Spring is here in Oregon and the rivers are starting to run. I recently built a new bulkhead for my Magnum and wanted to share my ideas with everyone in cyberspace. There are two main things I look for in a bulk head, shock absorption and a comfortable shape. The style I'm using is placing little columns of foam, which serve as shock absorbers, in the bulk head. This is a variation of the popular waffle cone bulkhead. As a general rule, more mine cell foam is better than less mini cell foam. I use two solid pieces of foam in my bulkhead, like those that come with Riot kayaks. Most kayak companies now days include a piece of foam that is to be used as the bulkhead. In between the two solid pieces of foam I place many little columns of foam that will serve as the shock absorbers.
A comfortable bulkhead is shaped so that the area where one's heels are located is larger than where one's toes will go. This will create more surface area for your feet to rest against. This shape will be more comfortable and also help with performance because the entire foot will be in contact with the bulk head vs. pressing against the bulkhead with only your toes.
How do you build the bulkhead? For starters gather up all extra foam laying around. A bulk head is more about function and less about fashion. You can get away with using scrap pieces or used pieces of foam. Second, find a solid piece of foam or several smaller pieces that you can make a solid piece out of. This will be the piece that is closest to the bow of the boat. Place this piece inside the boat. Next, you will take all your scrap pieces and shape/cut them into columns 1" square shapes. I like to vary the height of the columns so I can achieve the final shape I'm looking for. For example I will cut two pieces that are three inches tall. These two pieces will go directly underneath the arch of my foot. I will cut four one inch tall pieces that will be placed in the area of my toes. Then I will cut lots of two inch pieces to take up the rest of the space. Next, it is time to glue your columns onto the solid piece of foam that is outside your boat. You will be gluing the foam columns on the opposite side of where your feet will go. After the glue has dried you are ready to place the remaining two pieces of foam inside you kayak. I prefer to shape the foam so that it fits inside the boat perfect therefore I can get away without gluing this last piece. This allows me to have access to my bow for overnight storage, or transfer the bulkhead to another boat.
-More foam is better.
-Think shock absorption.
-Shape the bulkhead so that it fits the entire foot not just the toes. (longer at the bottom and shorter at the top. You can sit in the floor and place your feet like you were kayaking. Find a comfortable position and give your bulk head a custom fit.)
-Make sure there is no room in between the top of the bulk head and the top of the boat. The same is true for the bottom of the bulk head and the bottom of the kayak. Making sure the bulkhead is touching the boat at the top and bottom will keep your feet from painfully sliding past the bulk head in case of a piton. This is important!
Pitoning is part of creek boating and having a properly fit and heavy duty bulk head can help prevent the chance of injury. Take the time to outfit a good bulk head and you will love it. It is more comfortable, safer, and helps with boat performance. Hope to see you on the river. If you are in the market for a creek boat you must demo the Magnum. Share your bulkhead ideas in the commments if you have a good design or concept, Thanks!