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Kayak-Sailing Collage Video

February 7th, 2017 by

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!

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To Rudder, Or Not To Rudder, That Is The Question.

December 3rd, 2015 by

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 info@kayaksailor.com

The next post will be on the six ways of steering a sailing kayak.  Stay tuned…

 

Load Balance and Directional Stability

October 27th, 2015 by

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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Happy Kayak-Sailing!

Creativity and Custom Mounting Systems

June 7th, 2011 by

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Fair winds and happy sailing!

David Drabkin

Kayak-Sailing in British Columbia

July 24th, 2010 by

Patti and I recently returned home from a trip to coastal British Columbia.
Let me just say that this is a beautiful part of the world, snow -capped mountain peaks, terrific wind and endless opportunities to paddle-sail. We brought our Necky Eskia and our new Pakboat XT-15 along for the ride. After crossing the border, we headed north toward Squamish, a town situated at the end of scenic Howe Sound.
It’s a windy place in the summer and a popular destination for windsurfers, kite- boarders and sailboat cruisers looking for excitement. We found it similar to our home town of Hood River in this respect.
The paddle-sailing in Howe sound was wonderful. Glacial runoff gives the water a blue-green tint. It kind of reminded me of the water color in the Florida Keys after a strong wind has stirred up the coral sediments. The tide and the wind were in the same direction causing us to paddle sail close hauled much of the time but the scenery is breath-taking and the broad reaches home were a blast. After a fun-filled day on the water, we spent the night camped in Porteau Cove Provincial Park.

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