April 15th, 2018 by David
Paddle-sailing is a recreational activity like few others. Combining the propulsion of paddle and sail enables us to go further faster, accessing previously inaccessible waters, while enjoying two sports at once!
Modern sailboats are very efficient at harnessing the energy of the wind, but one of the frustrating aspects of a sail-only craft is that when the wind dies, so does the vessel’s speed. Luckily as paddle-sailors, when the wind lessens, we can simply start paddling.
Exercise is of course a good thing, but efficiency and technique definitely have their advantages. Less fatigue, greater distances traveled, and higher sustained speeds are just a few of them.
Before we get into all the tips, it should be noted that there are no rules here. Ultimately, paddle-sailing should be about enjoying the wind and the water. If your boating goal is simply to relax – maybe do some quiet birdwatching and meander around a small body of water – the following may not be so useful. But If you want to improve your paddle-sailing skills, the following tips might help.
As a preface, it’s important to understand a little bit about a boat’s inertia and momentum and about the forces that move a boat and slow it down. At the risk of triggering Physics 101 flashbacks, inertia is a term which refers to how easy or difficult it is to change the speed or direction of an object. Once that object is moving, its momentum determines the amount of friction force required to slow down and come to a stop. Also, it helps to know that applying a force to an object will move it, and that the force of friction will act to slow it down.
Weight plays an important role. Heavy (high inertia) objects require more force to be applied to them to speed up and slow down. For example, a super heavy vessel like an oil tanker requires an amazing amount of force and time to get up to speed, as well as to slow down. Modern large ships may require as much as five miles to stop, even with their engines in full reverse! Wow, think about that for a moment.
Lightweight (low inertia) objects can speed up and slow down quickly and easily. Have you ever seen an Olympic canoe event, or a world class rowing race? These boats are so light, and the paddlers/rowers so strong, that the boats jolt forward with each stroke. They visually slow down each time the paddle leaves the water, making them have a pulsing “go-slow-go” motion that not only looks bizarre but can make for some pretty exciting finish line action!
Since kayaks are some of the lightest production boats around, they have relatively low inertia and slow down quickly, easily succumbing to the frictional drag created from interaction with the water, as well as from the air when sailing upwind.
As a side note, there is a common misconception out there that lightweight boats have a faster overall speed compared with equally shaped heavier boats. While it’s true that a lightweight boat will require less force and physical energy to build speed and momentum, heavier boats tend to hold their momentum better, allowing them to cut through the chop and maintain their speed better. The reality is that a kayak’s top end speed (or hull speed) is ultimately dictated by the boat’s waterline length, underwater shape, and total wetted surface area, not by its weight.
So what does any of this have to do with paddle-sailing technique? By knowing how an object (in this case our kayak) behaves, we can better understand what we can do to efficiently move it through the water.
Which leads us to:
Tip #1. When that wind puff that was moving your kayak so nicely through the water suddenly goes away, it makes sense to start paddling before the boat slows and loses momentum.
A kayak (like any object) requires more energy to accelerate it than to maintain its speed. This is one of the reasons why cars use more fuel when city driving compared with highway driving. In order to conserve energy it makes sense to provide the boat with nearly constant propulsion forces and not let it slow down too much.
Tip #2. Use your paddle and the sail together to build momentum to reach a cruising speed, then let the sail take over to help maintain that speed.
This not only reduces the time required to get up to cruising speed, but helps with the efficiency of the sail(s) by generating “apparent wind” (the moving air created by the boat moving forward), and this additional wind can help the sails move the boat.
Since a kayak without outriggers has a relatively slender form, it lacks the stability needed to take a large sail plan and must therefore rely on smaller sails to get the job done. This means that anything the paddle-sailor can do to increase the sail’s efficiency will be beneficial.
Tip #3. Try to keep the boat relatively flat in the water when paddle-sailing.
A flat (non-heeling) boat is easier to paddle with a double bladed paddle. In addition, having a flat boat positions the sails so they remain perpendicular to the wind flow. This allows the sail’s foil (wing-like shape) to more efficiently produce lift, and this lifting force is what pulls the boat forward through the water.
Tip #4. Unless you are surfing wind swells and chop (sailing downwind), flat water will allow you to sail faster.
“Choppy” water has a surface composed of lots of small rough waves. Wind swells are larger waves spaced farther apart. Cutting through chop and swell reduces the boat’s speed and therefore its momentum. Every time the bow plunges through a wave, the part of the bow that was previously above the waterline is now creating frictional drag in the water, slowing you down. For fast and efficient upwind sailing, it’s best to look for flat water. That said, downwind wave surfing can produce some of the fastest speeds in a kayak. This is mainly due to the effect of harnessing the energy and speed of the forward moving wave which is then added to the boat’s forward speed.
Tip #5. The best wind speed for sailing upwind is less than fifteen knots (small or no whitecaps present). And the ideal wind speed for windward sailing is probably somewhere between ten and twelve knots (just before whitecaps develop).
The reason is twofold. First, friction created by our bodies, the boat, and the rig in the wind, slows upwind progress. Second, the waves slow the boat down and kill momentum. While we did what we could in the rig’s design to reduce its frictional profile in the wind, when it comes to our body size there is little we can do to (except maybe go on a diet). Basically, when we hold an upwind course we are required to fight against both the wind and sea.
Even though the Kayaksailor’s sail shape is efficient at generating pulling force, its small size limits how much it can do. In strong winds of over 20 knots (large, frequent white caps are present), paddling while sailing with the leeboards in their full down position is usually the best way to maintain cruising speeds to windward.
Tip #6. Lean your torso out to windward to compensate for heeling, instead of bracing with your paddle to leeward.
Normally a kayaker will brace with their paddle, essentially pushing it against the water’s surface, to prevent the boat from capsizing. While this works fine for downwind sailing when the boat isn’t heeling (leaning over), it doesn’t work so well on a beam or close reach when the side force of the wind causes the boat to heel. The reason has to do with the position of the sailor’s torso when bracing. The weight of one’s torso is used as a counterbalance to offset the heeling forces of the sail, and, leaning one’s torso to windward is one of the best ways to prevent capsizing.
That said, at some point one’s torso weight may not be sufficient to prevent further heeling. This is the time when un-cleating and easing the mainsheet is needed to spill power from the sail and allow the torso to be a more productive counter balance.
You might ask, Why not ease the mainsheet in the first place? While this is an option, leaning one’s body out to windward will preserve the pulling power in the sail, resulting in faster boat speeds.
The reason we don’t want to paddle-brace to leeward is that our torso weight moves in the wrong direction, essentially helping the sail heel the boat over. Doing this results in an awkward situation where the paddle-brace becomes ineffective. It also slows the boat due to the paddle blade’s friction in the water. In short, save paddle-bracing for those exciting downwind legs.
Tip #7. Try a series of broad reaches instead of a run.
Just like many catamarans, the Kayaksailor rig doesn’t have a backstay. Instead, the shrouds (side stays) are positioned aft of the mast not only to give the mast aft support, but to provide the forestay adequate tension to allow the leading edge of the genoa to have the correct shape. The aft shroud placement creates a situation where, on a direct downwind leg, or “run,” the lower part of the mainsail will rest up against the leeward shroud and lose its curved shape. Also, the sail can’t be completely let out perpendicular to the wind, which is the most efficient sail position for running.
Like for catamarans, the answer is to angle off slightly from a directly downwind run, onto a deep broad reach, and sheet in the main so that it is just brushing the shroud. This will allow better boat speeds, not only because of the better sail shape, but because the leeboards will now be engaged.
The resistance of the leeboards to move sideways in the water, and the sideways pulling force of the sail work in conjunction with each other to move the boat forward. This forward speed makes apparent wind, which allows the sails to interact with more total wind, generating more pulling power, leading to even faster speeds.
The genoa also works better when it is not completely blanketed by the main, as it is on a run. Of course sailing a series of broad reaches means more jibing, so having your jibes down will be important. If you haven’t read it yet, here is a blog post I wrote on jibing technique.
Tip #8. When reefing out on the water, point the bow downwind. When shaking out the reef, point the bow upwind.
Most sailboat sailors will point their boats directly into the wind to “reef” (make the sail smaller). With the Kayaksailor, it’s usually easier to reef with the bow pointed directly downwind. The reason is that since the kayak is a low inertia boat, when pointing it into the wind, the forward speed will quickly decrease to a stop, and the bow will naturally turn off the wind. This allows the sail to power up and become unmanageable before the reefing knots can be tied.
This powered up situation can be frustrating, and a little scary too. Holding a powered up sail in a strong wind is a good way to capsize. By pointing the bow directly downwind, one’s body will block the wind from the now smaller sail, making it relatively easy to grab the boom and gather the sail together. This downwind position also allows more time to tie the quick release knots in the reefing lines. Just be aware that while pointing downwind the boat will want to speed up, so make sure there is enough water in front of the boat to get the job done.
In very strong winds it’s much easier to reef on shore or in a protected cove where the wind is lighter. Also, if you are just launching and it looks pretty windy out there, consider reefing before heading out. It’s quite a bit easier to “shake out” (untie) a reef, than it is to reef down. Shaking out a reef should be done with the bow pointing into the wind, since it’s just a matter of pulling on the tag end of the quick release knots and then quickly raising the halyard. Raising the halyard is always easier when the boat is into the wind.
Tip #9. Always raise and lower the mast as quickly as possible while pointing the bow directly into the wind.
Quickly raising or lowering the mast while pointing directly into the wind is important to prevent mast track stress. The shrouds and forestay support the mast when it is in the full upright position, but when the mast is halfway up or halfway down, it is unsupported except for the minimal support provided by the mast car and track. This halfway zone is the most vulnerable position for the mast track. Pointing directly into the wind and acting quickly will keep the track in good shape.
Tip #10. Keep the mainsheet on your lap at all times.
Paddle-sailing requires that the mainsheet be cleated so one’s hands can be on the paddle. If a strong wind gust hits, and the main needs to be eased to prevent capsize, having immediate access to the sheet is critical. One’s lap is a pretty good place to keep the sheets.
That said, when it’s really windy and one is paddle-sailing to windward, it can be helpful to hold the main sheet between one’s hand and the paddle shaft. This way that fraction of a second needed to grab the sheet from one’s lap will be eliminated allowing for a more rapid response. Windward paddle-sailing in strong gusty conditions can be tricky since the mainsail is normally tightly sheeted in, and this puts the kayak at greatest risk for excessive heeling and capsizing. So it’s smart to have the mainsheet ready at hand.
Tip #11. In strong winds, pull in the main sheet prior to tacking.
This can prevent the mainsheet from getting wrapped in the goalposts. Most of the time the main sail will already be sheeted in prior to coming about since it is likely that the boat will already be on a close reach as one initiates the tack. But situations may occur when one paddles into the wind from a beam or broad reach and the sheet is loose. This makes it possible for a hard wind gust to blow the sheet back around the goalposts. If this happens, don’t worry, simply uncleat the sheet and release the wrap with your paddle blade. But it’s better to avoid the situation altogether by simply sheeting in prior to tacking.
Tip #12. Backwinding the genoa will help speed up your tack.
In other words, when coming about, or “tacking,” if one waits to release the genoa sheet from the cleat until the mainsail fills with wind from the other side, the now backwinded genoa will help drive the bow away from the wind and onto the new tack. It can be helpful to listen for the main’s battens “pop” to the other side and use it as an audible cue to release the genoa and sheet it on to the new side.
This is another maneuver that kayak-sailors share with catamaran sailors. Like many beach cats, kayaks lack the adequate inertia, as well as maneuvering ability to quickly pivot through a tack. Cat sailors frequently use a backwinded headsail to drive their boat onto the new tack.
Another advantage of backwinding the genoa is that it helps to prevent the knot in the Kayaksailor’s genoa sheet from getting caught in the mast car.
Tip #13. Try not to “choke the slot” with the genoa.
What the heck does that mean? Over-sheeting (over-tightening) the genoa sheet not only flattens the genoa to the point where the curve in the sail, or “draft,” which is responsible for generating power, goes away, but it can also restrict the air flow around the lee side, or low pressure side of the mainsail, reducing its efficiency. The resulting narrow, vertical gap or “slot” between the genoa and mainsail restricts the air flow between the two sails, and so is called “choking.”
So how do you know when your rig’s slot is choked? While it’s relatively easy to check the trim of the mainsail by observing the tell-tales and making sure they are flying together, it’s very difficult to see the genoa at all because the mainsail is blocking the view. If the boat feels like it’s going slower than it should, re-trimming the genoa might be all that is needed to open the slot and generate some speed. Try easing the genoa sheet until the genoa “luffs,” or flaps in the wind, then pull the sheet in just until the flapping stops. If you are not sure whether or not you sheeted it in too much, or if you change course, simply repeat the process by letting out and re-trimming. This technique works well in winds above five knots, but in very light air one may not be able to hear the sail luffing. In this case, simply grab the end of the boom and momentarily move the mainsail out of the way for a better view to see if the genoa is luffing.
Tip #14. Insert the leeboard pushrod into the forward facing hole on the leeboard head.
This will likely help with your paddle stroke. If you want to make more room under the boom for your paddle blade, simply insert the leeboard control rod into the forward end of the leeboard head. This allows the fiberglass leeboard rod to lay against the foredeck instead of sticking up in the air and getting in the way. Kayaksailor owners have been doing this for years, and it definitely allows for a cleaner paddle stroke. Here is an old blog post on the topic.
Tip #15. Practice using a low angle paddle stroke.
A less vertical, or “low angle,” paddle stroke works well with the Kayaksailor. The reason is that one is less likely to hit the leech (back edge) of the main sail with end of the paddle blade that is out of the water. Many paddle manufacturers make low angle paddles. These typically have slightly longer shafts and smaller, narrower blades. The narrow blades also make them easier to fit between the boom and the foredeck during the power stroke. We like using ultra-skinny Aleutian Island style paddles, but most low angle paddles will work well.
Hopefully these tips will help to improve your paddle-sailing skills.
Please feel free to leave a comment.
Fair winds and happy paddle-sailing!
June 29th, 2017 by David
Have you ever capsized a kayak?
If so, you know that reentering your boat is an important skill to master. In fact, it can save your life. Even while wearing a good drysuit, prolonged immersion in cold water will eventually lead to hypothermia; therefore reentry speed is important. In warm water, speed isn’t as critical, but most will agree that getting into their kayak quickly is a good thing.
The problem for many is that reentering from the water isn’t the easiest skill to master. Young, lightweight people often seem able to hop into their boats with very little effort, while older, heavier kayakers can struggle with the reentry maneuver. So, what’s the answer?
First, it’s important to understand the best way to reenter your specific kayak and practice this technique in a variety of sea conditions. Some kayaks are easier to get into than others. Remember that getting into your kayak on a warm summer’s day when the water is flat calm is one thing, but doing so on a cold, windy autumn day, in adverse sea conditions, is something altogether different.
Secondly, it’s helpful to use any tools available to speed up the reentry procedure. Three of these include paddle floats, paddle float rescue straps, and the reentry stirrup.
These tools can be especially useful in cases of injury or pain. Shoulder pain is all too common among avid kayakers and any device utilized to help get back into one’s boat is a valuable one.
Different style boats often require different reentry techniques. Sit-on-tops and inflatables are typically very stable craft and not prone to capsizing. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that many owners have never contemplated how, or even if, they can get back into their boats from the water.
The most common reentry procedure for sit-on-tops and inflatables involves flipping the boat to the upright position, reaching across the middle of the boat, grabbing the gunwale or carry handle on the far side, tilting the kayak up, and doing a scissor kick with one’s legs while simultaneously pulling oneself up and onto the boat. One usually ends up on one’s belly in the cockpit and then turns over in order to sit in the seat.
While most kayakers, with a little practice, can perform this sit-on-top reentry procedure relatively quickly, many people, especially those of us who are older, overweight, or lacking in arm or leg strength, find this maneuver exceedingly difficult, even unmanageable.
One solution is to use a rescue stirrup, with or without a paddle float.
A rescue stirrup is a simple adjustable piece of webbing or line, with a clip (or other method of attachment) on one end, and makes a loop, or “stirrup”, for your foot. It’s simple to use. Just attach it to the middle of the boat near the cockpit, and while in the water, insert your foot in the stirrup, and step up to help lift yourself into the boat. The stirrup is used in place of the scissor kick and it can make it much easier to get on board.
For sit-on-tops, the carry handles commonly located on the gunwales make convenient attachment points.
The paddle float is another self-rescue device. It’s basically a flotation device (either inflatable or made of foam) designed to attach to one end of the paddle.
The other end of the paddle can then be temporarily attached to the kayak with a rescue strap, resulting in something like an outrigger to stabilize the kayak during reentry. Paddle floats are standard equipment on narrow “tippy” sea kayaks, but can also be used effectively on more stable craft like recreational sit-on-tops, folders, and inflatables.
Rescue straps hold the paddle securely in position behind the cockpit, allowing for one of the most stable methods of paddle float reentry.
The straps can be easily adjusted to accept different width paddle blades.
And, cleverly release to free the paddle.
There are several excellent techniques for doing a paddle float reentry without securing the paddle to the boat (see YouTube), but in my mind the best and easiest method employs securing the paddle with a locking device such as the rescue strap.
Bungee cords commonly found on the aft decks of most sea kayaks are often used to help hold the the paddle during a paddle-float reentry but they are not very secure and allow the paddle to easily move out of position. Paddle float rescue straps are easy to use, hold the paddle to the boat securely and allow the use of both hands to be used during reentry.
Now let’s consider recreational sit-inside kayaks. While sit-on-tops and inflatables are some of the easiest kayaks to reenter, recreational sit-inside kayaks, especially tandems with their large cockpits, can be quite challenging to do a self rescue with.
Because of their big open cockpits and minimal, sometimes absent, bulkheads, these boats can take on a ton of water during a capsize. The result is that once righted they sit very low in the water.
Intuitively, this might seem like a good thing as one would think they would not have as far to go to get into the boat. But the reality is that a swamped kayak settled low in the water is very unstable and can be frustratingly difficult to maintain upright. This is perhaps one reason why sit-on-tops have gained so much in popularity in recent years.
Using a paddle float with a pair of rescue straps is a great way to reenter and self-rescue a large cockpit, recreational, sit-inside kayak. Not only will the outrigger technique stabilize the craft, but it will allow the cockpit to remain relatively level while bailing out all that water. Bailing wide, large cockpit boats is normally done with a hand pump, a hand bailer, or a small bucket.
Hand bailers can move allot of water quickly. Consider experimenting with different bailing devices and use whatever works best. It’s always a good idea to keep multiple bailing devices on board, and remember, leash them to the boat! They won’t work if they’ve floated away.
For reentering a narrow touring kayak such as a sea kayak, paddle floats, rescue straps, and rescue stirrups can all be extremely useful. As mentioned, paddle floats are standard safety equipment for sea kayaks (also known as touring kayaks). While most sea kayak purists advocate mastering at least one roll recovery technique (think Eskimo roll), the fact is that most people who own sea kayaks are not able to execute a reliable roll. In my opinion, all owners of touring style kayaks should seriously consider having reentry devices on board. At a minimum, a paddle float and a pair of rescue straps. Even with a reliable roll down, exiting the cockpit is always a possibility. And, this is especially true for kayak-sailing where it’s the norm to exit the cockpit in the event of a capsize.
Most reputable sea-kayak tour operators require that self-rescue reentry devices be carried on board their kayaks, and we would all be wise to do the same.
So, whether you are an accomplished kayaker or a novice, have a performance high-end boat or a Walmart special, being able to reenter your boat from the water is paramount for safety. We should all know the best reentry technique for our specific craft, practice it often, in a variety of conditions, and use any reentry tools necessary to get the job done quickly.
The reentry tools described above should be found at all good kayaking shops. We offer the rescue straps and rescue stirrups here on the website for your convenience. 🙂
I hope this post proves to be informative. Please feel free to leave a comment.
July 21st, 2016 by David
Six Ways of Steering Your Sailing-Kayak
Six, really? Yep… and perhaps with a better understanding of quantum physics we’ll even find a few more, but for now six is all I can come up with.
While an entire book can be written on the topic of steering a sailing-kayak, I’ll do my best to keep this as short as I can and at the same time try not to leave anything out.
First, you should know that in order to have a nicely steering kayak one should begin with having a balanced boat. I’m referring to fore-and-aft balance, and if you would like to learn more about this topic here is a blog post on the subject.
Steering a sailing kayak is nearly identical to steering a non-sailing kayak. The only difference is well… the sailing aspect. And because sailors are always thinking about the wind, they think of steering in this way as well. A non-sailing kayaker might say “let’s turn into that bay” While a kayak-sailor might say “Let’s reach upwind and then bear-off into that bay.” The motion of the craft is nearly always considered in relation to the wind, either upwind or downwind. So keeping this in mind, let’s get down to the nitty gritty:
There are six basic ways to steer your kayak: (1) paddle steering, (2) rudder steering, (3) hull steering, (4) leeboard steering, (5) skeg steering, and (6) sail steering.
These can be classified into four categories: Steering that moves the boat by redirecting water around blades. Steering that changes the “footprint” that the boat makes in the water. Steering that moves the location of the boat’s center of lateral resistance. And, steering that moves the center of effort in the sails.
Sounds a bit complicated, but it isn’t. It’s easy!
Let’s begin with steering that moves the boat by redirecting water around blades. (1) Paddle steering and (2) rudder steering both fall into this category. Paddle steering a sailing kayak is probably the most common method of steering and is accomplished using two basic strokes, the forward sweeping stroke and the stern rudder stroke. For upwind sailing rigs like the Kayaksailor with leeboards near the bow, the bow rudder stroke is less effective, so I won’t go into it here.
To perform the forward sweeping stroke, simply reach forward, insert the paddle blade alongside the hull, sweep it out and back in a wide arc. This will have the effect of pushing the bow in the opposite direction of the sweep. So, in order to move the boat to the left, make your sweep on the right side of the boat; and to move it to the right, sweep on the left. Even though sweeping strokes are very effective, you may need to use multiple strokes to get the job done.
Here I am initiating for a forward sweeping stroke on the right side of the boat in order to move the bow to the left.
To perform a stern rudder stroke, simply insert your paddle blade in the water alongside the stern and angle it so that water is being directed away from the stern. In contrast to the forward sweep, you will want to put the blade in the water on the same side as the turn, meaning that if you want to turn left, put the blade in the water on the left side of the stern. Generally, only one rudder stroke is needed to alter the boat’s direction. And for the stroke to be effective, the boat needs to be already moving forward.
In this early Kayaksailor photo, Patti is not only adjusting the brim of her hat, but she is also using a stern rudder stroke to steer her boat downwind. Notice that the paddle blade in the water is behind her and on the downwind or “lee” side of the boat.
An important difference between the two strokes is that a forward sweeping stroke will generate forward boat speed, while a stern rudder stroke will create drag and slow the boat down. For this reason paddle-sailors often use sweeping strokes while sailing to windward when forward efficiency is most important, and rudder strokes while sailing off-the-wind when boat speed comes more easily. A rudder stroke can also be quite effective for very tight turns, as well as for slowing the boat down to avoid collisions. It’s also a useful method for initiating a jibe.
Next is rudder steering. Rudder steering is probably the easiest method of steering so I won’t spend too much time on it here. Basically if your boat has a rudder installed, pushing on the right foot pedal will turn the rudder and make the boat will go to the right, and pushing on the left pedal will make the boat will go the left. Simple. Like the stern rudder stroke, forward motion is necessary to make the boat turn. And, also like the stern rudder stroke, pushing it too hard will create excessive drag and slow the boat down. For this reason, employing small rudder movements are preferred for small course corrections. But reducing speed isn’t always a bad thing, especially for collision avoidance, so if you really need to slow down, by pushing the rudder all the way from side to side it will act as a water-brake and will help to slow forward motion.
The next type of steering is one of the most useful methods, yet least understood by the novice paddler. I’m referring to (3) hull steering. Hull steering is remarkably simple. You lean the boat in the opposite direction of the turn. Want to go left? Lean the boat to the right. Want to go right? Lean the boat to the left. Easy. Like using a rudder or performing a rudder stroke, the boat needs to be moving in order for the boat to turn.
Most sailboat sailors know that when a sailboat is heeled over excessively it wants to turn away from the heel and round up into the wind. Hull steering is one of the main reasons for this.
Some boats hull steer better than others, and to explain why, it’s important to understand how hull steering works. It works by changing the shape of the boat’s footprint in the water. Since most kayaks, and sailboats for that matter, have narrow bows, wider middles, and narrow sterns, they create a footprint in the water that looks something like this:
(Please excuse the crude diagram.)
A boat will make this symmetrical shape as long as it is sitting flat in the water. And when the water moves around this footprint, it will move symmetrically around the curves on each side, allowing the boat to travel in a straight line.
What happens when you lean the boat to the right, is that the footprint in the water will change to look something more or less like this:
Now the footprint takes on an asymmetrical shape with the right side maintaining the hull’s curved shape, while the inside changes to more of a straight line. An asymmetrically curved shape like this wants to move through the water in the direction dictated by the hull’s curve. In this case to the left.
Here I am demonstrating a sharp left turn by significantly leaning my kayak to the right.
Below is what the footprint looks like when the boat is leaned to the left:
Of course now the left leaning boat will make a footprint curve that curves to the right and so the boat will want to steer to the right.
Here Patti executes a subtle right turn by gently leaning her kayak to the left.
A tip for aggressively hull steering in gusty wind conditions is to always lean the boat (and your body) away from the sail. This puts your body weight in a better position to counter balance the sudden heeling force in the sail.
It should now make sense that the very best hull steering boats have very curved hulls. I like to think of these as “feminine” boats, boats with “hips.” Some of the worst hull steerers are the masculine ones with long, nearly straight sides. Though this type of hull can be quite fast, it can also be very difficult to turn.
Let’s move on to methods of steering that change the boat’s center of lateral resistance. (4) Skeg steering and (5) leeboard steering fall into this category. First let’s look at skeg steering.
A retractable skeg is a non-turning fin normally located under the stern. It is typically found on sit-inside touring kayaks, but can also be found on some recreational kayaks. There are two types of skegs, fixed and adjustable. The adjustable skeg retracts up inside the hull, and since these are the most useful for steering we will concentrate on this type.
The photos below shows a skeg both retracted and deployed.
But before we delve into how to skeg steer, it’s helpful to understand the concept of a boat’s center of lateral resistance.
The following is a simple way to visualize it; Imagine yourself standing in knee deep water, and with one hand, you push your kayak sideways through the water. Suppose that the boat is moving perfectly sideways, with the bow and stern traveling exactly the same distance; That exact place where your hand touches the boat is just above the boat’s center of lateral resistance. If instead you were to have put your hand closer to the bow and pushed, the bow would have moved farther than the stern, and therefore your hand would have been forward of the boat’s center of lateral resistance.
Now, instead of you pushing sideways on the boat, imagine the wind is pushing sideways on the boat and you are sitting in the cockpit. If you were to drop a skeg down into the water under the stern, what would happen is that since the skeg has its own lateral resistance, the boat’s overall resistance would be shifted back toward the stern and the bow would be pushed downwind.
So, basically, the way to skeg steer is to drop the skeg down when you want to turn the boat downwind, and to raise it up when you want to steer upwind.
Most retractable skegs have a sliding control knob along side the cockpit, allowing for precise control of how much skeg extends down into the water.
On a balanced kayak, it usually takes only a small skeg adjustment down to make the boat turn downwind. It should be noted here that if you have both a skeg and a rudder, as we do on our composite boats, having the skeg too far down will reduce the efficiency of the rudder because it keeps the stern from moving sideways.
Next is leeboard steering. This too changes a boat’s center of lateral resistance, except in this case instead of the adding resistance to the stern with a skeg, you are now adding it forward on the bow. By dropping the leeboards down, the bow will be prevented from sliding downwind.
So if you want to turn downwind, raise the leeboards up a little, and if you want to turn upwind, lower them down.
Balancing your leeboards to the sail is very important for upwind kayak-sailing, so if you haven’t read the post “Balancing the Leeboards” yet, please take a moment to read it.
The sailor above has his leeboards mostly down and is in the process of slowly turning upwind.
For sailing downwind, you can even raise the boards up and out of the water completely and still maintain directional balance, as our friend Dan demonstrates.
Finally, the last type of steering, (6) sail steering, is steering that moves a sail’s center of effort. This steering method is used on boats with fore and aft sails, and, in the case of the Kayaksailor is only used when the rig has the genoa added. By trimming each sail independently, the overall sideways pulling force in the sails can be moved either in front of or behind the leeboards. Unbalancing the rig in this way will turn the boat either downwind or upwind.
So, for instance, if you are on a beam reach with the wind coming from the side and your sails both have wind in them, by loosening the mainsheet and spilling all the power from the main, the genoa will now have all the power, and because the genoa is located forward of the leeboards, it will pull the bow downwind.
In general, if your intention is to turn downwind, try easing the mainsheet. Conversely, if you want to turn upwind, loosen the genoa sheet and spill all the power from in front of the leeboards. Now the mainsail’s power will be aft of leeboards, causing the stern to slide downwind, allowing the bow to head up into the wind.
Sail steering only works when the wind is coming over the side of the kayak and works on some points of sail better than others. It is very effective on a beam reach, mostly effective on a close reach, not so effective on a broad reach, and doesn’t work at all on a dead run.
Patti is seen here sailing her self built skin-on-frame Greenland kayak, effortlessly steering without skeg or rudder.
So now that you know the six different ways of steering — paddle, rudder, hull, leeboard, skeg, and sail — you have six useful tools at your disposal to make your boat turn.
While any one of these can make a boat change direction, an experienced kayak-sailor will often use combinations of these tools to efficiently steer their craft. What combinations work best for you and your boat is up to you to find out.
Fair winds and happy sailing!
Please feel free to leave a comment.
For Kayaksailor inquiries please contact us via e-mail email@example.com
December 3rd, 2015 by David
There has been a crazy rudder debate going on among certain kayakers for decades. In case you are not aware of it, I’ll fill you in on the issues.
On one side there are the kayaking purists that say “A well designed kayak should be easily steered by hull steering and paddle strokes, and that kayak makers add rudders to their boats simply to compensate for design flaws.” Basically, “A real kayak doesn’t need a rudder.” Many of these purists do however acknowledge the benefits of using a retractable skeg (a non-turning fin located near the stern) in certain conditions to improve tracking, especially on rockered kayaks, in quartering seas and on off-the-wind legs. But essentially, they say “no” to rudders.
On the other side of the debate are rudder lovers who say “ Additional steering? Sure! I’m in! Where do I get one”.
So… why all the fuss about rudders? Human nature, I guess. It seems that if we don’t have anything to debate about we can’t prove how dominant we are and life becomes boring. I’m pretty sure it’s just a “guy” thing.
But there must be more to it than that, you say. Well… sure. Let’s dig deeper into the topic and carefully look at both the disadvantages and the advantages of rudders.
First the disadvantages:
Rudders are mechanical things that can fail. True. They also require periodic inspection to make sure all the parts, especially the cables, are in good working condition. They are expensive. No argument there. They can be a pain to install. That’s for sure. I once spent the better part of a day fitting out a kayak with pedal controls and a rudder. They add drag that can slow you down. True. The fact is that anything you hang off your boat is going to create at least some drag. Plus, if the rudder is compensating for an unbalanced or poorly designed boat, or, if the helmsman is heavy footed with the pedals, the amount of drag will be increased. It’s also true that rudders are often found on unruly boats, and that beginners tend to push the pedals too much. Additionally, some rudder control pedals need so much leg motion that they prevent the paddler from feeling “locked in” to the thigh braces, resulting in less hull control. And lastly, rudders often have a way of looking out of place on a traditional kayaks. True enough.
Hmm… Have I left anything out? Probably… but let’s move on.
Now for the advantages of rudders:
They provide additional steering by using your feet! You have to admit, it’s a pretty cool idea. By steering with your feet at least one hand can be removed from the paddle and put to other uses like handling a fishing rod, taking photos, eating lunch, tending the sails, holding a VHF, etc. It’s a simple mechanical device that has proven over the years to be amazingly reliable. While they do add drag, it should also be noted that rudders can effectively reduce or even eliminate “yaw” (the side to side motion of the bow with each paddle stroke) thereby increasing the forward efficiency of each stroke. And on long kayaks, especially in quartering seas, a rudder will help the boat stay on course without applying extra, energy robbing, corrective strokes. On most big tandem kayaks, a rudder is almost a necessity. It can often be difficult to coordinate the necessary strokes needed to turn the craft (They don’t call em’ divorce doubles for nothing!). Also, when used on short “squirrely” (erratically moving) kayaks, or on heavily rockered (banana shaped) kayaks, a rudder can dramatically improve the tracking. And when used on extremely long, fast kayaks having little rocker, a rudder can transform an extremely difficult boat to turn into one that will… well…at least give you some hint of steering. As for the rudder pedals, it’s true that many pedal mechanisms allow one’s leg to slip out of the thigh braces, but it should be noted that there are very good mechanisms out there (like the Smarttrack System) that allow a fixed pedal position so one can retain that “locked in” feeling of control.
Regarding rudders and kayak-sailing, I like using them. Others, like Patti, prefer to use them only intermittently when they need to have their hands free, or not at all.
Are they necessary? Well… no and yes. They are only necessary if you feel they are necessary. Some boats sail beautifully without a rudder. Typically these are well-designed, well-behaved paddling boats to begin with. Others can definitely benefit from a rudder. Each boat has its own “personality”.
Most people would agree that a rudder makes learning to kayak-sail much easier. By keeping the boat on course with one’s feet, it’s easier to concentrate on sail handling.
With the Kayaksailor rig, the leeboards can be balanced to the center of effort in the sail, maintaining the directional stability of the boat, and on well-designed hulls, rudders normally aren’t necessary. That said, I sail a nicely designed boat, and still like using a rudder for a variety of reasons, mainly for fishing and photography, but also for just kicking back and enjoying the ride. I also like to use it for swell riding to keep the bow heading down the line of the wave.
In my mind, the decision of whether or not to use a rudder really boils down to the “fun” factor. If it’s more fun to use a rudder, use one. If it’s more fun without it, don’t use one. Because when you really get right down to it, it’s all about having fun on the water.
Please feel free to leave a comment.
And Happy Sailing!
If you would like more information about kayak-sailing, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The next post will be on the six ways of steering a sailing kayak. Stay tuned…
October 27th, 2015 by David
Kayak-sailing 102 Load Balance And Directional Stability.
Prerequisite for this class is Balancing the Leeboards.
Most people are aware that placing weight in the very bottom of a boat acts as ballast and stabilizes a craft, and that adding a weight high above the waterline will make the boat less stable, but it is not so widely understood how the distribution of weight fore and aft affects the boat’s directional stability.
What I mean by directional stability is how controlled a boat will track through the water. A directionally stable craft will hold a steady course with little input from the helmsman. A directionally unstable one will change directions on its own, often without warning and can be difficult to steer.
Probably the most important feature of a well-balanced kayak is a properly designed hull. The overall length of craft, as well as how much rocker the hull has (hull curvature from bow to stern) both play very important roles in regards to directional stability, but so does cargo placement, specifically, how and where this weight is distributed throughout the hull.
Typically in a small craft such as a kayak, the paddler makes up most of the cargo weight. And in well designed kayaks, the seating position should allow the boat to sit relatively level in the water, allowing it to track through the water in a controlled manner. So it’s important to know that having a seat too far forward or too far aft will alter the way the boat handles.
An unbalanced kayak with too much weight forward will have a bow that rides too deeply in the water and a stern that rides too high. In a bow-heavy boat, the bow will effectively act as a keel, biting deeply into the water, thereby reducing the sideways sliding motion of the bow. At the same time, the stern will loose it’s keel-like effect and slide sideways through the water too easily. Patti and I call this action “bow-keeling”.
While a limited amount of bow keeling can be beneficial in a sailing kayak by allowing the bow to track to windward more efficiently, too much weight forward can make the kayak want to “weather-cock” or turn into the wind on its own, requiring near constant corrective strokes to stay on course. Anyone who has been in one of these boats knows that they can be frustratingly difficult to steer. Once a directional change is initiated either by paddle stroke or hull steering, the stern will want to slide out toward the outside of the turn, requiring a quick corrective stroke to bring it back in line. Then, typically, the corrective stroke will cause the stern to slide back in the opposite direction, past the desired position, and require another corrective stroke. You see where this is going.
On the other side of the scale, an unbalanced kayak with too much weight in the stern will have its own control issues. In this case the bow will ride high above the water, allowing it to slide sideways, and the stern will sit too deep, acting like the keel. Though a stern-heavy kayak can be difficult to steer, it is usually easier to deal with. The two main control problems with boats having overly heavy sterns are, a difficulty in making tight turns due to the stern tracking too well, and a situation where the boat is constantly wanting to turn downwind because the bow is sliding away too easily.
So… how does one correct an unbalanced kayak?
Shifting cargo either fore or aft is an easy way to do it. Also if the kayak has an adjustable seat, sliding the seat either fore or aft can be a quick fix.
The next thing to try is adding weight to a compartment in the boat. Since it’s generally desirable to keep a boat as light as possible, the position of weight, as well as the type of weight used should be considered.
By positioning the weight as close to the bow or stern as possible, one can minimize the amount of weight needed.
As for what kind of weight to use, a good option is to add safety gear such as: dry clothing (in a dry bag), a first aid kit, a water bottle, food, a kayak repair kit, etc. Being prepared for emergencies is always smart. And while basic safety gear should always be onboard, another option is to add water weight. Water is desirable not only because it is dense and requires very little space, but perhaps more importantly it remains neutrally buoyant when submerged. Added benefits include being able to rinse the salt off at the end of the day, and even drink it if need be.
Patti and I sometimes correct for a bow-heavy boat by adding a small solar shower (basically a water bag with a plastic shower head attached to it) to the aft compartment, and placing it as far back in the hull as possible.
Below is a list of three common symptoms of an unbalanced kayak and how to fix them.
1) The kayak is tracking poorly and difficult to steer, especially when going off the wind (downwind). It may be bow-heavy. Try lightening the bow by shifting gear aft, shifting the seat aft, and/or adding weight to the stern compartment.
2) The kayak is constantly wanting to turn up into the wind. Again, it may be bow-heavy. Try lightening the bow by shifting gear aft, shifting the seat aft, and/or adding weight to the stern compartment.
3) The kayak is constantly wanting to turn downwind. It may be stern-heavy. Try lightening the stern by shifting gear forward, shifting the seat forward, and/or adding weight to the bow.
4) The kayak turns sluggishly, tracks like an arrow while traveling directly downwind, and may also be difficult to turn into the wind. Again, it may be stern-heavy. Try lightening the stern by shifting gear forward, shifting the seat forward, and/or adding weight to the bow.
Finally, it should be noted that some boats are just not well designed and will have poor handling characteristics no matter how you balance them. Even though balancing is always desirable, and will likely improve the overall handling, let’s face it, adding all the cream and sugar in the world into a bad cup of instant coffee will not miraculously change it into a fresh cup of gourmet java.
That said, if you have one of these instant coffee kayaks you can always add a rudder to improve the handling. Rudders can often compensate for severely unbalanced boats and greatly improve their directional control, but they too can have their issues. More about rudders in the next post.
I hope this information proves useful.
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October 14th, 2014 by David
These ultra-high density, waterproof, foam mounting cradles give support to the cross tube as well as do a fine job of holding the main body tube on the center-line of a peaked, or shaped foredeck.
The Y40 foam is much better than the gray, Minicell foam commonly found in outfitting shops, mainly because it provides superior support. It can also be easily shaped with a sharp knife and sand paper for a custom finish.
These mounting cradles work well on many skin-on-frame boats where drilling holes for mounting hardware is not a viable option. They also work on a variety of hard shell boats with either peaked or domed foredecks, and in a situations where the rig needs to be made level, or lifted over deck hardware.
They can be quite useful for sailing borrowed or rented boats, and we’ve found them ideal for doing water trials with the under-the-hull strap, since the cradles help keep the rig from tilting.
There is a semi-circular groove cut into the top of the main cradle to accept the cross tube. There is also a flat channel on both the main and front cradle to accept the main body tube.
To install them, simply bend the included piece of wire over the section of foredeck where you want the cradle is to sit. Trace the shape of the wire on the cradle at the desired height, and cut with a sharp kitchen knife, razor, or band saw (if you have access to one). It’s really that easy.
The Y40 foam is a little more expensive than Minicell, but in our minds it’s well worth it. It’s quite a bit denser, provides much better support, and is easier to shape to a smooth finish.
We are now offering these on the website! Please feel free to contact us. 🙂
October 3rd, 2014 by David
“What’s up with the skinny wooden paddles?”
This question comes up every now and again, so I thought that I would write a little about this style of kayak paddle and why we like to use it for paddle-sailing.
My intent here is not to persuade you to change the paddle you are currently using, as most paddle-sailors have their own likes and dislikes. I simply wish to introduce you to this unique paddle and do my best to review it’s qualities.
Over the years Patti and I have used a variety of paddles with the Kayaksailor, each having their own advantages and disadvantages, and the one that seems to stand out in terms of performance and “feel” is the traditional, Aleutian Island double blade. You’ve probably noticed these long wooden paddles in our photos and videos.
It’s an old school design, developed by the Aleut, who are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands of the North Pacific. The Aleuts are masterful watermen, who with limited resources, created astonishingly sophisticated skin-on-frame sea kayaks called Baidarkas, and paddled them with refined paddles. How old is “old school” you ask? Well… no one knows for sure. Evidence suggests that long before the human migration across North America to Greenland, people paddled the waters of eastern Siberia and the northern Pacific island chain in kayaks. While some of the earliest archaeological evidence of skin-on-frame boats dates back at least 2000 years, some have found artifacts related to kayaking, such as paddles and deck rigging components, dating back as far as 5000 years. In short, Pacific kayakers have had plenty of time to refine their gear.
Even with today’s advanced computers, in my mind the traditional designs of the Aleuts reached an apex in skin-on-frame kayak sophistication and craftsmanship. These remarkable people routinely paddled very long distances, often in extreme weather conditions, hunting sea mammals, fish, fowl, and whatever else they could find. Life must have been tough there, as these islands are some of the most desolate, windswept rocks on the planet. Not only did they manage to survive, but they were able to craft cool gear that was efficient and stylish as well.
Back to the paddles. While it has been well documented by early Russian explorers that a shorter, canoe-like, single blade paddle was frequently utilized and was often seen kept on deck as a spare, Aleuts also developed a fine, long, flexible, double blade for long distance, high speed, cruising. This is the style of paddle we use.
They work very well. Since we often find ourselves in strong breezes and choppy seas, covering long distances at relatively high speeds, we too are able reap the benefits of the design.
Aside from the natural beauty of oiled wood, one of the first things most people notice about the Aleut paddles are their relatively long length and the narrow blades. Our own paddles are (244cm) long and (8.3cm) wide at the widest point and are quite a bit longer than most Greenland style paddles. The length and the narrow blade shape is designed for prolonged, shallow (less vertical) strokes. And this, combined with ample flexibility in the shaft, is gentle on our aging shoulder joints. These attributes also allow for effective paddling in very shallow water, a real plus for inshore cruising. Additionally, the low angle arc of the blade in the air is less prone to come in contact with the sail, also a plus for paddle-sailing.
Another advantage of using this paddle with the Kayaksailor, is that the blade closest to the water, with its narrow face, can fit easily in between the boom and the foredeck. This is especially convenient on beam and close
reaches where the boom is set half way out and the gap between the boom and deck is less than on, say a broad reach or a run. The image on the left shows a more common mid-sized touring blade, and while there is still distance under the boom, narrow blades definitely have an advantage here.
In general, narrow blade faces are easier to control in strong winds. They are far less likely to get ripped out of our hands in the intense 30-40 knot wind gusts, which are all too common here in the Gorge during the summer months. Wide style blades, with the majority of their surface area concentrated near the ends of the shaft, can suddenly catch a wind gust and become difficult to control. Many paddlers using wide blades simply feather the blade angles in an effort to reduce this windage, but we’ve found that at least for kayak-sailing when it’s really windy, the narrower non-feathered blade is just easier to use.
The paddle shafts have a comfortable, ergonomic oval shape to them, which lets us know the blade orientation, making them easier to brace with in an emergency, since there’s never a question of whether the blade is flat against the water or not. Additionally, the small unfeathered blades can be conveniently slid under the cross tube, making them easy to stow.
The long paddle length is good for steering and can be especially useful while sailing. When doing a stern rudder stroke, the blade can be positioned closer to the stern where it can better act as a rudder, and the forward sweeping stroke is able to start closer to the bow, allowing the bow to be pushed sideways more effectively. A long paddle increases bracing leverage, and offers increased stability during paddle-float, and float-less re-entries.
That said, longer paddles can be a disadvantage in certain situations. Paddling in close quarters, one is more likely to hit rocks or other kayaks with the blades. They also require slightly more attention when in areas of dense sea plants. In this case, a delayed or exaggerated stroke finish is needed to let the plants clear from the blade face before lifting it from the water. Fortunately, the proximal blade transitions from the shaft smoothly and plants slide off relatively easily. Also, since the paddles don’t have ferrules in the shaft, storage and transportation can sometimes be an issue. I’ve seen some cool wood Aleut paddles with ferrules, but I can’t help wondering if the shaft strength would be somewhat compromised. Paddle-float reentries in rough water can be stressful on a paddle.
Unlike the much more popular wooden Greenland paddles, most examples of Aleutian double blades have asymmetrical faces, meaning, one side of the blade is shaped differently than the other. The power face of the blade (normally facing the back of the boat), has a raised longitudinal ridge running down center line, and the backside has a slightly convex, or somewhat domed shape to it. The ridged power face helps prevent the blade from chattering (moving erratically up and down) during the power phase of the stroke, as well as helps direct the water down the face of the blade. The domed back allows the water to move around it with little, if any, cavitation (the formation of air bubbles from the low pressure). The result is a blade that is both quiet and powerful, and allows for a smooth comfortable stroke.
For bracing under sail, the ridge-less, domed back slides over the water’s surface nicely. For this reason, we’ll often subconsciously flip the blade over while sailing.
Lastly, the satiny texture of the oiled cedar just feels really good in our hands. It’s a natural feeling. Plus, since wood is a better insulator than carbon, our hands stay warmer on those cold days out on the water.
Our paddles came to us already pre-shaped by Corey at the Skin Boat School in Anacortes, Washington (Washington State). The paddles are not made in the traditional way, by carving a single piece of wood, but created by laminating several cut pieces together. In this case, red cedar and a spruce core, for a good combination of light weight and strength.
If you are interested in making your own paddle, or learning more about Aleutian island designs, a web search should yield enough information to get you started. We definitely recommend giving this style of paddle a try. And, please let us know what you think!
We hope you’ve have enjoyed this post. Please feel free to leave a comment. 🙂
Fair Winds and Happy Sailing!
October 6th, 2011 by David
Having a destination or goal and holding a course to reach it is an essential part of sailing as well as an essential part of navigating our own lives.
Sailing teaches us many important things about life – respect, persistence, and the ability to adapt to changing situations just to name a few. But one of the most important is learning about choosing a destination and understanding the steps necessary to get there. The Roman philosopher Seneca is reported to have said:
If man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him.
This quote obviously speaks of the benefits of having goals in life, but part of the significance and power of this eloquence is that it is based on an aspect of sailing reality. If sailors haphazardly change the direction of their craft, the wind always appears to be coming from different angles, and therefore the sails are always in the wrong state of trim. This requires maddening sail trim adjustments and can make it appear to the poor helmsman that the wind is always working against them.
The idea of having a destination and choosing a course to get there is a simple one, but to many novices at the helm, a myriad of distractions make it easy to lose focus of the intended direction of travel. Wind gusts, currents, boat traffic, among others can often be happening simultaneously and require extra focus.
Not only is it important to have a destination goal but one often needs several sub-destination goals to get there. Sailing to a windward destination may require several close reaches on different tacks to reach the desired destination. Each of these tacks requires a different course to be held. An ideal destination or goal should be something fixed, like a house on shore, or an anchored buoy. It’s easier to steer and trim sails while one is traveling towards a non-moving target. Destination goals should also be realistic and within reach, no pun intended.
As in life, courses often need to be adjusted on-the-fly – winds shift, tides change, storms occur, etc. Skilled sailors are able to make smart rapid course adjustment decisions easily. For example, they will instantly recognize a wind shift and use it to their advantage to bring them to a windward destination by either changing tacks or by using the shift to allow them to point closer to their destination. Adapting to change is part of the fun dynamic nature of sailing.
Destinations and courses are important keys to sailing and to living life, but to people who truly enjoy both, the real joy comes not from the reaching of the destination, but from the process of traveling to it. So, keeping that in mind, let’s all get out there, set a course and have some fun!
June 7th, 2011 by David
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.
June 7th, 2011 by David
A jibe (gybe) is a sailing maneuver that occurs when a vessel is steered off the wind (down wind) until the sail flips from one side of the vessel to the other.
Of all the sailing maneuvers, the jibe is the most exciting and challenging. In addition to being a functional way of transitioning the sail, a properly executed jibe is beautiful and fun to watch. That said, a poorly executed one is clumsy and can leave one swimming in the water scratching their head, wondering what went wrong.
Many sailors are uncomfortable with jibes because they react to the jibe instead of preparing and controlling it.
If the helmsman of a small craft allows the sail to jibe on its own, they find themselves in a situation where they must shift their weight quickly in order to stabilize their craft. This is especially true in adverse wind and sea conditions.
A simple solution is to initiate the jibe before it occurs on its own.
It may be helpful to think of a sailor and their sail as ballroom dance partners.
When dancing, one takes the lead and the other follows. The lead takes control and guides their partner through the moves. The result is an almost magical series of transitions where two appear to move as one.
When jibing, take the lead role! Guide the sail through the jibe by choosing the exact moment the sail will cross to the other side. This way there is ample time to prepare to shift one’s body weight prior to the sail’s transition.
Here are the steps:
1) Prepare for the jibe by taking the main sheet in your hand, un-cleating it, and letting the sail out as far as it will go.
2) Steer the craft off the wind until the bow is just a few degrees past the downwind position.
3) In one quick, fluid step, pull the sheet in and let it out on the other side as far as it will go.
In this last step, the speed at which the sail is sheeted in and let out is crucial. Stronger winds require faster motions.
Using this technique will result in a graceful choreographed maneuver.
Have some fun and dance!
For all you big boat sailors out there, you may have noticed that the technique for jibing a kayak or canoe is a little different than jibing a larger sailing vessel. On larger vessels the method for jibing involves sheeting in the sail prior to the jibe and then letting it out on the other side only after the sheeted sail has filled with wind. This is not only done to keep crew member’s heads on top of their shoulders, but it is also an important way to reduce the amount of stress subjected to the rigging. Since the boom on the Kayaksailor is located in front of the paddler and the rigging is robust, there isn’t a need to use this technique. Plus, using it often results in unwanted heeling. With the Kayaksailor, the easiest way to keep the boat stable during a jibe is to pull the sail quickly from one side to the other.
See you out on the water!
June 7th, 2011 by David
Having a balanced life is a key to happiness. Having a balanced rig is a key to happy sailing.
Sailing a properly balanced rig is a wonderful experience. Holding a course becomes easy, steering is predictable, controlled and requires little effort.
So, what is a balanced rig?
Balance is the relationship between the center of effort in the sail and the center of lateral resistance in the keel, centerboard, or in this case leeboards.
If you are not familiar with these terms, the center of effort is a site on the sail that represents the center of the total sail area. It is the spot that the sail pulls from when it is full of wind. The center of lateral resistance is the center of the leeboard surface area that is underwater. Since the leeboards are pivoted fore and aft, the center of lateral resistance can be moved fore and aft.
This is where balancing comes in.
Balancing the leeboards basically involves setting the angle of the leeboards so that the center of resistance lines up with the sails center of effort.
If the leeboards are too far forward, the center of effort of the sail will be behind the leeboard’s center of resistance, causing the stern of the vessel to slide down wind. The result is that the boat will want to turn into the wind. A sailor at the helm refers to this unbalance as “weather helm”. On the other hand, If the leeboards are too far back, the center of effort of the sail will be forward of the leeboard’s center of resistance, causing the bow of the boat to be pulled downwind. A vessel having this downwind unbalance is said to have “lee helm”.
A properly balanced rig will allow a non heeling craft to sail in a straight line with minimal input from the helmsman.
A certain amount of steering can also be accomplished by changing the leeboard’s position. To steer upwind, the leeboard is moved forward. To steer down wind, the leeboard is moved aft. This is especially useful if a craft does not have a rudder or skeg. Leeboard steering is most effective when sailing on a beam reach (90 degrees to the wind) or on any reach closer to the wind, and least effective on reaches off the wind. When running directly down wind, leeboard steering will not work at all.
On the Kayaksailor, the balanced position occurs on most hulls when the leeboards are pivoted back about 25 degrees from vertical.
So, the next time you are out on the water, play with the leeboard position and try using the boards to help you steer.
Most of all, find time to kayak-sail more often. Remember, balance is the key!
Illustration by Dan Drabkin http://www.dandrabkin.com/
July 27th, 2010 by David
Proper sail trim is an important part of sailing. It allows your sail to work efficiently, so you can make the most of the wind. Pulling in the mainsheet or “Sheeting in” too much will stall the sail, causing it to loose power. This leads to slower boat speed and increased heeling. On the other hand, not sheeting in enough will allow too much wind to spill from the sail also resulting in slower boat speeds. So, How do you know if a sail is sheeted in properly?
For “soft” sails, or sails that don’t have full length battens, the basic procedure is relatively simple. Hold your boat on course, then sheet in the sail in until the leading edge of the sail, called the “luff”, stops fluttering or “luffing”.
With fully battened sails that don’t flutter, like the one supplied with the Kayaksailor, determining proper sail trim can be a bit tricky. An experienced sailor can trim the sail until it “feels” right. But even they can have difficulty when the wind is light or shifty. This is why we now include a set of telltales with each rig. These are the small lengths of red and green wool yarn attached to the sail.
By learning how to read the telltales and adjusting the mainsheet accordingly, it’s easy to find proper sail trim. You can’t actually see the wind, so the telltales allow you to see the effect of the wind as it moves around the sail. The wind should flow smoothly on both sides of the sail. So, if the sail is trimmed properly, the telltales should also flow smoothly on both sides of the sail.
April 22nd, 2010 by David
D-rings patches are a convenient way to add mounting points to your inflatable or skin-on-frame craft. These patches are strong, easy to apply, and are commonly used by whitewater rafting outfitters to attach a variety of gear to their boats. They are purchased from outfitting retailers like NRS in the U.S. as well as from fabric boat manufacturers such as AIRE and Pakboats.
We recently purchased and installed some on our Pakboats XT-15 folding kayaks. These patches are typically glued to the outside of the hull, but can also be attached to the inside surface of many skin-on-frame boats.
Our initial intention was to glue the patches to the outside of the hull, but after a lengthy discussion with Alv Elvestad, the owner of Pakboats, we were encouraged to glue them to the inside of the hull and have the D-ring extend through the skin to the outside. He said it would create a nice clean look with only the D-ring seen from the outside. Since this procedure involves making an incision in the skin, I admit, I was a bit concerned. He assured us that the area would remain strong and watertight.
We started by marking the area on the outside of the hull, where the D-ring would be located. We chose an area underneath the under-the-hull strap and not too far from the deck.
Next, we measured the width of the D-ring and marked this distance on the hull.
Then came the fun part. With a pocket knife, we made an opening in the skin and tested the size by pushing the D-ring through.
With a marking pen, we drew a circle on the inside of the skin slightly larger than the patch. This circle is used as guide for applying the adhesive.
Both the patch and the skin should be cleaned with some alcohol.
Next, we applied the vinyl adhesive that came with the Pakboat’s repair kit, to both the patch and the skin and let it dry to the touch.
We pushed the patch onto the skin making sure to squeeze out any trapped air bubbles.
After allowing the adhesive to cure, we skinned the hull. For a final touch, some Aquaseal polyurethane sealant was applied to the outside of the skin where it meets the D-ring webbing.
Here are some photos of the finished product. It was easy, straight forward and took about 30 min. to complete.
Fair winds and happy sailing!
April 22nd, 2010 by David
We’ve discovered the perfect lubricant for the Kayaksailor. This product is a dry PFTE lube that will make your Kayaksailor work better than ever. There have been some issues with the silicone lubricant we recommended in our user manual. Since the silicone remains wet, it has a tendency to accumulate grit and sand in the mast track. Since this product dries hard, it won’t have the grit build up and the mast car will slide much easier. Prior to applying SailKote, remove any residual silicone with soap and water and allow to dry. Avoid spraying the leeboard assembly and your mainsheet! It also works great on rudders, peddles and just about everything that moves on your kayak. Since this product is solvent based, it’s best to spray it on the sail rig outside or in a well ventilated area.
Click Here for a link to their website.
Happy Sailing, Dave and Patti