22 October 2014

GEAR: SeaDog sail Code Zero

I nearly tipped in and went for a swim when a small set picked up my kayak and I started surfing.
I was in my "tippy" kayak and half an hour into testing a new sail: the SeaDog 0.7 mt² in Code Zero .

SeaDog Code Zero 0.7mt_1

I was having fun trying to catch the short wind waves that the tidal flow against a healthy breeze was producing.
I am familiar with this location and often I wait for the conditions to be just right to be able to surf with my kayaks.
I am not sure if the long waterline Swede form narrow beam low rocker kayak was ideal for the small steep short waves but I wanted to see if a smaller sail would be easier to use in a stiffer breeze.
I have several sails from Flat Earth of 1.0 mt² and 0.8 mt². They work great and are very efficient sails for sea kayaking. Their design is a derivative from the decade old, or more, proven system that the Tasmanian sea kayakers have been using in strong winds.
That lead to the development of a sail mounted further forward, away from the paddler's cockpit as explained here.
The SeaDog sail is an unapologetic close resemblance of  Norm Sander's rigs and Flat Earth sail.
Actually the design is strikingly similar.

SeaDog sail_3

I have been kayak sailing with other paddlers that have been using SeaDog sails for the last couple of months.
Richard, an avid SE Queensland Sea Kayakers paddler, is the man behind the brand and his passion for sailing is evident.
He can be seen paddling every weekend (and often during the week) sporting sails of his own creation on his kayak.
It all started innocently when Richard decided to add some color to his sail.
A special one was made just before Xmas and of course, inspired by the festive season, it was green and red. It was different and unique; people noticed.

Xmas sails_SeaDog
photo: SeaDog sails
I was impressed by his early work even tho I didn't share his passion for the color choice :-)
A few weeks later a new colorful sail appeared in the paddling group. Again the work was impeccable.
I watched those sail taking the wind very well and I noticed them filling with air at even very acute angles into the wind. One thing that I was very surprised is that Richard's sails did not flutter.

Eventually Richard made me a sail that I was missing in my quiver: I wanted a small sail that will allow me to be used in winds of 15 knots and above.

SeaDog sail_1

I have used my Flat Earth of 0.8 mt² in winds where I no longer was comfortable with the heeling force of the strong wind. Unless surfing, the hull speed of my kayak will really determine how fast I can go, no matter how big my sail is

As the small waves started to pick up my kayak the SeaDog sail was hit by a gust from the side. Any other time I would have to quickly react with a solid brace with the risk of tipping over.
This time the jolt was softer and the shock cord on the main sheet (the rope that pulls-in the boom) released some of the pressure from the wind. This sail being smaller helped reduce the heeling force that wanted to tip the kayak into the water. I was able to stay upright and continued to surf.

The downside of a smaller sail is that I have to work harder and paddle more when the wind is from behind (running with the wind). As the waves catch up with me I have to put an extra effort to then accelerate down the wave.
Side-by-side with a buddy using a 1.0 mt² sail I had to really crank to catch the marginal waves, while I could see that he was getting more push from the wind.
However, I am sure if the wind was 20 knots +  he would be a bit worried with his larger sail...

SeaDog sail_2

In essence the SeaDog sail of 0.7 mt² is best suited for stronger winds or paddlers that have just starting out sailing, possibly with less bracing skills. Lighter paddlers will also appreciate this sail as their lack of counterbalance body weight is noticeable in strong winds.
SeaDog sails also makes 0.8 mt² sails, in traditional colorful Dacron® or the fancy laminated Code Zero (unfortunately white only).
On closer inspection I notice very clean seams and stitching on the SeaDog; every stitch is continuous from one end to the other with absolute precision. Every end is reverse stitched to prevent unravelling and the tension on the bottom and lower cotton is perfect to create a very clean stitch.
Attention to details is superb and the finish is outstanding: every rivet and every reinforcement is very well executed.

SeaDog sail_4

Is SeaDog a better sail for me?
I can't say that as Flat Earth has served me well and I had no trouble for years now.
What I notice is no flutter in the leech, something that mildly annoys me in the Flat Earth sails.
I mounted the SeaDog sail with two back/side stays, as I have done on all my other sails.
Richard recognizes that kayakers have preferences in mounting styles and hardware used for doing so. He supplies the sail with the mast, Spectra stays and the flexible polymer base only, leaving the rest up to the sailor.
I much prefer that since some of the (Flat Earth) sail kits that I have used had parts that failed on me.

08 October 2014

Photo: Back to Magic Island

We found it again despite not having it clearly marked on our map last summer.
The weather was warm this time with less wind; the clouds benign and not threatening a thunderstorm.

Magic Island_2_c
photo: Petra Ries
The sun was baking the polished granite shores and soon we would be laying on them drying our bodies after a refreshing swim.
We were back to our Magic Island


03 October 2014

Video: Aquarius Sea Lion LV

On a sea trip of 5 weeks in Sweden and Åland (Finland) Petra paddled a Sea Lion LV.

Aquarius of Poland sponsored her with a very light carbon/Kevlar kayak and we installed her Flat Earth sail to make our expedition more fun.
Petra picked the color scheme of her kayak and I thought the graphics were particularly attractive making the kayak very visible against the water and granite islands.
The kayak behaved very predictably in varied conditions and weather-cocked just enough to make it safe when windy, even in a storm.
The only real modification was removing the padding that was factory fitted on the seat; lowering the center of gravity made the kayak a bit more stable. Given that she has never paddled a Sea Lion LV before, Petra liked how she felt in that kayak right from the beginning.
Despite the cockpit maybe being a bit too roomy for her the key hole style thigh braces allowed her to brace efficiently when the waves picked up and tossed her around a bit.
Cargo space was sufficient for our extended trip and the main hatch covers (Kajak Sport) never leaked (the "glove box" needed a bit of sealing around the rim).
The skeg performed flawlessly and was butter smooth to operate. Adjusting the foot rests was possible even while paddling (without needing to exit the cockpit to reach the adjusting tab behind the foot rest!).
The shorter waterline and the rockered hull seems to be well suited to shallow waters with shorter waves (no ocean swell in the Baltic sea). Clapotis was not upsetting Petra and I noticed increased confidence in following seas where she was catching and surfing waves way faster than me, leaving me behind.
I think that the Sea Lion LV combined with a sail is a great fun kayak.
It performed well with just light loads in strong winds (slight leek cocking when sailing) and very steady when filled with camping gear, food and water.