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.
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!
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 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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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!
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Recently, our friends Debbie and Keith twisted our arms and dragged us out of the loft to do some camping. We took our sails and boats and headed up to a beautiful mountain lake in the Cascade range of Washington State named Lake Wenachee. It’s been so incredibly windy on the Columbia River lately that we thought it would be a good opportunity to get away, test our prototype headsail, and enjoy the company of friends. These are some photos from the trip. Hope you enjoy.
We took our folding Pakboats, strapped them up to the racks, and started driving.
We traversed through the beautiful, hot, high desert prairie of of Eastern Washington State’s Yakima Valley before entering back into the cool Cascades.
Keith and Debbie, who arrived a day early, found a fabulous waterfront campsite complete with a small beach for the boats!
As our luck would have it, a frontal system pushed in from the Pacific and brought some moisture.
A surreal procession of cottony clouds caressed the mountain sides and reflected their beauty on the lake.
It’s mesmerizing and peaceful the way our thoughts seem to melt into the water.
It is really important to dress for the water temperature. This lake is crystal clear and very cold. We suited up and set out to explore the lake.
We popped up the sails every now and again when a breeze was felt, but mostly propelled ourselves by paddle.
Isn’t it funny how the farther away from civilization we get, the nicer the scenery. Hmmm… Maybe there is something to reflect on here.
It sure is nice to paddle on glassy water. After sailing in the extreme winds of the Gorge, the silence of stillness is wonderful and a little odd at the same time.
What a beautiful afternoon for a sail.
Back at the camp Charlee Girl and Debbie communicate with each other in a special way .
A small boat on a lake
allows us to take
a break from the push and the shove…
Sails filled with wind
and the company of friends
take us to places we love.
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.
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!
On Sunday we paddle-sailed nine miles down wind on the Columbia from Viento State Park to Hood River. Here is a short video. We are both using a Pakboats XT-15 with a reefed 1.4. Lots of super fun swell rides! I need to work on some sort of helmet camera mount, so I can paddle into the swells and film at the same time. Enjoy the ride.
We’ve discovered the perfect lubricant for the Kayaksailor. This product is a dry PFTE lube that will make your Kayaksailor work better than ever. There have been some issues with the silicone lubricant we recommended in our user manual. Since the silicone remains wet, it has a tendency to accumulate grit and sand in the mast track. Since this product dries hard, it won’t have the grit build up and the mast car will slide much easier. Prior to applying SailKote, remove any residual silicone with soap and water and allow to dry. Avoid spraying the leeboard assembly and your mainsheet! It also works great on rudders, peddles and just about everything that moves on your kayak. Since this product is solvent based, it’s best to spray it on the sail rig outside or in a well ventilated area.