01 February 2011

Sailing instead of paddling

The paddling conditions this season have been rather windy.
Week-end forecasts have regularly been 15 knots or more which most seem to consider an unpleasant environment to paddle in.
Slogging into a wind of 20 knots for hours on end is not exactly great fun.
Not wanting to spend precious days of my free time off the water I plan my paddles around the direction of the wind instead.
I try to pick a launching location that, with the wind blowing on the beam of my kayak, would give an island destination in Moreton Bay. And then I pack a sail.
What could be a slog suddenly becomes great fun. Sailing my sea kayak is not strictly paddling but I don't mind mixing it up a bit.
FEKS sailing_2_c
sailing with Flat Earth Kayak Sails
The best part of windy day on the water is that it's usually deserted.
No stinkboats to destroy the mood. Just a few yachts that usually are friendly enough to give me a wave seeing that we share the same medium.


  1. Gnarly,

    I would love to see a video of the sail rig used in actual 15 knot wind. Specifically deployment and handling of the sail during wind as well as stowing the sail back on deck during windy donditions.

    In other words I am interested in the multitasking needed when holding a paddle and trying to operate, deploy or retract a sailing rig all while on a windy sea.


    SDP interested in sails.

  2. SDP, you are right. There is plenty of shots and footage of calm conditions but rarely do we see action shots in the chop.
    Hmmm, next time I am out sailing in a bit of a breeze and if I have a camera with me I will try to shoot some footage of what you are asking for.
    I know what you mean: you would like to see how complicated is the deploying and stowing of the sail. While some sailing rigs are quite tricky to set up (step mast style) in a stiff breeze, the FEK sails are so easy.
    In the meantime look at this video of deploying my sail in a very light breeze: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEBfRUXhEac
    The principle is the same; just add wind and waves :-)

  3. Thanks, good video. When the wind shifts to opposite side do you just knock the sail with your paddle to switch sides?

    It looks like you have their Medium size sail or is it the original (small) ?

  4. When sailing I aid my direction with the paddle since I don't use a rudder on my kayaks.
    If I am to change direction into the wind a few sweep strokes will inflate my sail on the opposite side and then resume propulsion under sail. If I am running with the wind (wind from behind) my set up allows the sail to only open to about 90 degrees perpendicular to the kayak. I turn the kayak, with a stern rudder of the paddle, and let the sail catch the wind and flop over to the other side. That's the time that I have to be ready for a low brace because the power of the wind on the sail swapping sides will try to capsize me. FEK sails have an inbuilt shock absorber in the main sheet (the rope on the boom that controls the trim of the sail) and minimize such sudden jerks. Both sails in the image are custom sized (shorter boom) medium sails. Check Flat Earth Kayak Sails website for alternative rigging set ups that allow the sail to move freely around 360 degrees.

  5. "Sailing my sea kayak is not strictly paddling but I don't mind mixing it up a bit."

    You are a "MultiSport" Organization, no need to explain !! :D

  6. Great shot and video of kayak sailing! I've been wanting to try this too and wondering about the dos and don'ts of kayak sailing.

    I'm wondering how hard this is to learn and set up, or if it makes it much easier to dump yourself over in big wind and waves? But I think you answered that question already. It sounds tricky. Can you roll back up or get back in if you have to with a sail on your deck?

    Have you been affected by the cyclone that hit today? Hope all is well. You guys are really getting hammered by weather this year.

  7. BaffinPaddler, there is some set up involved with kayak sailing and mounting the hardware correctly is key to successful sailing. Every kayak will need some tweaking after the basic install. The rewards are however worth it.
    Learning to sail is really easy, in mild conditions. Just like paddling it should be taken progressively. Depending on your kayak and your skills you could be sailing in half an hour, in below 10 knots winds, really.
    Not all sails however are as good as FEKS.
    I have tried a few and I was not be happy with the previous styles I had. I believe FEKS will be available soon in USA from a local distributor.
    Rolling back up with the sail deployed is tricky. One must release the uphaul (rope that holds the mast up) before rolling. A bit of practice is necessary.
    Video of rolling with sail in mild conditions: http://gnarlydognews.blogspot.com/2010/01/sail-roll.html

    Luckily enough cyclone Yasi is far away from MEI headquarters and we are not feeling the effects of it.


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