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!
March 7th, 2018 by David
Hi Everyone! Below is a little video showing some fun kayak-sailing footage from Saint Joe Bay, Florida.
Our good friend Joel is seen here moving right along in his Ocean Kayak Prowler 13. Fast? Indeed! The sailing performance is impressive.
It just goes to show how with the right rig, and in the right conditions, a relatively wide, roto-molded, plastic fishing kayak can cruise alongside a couple of composite sea kayaks. Normally on a paddling-only excursion, a boat like this would surely struggle to keep up. This is is just one of the many cool things about performance kayak-sailing.
I left the clip unedited so that you could get a better look at the rig, and how nicely it works. If you look closely at the main, you can see the tell-tales flying perfectly together, indicating proper sail trim. The camera angle shows the ample draft in the sail which is responsible for generating much of the power. The foiled leeboards are both angled back to shed seagrass. Also notice how he rigged his leeboard pushrods. Inserting them into the leading edge allows the rods to stay close to the gunnels. And, at the end of the clip you can see the main sail tuned with substantial head twist to lower the sail’s center of effort and make the rig more forgiving and easier to control.
On this day Patti, myself, and Joel sailed about eight miles in total, crossing the shallow, south end of Saint Joe bay. It was exceedingly fun with two extra long beam reaches! With a 12-18 knot south wind, the water remained protected by the peninsula’s lee shore and made for the perfect environment for some speedy paddle-sailing.
Joel’s rig is the all-white, polyester ripstop, Kayaksailor 1.6m² with genoa, mounted with the Railblaza, mounting kit. His boat is the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13.
You can see Patti off in the background, sailing her 1.4m², reefed, with genoa. Patti’s boat is the Tahe Reval Mini LC.
Of course you can’t see me because I’m filming while sailing my Tahe Ocean Spirit. It was a bit challenging trying to keep the camera still while sailing in and out of Joel’s wind shadow, but I loved every second of it!
I hope you enjoyed the results. : )
Feel free to leave a comment.
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.
February 7th, 2017 by David
Just want to share with you this little video collage put together from our library of clips. As you probably already know by now, Patti and I routinely bring our cameras along with us when we head out on the water, and while it’s always super-fun to sail together and capture the moment, it’s even more fun to review the footage later and relive those special moments. We hope you enjoy watching it! Let’s go sailing!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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 5th, 2015 by David
Here is another kayak sailing video for your viewing pleasure! We hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Feel free to leave a comment.
September 24th, 2015 by David
Here is a fun little video I put it together just to get my feet wet using a new editing software (Final Cut Pro X).
A simple enough edit, though I did need to add some image stabilization. As you can imagine it can be a bit challenging to hold the camera still while sailing (and smiling!) at the same time.
Patti is seen here sailing rudderless with the leeboards in perfect balance, nicely trimmed, with tell-tales flying. Just cruising in the groove!
She is sailing her 1.4m² with the genoa on her Tahe, Reval Mini LC (490cm x 54cm beam). And I’m filming (in her wind shadow) riding my Tahe, Ocean Spirit, also with a 1.4/genoa combination. The location is the bayside of Cudjoe Key and we’re crossing Kemp Channel, heading out toward the Content Keys.
One of the amazing things about the Lower Key’s backcountry is the scarcity of boats. Primarily it’s due to the vast amounts of shallow water and unmarked channels. You normally just see a few flats fishing guides and locals who know the water well enough to feel comfortable out there. If you look closely during the beginning of the clip you can see a flats skiff off to the right slowing down to check us out.
What a day! Perfectly steady twelve knots out of the NE, extra long beam reaches, and amazingly fun rides.
This is Kayak Sailing!
October 23rd, 2014 by David
This is a transition month here in Hood River. The predictably strong westerlies that sweep through the gorge all summer, begin to give way to the more variable winds of winter.
This is the time of year that Patti and I like to go camping on the Oregon coast. While the weather is often unpredictable, the scenery is spectacular and always well worth the drive. Below are some photos taken from a recent trip to Netarts and Nahelam bays. These lovely bodies of water are about a two and a half hour drive from Hood River. If we do our homework and time the tides correctly, the paddle-sailing can be amazing. An incoming tide is the ticket.
Here is Patti’s sweet new boat, beached a Nehalem State Park. It’s a Tahe, Reval Mini LC. Lots of rocker and very lively under sail!
Following Patti on a starboard tack across the bay.
A dramatic rain squall descends on Netarts Bay.
This is the sandy western shore of Nehalem bay. Deb is in the water cooling off. A dry suit is a wonderful piece of safety equipment, but it can sometimes get hot when the sun comes out.
Pelicans and gulls just “chillin” on the Netarts Jetty. A fancy house is seen in the background.
There are few things more pleasant than gliding across a bay.
Dan is seen here eeking out a very light breath of air near the boat ramp of Nehalem State Park. You can’t see it in the photo, but giant Chinook salmon were jumping all around us. It is the time of year that these mighty fish migrate up the rivers in huge schools to spawn.
Yours truly, inside of the mouth of Nehalem inlet. The surf was quite large this day. Breaking over the inlet bar, the waves created large fields of sea foam to play in. It’s kind of like kayaking in a giant bubble bath!
Here we are sailing on a close reach across Netarts. We saw the fog in the distance rolling, like waves in from the ocean, blanketing the southern end of the bay.
This was the perfect spot to take a lunch break, just inside Nehalem inlet.
Sea life and salt air. Ahh…
The drive home. Daisy is keeping an eye out for chipmunks on the road. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. 🙂
We hope you enjoyed the photos.
Fair Winds and Happy sailing!
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 3rd, 2014 by David
Wow! thanks to all of you, we’ve had a very busy season. It’s thrilling to help so many people get into paddle-sailing!
Finally! we are glad to have a little free time to spend on the blog. Between building rigs, answering e-mails, and of course feeding our ravenous kayak-sailing addiction, our blog posts and website updates have been sadly neglected. Now that the days are getting shorter and the water is starting to cool here, we are beginning to have some more free time.
Tomorrow I’ll be posting a article on “Aleutian Island Paddles and Paddle-Sailing” that you may find interesting.
Anyway, just wanted to say Hi, and it’s great to be back!
Fair Winds and Happy Sailing!
December 18th, 2013 by David
Hi everyone! Here is a new video. Yaaay!!
If you haven’t tried creating a video with movie making software yet, we highly recommend it. It’s super fun.
Patti and I always try to have a camera on us while we are out on the water. It’s amazing how often we see beautiful things while sailing. Whether it’s simply sea creatures going about their day, or the way reflections of light dance on the ripples, being on the water seems to capture the imagination. At least it’s this way for us.
Several companies make small, affordable, waterproof cameras that are easy to use. Most people have seen the GoPros but there are many models available to choose from. We like to use cameras with an easy to see LCD screen on the back so we can see what we are shooting. Ours reside inside the chest pocket of our PFDs, where they’re leashed with a thin bungee cord to that little clip that is designed to hold your car keys. And, since our sails do most of the work, we can set our paddles down and capture that special image or scene with just a moments notice.
We hope you enjoy watching this video and look forward to seeing yours soon!
Feel free to leave a comment.
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David and Patti
September 17th, 2013 by David
Patti and I would like to thank each and every one of you for supporting the Kayaksailor project. Your kindness and friendship is wonderful. We have been super busy building sail rigs, answering e-mails, and of course paddle-sailing as often as possible! Its been an amazing year.
Our work shop in full summer mode
Patti at the Kayaksailor control center
One of the great things about kayak-sailing is taking our boats to interesting places. Just the other day we took a wonderful kayak-sailing/ camping trip to Waldo lake Wilderness Area.
“A “is home (Hood River) “B” is Waldo Lake
Where in the world is Waldo Lake you say?
This gem is nestled high in the Cascade mountains of south central Oregon, about a two hour drive south-east of Eugene and about four and a half hours south of Hood River. 314km (195mi)
Waldo is the second largest lake in Oregon with 25.9km of surface area (about 10mi). It’s not huge by any means, but it’s pretty special, partly because it’s said to be one of the clearest lakes in the world with underwater visibility as much as 37 meters (120′) on a clear day. Apparently, it holds the world’s record for lake visibility at, 47.9m (157′). The reason for the clarity is that the dissolved nutrient levels are extremely low, due to a lack of significant inlet streams.
Considered an alpine lake, Waldo is about 1.76km (5800′) above sea level. Most say that the best time to go is in the late summer or early autumn, when the cooler air temperatures subdue the pesky mosquito population.
Thankfully, authorities banned the use of gasoline outboards on the lake, so it has become something of a west coast paddlers mecca. And, since we had never been there, it was high on our to-do list!
After discussing the adventure with our friends Dan and Deb, we all decided to hit the road for an extended weekend.
The drive there became unusual when this amazing thunder/hail storm passed over the Cascades just as we entered Redmond and shook our little pickup truck like a child’s toy.
Oregon storms can be strong!
Outside Redmond we stopped to refuel. Parked next to us was this huge monster vehicle. Oregon is such a crazy place. It’s filled with so many naturalists who enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors, and others who just thrive on noise and mayhem. Welcome to the the wild west! Wonder what this thing would look like with kayaks strapped to the roof?!
The skies began to clear up a bit as we left the town of Bend and the remainder of the drive was quite pleasant.
We arrived at the lake, met Dan and Deb, and chose a camp site. As luck would have it, the clouds returned and we ended up pitching the tent in the rain 🙁 Thankfully, Patti fired up the propane stove and cooked us a delicious hot meal. 🙂 Yum!
Nearly every tree surrounding the lake is covered with a hairy lichen (Bryoria Capillaris) which gives them a somewhat eerie appearance, especially in the late evening. During the day however, the forest takes on a more whimsical appearance, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Charlee-girl came along and was in dog heaven sniffing for chipmunks. Not to worry, she’s too old and slow to bother them much.
Sunny skies and a light southwest breeze greeted us the next morning. After breakfast, we headed out to explore the lake! Even with the cloud cover, the water reflected the characteristic blue hue normally reserved for open oceans.
Even though it was only blowing about five knots, we were able to traverse the large northern section of the lake with ease. Dan and Deb decided to paddle the shoreline, while Patti and I ventured out into the deeper water where the wind was a little stronger.
In certain sections, the lake’s depth it’s over 122 meters (400′). That’s pretty deep! even for coastal standards.
Back at camp Dan showed us his cool little wood cooking stove that he made from recycled tin cans. It is very efficient and fun to stoke. It will boil a pot of water quickly, and you can even roast marshmallows over it after supper!
The next morning brought picture postcard skies and amazing glass calm conditions. The absence of sound and clarity of the water, as well as the sheer beauty of the day made for a spectacular paddling experience. Some days are just perfect for paddling. Please take a moment to click on the photos below to see the enlarged images. It was truly amazing!
There were times when the reflected clouds seemed more real than the ones in the sky. The enveloping silence was complete. Our boats glided over the surface of the water and our hearts were lifted.
We wish you were here to share the experience with us. Is that a postcard cliche?
The water clarity is all that we expected, and more. Shadows from our boats on the lake bottom could easily be seen many meters down and at times gave us all the odd sensation of floating in air.
It was fun to look down in the depths, wave, and see our shadow waving back.
It seemed odd that we didn’t see a single fish. They say the lack of nutrients in the water severely limits all aquatic life, but I thought we would have seen at least a minnow.
At the the far south end of the lake we all stopped to rest on this beautiful little beach. Dan and Deb cooked lunch over their wood stove, while Patti and I stretched our legs and explored a bit of the shoreline.
Gazing out over the lake, it struck me how few people there were out enjoying the water. I mean, here it is, a gorgeous summer weekend, the weather’s perfect, and there’s nobody in sight. What a treat!
After lunch, as we kicked back, a gentle south wind began to blow. It seemed to be whispering to us: come out and play! Answering the call, we returned to the boats, and headed back across the lake.
Patti and I sailed across a sea of perfect azure blue. Actually, she glided faster than I did. Intermittent paddle strokes were needed to keep up with her. Her slender skin-boat, with it’s reduced wetted surface area, slips through the water easier than my “fat” plastic kayak. Did I just say fat? I meant “big boned”. It would have been nice to have had the 1.6m², but I forgot to bring it. Oh well. I guess I’ll take the back seat this time.
These are some pics from the trip back.
I’m trying to catch up to her.
Hmm… She’s moving fast!
Finally I’m able to paddle beneath her to get into some clean air. But I felt lazy and didn’t stay there for long.
I think Patti likes sailing faster than me.
The breeze eased up a bit as we approached shore.
What a day!
At night we gazed up at the sky and watched for shooting stars. Then we crawled into our sleeping bags and let sleep overcome us.
We packed up and drove across the high desert prairie in the morning. All the way back to Hood River.
The contrast of the mountain moisture to the dry desert is striking. It’s a beautiful drive.
Fair winds and happy sailing!
Please feel free to leave a comment!
November 21st, 2012 by David
This Summer we traveled to northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia to do some exploring. It’s an amazing place to paddle-sail with vast amounts of protected water and abundant sea life.
Sailing with the humpback whales was a completely new experience for us. Witnessing the sheer size and power of these amazing creatures, especially in such beautiful surroundings, left us in awe and profoundly changed.
I’ll try to describe the experience, even though my words can’t do it justice.
You are paddle-sailing in a beautiful deep bay. We’re surrounded by the distant cry of gulls, and the gentle, rhythmic sound, of sea water, lapping against the hull. The sky is a soft hazy blue. Around us, are gently rounded evergreen mountains that seem to be reaching up to the cottony clouds, which appear to be slowly moving from west to east. The weather is mild, tee shirt weather. The sun is on your cheek and you are very comfortable, sitting in your kayak, happily sailing along, intermittently humming that tune that’s been stuck in your head ever since hearing it this morning.
To your left, you notice some movement. A bald eagle leaps off a high tree limb, causing it to spring back with the release of its substantial weight. It flies along the shoreline with powerful wings flapping intermittently. The glide is graceful with wings, outstretched. It may be searching for a salmon, or heading back to the nest. you don’t know, but as it soars, your eyes follow, and across the water, in the distance, you think you see the lingering spout of a whale. A faint misty-white line that shoots high into the air, slightly swirling at the top. It looks just like that drawing of the whale you remember seeing as a child. That’s pretty cool. Which way is it moving? Then, searching for another, you see something on the surface of the water near Patti’s boat. A log? The head of a sea-lion? Maybe a harbor seal — you can’t tell. Then it disappears without a ripple. Probably a seal, you think. Patti shouts, “Did you see that seal? It was checking me out. I think she is curious about the sail. She’s been following me for a little while”.
A steady breeze has been blowing for the last several minutes and you’re holding an nice beam reach of about five knots. It’s easy sailing. The air is warm. It smells slightly of brine. Just then . . . you feel . . . a sensation. It’s primal, like the feeling you get when you know that you are being watched, and look up just in time to see someone staring at you. Suddenly, the surface of the water bulges to your left and a huge whale rises from the depths and blasts out a loud, long exhalation of breath. PHOOOOOOOH!! A powerful breath, a mammal’s breath, a really big! mammal’s breath. You’re startled, frozen in a moment of shock, not sure what to do even if you could do anything. The breath sounds oddly familiar, almost human, like the sound you make when coming up to the surface, after trying to swim the entire length of the pool underwater, only it’s much louder, and deeper. The moment passes in slow motion. Then, the inhalation, the blowhole closes, and the creature gracefully submerges. Wow!! is all you can say. Wow!… Wow.. Did you… see that..? Did you see that? Did the whole world see that?!! We look at each other and smile in amazement. Wow. Awesome.
Experiences like this shock us into connection with our surroundings, instantly transporting us to a place where we are aware. We look at the birds and the trees, and everything for that matter, with new eyes.
I’ve thought much about our whale experiences in British Columbia. After researching the topic, and in retrospect, we probably should have made more of an effort to avoid being in the path of the whales, for their protection as well as ours. We have since learned that staying a minimum distance of 200 yards away is prudent. It’s actually a law in Canadian waters.
Even though these are baleen whales, which feed on very small sea creatures by sifting water through the baleen filter, I could not help thinking of the Jonah story, especially when one would surface nearby with its mouth wide open!
The thought of a whale the size of a bus lifting our boats into the air is not very appealing. But in truth, we never felt threatened by these intelligent creatures, though more than once they unexpectedly surfaced near enough that it indeed caused a startle.
When immersed in the sounds made by the rippling water being parted by the bow, or feeling the sensations of the sea breeze quietly whispering in your ear in a way that only the sea air can, you feel you are observing the true nature of things. Which is, of course, that we are part of a bizarre, energy-filled, and incredibly beautiful system.
Natural environments seem to have a way of conveying this. While the gentle breeze whispers it to you, finding a whale next to your boat shouts it loud and clear!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Please feel free to leave a comment. We love hearing from you.
Fair winds and happy sailing!
May 15th, 2012 by David
Springtime has finally arrived in the Northern Hemisphere! Even though it has been a relatively mild La Nina Winter in Oregon, with some spectacularly sunny days mixed in with the normal clouds and misty rain of our wet season, we welcome the sun and warmth with open arms.
It has been quite a while since my last blog post so I will do my best to fill you in on what we have been up to.
Patti’s truck with Spring back orders ready to ship
Patti and I have been hard at work answering e-mails and building sailing rigs for kind people all over the world. We thank each and every one of you for your support. People are starting to find out about us!
On the weekends and after work we’ve been trying to squeeze in as much paddle-sailing as possible.
Orchard in bloom
You may not know that the sail loft is located in the lower half of an old farm house. We rent the house from a local orchardist and live upstairs. The place is surrounded by thirty beautiful acres of pear trees, and for a few weeks each Spring the blossoms transport us into a magical wonderland of cottony beauty. We enjoy this time of year very much. As an added bonus, the loft is only a few minutes from a terrific launch site on the Columbia River.
Patti and I have been having fun paddle-sailing in the Columbia. Our new skin boats are a real pleasure to sail.
For some reason Springtime seems to activate an instinctual fishing gene in some people. I’m not sure why, but the vernal change has this effect on me as well. On Saturday, while Patti dug up soil in our food garden, I felt compelled to head up to our local mountain lake for some trolling.
This small but lovely body of water holds a healthy population of rainbow and native bull trout, both of which respond well to trolled flies.
One of the tricks to trolling under sail is being able to control ones boat speed. It’s often easiest to regulate the speed of trolled baits while sailing to windward. By turning a boat up-wind and sailing on a very close reach, the boat speed will decrease. To pull the bait faster, one just needs to bear off the wind until the desired speed is reached. For trolling on a beam reach, a simple adjustment to the main sheet is often all that is required. The sheet may need to be let all the way out in order to keep the boats speed slow enough for trolling. I find that sheeting the sail all the way in, and effectively stalling the foil, can also be a good way to reduce speed, especially if heading down wind. This “stall” technique goes against most sailboat racer’s instincts, but for fishing, especially for slower fresh water fish, a slow speed is often needed.
Can you see the nest?
Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day with a clear sky and unseasonably mild temperature. One of the attributes of this little lake is an audible purity that results from a total absence of motorized craft. The only sounds that I could hear was the gentle swish my paddle blade dipping into the water, the occasional trout splashing on the surface, and a chirping song of ospreys (fish hawks). I could clearly hear what sounded like two baby ospreys calling from a nest high in a tree on the west bank. It seems that some ambitious bird lover had somehow climbed to the top of this incredibly tall tree and nailed together a wooden nesting platform for them.
What a relaxing day. There was one tense moment though. It happened just after I hooked a fish. It’s funny how crazy things seem to happen at the moment of hook up. I can remember several occasions while flats fishing in the Keys, when a hungry shark would apear as soon as I hooked into a big fish. And then there was the time my pants fell down while fighting a big bluefish on Long Island, but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, back to Saturday. Where was I, oh yeah, so I turned the boat into the wind and had just started reeling in this nice little trout when, with the corner of my eye, I saw momma osprey diving down from a nearby tree top with her wings folded back and talons extended, aiming for my fish! In a moment of heightened awareness I thought, oh no! she is going to take off with the fish! I immediately called out in an alarming yell, YAAH! YAAH!, in an attempt to break her concentration. At the very same moment I was trying to push away the thought of trying to reel in a fish hovering several meters above my head. Luckily, the scare tactic worked and she broke off her dive at the last possible moment. Whew.. That was too close. The fish came to the boat quickly and I released it back into the clear blue depths. Needless to say we were both relieved.
After a leisurely drive home I arrived to find Patti covered head to toe in soil with a big smile on her face.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
By the way, we plan on taking some fun high wind paddle-sailing videos this season and maybe even some paddle-sailing instructional videos, so stay tuned. And, please feel free to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t done so already. There is a subscription link in the right hand column.
December 26th, 2011 by David
Just thought that you might like to see a couple of pics of Patti’s newly redesigned boat.
It weighs about 35 lbs (15.9 Kg) complete with Kayaksailor rig and paddle!
These shots were taken on the winter solstice. It was unseasonably warm and a beautiful day to be out on the water.
No wind for sailing, but what a sweet setup!
Wishing you all the best this holiday season!
David and Patti
December 19th, 2011 by David
As some of you may know, in addition to sail design Patti and I also like to design and build kayaks.
While waiting for our aluminum Kayaksailor parts to arrive, we decided to take a trip to beautiful Anacortes, Washington to visit our friend Corey at his traditional skin boat shop, The Skin Boat School. Patti wanted to reshape her boat by giving it more rocker, adding sheer and taking out some of the volume and I wanted to make mine a little less beamy and also take out some volume. We originally built these high volume boats for extended paddle-sailing trips but as it turns out, we use them mostly for day sailing.
Building a skin-on-frame kayak or “qajaq” is the original, and some consider best, method of kayak building. Many think that this form of boat building has likely been practiced for several thousands of years. Our boats have urethane coated nylon for skin and waxed polyester twine for lashings. The Inuit peoples used seal skin and sinew, but aside from these differences, the basic building technique is remarkably similar.
Skin boats are really cool. The Inuit craftsmen were very skilled and developed these incredibly sophisticated boats with limited resources. Not only was the qajaq an essential tool for the Inuit hunter, enabling them to bring food home in the extremely harsh environment of the far north, but the boats had a spiritual element to them as well. A qajaq is more than a boat. It can be viewed as an animal of sorts with a back bone, ribs and skin. When the paddler, or paddle-sailor in our case, enters their boat, they become the spirit of the animal. Working together as one.
The advantages of skin-on-frame boats are many, but probably one of the most alluring is the weight. A sixteen to seventeen foot boat can weigh as little as twenty five pounds! or about 11.3 Kg. Patti can pick up her boat with one hand. Try doing that with most modern plastic boat! On second thought, don’t try it.
During our stay we lived in the school’s lovely skin-on-frame tree house. It’s a very peaceful and friendly place.
At night we heard Coyotes jibbering and a pack of wolves howling on the distance. Corey says that the wolves belong to a neighbor who breeds them in captivity. He says they all are confined, but I have to say that the sound of a howling wolf pack is a powerful and a hair raising experience. I now understand the level of respect first peoples gave them. We think that we are on top of the food chain, Ha.!
The first order of business was to peel off the skin. We used a heat gun to release the parts of the skin that were stuck to the frame.
Next we cut the lashings and went to work removing and adjusting the ribs, trimming the gunwales, and repositioning the keelson to adjust the rocker. We shape our boats the traditional way, “by eye” and “feel”. I had to cut the deck beams on mine to reduce the boat’s beam.
The frames are pegged and lashed together. No metal fasteners here, just artificial sinew and knots. Lots and lots of knots!
At night it dropped below freezing a few times and Patti dressed our older companion Charlee-girl in her fleece shirt to stay warm. Charlee is looking down the stairs of the tree house trying to figure out a game plan to get down. She can still negotiate those stairs!
Once we finished reshaping the boats, it was time to put on the skin. Knowing when to stop tweaking the design of the frame is always a problem for me. I always want it to be perfect. It’s so easy to make a little adjustment here or there. I’ll just keep adjusting until Patti tells me to stop. We give each other balance.Sewing the skin is simultaneously tedious and therapeutic. It takes some practice to get a nice smooth, tight stitch. The Inuit would wet their seal skins while sewing but luckily we can work our cloth dry.
Patti uses a beautiful more traditional Maligiaq stitch, while I use a rolled cross stitch.
We put our heart and souls into all our creations, And with skin boats, a little blood at times.
These are some of Patti’s cells decorating her bow. It’s always good to keep track of where the pointy end of the needle is. 🙂
We chose to remove the rudder and change the stern shape of our boats. Since she purchased her Squamish, Patti has been getting back into rudderless sailing. I think that I will join her. It takes a little more skill, but that’s good, it’s all fun!
Here the cockpit is waiting for attention.
The coaming is the last thing to be sewn in place. The front rests in the curved masik and the rear rests on the flat deck beam.
After work, we explored some of the shoreline of the Island of Fildago on which Anacortes resides. A glorious full moon illuminated the evening sky. This is a spectacular part of the world, and so many beautiful boats in the harbor! Below are some classic pulling boats we came across. I can’t resist admiring the sweet lines of a well designed hull.
After the sewing was finished, we dyed and urethaned the skin. Here Patti shows her skills spreading the two part urethane “goop” with a spatula. It takes multiple thin coats and a steady hand to get that mirror shine.
Most people use tan color dye to give their boat a traditional skin color. Patti and I like to take the path less traveled. We chose different colors for our boats. Paddle-sailing traditional skin-on-frames isn’t the norm either, but it sure is fun! The mix of the modern with the traditional brings something new. I painted a wavy blue dye design on my boat. It won’t be easy to see on the water but it has a cool organic feel to it.
Patti chose a beautiful blue green. Her boat has feminine curves that are pleasant to the eye. This shot shows the results of Patti’s remarkably smooth urethane finishing job.
I always like the view from inside the cockpit. The white cord seen running fore and aft goes through a primitive pulley in the bow and is used to pull the forward float bag into position. The only metal hardware used in the boat are the stainless screws that hold the adjustable foot pegs in position.
While the urethane cured, we went hiking on a beautiful trail about ten minutes from the shop. The rain forest is a remarkable place to explore. Lots of rain and lots of life! Even in winter the amount and variety of vegetation is warming to the soul.
It’s easy to feel connected to the environment here. The humidity holds the sweet organic aroma in the air.
We need to come back here and sail this coastline. There are so many cool places to explore. Deception pass is just around the corner. Even though the tidal current rips at times, our sails can definitely help fight it in case we miscalculate a tidal change.
The water is very clear and stays at a nearly constant 8.8 to 11.3 degrees Celsius (48-51 Fahrenheit) year round. It’s cold but definitely doable with proper thermal protection.
A short distance away is Rosario beach. A pole sculpture depicts the spirit of Ko-Kwal-alwoot, “The Maiden of Deception Pass”. If you want to learn her story, e-mail me and I will gladly send it to you.
When we arrived back from the hike, the urethane was cured enough for us to strap the boats to our trusty pickup so we could start the five hour drive south to Hood River. We love how the light shines through the hulls giving them a stained glass appearance. In this shot you can see the swedeform shape of my hull with the cockpit positioned aft of center. Also visible is the center foredeck stringer on which the Kayaksailor main body tube will rest.
Thank you so much for taking time to read this post. If you haven’t already done so, please consider subscribing to this blog in the right hand column. Also, please feel free to comment!
November 3rd, 2011 by David
In an act of spontaneity, Patti and I took a drive to the coast. Every now and again we need to get our gills wet in the salt water. There is something about the sea that helps us feel connected. Grounded so to speak, except for without the ground. ;D
The Oregon coastline is a notoriously rough place for small craft with few protected bays and harbors to escape the pounding surf. There are a few though. This day we decided to explore a protected place called Netarts Bay. I’s just a few miles south of the town of Tillamook.
What a glorious Autumn day! We arrived and immediately set out to find a good launching spot. One was found just inside the mouth of the bay and since the tide was just beginning to ebb and a strong outbound current was building, we decided to work against the current into the bay instead of heading out to the mouth. Tidal rips can be amazingly strong here in the Pacific Northwest and a thorough respect for them is essential for safe navigation.
We are always hoping for good wind and today looked perfect. But, as luck would have it, as soon as the boats were slid into the water the breeze died off almost completely, Oh well.. We always have the paddle. Actually, we really love paddling, especially when the water is flat calm and has a mirror finish on it. Paddle-sailing just has a special place in our hearts.
The boats glided silently in the clear water. Scallops could be seen on the bottom and occasionally small fish spooked from the gently swaying eel grass beds as we passed overhead. A variety of diving ducks and sea lions performed their disappearing acts around us and all was quiet except for a distant rumble of surf and the occasional call of a gull.
It was truly a delightful afternoon and we are happy to share it with you. Hope you enjoy the video.
October 23rd, 2011 by David
Several savvy paddle-sailors are utilizing marine rail mount and accessory mount hardware to attach their Kayaksailors.
Some of the notable features of these mounts are that they can be found in many marine stores, offer a convenient quick release option, and are designed to withstand the rigors of the marine environment.
Here is an example of a Rail/Bimini mount:
Ron Waclawik shares these photos of his Prion touring kayak outfitted with stainless steel rail and bimini mounting hardware. He purchased them online from marinepartsdepot.com
Quick release pins make for easy removal.
The mount raises the rig up for convenient access to the storage hatch.
Here is a view of the mounts without the rig.
Note the safety lanyard for the release pin
Care should always be taken when drilling into the bottom of the main body tube. It’s important to avoid hitting the thru hull pulley or the mast car bungee with the drill bit. The forward mount can often be positioned farther aft to avoid the pulley and a drill bit spacer can be utilized to limit the drill bit penetration.
Below is a good example of a marine accessory mount. These are often used to attach fishing rod holders and electronic equipment to boats.
Trevor Lowe, owner of Yakattack NZ Ltd. in Auckland, New Zealand shares these photos of his personal boat outfitted with marine accessory mounts from Railblaza.
Here is a view of the cross tube mount.
For the front he added an aluminum channel for the main body tube to rest in.
It’s a technical and sophisticated looking mount,
and also has a clean look when removed.
If you have any photos of your own Kayaksailor mount that you would like to share, please send them!
Happy paddle-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!
September 19th, 2011 by David
I just want to share with you this little video we put together that shows how nicely Patti’s new boat sails.
The footage was taken on the Columbia River at our local sailing site in 5-12 knots of wind.
It truly was a beautiful evening for a paddle-sail! Hope you enjoy.
September 6th, 2011 by David
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!
If you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to this blog on the right hand column of this page. We love to share.
June 7th, 2011 by David
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. 🙂
If you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to this blog, I am happy to post new developments.
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
“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!
June 7th, 2011 by David
Here are some photos we took during our trip to the Southwest Sea Kayak Symposium in San Diego California March 25-27. This is a first-rate event put on by Aqua Adventures. http://www.aqua-adventures.com/
The wind we scheduled weeks before arrived right on time and we paddle-sailed with some of the nicest people on the planet!
Hope you enjoy the photos.
June 7th, 2011 by David
Winter sailing here in Oregon is somewhat limited due to the cold. Even in dry suits it can be chilly.
So, I decided to put together a short video to remind us of summer sailing.
This movie shows Patti, myself and Mark Hall from Delta Kayaks, performing sea trials with the Kayaksailor 1.4m² and Mark’s own Delta 15.5.
We spent a glorious afternoon filming last summer at Pitt Lake near Mark’s home in Vancouver, British Columbia. There is something about sailing near large mountains that really appeals to me. Perhaps it comes from spending a lifetime of sailing in places that were, let’s say….. geologically compromised.
As you probably already know from watching our instructional videos, we recommend attaching the rig with the under-the-hull strap and some packaging tape for doing the sea trials. You can see the tape and strap in some of the shots.
The sailing was spectacular, what a nice hull/sail combination. The boat is comfortable, stable and maneuverable, a real treat to sail. She is very fast for her size and seems to move through the water effortlessly. There is also that prominent eye-catching sheer line, which in my mind adds to her visual appeal.
Hope that you enjoy watching the video.
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/
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!