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.
April 15th, 2018 by David
Paddle-sailing is a recreational activity like few others. Combining the propulsion of paddle and sail enables us to go further faster, accessing previously inaccessible waters, while enjoying two sports at once!
Modern sailboats are very efficient at harnessing the energy of the wind, but one of the frustrating aspects of a sail-only craft is that when the wind dies, so does the vessel’s speed. Luckily as paddle-sailors, when the wind lessens, we can simply start paddling.
Exercise is of course a good thing, but efficiency and technique definitely have their advantages. Less fatigue, greater distances traveled, and higher sustained speeds are just a few of them.
Before we get into all the tips, it should be noted that there are no rules here. Ultimately, paddle-sailing should be about enjoying the wind and the water. If your boating goal is simply to relax – maybe do some quiet birdwatching and meander around a small body of water – the following may not be so useful. But If you want to improve your paddle-sailing skills, the following tips might help.
As a preface, it’s important to understand a little bit about a boat’s inertia and momentum and about the forces that move a boat and slow it down. At the risk of triggering Physics 101 flashbacks, inertia is a term which refers to how easy or difficult it is to change the speed or direction of an object. Once that object is moving, its momentum determines the amount of friction force required to slow down and come to a stop. Also, it helps to know that applying a force to an object will move it, and that the force of friction will act to slow it down.
Weight plays an important role. Heavy (high inertia) objects require more force to be applied to them to speed up and slow down. For example, a super heavy vessel like an oil tanker requires an amazing amount of force and time to get up to speed, as well as to slow down. Modern large ships may require as much as five miles to stop, even with their engines in full reverse! Wow, think about that for a moment.
Lightweight (low inertia) objects can speed up and slow down quickly and easily. Have you ever seen an Olympic canoe event, or a world class rowing race? These boats are so light, and the paddlers/rowers so strong, that the boats jolt forward with each stroke. They visually slow down each time the paddle leaves the water, making them have a pulsing “go-slow-go” motion that not only looks bizarre but can make for some pretty exciting finish line action!
Since kayaks are some of the lightest production boats around, they have relatively low inertia and slow down quickly, easily succumbing to the frictional drag created from interaction with the water, as well as from the air when sailing upwind.
As a side note, there is a common misconception out there that lightweight boats have a faster overall speed compared with equally shaped heavier boats. While it’s true that a lightweight boat will require less force and physical energy to build speed and momentum, heavier boats tend to hold their momentum better, allowing them to cut through the chop and maintain their speed better. The reality is that a kayak’s top end speed (or hull speed) is ultimately dictated by the boat’s waterline length, underwater shape, and total wetted surface area, not by its weight.
So what does any of this have to do with paddle-sailing technique? By knowing how an object (in this case our kayak) behaves, we can better understand what we can do to efficiently move it through the water.
Which leads us to:
Tip #1. When that wind puff that was moving your kayak so nicely through the water suddenly goes away, it makes sense to start paddling before the boat slows and loses momentum.
A kayak (like any object) requires more energy to accelerate it than to maintain its speed. This is one of the reasons why cars use more fuel when city driving compared with highway driving. In order to conserve energy it makes sense to provide the boat with nearly constant propulsion forces and not let it slow down too much.
Tip #2. Use your paddle and the sail together to build momentum to reach a cruising speed, then let the sail take over to help maintain that speed.
This not only reduces the time required to get up to cruising speed, but helps with the efficiency of the sail(s) by generating “apparent wind” (the moving air created by the boat moving forward), and this additional wind can help the sails move the boat.
Since a kayak without outriggers has a relatively slender form, it lacks the stability needed to take a large sail plan and must therefore rely on smaller sails to get the job done. This means that anything the paddle-sailor can do to increase the sail’s efficiency will be beneficial.
Tip #3. Try to keep the boat relatively flat in the water when paddle-sailing.
A flat (non-heeling) boat is easier to paddle with a double bladed paddle. In addition, having a flat boat positions the sails so they remain perpendicular to the wind flow. This allows the sail’s foil (wing-like shape) to more efficiently produce lift, and this lifting force is what pulls the boat forward through the water.
Tip #4. Unless you are surfing wind swells and chop (sailing downwind), flat water will allow you to sail faster.
“Choppy” water has a surface composed of lots of small rough waves. Wind swells are larger waves spaced farther apart. Cutting through chop and swell reduces the boat’s speed and therefore its momentum. Every time the bow plunges through a wave, the part of the bow that was previously above the waterline is now creating frictional drag in the water, slowing you down. For fast and efficient upwind sailing, it’s best to look for flat water. That said, downwind wave surfing can produce some of the fastest speeds in a kayak. This is mainly due to the effect of harnessing the energy and speed of the forward moving wave which is then added to the boat’s forward speed.
Tip #5. The best wind speed for sailing upwind is less than fifteen knots (small or no whitecaps present). And the ideal wind speed for windward sailing is probably somewhere between ten and twelve knots (just before whitecaps develop).
The reason is twofold. First, friction created by our bodies, the boat, and the rig in the wind, slows upwind progress. Second, the waves slow the boat down and kill momentum. While we did what we could in the rig’s design to reduce its frictional profile in the wind, when it comes to our body size there is little we can do to (except maybe go on a diet). Basically, when we hold an upwind course we are required to fight against both the wind and sea.
Even though the Kayaksailor’s sail shape is efficient at generating pulling force, its small size limits how much it can do. In strong winds of over 20 knots (large, frequent white caps are present), paddling while sailing with the leeboards in their full down position is usually the best way to maintain cruising speeds to windward.
Tip #6. Lean your torso out to windward to compensate for heeling, instead of bracing with your paddle to leeward.
Normally a kayaker will brace with their paddle, essentially pushing it against the water’s surface, to prevent the boat from capsizing. While this works fine for downwind sailing when the boat isn’t heeling (leaning over), it doesn’t work so well on a beam or close reach when the side force of the wind causes the boat to heel. The reason has to do with the position of the sailor’s torso when bracing. The weight of one’s torso is used as a counterbalance to offset the heeling forces of the sail, and, leaning one’s torso to windward is one of the best ways to prevent capsizing.
That said, at some point one’s torso weight may not be sufficient to prevent further heeling. This is the time when un-cleating and easing the mainsheet is needed to spill power from the sail and allow the torso to be a more productive counter balance.
You might ask, Why not ease the mainsheet in the first place? While this is an option, leaning one’s body out to windward will preserve the pulling power in the sail, resulting in faster boat speeds.
The reason we don’t want to paddle-brace to leeward is that our torso weight moves in the wrong direction, essentially helping the sail heel the boat over. Doing this results in an awkward situation where the paddle-brace becomes ineffective. It also slows the boat due to the paddle blade’s friction in the water. In short, save paddle-bracing for those exciting downwind legs.
Tip #7. Try a series of broad reaches instead of a run.
Just like many catamarans, the Kayaksailor rig doesn’t have a backstay. Instead, the shrouds (side stays) are positioned aft of the mast not only to give the mast aft support, but to provide the forestay adequate tension to allow the leading edge of the genoa to have the correct shape. The aft shroud placement creates a situation where, on a direct downwind leg, or “run,” the lower part of the mainsail will rest up against the leeward shroud and lose its curved shape. Also, the sail can’t be completely let out perpendicular to the wind, which is the most efficient sail position for running.
Like for catamarans, the answer is to angle off slightly from a directly downwind run, onto a deep broad reach, and sheet in the main so that it is just brushing the shroud. This will allow better boat speeds, not only because of the better sail shape, but because the leeboards will now be engaged.
The resistance of the leeboards to move sideways in the water, and the sideways pulling force of the sail work in conjunction with each other to move the boat forward. This forward speed makes apparent wind, which allows the sails to interact with more total wind, generating more pulling power, leading to even faster speeds.
The genoa also works better when it is not completely blanketed by the main, as it is on a run. Of course sailing a series of broad reaches means more jibing, so having your jibes down will be important. If you haven’t read it yet, here is a blog post I wrote on jibing technique.
Tip #8. When reefing out on the water, point the bow downwind. When shaking out the reef, point the bow upwind.
Most sailboat sailors will point their boats directly into the wind to “reef” (make the sail smaller). With the Kayaksailor, it’s usually easier to reef with the bow pointed directly downwind. The reason is that since the kayak is a low inertia boat, when pointing it into the wind, the forward speed will quickly decrease to a stop, and the bow will naturally turn off the wind. This allows the sail to power up and become unmanageable before the reefing knots can be tied.
This powered up situation can be frustrating, and a little scary too. Holding a powered up sail in a strong wind is a good way to capsize. By pointing the bow directly downwind, one’s body will block the wind from the now smaller sail, making it relatively easy to grab the boom and gather the sail together. This downwind position also allows more time to tie the quick release knots in the reefing lines. Just be aware that while pointing downwind the boat will want to speed up, so make sure there is enough water in front of the boat to get the job done.
In very strong winds it’s much easier to reef on shore or in a protected cove where the wind is lighter. Also, if you are just launching and it looks pretty windy out there, consider reefing before heading out. It’s quite a bit easier to “shake out” (untie) a reef, than it is to reef down. Shaking out a reef should be done with the bow pointing into the wind, since it’s just a matter of pulling on the tag end of the quick release knots and then quickly raising the halyard. Raising the halyard is always easier when the boat is into the wind.
Tip #9. Always raise and lower the mast as quickly as possible while pointing the bow directly into the wind.
Quickly raising or lowering the mast while pointing directly into the wind is important to prevent mast track stress. The shrouds and forestay support the mast when it is in the full upright position, but when the mast is halfway up or halfway down, it is unsupported except for the minimal support provided by the mast car and track. This halfway zone is the most vulnerable position for the mast track. Pointing directly into the wind and acting quickly will keep the track in good shape.
Tip #10. Keep the mainsheet on your lap at all times.
Paddle-sailing requires that the mainsheet be cleated so one’s hands can be on the paddle. If a strong wind gust hits, and the main needs to be eased to prevent capsize, having immediate access to the sheet is critical. One’s lap is a pretty good place to keep the sheets.
That said, when it’s really windy and one is paddle-sailing to windward, it can be helpful to hold the main sheet between one’s hand and the paddle shaft. This way that fraction of a second needed to grab the sheet from one’s lap will be eliminated allowing for a more rapid response. Windward paddle-sailing in strong gusty conditions can be tricky since the mainsail is normally tightly sheeted in, and this puts the kayak at greatest risk for excessive heeling and capsizing. So it’s smart to have the mainsheet ready at hand.
Tip #11. In strong winds, pull in the main sheet prior to tacking.
This can prevent the mainsheet from getting wrapped in the goalposts. Most of the time the main sail will already be sheeted in prior to coming about since it is likely that the boat will already be on a close reach as one initiates the tack. But situations may occur when one paddles into the wind from a beam or broad reach and the sheet is loose. This makes it possible for a hard wind gust to blow the sheet back around the goalposts. If this happens, don’t worry, simply uncleat the sheet and release the wrap with your paddle blade. But it’s better to avoid the situation altogether by simply sheeting in prior to tacking.
Tip #12. Backwinding the genoa will help speed up your tack.
In other words, when coming about, or “tacking,” if one waits to release the genoa sheet from the cleat until the mainsail fills with wind from the other side, the now backwinded genoa will help drive the bow away from the wind and onto the new tack. It can be helpful to listen for the main’s battens “pop” to the other side and use it as an audible cue to release the genoa and sheet it on to the new side.
This is another maneuver that kayak-sailors share with catamaran sailors. Like many beach cats, kayaks lack the adequate inertia, as well as maneuvering ability to quickly pivot through a tack. Cat sailors frequently use a backwinded headsail to drive their boat onto the new tack.
Another advantage of backwinding the genoa is that it helps to prevent the knot in the Kayaksailor’s genoa sheet from getting caught in the mast car.
Tip #13. Try not to “choke the slot” with the genoa.
What the heck does that mean? Over-sheeting (over-tightening) the genoa sheet not only flattens the genoa to the point where the curve in the sail, or “draft,” which is responsible for generating power, goes away, but it can also restrict the air flow around the lee side, or low pressure side of the mainsail, reducing its efficiency. The resulting narrow, vertical gap or “slot” between the genoa and mainsail restricts the air flow between the two sails, and so is called “choking.”
So how do you know when your rig’s slot is choked? While it’s relatively easy to check the trim of the mainsail by observing the tell-tales and making sure they are flying together, it’s very difficult to see the genoa at all because the mainsail is blocking the view. If the boat feels like it’s going slower than it should, re-trimming the genoa might be all that is needed to open the slot and generate some speed. Try easing the genoa sheet until the genoa “luffs,” or flaps in the wind, then pull the sheet in just until the flapping stops. If you are not sure whether or not you sheeted it in too much, or if you change course, simply repeat the process by letting out and re-trimming. This technique works well in winds above five knots, but in very light air one may not be able to hear the sail luffing. In this case, simply grab the end of the boom and momentarily move the mainsail out of the way for a better view to see if the genoa is luffing.
Tip #14. Insert the leeboard pushrod into the forward facing hole on the leeboard head.
This will likely help with your paddle stroke. If you want to make more room under the boom for your paddle blade, simply insert the leeboard control rod into the forward end of the leeboard head. This allows the fiberglass leeboard rod to lay against the foredeck instead of sticking up in the air and getting in the way. Kayaksailor owners have been doing this for years, and it definitely allows for a cleaner paddle stroke. Here is an old blog post on the topic.
Tip #15. Practice using a low angle paddle stroke.
A less vertical, or “low angle,” paddle stroke works well with the Kayaksailor. The reason is that one is less likely to hit the leech (back edge) of the main sail with end of the paddle blade that is out of the water. Many paddle manufacturers make low angle paddles. These typically have slightly longer shafts and smaller, narrower blades. The narrow blades also make them easier to fit between the boom and the foredeck during the power stroke. We like using ultra-skinny Aleutian Island style paddles, but most low angle paddles will work well.
Hopefully these tips will help to improve your paddle-sailing skills.
Please feel free to leave a comment.
Fair winds and happy paddle-sailing!
March 7th, 2018 by David
Hi Everyone! Below is a little video showing some fun kayak-sailing footage from Saint Joe Bay, Florida.
Our good friend Joel is seen here moving right along in his Ocean Kayak Prowler 13. Fast? Indeed! The sailing performance is impressive.
It just goes to show how with the right rig, and in the right conditions, a relatively wide, roto-molded, plastic fishing kayak can cruise alongside a couple of composite sea kayaks. Normally on a paddling-only excursion, a boat like this would surely struggle to keep up. This is is just one of the many cool things about performance kayak-sailing.
I left the clip unedited so that you could get a better look at the rig, and how nicely it works. If you look closely at the main, you can see the tell-tales flying perfectly together, indicating proper sail trim. The camera angle shows the ample draft in the sail which is responsible for generating much of the power. The foiled leeboards are both angled back to shed seagrass. Also notice how he rigged his leeboard pushrods. Inserting them into the leading edge allows the rods to stay close to the gunnels. And, at the end of the clip you can see the main sail tuned with substantial head twist to lower the sail’s center of effort and make the rig more forgiving and easier to control.
On this day Patti, myself, and Joel sailed about eight miles in total, crossing the shallow, south end of Saint Joe bay. It was exceedingly fun with two extra long beam reaches! With a 12-18 knot south wind, the water remained protected by the peninsula’s lee shore and made for the perfect environment for some speedy paddle-sailing.
Joel’s rig is the all-white, polyester ripstop, Kayaksailor 1.6m² with genoa, mounted with the Railblaza, mounting kit. His boat is the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13.
You can see Patti off in the background, sailing her 1.4m², reefed, with genoa. Patti’s boat is the Tahe Reval Mini LC.
Of course you can’t see me because I’m filming while sailing my Tahe Ocean Spirit. It was a bit challenging trying to keep the camera still while sailing in and out of Joel’s wind shadow, but I loved every second of it!
I hope you enjoyed the results. : )
Feel free to leave a comment.
October 5th, 2015 by David
Here is another kayak sailing video for your viewing pleasure! We hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Feel free to leave a comment.
September 24th, 2015 by David
Here is a fun little video I put it together just to get my feet wet using a new editing software (Final Cut Pro X).
A simple enough edit, though I did need to add some image stabilization. As you can imagine it can be a bit challenging to hold the camera still while sailing (and smiling!) at the same time.
Patti is seen here sailing rudderless with the leeboards in perfect balance, nicely trimmed, with tell-tales flying. Just cruising in the groove!
She is sailing her 1.4m² with the genoa on her Tahe, Reval Mini LC (490cm x 54cm beam). And I’m filming (in her wind shadow) riding my Tahe, Ocean Spirit, also with a 1.4/genoa combination. The location is the bayside of Cudjoe Key and we’re crossing Kemp Channel, heading out toward the Content Keys.
One of the amazing things about the Lower Key’s backcountry is the scarcity of boats. Primarily it’s due to the vast amounts of shallow water and unmarked channels. You normally just see a few flats fishing guides and locals who know the water well enough to feel comfortable out there. If you look closely during the beginning of the clip you can see a flats skiff off to the right slowing down to check us out.
What a day! Perfectly steady twelve knots out of the NE, extra long beam reaches, and amazingly fun rides.
This is Kayak Sailing!
October 23rd, 2014 by David
This is a transition month here in Hood River. The predictably strong westerlies that sweep through the gorge all summer, begin to give way to the more variable winds of winter.
This is the time of year that Patti and I like to go camping on the Oregon coast. While the weather is often unpredictable, the scenery is spectacular and always well worth the drive. Below are some photos taken from a recent trip to Netarts and Nahelam bays. These lovely bodies of water are about a two and a half hour drive from Hood River. If we do our homework and time the tides correctly, the paddle-sailing can be amazing. An incoming tide is the ticket.
Here is Patti’s sweet new boat, beached a Nehalem State Park. It’s a Tahe, Reval Mini LC. Lots of rocker and very lively under sail!
Following Patti on a starboard tack across the bay.
A dramatic rain squall descends on Netarts Bay.
This is the sandy western shore of Nehalem bay. Deb is in the water cooling off. A dry suit is a wonderful piece of safety equipment, but it can sometimes get hot when the sun comes out.
Pelicans and gulls just “chillin” on the Netarts Jetty. A fancy house is seen in the background.
There are few things more pleasant than gliding across a bay.
Dan is seen here eeking out a very light breath of air near the boat ramp of Nehalem State Park. You can’t see it in the photo, but giant Chinook salmon were jumping all around us. It is the time of year that these mighty fish migrate up the rivers in huge schools to spawn.
Yours truly, inside of the mouth of Nehalem inlet. The surf was quite large this day. Breaking over the inlet bar, the waves created large fields of sea foam to play in. It’s kind of like kayaking in a giant bubble bath!
Here we are sailing on a close reach across Netarts. We saw the fog in the distance rolling, like waves in from the ocean, blanketing the southern end of the bay.
This was the perfect spot to take a lunch break, just inside Nehalem inlet.
Sea life and salt air. Ahh…
The drive home. Daisy is keeping an eye out for chipmunks on the road. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. 🙂
We hope you enjoyed the photos.
Fair Winds and Happy sailing!
December 18th, 2013 by David
Hi everyone! Here is a new video. Yaaay!!
If you haven’t tried creating a video with movie making software yet, we highly recommend it. It’s super fun.
Patti and I always try to have a camera on us while we are out on the water. It’s amazing how often we see beautiful things while sailing. Whether it’s simply sea creatures going about their day, or the way reflections of light dance on the ripples, being on the water seems to capture the imagination. At least it’s this way for us.
Several companies make small, affordable, waterproof cameras that are easy to use. Most people have seen the GoPros but there are many models available to choose from. We like to use cameras with an easy to see LCD screen on the back so we can see what we are shooting. Ours reside inside the chest pocket of our PFDs, where they’re leashed with a thin bungee cord to that little clip that is designed to hold your car keys. And, since our sails do most of the work, we can set our paddles down and capture that special image or scene with just a moments notice.
We hope you enjoy watching this video and look forward to seeing yours soon!
Feel free to leave a comment.
If you’d like, subscribe to the blog in the right hand column to receive our new posts via e-mail the moment we post them.
David and Patti
November 21st, 2012 by David
This Summer we traveled to northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia to do some exploring. It’s an amazing place to paddle-sail with vast amounts of protected water and abundant sea life.
Sailing with the humpback whales was a completely new experience for us. Witnessing the sheer size and power of these amazing creatures, especially in such beautiful surroundings, left us in awe and profoundly changed.
I’ll try to describe the experience, even though my words can’t do it justice.
You are paddle-sailing in a beautiful deep bay. We’re surrounded by the distant cry of gulls, and the gentle, rhythmic sound, of sea water, lapping against the hull. The sky is a soft hazy blue. Around us, are gently rounded evergreen mountains that seem to be reaching up to the cottony clouds, which appear to be slowly moving from west to east. The weather is mild, tee shirt weather. The sun is on your cheek and you are very comfortable, sitting in your kayak, happily sailing along, intermittently humming that tune that’s been stuck in your head ever since hearing it this morning.
To your left, you notice some movement. A bald eagle leaps off a high tree limb, causing it to spring back with the release of its substantial weight. It flies along the shoreline with powerful wings flapping intermittently. The glide is graceful with wings, outstretched. It may be searching for a salmon, or heading back to the nest. you don’t know, but as it soars, your eyes follow, and across the water, in the distance, you think you see the lingering spout of a whale. A faint misty-white line that shoots high into the air, slightly swirling at the top. It looks just like that drawing of the whale you remember seeing as a child. That’s pretty cool. Which way is it moving? Then, searching for another, you see something on the surface of the water near Patti’s boat. A log? The head of a sea-lion? Maybe a harbor seal — you can’t tell. Then it disappears without a ripple. Probably a seal, you think. Patti shouts, “Did you see that seal? It was checking me out. I think she is curious about the sail. She’s been following me for a little while”.
A steady breeze has been blowing for the last several minutes and you’re holding an nice beam reach of about five knots. It’s easy sailing. The air is warm. It smells slightly of brine. Just then . . . you feel . . . a sensation. It’s primal, like the feeling you get when you know that you are being watched, and look up just in time to see someone staring at you. Suddenly, the surface of the water bulges to your left and a huge whale rises from the depths and blasts out a loud, long exhalation of breath. PHOOOOOOOH!! A powerful breath, a mammal’s breath, a really big! mammal’s breath. You’re startled, frozen in a moment of shock, not sure what to do even if you could do anything. The breath sounds oddly familiar, almost human, like the sound you make when coming up to the surface, after trying to swim the entire length of the pool underwater, only it’s much louder, and deeper. The moment passes in slow motion. Then, the inhalation, the blowhole closes, and the creature gracefully submerges. Wow!! is all you can say. Wow!… Wow.. Did you… see that..? Did you see that? Did the whole world see that?!! We look at each other and smile in amazement. Wow. Awesome.
Experiences like this shock us into connection with our surroundings, instantly transporting us to a place where we are aware. We look at the birds and the trees, and everything for that matter, with new eyes.
I’ve thought much about our whale experiences in British Columbia. After researching the topic, and in retrospect, we probably should have made more of an effort to avoid being in the path of the whales, for their protection as well as ours. We have since learned that staying a minimum distance of 200 yards away is prudent. It’s actually a law in Canadian waters.
Even though these are baleen whales, which feed on very small sea creatures by sifting water through the baleen filter, I could not help thinking of the Jonah story, especially when one would surface nearby with its mouth wide open!
The thought of a whale the size of a bus lifting our boats into the air is not very appealing. But in truth, we never felt threatened by these intelligent creatures, though more than once they unexpectedly surfaced near enough that it indeed caused a startle.
When immersed in the sounds made by the rippling water being parted by the bow, or feeling the sensations of the sea breeze quietly whispering in your ear in a way that only the sea air can, you feel you are observing the true nature of things. Which is, of course, that we are part of a bizarre, energy-filled, and incredibly beautiful system.
Natural environments seem to have a way of conveying this. While the gentle breeze whispers it to you, finding a whale next to your boat shouts it loud and clear!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Please feel free to leave a comment. We love hearing from you.
Fair winds and happy sailing!
May 15th, 2012 by David
Springtime has finally arrived in the Northern Hemisphere! Even though it has been a relatively mild La Nina Winter in Oregon, with some spectacularly sunny days mixed in with the normal clouds and misty rain of our wet season, we welcome the sun and warmth with open arms.
It has been quite a while since my last blog post so I will do my best to fill you in on what we have been up to.
Patti’s truck with Spring back orders ready to ship
Patti and I have been hard at work answering e-mails and building sailing rigs for kind people all over the world. We thank each and every one of you for your support. People are starting to find out about us!
On the weekends and after work we’ve been trying to squeeze in as much paddle-sailing as possible.
Orchard in bloom
You may not know that the sail loft is located in the lower half of an old farm house. We rent the house from a local orchardist and live upstairs. The place is surrounded by thirty beautiful acres of pear trees, and for a few weeks each Spring the blossoms transport us into a magical wonderland of cottony beauty. We enjoy this time of year very much. As an added bonus, the loft is only a few minutes from a terrific launch site on the Columbia River.
Patti and I have been having fun paddle-sailing in the Columbia. Our new skin boats are a real pleasure to sail.
For some reason Springtime seems to activate an instinctual fishing gene in some people. I’m not sure why, but the vernal change has this effect on me as well. On Saturday, while Patti dug up soil in our food garden, I felt compelled to head up to our local mountain lake for some trolling.
This small but lovely body of water holds a healthy population of rainbow and native bull trout, both of which respond well to trolled flies.
One of the tricks to trolling under sail is being able to control ones boat speed. It’s often easiest to regulate the speed of trolled baits while sailing to windward. By turning a boat up-wind and sailing on a very close reach, the boat speed will decrease. To pull the bait faster, one just needs to bear off the wind until the desired speed is reached. For trolling on a beam reach, a simple adjustment to the main sheet is often all that is required. The sheet may need to be let all the way out in order to keep the boats speed slow enough for trolling. I find that sheeting the sail all the way in, and effectively stalling the foil, can also be a good way to reduce speed, especially if heading down wind. This “stall” technique goes against most sailboat racer’s instincts, but for fishing, especially for slower fresh water fish, a slow speed is often needed.
Can you see the nest?
Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day with a clear sky and unseasonably mild temperature. One of the attributes of this little lake is an audible purity that results from a total absence of motorized craft. The only sounds that I could hear was the gentle swish my paddle blade dipping into the water, the occasional trout splashing on the surface, and a chirping song of ospreys (fish hawks). I could clearly hear what sounded like two baby ospreys calling from a nest high in a tree on the west bank. It seems that some ambitious bird lover had somehow climbed to the top of this incredibly tall tree and nailed together a wooden nesting platform for them.
What a relaxing day. There was one tense moment though. It happened just after I hooked a fish. It’s funny how crazy things seem to happen at the moment of hook up. I can remember several occasions while flats fishing in the Keys, when a hungry shark would apear as soon as I hooked into a big fish. And then there was the time my pants fell down while fighting a big bluefish on Long Island, but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, back to Saturday. Where was I, oh yeah, so I turned the boat into the wind and had just started reeling in this nice little trout when, with the corner of my eye, I saw momma osprey diving down from a nearby tree top with her wings folded back and talons extended, aiming for my fish! In a moment of heightened awareness I thought, oh no! she is going to take off with the fish! I immediately called out in an alarming yell, YAAH! YAAH!, in an attempt to break her concentration. At the very same moment I was trying to push away the thought of trying to reel in a fish hovering several meters above my head. Luckily, the scare tactic worked and she broke off her dive at the last possible moment. Whew.. That was too close. The fish came to the boat quickly and I released it back into the clear blue depths. Needless to say we were both relieved.
After a leisurely drive home I arrived to find Patti covered head to toe in soil with a big smile on her face.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
By the way, we plan on taking some fun high wind paddle-sailing videos this season and maybe even some paddle-sailing instructional videos, so stay tuned. And, please feel free to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t done so already. There is a subscription link in the right hand column.
November 3rd, 2011 by David
In an act of spontaneity, Patti and I took a drive to the coast. Every now and again we need to get our gills wet in the salt water. There is something about the sea that helps us feel connected. Grounded so to speak, except for without the ground. ;D
The Oregon coastline is a notoriously rough place for small craft with few protected bays and harbors to escape the pounding surf. There are a few though. This day we decided to explore a protected place called Netarts Bay. I’s just a few miles south of the town of Tillamook.
What a glorious Autumn day! We arrived and immediately set out to find a good launching spot. One was found just inside the mouth of the bay and since the tide was just beginning to ebb and a strong outbound current was building, we decided to work against the current into the bay instead of heading out to the mouth. Tidal rips can be amazingly strong here in the Pacific Northwest and a thorough respect for them is essential for safe navigation.
We are always hoping for good wind and today looked perfect. But, as luck would have it, as soon as the boats were slid into the water the breeze died off almost completely, Oh well.. We always have the paddle. Actually, we really love paddling, especially when the water is flat calm and has a mirror finish on it. Paddle-sailing just has a special place in our hearts.
The boats glided silently in the clear water. Scallops could be seen on the bottom and occasionally small fish spooked from the gently swaying eel grass beds as we passed overhead. A variety of diving ducks and sea lions performed their disappearing acts around us and all was quiet except for a distant rumble of surf and the occasional call of a gull.
It was truly a delightful afternoon and we are happy to share it with you. Hope you enjoy the video.
September 19th, 2011 by David
I just want to share with you this little video we put together that shows how nicely Patti’s new boat sails.
The footage was taken on the Columbia River at our local sailing site in 5-12 knots of wind.
It truly was a beautiful evening for a paddle-sail! Hope you enjoy.