27 November 2012

VIDEO: too windy

I believe in pushing myself in environments that are often outside my comfort level.
It is in conditions that test my skills and endurance that I gain a better understanding of my potential and abilities. I encourage others to do so too because I see it as the only thing that really improves a person's confidence, fast.
Lately I have been spending more and more time paddling in windy conditions because I feel that I greatly need to gain more skills in developed seas.
I used to dread a windy forecast; anything above 15 knots would make me reconsider my paddling plans. Now I look for winds that will oppose a tidal flow hoping for some waves that will mimic a tidal race. Bumpy is good.
Saturday's forecast was mild (up to 15 knots) but Sunday was shaping to have 25-35 knots wind against an ebbing tidal flow. I have paddled a few times there before and I knew that with onshore winds waves will form.
What I didn't know is that too much wind doesn't make for better fun.

I reefed my Code Zero Flat Earth sail to reduce it's surface knowing that a full square meter was going to be too much for me to handle.
Soon after I launched I was again glad to be paddling with a Greenland paddle remembering how much more wind effected my Euro paddles used to be in a stiff breeze.
My progress was a bit erratic and the strong wind kept on pushing my bow downwind. The British kayak I was paddling has proven a handful before I relocated the seat forward (to balance its trim for beam winds); this time her handling was really lousy. I wished I would have weighted the bow with ballast to release the stern a bit as I could barely turn my kayak around and paddle back out into the waves for another run.

I will take a weathercocking kayak over a "neutral" one any day. In a weathercocking one I can drop a bit of skeg; in a so called neutral, when the wind really blows, it suddenly becomes lee cocking, something I definitely DO NOT want.
My attempt at sailing was dismal: even with only half sail I could not get my kayak going and I quickly capsized. It was then that all the futzing with sculling training in clam conditions came handy as I managed to roll back up without having to wet exit in a rather tricky scenario. I packed the sail back on the deck and continued to just surf the messy waves.
After a few hours of battling with the wind I called it a day.
Getting the kayak back from the shore across the sandblasting beach with me leaning at a great angle into the wind, was another story.



  1. A lot of people aren't prepared to paddle in a stiff wind and that can present problems. Better to get out and play in the wind and waves and avoid the surprise when winds unexpectedly spring up. We like to get out for some play time when winds are too strong for a day paddle.

    Wondered too about how the sail would affect your roll but you handled it no problem.

    Tony :-)

    1. After a couple of extended kayak trips where relatively mild wind days left me sitting on the beach wanting for better skills I decided that I need to train and become more confident in not just ideal conditions. I no longer want to cancel my paddling plans because the forecast is 15 knots. And when the wind is really strong I try to play in it in a controlled environment, learning new skills.

  2. Welcome to the wind! Too much just ain't no fun, and even your best boat gets pissy.

    I'm happy you made it back safe and sound.

    We had a few days of wickedly cold winds and sunshine. Just walking down the street took my breath away.

    Cheers from Canada!

    We got our first snowfall today in the National Capital Region. Skiing soon.

    1. BP, every kayak that I have performs differently in windy conditions. Some need a bit of skeg with beam winds, some need more. This kayak needs no skeg when winds are mild (5 knots) but lee cocks when winds are 15 knots. Give me a weathercocking kayak any day and I can drop the skeg; not much can be done with a "neutral" kayak except making sure I place all my gear in the front hatch to release the stern. Of course a rudder would solve the problem until I would break it in the surf :-)

  3. Hi Gnarly, I also like paddling in wind but like you hate lee cocking. I have paddled a lot of boats with rudders in high winds and have found as soon as you put the rudder down it lee cocks. If you are paddling into the wind you cannot go fast enough to get enough flow over the blade for the rudder to work. My Rockpool Alaw Bach is a great rough water kayak but it does lee cock in strong winds. My Nordkapp LV does not lee cock in the same conditions. However, a friend who is very much lighter than I am finds that the Nordkapp LV does lee cock in strong winds. I did not buy the full size Nordkapp because I found it lee cocked when unloaded. Some boats like the Nordkapp leecock when not loaded going out over steep waves with the wind about 45 degrees off the bow because they throw their bows high in the air. The same kayaks do not lee cock in strong offshore flat water conditions.

    I don't like the 1sqm flat earth sail reefed, it looses all the natural twist. I much prefer the 0.8sqm, which I think is the sweet spot in the range. We were out on Saturday and the wind on the beach was gusting to 25knots as measured by a hand held anenometer. The 0.8sqm was fine.

    1. Douglas, you make a very valid point about the rudder: it's like a massive skeg right at the stern of the kayak where it creates a pivot point for lee cocking. It has been years since I used a rudder and I forgot how they work...
      I have to do more sailing in stiff winds to see if the reefing of the 1sqm Flat Earth sail is efficient. A dedicated smaller sail probably would be preferable but not practical to change from the large one once I am on the water.

  4. Hi,

    Then I guess you would love the awesomely weathercocking Boreal Baffin! It always turns to face the wind, any wind, large or small. If that's where you want to go, it's great. But it argues at bit or a lot, even with the skeg, when in a crosswind. I find that annoying. But with the skeg fully deployed, it goes well in a following wind.

    I've had gusty winds hit my Maelstrom Vital 166, and suddenly I spun 90 degrees before I could respond. With no skeg, I find it likes to position itself to track with a cross wind. I find that weird. I don't understand it. It's easier for me to figure out a weathercocking kayak. Then I understand how to use my skeg.

    But, I would think a lee cocking kayak would be the most dangerous kayak. I guess you agree? I think I would sell it or trade it.

    1. I like that kayak: it has a beautiful cockpit (now that I changed the seat) and excellent thigh braces. It's light (easy to carry by myself) and extremely stable in choppy waters (great for taking pictures). The lee cocking bothers me; I just have to remember to load the bow before I set off in a stiff breeze. Then again, I could cut away some of the stern like I have done on my SeaBird Designs and loosen up the rear end to make it slightly weathercocking.

  5. Greetings Gnarly,

    I couldn't watch your video properly before as it was very choppy on an ipad. I have now seen it fully. What a great video and what a really great recovery after a capsize! :o)

    You will be able to sail in winds of that strength and above but you will need to alter your technique a bit to launch the sail. A capsize was almost inevitable the way you launched it. You launched the sail when pointing into the wind. In this position the apparent wind is highest.

    What we do in winds of that strength and above is to reduce apparent wind and launch on a broad reach, when we are already travelling fast (by paddling hard and hopefully catching a wave). I keep my sheet cleated in a position that I know will spill about half the wind on a broad reach (I mark the sheet). Travelling at maximum speed (when I feel the apparent wind drop) I quickly launch the sail then put in another couple of quick strokes to keep the speed up. Only then do I sheet in to fill the sail on a broad reach. Once the sail settles down I then head where I want to go and adjust the sheet, then the skeg.

    Just after you launched the sail you might have got away with it, if you had turned the bow down wind more quickly. This would require aggressive edging (dropping the windward edge) preferably on a wave crest and a couple of really powerful sweep strokes on the windward side but you ended putting several strokes in on the lee side which kept your head towards the wind, in the most vulnerable position.

    I have the same NL GP paddle as you :o) but I don't use it kayak sailing in winds of that strength, it is not the ideal tool for the job. Kayak sailing in those winds requires very aggressive sweep strokes, acceleration and bracing and Euro paddles are better suited to that job (if not rolling as you so ably demonstrated!!)

    As I said above, we have all gone for 0.8 sails. In lighter winds it is not much slower than the 1.0 and it can be used in much stronger winds than a reefed 1.0. We don't have steady trades, our winds are very gusty, so maybe that is another reason we have gone for 0.8s. We have two 1.0 CZs on a double but I don't sail with them reefed as the reefing destroys all the clever design that has gone into the sail shape.

    Keep having fun, Douglas :o)

  6. Douglas, my experience with mobile devices for watching Youtube is not a very good one (choppy at best); my prefered way is 21"+ monitor, full screen and headphones to capture the essence that the artist wanted to convey with the clip.
    Thank you for your suggestions of deploying a sail in high winds; I will give it a try next time it's really blowing. One thing I won't be using is a Euro paddle since it has been a few years since I abandoned it in favor of GP. Occasionally I swap my stick with somebody that is curious about GPs while paddling; he hands me his Euro, I give him my GP. There are a often moments of panic where the Euro feels so awkward in my hands and I fear falling in catching the edge of the blade, specially on feathered paddles. I don't feel comfortable transitioning between the two paddles and it would really take me a while to feel confident with the Euro again: it just doesn't offer me all the strokes/support that I get with a GP.


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