April 21st, 2020 by David
Hey there Kayaksailors! Here is a short video showing us kayak-sailing the Florida Keys. Click the “What’s New” link in the left to see it.
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!
December 3rd, 2015 by David
There has been a crazy rudder debate going on among certain kayakers for decades. In case you are not aware of it, I’ll fill you in on the issues.
On one side there are the kayaking purists that say “A well designed kayak should be easily steered by hull steering and paddle strokes, and that kayak makers add rudders to their boats simply to compensate for design flaws.” Basically, “A real kayak doesn’t need a rudder.” Many of these purists do however acknowledge the benefits of using a retractable skeg (a non-turning fin located near the stern) in certain conditions to improve tracking, especially on rockered kayaks, in quartering seas and on off-the-wind legs. But essentially, they say “no” to rudders.
On the other side of the debate are rudder lovers who say “ Additional steering? Sure! I’m in! Where do I get one”.
So… why all the fuss about rudders? Human nature, I guess. It seems that if we don’t have anything to debate about we can’t prove how dominant we are and life becomes boring. I’m pretty sure it’s just a “guy” thing.
But there must be more to it than that, you say. Well… sure. Let’s dig deeper into the topic and carefully look at both the disadvantages and the advantages of rudders.
First the disadvantages:
Rudders are mechanical things that can fail. True. They also require periodic inspection to make sure all the parts, especially the cables, are in good working condition. They are expensive. No argument there. They can be a pain to install. That’s for sure. I once spent the better part of a day fitting out a kayak with pedal controls and a rudder. They add drag that can slow you down. True. The fact is that anything you hang off your boat is going to create at least some drag. Plus, if the rudder is compensating for an unbalanced or poorly designed boat, or, if the helmsman is heavy footed with the pedals, the amount of drag will be increased. It’s also true that rudders are often found on unruly boats, and that beginners tend to push the pedals too much. Additionally, some rudder control pedals need so much leg motion that they prevent the paddler from feeling “locked in” to the thigh braces, resulting in less hull control. And lastly, rudders often have a way of looking out of place on a traditional kayaks. True enough.
Hmm… Have I left anything out? Probably… but let’s move on.
Now for the advantages of rudders:
They provide additional steering by using your feet! You have to admit, it’s a pretty cool idea. By steering with your feet at least one hand can be removed from the paddle and put to other uses like handling a fishing rod, taking photos, eating lunch, tending the sails, holding a VHF, etc. It’s a simple mechanical device that has proven over the years to be amazingly reliable. While they do add drag, it should also be noted that rudders can effectively reduce or even eliminate “yaw” (the side to side motion of the bow with each paddle stroke) thereby increasing the forward efficiency of each stroke. And on long kayaks, especially in quartering seas, a rudder will help the boat stay on course without applying extra, energy robbing, corrective strokes. On most big tandem kayaks, a rudder is almost a necessity. It can often be difficult to coordinate the necessary strokes needed to turn the craft (They don’t call em’ divorce doubles for nothing!). Also, when used on short “squirrely” (erratically moving) kayaks, or on heavily rockered (banana shaped) kayaks, a rudder can dramatically improve the tracking. And when used on extremely long, fast kayaks having little rocker, a rudder can transform an extremely difficult boat to turn into one that will… well…at least give you some hint of steering. As for the rudder pedals, it’s true that many pedal mechanisms allow one’s leg to slip out of the thigh braces, but it should be noted that there are very good mechanisms out there (like the Smarttrack System) that allow a fixed pedal position so one can retain that “locked in” feeling of control.
Regarding rudders and kayak-sailing, I like using them. Others, like Patti, prefer to use them only intermittently when they need to have their hands free, or not at all.
Are they necessary? Well… no and yes. They are only necessary if you feel they are necessary. Some boats sail beautifully without a rudder. Typically these are well-designed, well-behaved paddling boats to begin with. Others can definitely benefit from a rudder. Each boat has its own “personality”.
Most people would agree that a rudder makes learning to kayak-sail much easier. By keeping the boat on course with one’s feet, it’s easier to concentrate on sail handling.
With the Kayaksailor rig, the leeboards can be balanced to the center of effort in the sail, maintaining the directional stability of the boat, and on well-designed hulls, rudders normally aren’t necessary. That said, I sail a nicely designed boat, and still like using a rudder for a variety of reasons, mainly for fishing and photography, but also for just kicking back and enjoying the ride. I also like to use it for swell riding to keep the bow heading down the line of the wave.
In my mind, the decision of whether or not to use a rudder really boils down to the “fun” factor. If it’s more fun to use a rudder, use one. If it’s more fun without it, don’t use one. Because when you really get right down to it, it’s all about having fun on the water.
Please feel free to leave a comment.
And Happy Sailing!
If you would like more information about kayak-sailing, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The next post will be on the six ways of steering a sailing kayak. Stay tuned…
October 27th, 2015 by David
Kayak-sailing 102 Load Balance And Directional Stability.
Prerequisite for this class is Balancing the Leeboards.
Most people are aware that placing weight in the very bottom of a boat acts as ballast and stabilizes a craft, and that adding a weight high above the waterline will make the boat less stable, but it is not so widely understood how the distribution of weight fore and aft affects the boat’s directional stability.
What I mean by directional stability is how controlled a boat will track through the water. A directionally stable craft will hold a steady course with little input from the helmsman. A directionally unstable one will change directions on its own, often without warning and can be difficult to steer.
Probably the most important feature of a well-balanced kayak is a properly designed hull. The overall length of craft, as well as how much rocker the hull has (hull curvature from bow to stern) both play very important roles in regards to directional stability, but so does cargo placement, specifically, how and where this weight is distributed throughout the hull.
Typically in a small craft such as a kayak, the paddler makes up most of the cargo weight. And in well designed kayaks, the seating position should allow the boat to sit relatively level in the water, allowing it to track through the water in a controlled manner. So it’s important to know that having a seat too far forward or too far aft will alter the way the boat handles.
An unbalanced kayak with too much weight forward will have a bow that rides too deeply in the water and a stern that rides too high. In a bow-heavy boat, the bow will effectively act as a keel, biting deeply into the water, thereby reducing the sideways sliding motion of the bow. At the same time, the stern will loose it’s keel-like effect and slide sideways through the water too easily. Patti and I call this action “bow-keeling”.
While a limited amount of bow keeling can be beneficial in a sailing kayak by allowing the bow to track to windward more efficiently, too much weight forward can make the kayak want to “weather-cock” or turn into the wind on its own, requiring near constant corrective strokes to stay on course. Anyone who has been in one of these boats knows that they can be frustratingly difficult to steer. Once a directional change is initiated either by paddle stroke or hull steering, the stern will want to slide out toward the outside of the turn, requiring a quick corrective stroke to bring it back in line. Then, typically, the corrective stroke will cause the stern to slide back in the opposite direction, past the desired position, and require another corrective stroke. You see where this is going.
On the other side of the scale, an unbalanced kayak with too much weight in the stern will have its own control issues. In this case the bow will ride high above the water, allowing it to slide sideways, and the stern will sit too deep, acting like the keel. Though a stern-heavy kayak can be difficult to steer, it is usually easier to deal with. The two main control problems with boats having overly heavy sterns are, a difficulty in making tight turns due to the stern tracking too well, and a situation where the boat is constantly wanting to turn downwind because the bow is sliding away too easily.
So… how does one correct an unbalanced kayak?
Shifting cargo either fore or aft is an easy way to do it. Also if the kayak has an adjustable seat, sliding the seat either fore or aft can be a quick fix.
The next thing to try is adding weight to a compartment in the boat. Since it’s generally desirable to keep a boat as light as possible, the position of weight, as well as the type of weight used should be considered.
By positioning the weight as close to the bow or stern as possible, one can minimize the amount of weight needed.
As for what kind of weight to use, a good option is to add safety gear such as: dry clothing (in a dry bag), a first aid kit, a water bottle, food, a kayak repair kit, etc. Being prepared for emergencies is always smart. And while basic safety gear should always be onboard, another option is to add water weight. Water is desirable not only because it is dense and requires very little space, but perhaps more importantly it remains neutrally buoyant when submerged. Added benefits include being able to rinse the salt off at the end of the day, and even drink it if need be.
Patti and I sometimes correct for a bow-heavy boat by adding a small solar shower (basically a water bag with a plastic shower head attached to it) to the aft compartment, and placing it as far back in the hull as possible.
Below is a list of three common symptoms of an unbalanced kayak and how to fix them.
1) The kayak is tracking poorly and difficult to steer, especially when going off the wind (downwind). It may be bow-heavy. Try lightening the bow by shifting gear aft, shifting the seat aft, and/or adding weight to the stern compartment.
2) The kayak is constantly wanting to turn up into the wind. Again, it may be bow-heavy. Try lightening the bow by shifting gear aft, shifting the seat aft, and/or adding weight to the stern compartment.
3) The kayak is constantly wanting to turn downwind. It may be stern-heavy. Try lightening the stern by shifting gear forward, shifting the seat forward, and/or adding weight to the bow.
4) The kayak turns sluggishly, tracks like an arrow while traveling directly downwind, and may also be difficult to turn into the wind. Again, it may be stern-heavy. Try lightening the stern by shifting gear forward, shifting the seat forward, and/or adding weight to the bow.
Finally, it should be noted that some boats are just not well designed and will have poor handling characteristics no matter how you balance them. Even though balancing is always desirable, and will likely improve the overall handling, let’s face it, adding all the cream and sugar in the world into a bad cup of instant coffee will not miraculously change it into a fresh cup of gourmet java.
That said, if you have one of these instant coffee kayaks you can always add a rudder to improve the handling. Rudders can often compensate for severely unbalanced boats and greatly improve their directional control, but they too can have their issues. More about rudders in the next post.
I hope this information proves useful.
Please feel free to subscribe to this blog if you would like to receive e-mail notifications of new posts.
July 24th, 2010 by David
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.