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Columbia River kayak sailing is great fun

Outfitting our new boat

September 6th, 2011 by

Every now and again we all come across a really nice boat that someone is selling for a song.   We found ourselves in this situation the other day and, like most boat junkies,  couldn’t let this one go.

This gem is an older (pre 2004) Current Designs Squamish Touring boat. She is in excellent condition and has a nice looking hull shape . Basically she is a smaller British style boat with soft chines, full rocker and a retractable skeg. Because she is roto molded she is a bit heavy compared to our skin-on-frame boats.   Durability certainly won’t be an issue.  She’ll make a fun rough water boat and a lively swell rider.

We brought her home and immediately started outfitting.  Of course the first order of business was to mount the sail!  Because this boat has moderate amount of foredeck sheer, I decided to support the underside of the main body tube with a pair of minimalist channel blocks that attach to the foredeck with small stainless machine screws backed by washers and nuts. They were easy to make and look good on the boat. Not only do these micro blocks support the underside of the rig, but they also allow the main body tube to be slid fore and aft so the rig position can be changed depending on the reach of the paddler. The other nice thing about this system is that since the front of the rig is held in place by the mount, attaching eyes traps to the bow was not necessary. Only the eye straps located under the cross tube were needed to hold the rig down. This also makes it easier to put the sail cover on the rig, an added bonus.

Patti outfitted the inside of the cockpit with custom shaped foam supports and a comfortable back band. She also removed the aft deck bungee and replaced it with some spectra line and a pair of Inuit style wooden toggle slides to hold her paddle firmly in place during capsize recovery.Inserting the paddle and pulling apart the toggles creates an “outrigger like” stabilizing device that makes a reentry a breeze. This system works incredibly well.   It’s amazing  that Kayak manufacturers don’t offer this system on all their sea kayaks.  More on this in a later post…

In the evening we happily slid the boat into the water. Even though there wasn’t much of a breeze, we were able to see how nicely the boat performed in light air.Patti loves how this kayak behaves and steers while under sail. Patti, by the way, is really good at rudderless sailing.   I think I have her convinced to do a blog post on the subject.  I can’t wait, it should be very informative.   Enough writing,  it’s time to get back out on the water.   The wind is up!

 

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Camping in the Northern Cascades

August 31st, 2011 by

Recently, our friends Debbie and Keith twisted our arms and dragged us out of the loft to do some camping.  We took our sails and boats and headed up to a beautiful mountain lake in the Cascade range of Washington State named Lake Wenachee.  It’s been so incredibly windy on the Columbia River lately that we thought it would be a good opportunity to get away, test our prototype headsail,  and enjoy the company of friends.       These are some photos from the trip.  Hope you enjoy.

 

We took our folding Pakboats, strapped them up to the racks, and started driving.

 


We traversed through the beautiful, hot, high desert prairie of of Eastern Washington State’s Yakima Valley before entering back into the cool Cascades.

 

 

Keith and Debbie, who arrived a day early, found a fabulous  waterfront campsite complete with a small beach for the boats!

As our luck would have it,  a frontal system pushed in from the Pacific and brought some moisture.

 


A surreal procession  of cottony clouds caressed the mountain sides and reflected their beauty on the lake.

It’s mesmerizing and peaceful the way our thoughts seem to melt into the water.

 

It is really important to dress for the water temperature. This lake is crystal clear and very cold.   We suited up and set out to explore the lake.

We  popped up the sails every now and again when a breeze was felt, but mostly  propelled ourselves by paddle.

 

Isn’t it funny how the farther away from civilization we get, the nicer the scenery.  Hmmm…    Maybe there is something to reflect on here.

 

It sure is nice to paddle on glassy water.  After sailing in the extreme winds of the Gorge, the silence of stillness is wonderful and a little odd at the same time.

 

 

 

What a beautiful afternoon for a sail.

 

 

Back at the camp Charlee Girl and Debbie communicate with each other in a special way .

 

 

 

 

A small boat on a lake
allows us to take
a break from the push and the shove…
Sails filled with wind
and the company of friends
take us to places we love.

 

 

 

 

 

Messing About With Headsails

June 7th, 2011 by

Messing About With Jibs

Recently, Patti and I have been developing and refining an accessory headsail for the Kayaksailor.

For those new to sailing terminology, a headsail on a boat is commonly referred to as a jib or a genoa (named for the city in Italy).  The main difference between a jib and a genoa or “jenny”,  is the overall sail size and it’s position in relation to the main sail.   A genoa is larger than a jib and overlaps the mast with it’s leech when close hauled.  Genoas are typically used to maximize overall sail area and are commonly seen in use on sailboats in light winds.   They often make boats faster and more powerful not only because of the increased overall sail area but because of the synergistic  relationship between the two sails.  When pointing close to the wind a properly designed and trimmed head sail allows the main sail to work at a higher angle to the wind without stalling, making reaches to windward more effective.   Another nice feature of head sails, especially genoas, is  their low aspect ratio shape.   The center of effort is low making them powerful with minimal heeling making it easy to control from the cockpit.

Our headsail project is something that has been in the works for a while now.  With the Columbia Gorge springtime winds kicking in, research and development is in full swing.
The Columbia River Gorge is North America’s natural wind tunnel and dishes out some truly amazing winds.  We get everything from two to thirty plus knots (and often higher!) on a regular basis, daily depending on the location, making this an ideal location for extreme sailing and putting prototypes through their paces.

This little headsail has us pretty excited!  We’ve made several prototypes to determine an effective size and shape and are currently working on refining the foil profiles for maximum efficiency.

The original plan was for a small self-tacking jib that could be controlled by the main sheet but we soon found that a larger genoa was simpler and way more fun to sail with, even with the main reefed.  Our current prototype has three millimeter genoa sheets that lead through micro blocks on the cross tube and run back to a pair of small jam cleats located within easy reach of the sailor.  The rig still folds and unfolds normally but the wind moves the little jenny around a bit on the foredeck when the rig is folded.  I would really like to build a micro or nano furller that would allow the sail to roll around itself.  I have some basic drawings for a system but it is going to take some time to develop.  A furller would be a nice addition, but for all practical purposes, my sails are up most of the time.  Generally the only time we fold the rig is for capsize recovery, launching and landing and when the wind dies completely.   I think I can live with a somewhat loose headsail on the foredeck at these times, at least  until I start playing with a roller. 🙂

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Leeboard Rigging Tip

June 7th, 2011 by

Leeboard control rod attachment

While sailing a friends kayak the other day, I discovered something very cool.  His rig was mounted  a bit close to me and I found my paddle blade knocking into the leeboard control rods every now and again.  It wasn’t a big deal until I slid the paddle blade between the control rod and the gunwale on one particular forward stroke and it took an awkward maneuver to remove the trapped paddle blade.  Now for the cool part, I sat there in the cockpit pondering the situation when it hit me, attach the control rod from the underside of the leeboard head!

View from the cockpit

This effectively lowers the leeboard control rods and allows them to run flush against the hull.  They are now completely out of the way.   Wow, sometimes the answers are so simple.  I love it!   The only thing that takes a little getting  used to is that the leeboard controls are reversed, meaning to lower the leeboard, one must now push on the control rod  instead of pulling on it.    I really like this new rigging technique and urge you to  give it a try.

David

Creativity and Custom Mounting Systems

June 7th, 2011 by

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.  The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” (Carl Jung)

Creativity is something that we all have.  This precious gift is little used by some and more highly developed in others.  Kayak-sailors  are quite creative, so are young children for that matter.  Maybe this explains our immaturity, always wanting to go paddle-sailing instead of doing chores.  Kidding aside, OK maybe I’m not kidding, I’m always amazed at how creative and clever people are when it comes to developing mounting systems for their rigs.

People enjoy creating their own mounts. Whether for aesthetics, functionality, or both, the variety of systems is truly impressive. The Kayaksailor fits many boats right out of the box, just strap it on and you are good to go, but some boats can use a little help.   Interesting foredeck shapes, prominent hatch covers, fishing gear, tall cockpit coamings, are all possible reasons why one would build a custom mount.

Probably the most common mounting aid is the cross tube block.  They are constructed from a variety of materials but most often from high density foam or wood.  Cross tube blocks are typically used to help secure the rig on a peaked or scooped (concave surface from bow to cockpit) foredeck, but are also often used to raise the rig in order to clear deck gear or hatch covers.   They can be used to level a rig or to raise the aft end of a rig to help open space beneath the boom for increased paddle efficiency when using large faced paddle blades.

The yellow one above I made myself from a small scrap piece of 2×4 pine that was laying around the garage. The bottom shape was determined by bending a wire coat hanger over the top of the foredeck.  Using this wire as a template, a line was drawn on the side of the block and a jig saw was used to cut the bottom shape.  The top has a groove, made by a router, for the cross tube to sit in.  A Velcro strap could have been used instead to hold the cross tube in place.   A little sand paper and some yellow paint gave it a nice finish that matched the boat.


Check out these beautiful mounting blocks made by Timothy Dunlap in Maryland.  He attached the front block from below.

Some Kayaksailor enthusiasts like to make custom mounting brackets for their rig.  Below, is a beautiful example of this style of mount made by Kimo Hogan in Calfornia for his Wilderness Systems Tarpon 12.  The cross tube is held in place with an aluminum cap and machine screws, eliminating the need for cam-lock buckles and cinch straps.  These brackets are made from machined aluminum, but I have seen some made from both wood and plastic.  The front of the main body tube can also be held in a bracket.  Check out this extremely cool front bracket decorated with wings that came off a 1937 Hudson Teraplane.     Now that’s super Creative!

Custom mounts can also be made for folding craft. Here is a nice example of a clean mounting system for a Folbot Aleut, made by Gary G. from Massachusetts.  He uses a longitudinal support to keep the rig supported slightly above the foredeck.  The rig is held to the support with Velcro and D-ring patches are used instead of pad-eyes for securing the mounting straps to the hull.

Below is a very clever mount for a folder that Gerald Grace from Klepper America developed for securing the rig to the forward cockpit coaming of the Klepper.   It’s unique cantilever design definitely shows thought and creativity.

Seeing creativity in action is truly inspiring, and these are just a very small sample of the cool mounts people have come up with.   Now that your play instinct is stimulated,  imagine yourself creating a custom mount for your own boat.  Picture it ….What materials would you use?.. What would it look like?..  When you finish making it, send a photo or two.  We would love to see it!

Fair winds and happy sailing!

David Drabkin

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