My under-deck bag

At surf camp, we always left as much weight ashore as possible. Extra mass is no help in turning, accelerating, or emptying a swamped boat. After a while I noticed that I saw very few bilge pumps on display. True, you’re more likely to wash ashore than to re-enter a capsized kayak in the soup, and maybe a pump was more apt to be scoured from the deck than to be handy for rescue. But how embarrassing would it be to be swept out to sea by a rip and then located weeks later without basic emergency equipment?

Turns out that the instructor types had pumps all along, but stored out of harm’s way. I decided to do the same. After all, there are plenty of other things you might want to bungee to a deck, like spare paddles, compass etc. I peeked inside Eric’s carbon Necky and saw his solution, a PVC tube,  the right diameter to accept the barrel of his pump, glued under the deck on a long strip of dense foam.

While looking for the materials with which to copy this setup, though, I ran across a review by  of the North Water Under Deck Bag. The text and accompanying picture made me imagine that this might be a more versatile system. My idea was that the bag could be used two different ways — plus, the mounting points for the bag could be used by themselves. I ordered one from Austin Kayak and have since had a chance to try it out.

Typical installation, with room for pump above.

Typical installation.

Even with room for lots of gear, the bag isn’t noticeable under way. I had to guess about how far forward I would want the zipper from the cockpit coaming, and the distant buckles are not easy to reach for installation; but nearer would have left little room for the pump handle. Under normal conditions my Bilgemaster pump is held in place fairly well by its red foam flotation ring, but a wave that left me outside the boat took the pump with it as well. It’s been noted that a bit of elastic could be added to make this lashup more secure.




Compact installation -- no room for pump, but more room for knees.

Compact installation.

The bag in the picture above hangs lower than one might expect: I had placed the attachment points just bag-width apart, so that the bag could be installed in the “compact” mode shown at left, cradled upside-down within its mounting straps instead of dangling from them.  There’s no room for the pump, but more room for the knees. This still leaves plenty of space for gloves, swim cap, a folded chart and probably some foodstuffs. Flares would  be a nice touch.




Pump only.

Pump only.

This is the idea that I was proudest of: once you have the attachment points, you can use them even without the bag. (I do plan to trim the ends of those straps — one thing you probably don’t need in an emergency is more stuff to get tangled up in.)  I’m reasonably confident that something would give way in the case of a desperate tug.  This configuration worked fine in actual surf-zone testing, surviving several wet exits.

The manufacturer recommends a very specific adhesive, but one commenter  suggested a vinyl-and-fabric glue sold by Loctite, and that’s what I used. The hard part for someone wanting a custom installation like this may be finding the matching hardware.  Many side-release buckles sold these days are curved in profile, to make them more comfortable as closures for belts, chin-straps etc.; those are not compatible with the hardware on the bag.  I found the ones I needed at Seattle Fabrics. They also carry a wealth of other materials useful for packing or rigging.  For other do-it-yourselfers, the installation kit is available separately, without the bag.  The buckles are the one-inch wide size, using 3/4 inch webbing.