“Arrrgh! I have to peeee!”
When you have an urge to pee while in a kayak, have been at sea for the last four hours, and haven’t had a chance to get ashore and relieve yourself, it can get pretty obsessive.
There can be many reasons why it’s not possible to jump out of the kayak and get it done. The most obvious is if you’re paddling a long course across open sea. Or you’re paddling along a coast in onshore winds and don’t want to paddle in and out of the big surf. Or along a steep rocky coast. Or sitting in the middle of a procession in Copenhagen harbour. Etcetera.
There can be lots of reasons why getting ashore to take leak while kayaking just isn’t possible.
Peeing with seals
When I paddle along the west coast of Sweden in the summer of 2018, I made a few long crossings at the start of the trip. The first was from Kullen up to Hallands Väderö (see a map here). The trip was about 20 kilometres, and I had a hard time waiting and was getting desperate as I approached the seal sanctuary and the first skerries on the south side of the island.
The waves, paddling north from Kullen, hadn’t been big, but big enough that I didn’t want to pee in my bailer. What a great relief when I could pull it out (the bailer) as I came into the lee of the first skerry.
One of the exciting things about Hallands Väderö is the many seals that lives there, and while I was having a good time with the bailer, five of them poked their heads out of the water quite close to the kayak. They sat and watched me intently as I filled the bailer up.
You often think of seals as cute with their big eyes, but I must admit I felt rather watched and found the five pairs of big eyes unfathomable, unsettling and strangely alien. It was a relief (not only to the bladder) when I was done and could start paddling again. The movement caused the seals to disappear, only to reappear further away shortly after, still watching.
On another long trip, down through Vestmannasund to Hestur (at the Faroe Islands), I didn’t bother to climb out of the kayak at the first pee break, and to my chagrin it turned out to be the only one that day. The trip was long, so by the time we reached the uncharming harbour at Hestur, I was about to burst, and jump up onto the first dock I saw. I was so tense that for a long time it just trickled slowly out, but what a relief!
At the Faroe Islands we found, that it was a matter of taking advantage of the very few opportunities that presented themselves to get ashore and relive ourself. Although a number of islets were proclaimed as potential pee skerries, the wind and waves did not always make it possible to exploit them.
Peeing on the back deck
On the same trip, one of the women had to pee badly one day. There was absolutely nowhere to get ashore, the cliffs were steep and the waves were crashing against them. We still had quite a few nautical miles to our intended landing spot and no possible landfall before that. It hurt so much that she had to get it done.
We arranged for one of the others and me to sit on either side of her kayak, supporting it in front of the cockpit. She got out of the cockpit and sat cross-legged on the back deck. With some difficulty she got the drop-seat in her dry suit down. Not the most comfortable position to go to the toilet in, and it was not easy for her to relax sitting bare-arsed on the back deck of her kayak in the waves. It took time, and a third guy had to tie in his towline and keep the ‘pee raft’ from drifting onto the rocks.
In the end she was done and could climb back into the cockpit with relief in her face.
A drop-seat would also, in some situations, be a nice in a men’s dry suit. Once on the same trip, when the whole group was ready to leave and the others were already in the kayaks, I had to run behind the rocks to take a dump. It would have been convenient if I just could sit down and squat. Instead, I had to take almost everything off, finish and then put it all back on.
It is nice that there is a zipper in the front of the men’s suits. It makes it easy when you also have a bailer close by in the cockpit. I’ve often heard that you can use an old soda bottle, but I think the bailer is better. It’s easy to use (no problems with hitting), it’s easy to clean, and it can be used to supplement the pump and sponge when you need to get water out of the kayak.
When I bought it, I thought it might be a bit of a luxury thing, but now I don’t go without it. It’s nice to be able to pee when I need to. Even where it is easy to get ashore, it’s often much quicker to sort it all out in the cockpit and then paddle off again.
Using the bailer can be a problem when you’re out at sea. Not so much because of the danger of spillage, but once you’ve loosened the spray skirt and the waves are washing over the deck, you’ll also need the second function of the bailer once you’ve relieved yourself. I usually lower the skeg all the way down so the kayak is lying with the waves in from behind, and then, to my best effort, only loosen the spray skirt in front. That way I can often keep most of the water out.
Having less urge to pee while in a kayak
Something I quickly discovered when I started kayaking is how annoying it is to sit and wait, perhaps for hours, before you get a chance to relieve yourself. I started to consider how much water I really needed to drink on a trip.
It’s bad to get dehydrated, but on the other hand it’s easy to sit and sip too much. I’ve come up with a system where I wait to drink until I’ve been paddling for about 20 minutes and then sip every 15 minutes. Not big gulps, just enough to keep me from getting thirsty. It has taken a bit of experimentation, but works well for me now.
I always use a drinking bottle that I keep on the deck. Although there is a pocket in the back of my life jacket for a water bag with a hose, I don’t feel like using one of those. Both to avoid the temptation to sip too much, but also with hygiene in mind. It’s not easy to keep a drinking tube as clean as I like on a trip over several days.
I have to pee!
Everyone pees, and pees several times each day. The Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård calculated in his book ‘Autumn’ that, at the time he wrote the chapter, he had peed about 75,000 times in his lifetime.
It would be nice if you didn’t have an urge to pee while in a kayak, but there’s no way around it. It’s just a matter of making it work as well as possible. With a bit of planning and a few conveniences, I think I’ve got it pretty much under control now.
Now I won’t write any more – I have to go to the toilet.