!
They have, however, made some useful improvements to the existing functionality of the system. The rope is now even more easily removable from the bag and slightly improved bungee system for reducing work load while hauling as well! They have also moved the rope contact point to one side so the rope bag can be re-closed and out of the way while in use. It is hard to improve on such a good thing, but they have done it.
So, long story short, I couldn’t bring myself to retire my old rope fully. It is now my go-to back up and lender for that moment when you realize you’ve left yours in your garage still hanging from the last trip out.
My first towline was a North Water and with the way it’s going, my last towline will be a North Water! Cheesy, maybe, but most good love stories are.
Deck Bags – what are they good for?
Whispered amongst paddlers is the idea that when expedition paddling or even going out for the day, a deck clean of extraneous gear is preferred over the yard sale of kit that can end up cluttering the space in front of you as you paddle. There is an obvious reasoning that goes into wanting to have as little as possible strapped to the outside of your kayak when traveling in complex waters, open ocean swells and landing on surf beaches – there is simply less to lose and to get in your way. There is also a great argument to have certain tools available to you should you need them in a sticky situation.
I carry a number of tools and resources in a small bag that I carry inside by cockpit that might resemble a ‘ditch kit’. It has some communication devices, water purification, extra snacks, fire starter, a knife… all the usual stuff one might need if separated from your boat. There are times, however, when I might find myself in a situation where I do not want to open my skirt and compromise my dry cockpit to access these tools, like in any kind of adverse sea condition. In this case, I have found it necessary to have a small deck bag that has a store of practical tools that I might find useful as I bob about in rough seas.
I have been using the North Water peaked deck bag and fill it with a quick repair kit, a few flares (waterproofed of course), snacks, gum (for sea sickness), a warm hat and gloves, compass, and a few other bits and bobs depending on what I am doing. When paddling and working in coastal environments, I have found this sweet stowage system on my deck has vastly helped me deal with common problems without compromising my own personal safety.
First of all, it comes in this snazzy blue colour (also yellow and black), lol. It has a snug fit on my deck and secure attachment points which I use confidently in surf and rough conditions. It’s solid shape on the deck makes for easy access to all it’s contents and the best part is the double-slider zipper which allows me to stow my compass while having it tethered to a bungee on the deck outside for those foggy navigation days.
So yes, a clean deck is helpful, practical and makes your kayak look ‘super sleek’. I have found my deck bag to be the perfect solution to keep my kayak deck looking clean while giving me safer access to the resources I need when on the water.