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A kayak stability question

So in a previous post regarding kayak selection, I mentioned I test drove an a Eddyline Rio (11.9, 24" beam and 31.75"x15.5" cockpit). I'm 5'8", 165. When I got into it, she was twitchy from the get go. I got somewhat into a rhythm and then bam, I lost it and I got dumped. Rio didn't like me.

Sorry for the newb question and I sure there are a lot of variables, hull design etc: If that same boat was between 15'-17', would there be a bit more stability? Or just a longer, faster, twitchy boat?

Thanks!

William

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Comments

  • Yes and yes.

    Yes, there are a lot of variables, but yes, given the same hull shape and width, making the boat longer will make it more stable. Adding length is just another way of putting more hull in the water, and though the effect on stability in this case is not as pronounced as it would be if simply adding width, the effect will still be quite noticeable.

  • Probably disagree a bit with Guideboatguy. Overall more hull in the water proportionate to the paddler's weight should increase stability, but I can name kayaks at 17 feet that would have put you in the water as fast or faster than the Rio did because there are so many factors to a kayak design as well as the paddler interacting with it.

    And you are also at the top of the weight range for that boat. It is specifically designed per the manufacturer's page for the small to medium paddler. In fact their web site shows a female paddling it. You are a medium sized paddler, and well may be sinking the boat to its optimal waterline just sitting in it without gear. A kayak that goes past that waterline gets more unstable, for example that is why you usually get the extra water out of a kayak in an assisted rescue. A waterlogged kayak is too deep in the water hence unstable and extremely likely to capsize again.

    But the biggest issue for new paddlers.in a kayak is not understanding that the boat is supposed to be wiggling under them. So you loosen up your hips and let it do so without affecting your center of balance. But if you stiffen up so that your entire torso is going over side to side as well, it is only a matter of time before you will be taking a swim. Especially if you are already at the top of the intended weight for the boat..

    The Rio likely does what any other kayak designed for this market should do, which is to be inclined to stop at a certain point before fully capsizing. If you are on the lighter side compared to the boat's intended paddler, or if you stay relaxed and centered, it will do that. If you are pushing it on size and/or tense so you cannot absorb the motion, it'll keep going.

    The problem for a lot of new paddlers - and many here have gone thru this - is that they choose a first boat based on how "stable" it feels to them when they start. Then they paddle it for a few weeks or a season, get used to the behavior and relax, and find they have the wrong boat. The original challenging boat is slow, boring and not what they want longer term. Hence peoples' common recommendation to start out buying used and/or take some lessons, to get all of that out of the way without breaking the bank for a new boat that you want to get rid of 8 weeks later.

  • The Rio is designed for a small to medium paddler.You're probably on the fringes of what that kayak was designed for. That being said Eddyline boats have hard chines which are less forgiving than a soft chined boat hence a longer learning curve. I think you need a longer boat at least 14-15'.

  • There will typically be a lot of good info responding to a question from a newbie. Some info may be more thorough than from other people. How do you, as a newbie, even know the quality of the responses? Generally what you see will be good. As an occasional lurker on this forum, I find that Celia gives sound and thorough information. Pay attention to her comments especially.

  • @shiraz627 said:
    That being said Eddyline boats have hard chines which are less forgiving than a soft chined boat hence a longer learning curve.

    Adding to Eddyline's hard chines and flipping - was an issue when I was teaching at a shop that had some Eddylines in their fleet. Got to the point where for beginner classes, I would not use an Eddyline, for I had a decent chance of someone flipping before we got to the rescues section of class (only an issue for intro class - it does seem to be something that is easily overcome by some time in the boat and knowledge).

    What I think is that the hard chine that forms the keel seems to be the culprit. If you took the boat out of water and put on a hard, flat surface, you would find that the boat does not want to balance perfectly level on that keel, but instead drop off to one side or the other (a few degrees off balance). The same seem to happens when it sites in the water. if you try to keep the boat perfectly level, you will get all tense as you are constantly working to keep it balanced. But if you let the boat settle a few degrees off of perfectly level, it will find a comfortable position which it balances at easily. If I did have someone using the boat, I would explain how to just let the boat settle to one side, and that seemed to calm people down and make it work.

    Other hard chined boats seem to have this issue, but not quite as bad as some Eddylines (for example, many Valleys). In those cases, the issue mostly appears one someone gets all tense, like after they get back in boat after an unintentional flip. Nervous, embarrassed, uncomfortable, etc. Seems they are more likely to end u ind rink again in short order.

  • edited July 2017

    Well, my comment regarding additional length when the width and cross-sectional shape are the same doesn't take into account examples regarding specific longer boats which are known to be even more tender, especially since such examples certainly would NOT have the same width and cross-sectional shape as the shorter boat in question. I do get frustrated with with the shooting-down of examples based strictly on physics which are in the realm of comparing apples to apples just because someone knows of exceptions that involve a comparison of apples and oranges. Being aware of such examples doesn't make a non-applicable answer more correct than an applicable one. OF COURSE there are longer boats that are a lot less stable than the one named by the OP. I'd be shocked if there weren't. But that wasn't what the OP was asking. And I hardly could have made it more clear that differences in hull design will rule the outcome in any case, so no example of a different design being less stable is in disagreement with what I said. Not even remotely so.

  • Any kayak, surf ski, or even canoe is about as stable as the paddler allows it to be. However, those who carry their weight higher up are going to have to be a bit more conscious of it. With enough time in the boat, it becomes amazingly stable.

  • I agree that @Celia covered the answer very well. I'll add two things that I can personally relate to.

    1) Don't judge a boat until you've spent many hours paddling it in different conditions. A test paddle will give you a sense for the boat's characteristics, but only a taste overall. Also, if you plan to put a significant amount of weight in the boat for camping excursions, this will also change the boat's dynamics considerably.

    It took me perhaps a year to become comfortable with my Impex Assateague. Likely because I was quite new to paddling kayaks when I purchased it, coming from a canoe-tripping background. Since then, I've paddled many kayaks that, in comparison, make my Assateague feel as stable as a fishing kayak (an exaggeration, but makes the point).

    2) It can't be stressed enough that a boat that feels: unstable, twitchy, washy, unreliable, or scary upon first paddle may just end up being your favourite boat after a significant amount of time, experience, and skill building. This assumes you're in the recommended weight range for a given boat.

    Stability is a hard thing to define, and is often debated. Although it may be simple, I do think it's effective to break things down into a perceived primary and secondary stability to describe what happens when the boat is at rest on flat water and when edging (leaning a boat on it's side). I have been paddling my Current Designs Sirocco exclusively for the past few weeks since my Assateague has been drying out pending some fiberglass repairs. I have noticed that the primary stability (the ability to remain stationary at rest on flat water) is significantly less than the Assateague. This gives the impression that if you stop trying to actively keep the boat upright, then you're going to flip right over. However, if you just let your hips loose and keep your upper body centered, you quickly discover that there is indeed a significant amount of secondary stability (though not quite as much as the Assateague). This secondary stability gives the feeling of trying to "push back" against you as you work to edge the boat on it's side while keeping your upper body centered over the boat. It is important to note that paddler weight, location of that weight, and the weight of other gear will significantly affect the stability dynamics as well.

    When I used to paddle the Sirocco only infrequently, I was rather wary of it, thinking it would dump me out at the first opportunity, but I've been getting used to it with paddling it more often, and actually starting to like the ability to edge it with minimal effort, and roll it with slightly less effort than the Assateague.

    3) Ok, I lied - buy two, get one free. Train yourself to like being in the water. Get yourself a nose plug then practice and perfect your wet exit and a handful of different self and assisted rescue techniques. Falling in by accident is part of learning. Falling in on purpose is key to skills development. You also get the bonus of learning exactly where a boat will transition from trying to right itself to trying to lay on top of you.

  • RexRex
    edited July 2017

    Yeah. What Peter CA said. Some boats are stable when they're leaned a bit off center. Seems like I remember paddling a buddy's QCC boat that behaved like that. Some folks like that and get used to it. Some don't.

  • Wow, thanks very much to folks above! I appreciate the confidence in what I said.

    One other factor came up in this thread which I passed on, but given it got raised I might as well speak to it. That is the issue of hard chines. I flip between paddling a boat with a single hard chine and a soft chined boat depending on the paddle and my company. While I cannot say either is more likely to actually capsize, honesty requires I admit that when I first got the single hard chined boat into some decent waves it was felt more unnerving than the rounder hulled boat. And that was after 3 or so years paddling rounder hulled boats. After a while that went away, it has been longer than I remember since I notice the difference between the two.

    So yeah, I realized it was very solid on that chine if I stayed out of the boat's way. But unlike a round chined boat, it really like it is hitting that chine hard. If someone is already uncomfortable with the motion of the kayak, like a new paddler, feeling that whack is only going to make them more tense and likely to stiffen up. Followed by a swim.

    The old NDK Romany, IMO, is still one of the most brilliant learning boats ever put on the water. It is extremely kind to a new paddler in terms of staying upright, while having the responsiveness for a good paddler to take into the worst slop that can be found. But take a look at that hull - while it is a single chine, it is a very softened one. The other forgotten design is the multiple chines of the original drop skegged Elaho by Necky. The original release of that boat was pretty disinterested in going straight, but those multiple chines provided a lot of points that the boat would sit on then restabilize somewhat gracefully.

    I know there are other, more current boats that carry this kind of ethic, unfortunately I can't speak well to them because I don't have seat time there.

  • Guideboatguy, I found your first post clear, and correct. Celia had a lot of good information, but I don't think any of it disagreed with you.
    As far as answering the original question:
    "If that same boat was between 15'-17', would there be a bit more stability? Or just a longer, faster, twitchy boat?", Guideboat's answer is spot on:

    "Yes, there are a lot of variables, but yes, given the same hull shape and width, making the boat longer will make it more stable. Adding length is just another way of putting more hull in the water, and though the effect on stability in this case is not as pronounced as it would be if simply adding width, the effect will still be quite noticeable."

    And Celia reiterates it with this:

    "you are also at the top of the weight range for that boat. It is specifically designed per the manufacturer's page for the small to medium paddler. In fact their web site shows a female paddling it. You are a medium sized paddler, and well may be sinking the boat to its optimal waterline just sitting in it without gear. A kayak that goes past that waterline gets more unstable, for example that is why you usually get the extra water out of a kayak in an assisted rescue. A waterlogged kayak is too deep in the water hence unstable and extremely likely to capsize again.

    An example for myself would be me, at 190 pounds, finding a 17' kayak as maneuverable as a 15' kayak, but a person at 150 pounds finding the 15' kayak more maneuverable. I need either more length or more width to have my kayak sink the same depth as the 150 pound person. And shallower draft can have an effect on maneuverability. Just one factor, but it is still a factor.

    Guideboatguy and Celia both point out that you need more volume somewhere to be more stable. While adding width will make the biggest stability difference, adding length will also add stability, and could provide you with overall better benefits than simply widening for stability.

    We can all be stable on an air mattress or an innertube. The world of kayaks tends to blur the difference between sea kayaking, a sea kayaker in a craft that lends itself to effective and skilled sea kayaking; and recreational kayaking, a craft that lends itself to (still very fun) floating about, and keeping unskilled paddlers (still good, wonderful, respectable people, but let's not call everyone a sea kayaker) feeling stable and upright. There's no right or wrong answer. It's what you want to do with it. If you're ready to declare the Eddyline Rio as a twitchy boat, it's important to recognize that we're not presently discussing sea kayaking, nor designs and attributes that any sea kayaker would care to paddle. As Peter mentioned above, he would not use Eddylines for "beginner" classes. And calling the Rio a capable sea kayak (don't care if you can keep it upright in waves - I'm talking ability to effectively travel in textured seas and wind - whitewater kayaks and waveskis are decidedly not sea kayaks, and waves are not a problem) would be a thin stretch.

    It's hard to imagine, when first starting out, that a skilled sea kayaker has no use for the stability that you hoped for. But it is actually very true, to a surprisingly remarkable extent.

    You've given an indication that would fly in the face of becoming a skilled sea kayaker. "I got dumped. Rio didn't like me."
    You either focus on how you capsized the kayak, and how you could improve to make the kayak perform. Or you focus on how the kayak dumped you, and what equipment changes could prevent that from happening again. No right or wrong answer. The answer does help define you as a paddler. 5'8" 165 lbs shouldn't be a problem in a 12' x 24" kayak with a capacity of 270

  • Cape Fear: I agreed with everything ELSE that Celia wrote as well, and over all it was a very good post. But since she said she disagreed with what I wrote, backing that up by saying she knows of examples of boats which were longer but less stable, naturally she must have believed she disagreed with me even if nothing about what she actually said was in conflict with anything I had said. So as long as she seemed to have missed my point, yeah, I tried to clarify what I meant. Anyway, I'm glad you understood what I said back there.

    And yes, your post is a good one too, as were a couple others. It is such a common thing for newbies to expect that a stable boat is the answer to all the potential difficulties they might encounter, yet one doesn't have to be a kayaker to eventually figure out that, paradoxically, an extremely stable boat just makes rough water that much harder to deal with.

  • I spent many hours in my elite surfski paddling with my feet in the water because it tipped over so easily. And I've been an avid kayaker for 40 year with very thin kayaks. My point is, practice, practice, practice. You'll get it over time.

  • Thanks for the great responses! I've been reading a lot of what goes into a Kayak. Length, width, chines, cockpit size. Etc.

    Celia brought up an interesting point about my weight range being at the top range of this particular boat. At first I scratched my head because I thought I fell into the "medium" category at my height and weight. But it now makes sense because my Wife who is same height but 30lbs lighter than me zipped around and pretty much owned it. So I'm guessing she would fall into the small category.

    Anyway, That's why I asked the basic question, if this same boat was another couple of feet longer, would it behave differently.

    William

  • @wrz0170 s,......... When I got into it, she was twitchy from the get go......

    When you learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels was it wobbly or rock solid the first time?

    At 24" beam it was likely you.

  • @Guideboatguy I apologize for a too-quick response on one point, and agree that is was wrong. I was focused, probably overly, on the chance that as a new paddler the OPer could go out and try a longer boat without confirming its intended paddler. A really big guy would not be able to physically get into a sea kayak that was made for a smaller paddler with maybe subtle seeming diffs from the full size version. A medium sized person could, in fact I know a lot of more experienced sea kayakers who keep such a boat around for its increased playfulness in the right circumstances.

    Anyway, point made and maybe the OPer will start looking for a little more boat. Again, did not mean to diss you.

  • Interesting thread. The Rio is labeled a recreational kayak by Eddyline. It's hard chined as is the Eddyline Equinox that William (the OP) said he purchased and found very stable in his first thread.

    I can't agree that EDY boats don't sit flat in the water if the paddler's weight is balanced in the cockpit. I used a small bubble level on my Samba last summer. It was level horizontally while I was sitting relaxed and centered. While moving forward that changes, as it should if you're rotating.

    I've demoed kayaks with rounded chines and prefer the communication of a hard chine. Most likely because that's what I started and stayed with.

    Celia's mention of size and weight of the paddler made me think of a person's center of gravity. Am currently paddling a 21" hard chined kayak. A friend who is taller and heavier (he's very fit and a much better paddler) has the same kayak and finds it twitchy in waves and chop. I think it's the most stable and secure kayak I've ever paddled in 2.5' foot waves and confused water and attribute our differences to my lower center of gravity.

  • Rookie, it is also volume. One thing that the canoe folks do very well and gets disregarded when it comes to kayaks is how much weight is required to sink the canoe to its optimal waterline. Sink it too little it bobs around and you are not going to get the most out of the control surfaces on the hull, but it won't be unstable in the way we think about it with kayaks. Sink it too much and it starts getting unstable. It works the same for kayaks, but you don't see the clear numbers telling you where that waterline is with kayaks compared to canoes. It is more easily discovered by the kayak's behavior and, in some boats, whether the bow and/or stern are properly engaged with the water.

    That is where weight comes in - though someone sticking higher out of the cockpit does have more work to do to maintain their center of gravity. You are likely a bit below its highest design weight so are unlikely to go past that magic point. Your friend may be right at it so any boat movement puts him deep enough to start altering the stability.

  • I can't comment about the specific boat, since I've not paddled one.

    Fit could be a problem, as well. If the paddler is not in good contact with the boat, it will not feel stable.

    Length affects stability some. Since the boat, when it leans, is spinning around an axis point somewhere above the waterline that varies with the total center-of-gravity of the boat+paddler. Beam, and as this is a medium to wide 24 inch beam, certainly affects the feeling of stability more. I expect that the length was less an issue for this paddler that some other factor in the boat/paddler configuration. Length does (often) add to the LAW (length at waterline) and this may affect the center of gravity (a wide boat will tend to gain less LAW than a skinny one and the paddler might need to have this hull deeper in the water to feel comfortable). Adding weight to the boat can increase LAW and it is possible that the trim/fit for this paddler was altered enough that the boat became (or felt) unstable. It may, or may not, have changed the stability characteristics of the boat, but there is no way to know this without testing the hull.

    It is possibly true that the paddler's center of gravity was wrong for the boat. Lowering the seat might have a major impact on this, but that can cause problems with paddling if one has to sit too deeply in the boat.

    Guillemot kayaks has a decent treatise on stability and it is worth looking at the following link:

    http://tinyurl.com/yckstbfc

    Rick

  • And to add, we wear a sea kayak, we don't sit in one. If you are lose inside it will feel unstable. If locking yourself in is uncomfortable them pad the inside of the deck so your knee area is lightly pressed inside. Make sure your foot pegs are in the correct position to create a snug fit.

  • I'm not trying to hijack the OP's thread, but this is a somewhat similar question and concerns stability of an Eddyline boat, so I figured why not. If inappropriate, please let me know and I'll start a new thread.

    I just picked up an Eddyline Fathom this weekend. My first serious sea kayak. Been paddling a Pungo 120 for the past 3-4 years, and since I get out on Lake Erie frequently and would like to venture further out, I wanted something more capable. I'm 5'10", 180.

    Before I start adding foam to create more contact with the boat, I want to make sure my seat's in the right position fore/aft. It's got 6 inches of adjustment available. Since I can position the seat anywhere over that six inch range AND adjust the foot braces to give me the right knee angle wherever the seat falls, how can I determine where the seat is supposed to be? I've been told that this can make a huge difference in stability in sea kayaks.

  • Well I don't think moving the seat forwards or back will affect stability that much.

    What it will do is affect the trim of the boat and change how it weathercocks. You need to try it out in some differing windy conditions to see how seat placement affects the kayak.

    Moving the seat forward a little would also make paddling against oncoming waves somewhat easier.

  • The fore-and-aft position of the seat will have a major effect on the reaction of your kayak to the wind. To sort this out:

    1. Paddle into the wind. If the bow tends to be blown sideways and down wind and it is difficult to maintain course, then move the seat forward half an inch at a time until this behaviour ceases.
    2. Paddle with the wind on the quarter. If the kayak tends to round up into the wind, even with the skeg deployed, then move the seat half an inch aft at a time.
    3. Finally, let the kayak drift in the wind. Most well-balanced kayaks will end up across the wind. You can adjust the seat to correct this. Forward to turn into the wind, backwards to turn down-wind.
    4. Find the compromise position that balances the above three adjustments.

    This is a simplified analysis of a complex subject, but it will be a start. Adjusting the seat correctly will aid dynamic stability by improving the reaction of the kayak to wind and waves.
    Nick.

  • edited July 2017

    @David R said:
    Since I can position the seat anywhere over that six inch range AND adjust the foot braces to give me the right knee angle wherever the seat falls, how can I determine where the seat is supposed to be? I've been told that this can make a huge difference in stability in sea kayaks.

    From the EDY website: "The seat has 3 inches of fore and aft adjustment which allows the paddler to change position relative to the thigh pads for the best fit."

    Once I had my EDY seat set up in the most comfortable position which gave me good contact, I asked an instructor to check the trim. It was fine. Has nothing to do with the kayak's stability. In windy conditions use the skeg if needed. Easier than readjusting the seat and foot pegs - although both can be easily done on the water (so long as it's relatively flat).

    Congratulations on your new boat. You might enjoy reading Ocean Paddler's review: https://eddyline.com/wp-content/uploads/OP_Fathom_Review.pdf - if you haven't aready.

  • edited July 2017

    Just a quick note from a newbie. I have a 10" Pelican Maxim kayak (http://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/pelican-maxim-100x-kayak-10-ft-0798514p.html) which is a pretty basic rec. kayak. I am 5"6' 160 lb give or take and as green a paddler as they come. I find this boat very stable and feel very comfortable (perhaps too comfortable even). The foot pegs have enough adjustment for longer legs so I am sure at 5'8" you will fit just fine. The weight limit is 125 kg.

  • Thanks, you guys. Sounds like exactly what I needed to know. Looking forward to getting this thing tuned in!

  • I should mention that following other discussions here I should not recommend or in any way endorse rec. style kayaks due to their flotation issues when swamped. Just wanted to mention that.

  • @SpaceSputnik said:
    I should mention that following other discussions here I should not recommend or in any way endorse rec. style kayaks due to their flotation issues when swamped. Just wanted to mention that.

    Perhaps not, but they're about as stable as any boat can be. Used near shore in warm water for short distances they can still be a lot of fun. The problem with rec (wreck) boats is that people try to use them way beyond their "designed" purpose.

  • We have two rec kayaks so the kids can have fun with us. Very stable and it's easy to swim from them. Fishing us simple too. They are fat and slow, tracking like a basketball but we knew that before getting them. Nothing could be farther from my elite surfski.

  • edited July 2017

    For a complete newbie figuring out what is this "designed" purpose can be a problem.

  • @SpaceSputnik said:
    For a complete newbie figuring out what is this "designed" purpose can be a problem.

    A good observation. This is completely the fault of the mass-production recreational kayak industry. Well, some of it is the naivety of people... but let's just gloss that one over, shall we? ;)

  • @SpaceSputnik I just did a quick google on "recreational versus touring kayaks". I didn't find the site I most wanted, looks like it no longer exists. But I did find a few that talked about suitable use for each type, like this -
    https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/kayak.html#TypesofKayaks

    I completely agree it could be better, like talk about the reason for features such as perimeter lines. But trust me, you will figure that out in the first half hour of that rescue class. Also the reasons some prefer skegs over rudders. :-)

  • thanks Celia

  • @SpaceSputnik
    Here's a link which talks about the different types of kayaks. Also contains good info on skills, weather, cold water, etc. Created by four ACA certified Level 4 instructors:

    http://www.paddlesafely.com/kayaks/

  • Okay, so I took the boat out and ran through nickcrowhurst's well-written instructions. And apparently I'm a moron. I had a nice little headwind at times, so I felt pretty good about the test conditions. I'd started with the seat in the middle of the fore/aft travel, and the boat seemed to have a hard time tracking straight, so I kept moving the seat forward. And forward. And forward. It's almost as far forward as it can go now. Each time I also adjusted the foot braces to get my legs back where they need to be. With the first adjustment, the directional stability seemed to get better, somewhat. That's why I kept going. But honestly, once I got to where it is now and just paddled around for awhile, I couldn't keep that boat going in a straight line to save my life.

    I checked myself constantly to see if I was leaning the boat to one side or the other, and although this boat definitely wants to tilt (as mentioned by some people earlier in this thread), the moments when the front would suddenly track off course don't seem to be connected to this. I'm at a loss as to what's causing this...I have no problems going straight in my 12-ft recreational boat, which I've been paddling for 4 years. People who would know have complimented me on my stroke, so I don't know that I'm doing something wrong with that. I'll just be paddling along and...whoops. The nose veers off course. I was constantly having to edge and correct to get back on course last night. The only thing the skeg seems to do is make it that much harder to steer back ON course, from what I can see.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  • edited July 2017

    Move the seat back to, "With the first adjustment, the directional stability seemed to get better, somewhat."

    When the boat veered off course what was the wind and wave direction in relation to the boat.?

  • edited July 2017

    @David R said:
    The only thing the skeg seems to do is make it that much harder to steer back ON course, from what I can see.

    The skeg's job is to force the kayak more downwind. It is not there to make the kayak keep its direction better in all wind directions.

    If you felt the skeg working against you when you were trying to force the kayak upwind, the skeg behaved just as it should.

    Also, it is not clear to me whether your kayak went more downwind or more upwind than you wanted. I understand from your comment that you were not paddling straight into the wind ("headwind at times") but rather into'ish the wind. This is in line with nickrowhurst's suggestions earlier in this thread. However, when you do that experiment, you can't just focus on whether you are keeping your course or not. You have to consider if your kayak seeks into the wind or away from the wind when it deviates from your intended course. It is quite possible that you started with a seat position where the kayak would seek too much away from the wind, then found a seat position where it was generally neutral and then continued the adjustment in the same direction until the kayak would seek too much into the wind.

  • edited July 2017

    Am curious how far the skeg was deployed. Fully? Half? Quarter?

  • You know too that, like sailing, sometimes your heading is different than your course. Sometimes sneaking up on a point is easier than a direct straight course. You can fight waves and wind or you can "tack" and sneak up on the intended destination.

    For example my Cheasapeake 17 loves to go into the wind and wave from dead on to a 45 degree. It too will go down wind real good with some surfing, depending upon load. So I can fight a beam on wind and wave or do a 45 degree off the wind until I get high on the destination then turn the boat to a down wind.

    Wind and waves are not constant in velocity or size or direction. It is possible that at times your boat was hit with a combination of forces that turned the boat when other times it was stable on course. Every boat has a personality.

  • My first priority would be to position the seat where it would allow easy ingress and egress to the boat in the fashion I am used to. Then I would adjust the seat for trim as long as it didn't interfere with ease of getting in and out of the boat. As for the boat not tracking, get used to using the skeg to some degree--even when going to windward if needed. There will be times when you will also need to edge and paddle shift and maybe even use less than a symmetric stroke. All of that will be automatic in time.

  • What direction was the wind coming from? That will push the stern around, which of course also reorients the bow. More skeg means it will react less to the wind, though every model is individual on the details of how much.

  • This may sound stupid but I'll say it anyway just in case. Thermoform kayaks can warp if stored outside in direct sunlight. Have you checked to make sure your hull is straight? This could be an issue.

  • Okay, let's go through these sequentially. BTW, thanks for the replies.

    DrowningDave: The kayak is about a week old and has never been stored outside at all. So I'm thinking warpage isn't an issue.

    Celia: The wind, when there was some, was coming more or less toward me from the front while I was doing the steps Nickcrowhurst listed. I noticed the inability to keep the kayak on course both in that situation, during/after my adjustments, and also when I was paddling back upriver, when the wind would've been at my back. It was a very slight breeze, FWIW. And the river has basically no discernible current where I paddle.

    magooch: I've been paddling for about four years now, quite a lot. So I'm familiar with the requirement to asymmetrically paddle at times. I was using the skeg off and on during this afternoon's paddle, mostly fully deployed when down, but toward the end I started experimenting with just partially. I can't say I noticed a lot of difference in how the boat stayed tracking straight. As I mentioned, it DID create a lot of resistance when I tried to edge the boat back on course, however.

    Overstreet: I'm not familiar with anything about sailing, but your statements make sense. My only question would be, why would I not experience these things when I paddled my 12-ft Pungo? It seems to me (and I could be totally wrong here) that a wider, more piggish boat would be pushed around MORE by the conditions you mentioned, no? I thought half the point of a sea kayak's hull design was its ability to track straight?

    Allan Olesen: Your statements confuse me the most, mostly because I don't understand the terms "downwind" and "upwind" in this context. I don't know what you mean when you say "the kayak pushed upwind". I tend to categorize wind as "in my face" or some direction similar to that, or "coming across my boat" from one side of the other, or "a tailwind". I suppose I'd better do some googling if these terms are important when discussing paddling.

    Several of you asked questions pertaining to the exact wind direction and even wave directions, and I honestly don't know how I'd even determine that without a windsock I could stare at. I'm paddling on/around Lake Erie and the wind and waves (waves, especially) are all OVER the place. And even when the wind is constant, knowing if it's perfectly aligned with my direction is something I'm unable to determine accurately at this stage, I'm afraid.

  • "Piggish boat" vs Performance boat.........? If the new boat is lighter, faster and more nimble maybe you have to act sooner to change than react on a piggish boat .

    "Seakayak" does not mean the same thing in every boat. Generally they have floatation chambers fore and aft. But Greenland skin on frame don't. Touring boats generally have less rocker and go straighter, but not necessarily. A Valley Etain is a touring boat but has more rocker than my C-17. It behaves differently. Banana boats (lots of rocker) are made for waves and turns. they're all seakayaks.

  • To help some with the wind questions - most sea kayaks are designed to respond to wind by the stern being pushed and the bow going into the wind. A skeg or a rudder can counter balance this tendency to varying degrees depending on the boat, but that is the default for pretty all the kayak designs out there. That is because bow into the wind, if the paddler is having trouble controlling the boat, is considered to be a safer way for the boat to go off a straight course than the other way around.
    So if you are going off course to the right as you paddle and the boat is otherwise being paddled straight, the wind is coming from your left to some degree and shoving your stern left. It doesn't have to be straight left, it can be at an angle, say quartering.
    This help?

  • @David R

    There's a vast difference between a 12', 29" wide rec kayak and a 16.5', 22" skegged sea kayak which has hard chines and some rocker. You've had your Fathom only a week; even if you've paddled it four hours a day, that's still not a lot of seat time to get to know a new and completely different boat than what you've been paddling.

    Here's information on using a skeg which might be helpful:
    http://solentseakayaking.co.uk/techniques/other/technique-using-a-skeg/

    All boats are different so it will take some experimentation with skeg position in different conditions, but once you get that dialed in, tracking shouldn't be an issue. Only time you want it fully down is with the wind behind you. You can use a stern rudder to steer, changing blade position as needed.

    Wind direction and speed are important to know, especially on the Great Lakes. If the wind is forecast to increase to 15 kts with gusts of 25 kts at (i.e.) 2:00 p.m., you want to know that if you're going out in the morning so you can plan accordingly.

    Windy (Windows, iOS, Android) is pretty accurate. https://www.windy.com/?41.548,-82.167,9 (the link shows Lake Erie)

  • edited July 2017

    @David R said:

    Allan Olesen: Your statements confuse me the most, mostly because I don't understand the terms "downwind" and "upwind" in this context. I don't know what you mean when you say "the kayak pushed upwind". I tend to categorize wind as "in my face" or some direction similar to that, or "coming across my boat" from one side of the other, or "a tailwind". I suppose I'd better do some googling if these terms are important when discussing paddling.

    Travelling upwind = Travelling against the direction the wind is coming from. (Wind in your face)
    Travelling downwind = Travelling away from the direction the wind is coming from. (Tailwind)

    Anyway, from this I get the feeling that you probably haven't understood the purpose of the seat experiment. And you need to understand its purpose to get the intended benefit from it. So I will try to explain more thoroughly:

    How a weathercock works
    I assume you are familiar with the concept of a weathercock or weather vane. Otherwise look here or here.
    A weathercock works like this: The weathercock is hinged slightly in front of the centre of the wind forces hitting it. So wind coming from the side will push the rear end more than it will push the front end. And consequently, the weathercock will always be turned around so it faces against the direction the wind is coming from.

    If you wanted the weathercock to face away from the direction is coming from, you would hinge it more toward the rear.

    And if you wanted the weathercock to be neutral to wind (which would defeat the purpose of having a weathercock), you would hinge it exactly at the centre of the wind forces. The closer the hinge point gets to the centre of the wind forces, the less the weathercock will be turned by the wind.

    Thinking of a kayak as a weathercock
    The above is exactly what happens with the kayak too (at least on flat water), with one exception: The kayak does not have a hinge. But the kayak is making sideways resistance in the water when wind coming from the side tries to push it, and the position of this resistance will decide the position of the "hinge point":

    • If the kayak makes a lot of sideways resistance at the front end and no water resistance at the rear end, it will behave as if it was hinged at the front end. And just like the weathercock, it will try to turn around so you face against the direction the wind is coming from.

    • If the kayak makes a lot of sideways resistance at the rear end and no water resistance at the front end, it will behave as if it was hinged at the rear end and try to turn around so you face away from the direction the wind is coming from.

    • If the kayak makes equal sideways resistance at the rear end and the front end, it will behave as if it was hinged at the centre, and it will be neutral to wind.

    So when we are in a sea kayak and want to use the wind to our advantage, we want to "move the hinge point" so it suits the direction we want to travel in.

    Using the skeg
    One of the ways to move the hinge point is by deploying the skeg. When you paddle a kayak forward on flat water, with the wind coming from the side, a skeg equipped kayak will behave like this if the kayak is properly balanced for skeg use:

    • If the skeg is up, the kayak will be hinged slightly toward the front. The faster you paddle forward, the more it will be hinged at the front. Consequently the kayak will try to turn around so you get the wind in your face.
    • When you fully deploy the skeg, you create a lot of additional sideways water resistance at the rear end. So the hinge point moves far toward the back at the kayak. Consequently, the kayak will try to turn around so you get the wind in your back.
    • With just the right amount of skeg, you balance your hinge point so it is at the centre of the wind forces, and your kayak will behave neutrally without trying to turn to either side.

    This skeg adjustment is not something you just do once. The balance changes all the time during a trip, depending on speed and wind direction, and you have to adjust the skeg to compensate.

    When the skeg isn't enough, look at weight distribution
    Sometimes you will find that the adjustment range of the skeg does not fit all situations. Perhaps your kayak will try to turn upwind even though your skeg is all the way down. Or it will try to turn downwind even though your skeg is all the way up.

    In these situation you will need to look at your weight distribution in the kayak:

    • If you have a lot of weight in the front, the front of the kayak will be deeper in the water, creating more sideways resistance at the front. So the hinge point will be toward the front.
    • If you have a lot of weight in the rear, the rear of the kayak will be deeper in the water, creating more sideways resistance at the rear. So the hinge point will be toward the rear.

    This was the purpose of the seat exercise. When you move the seat forward, you move your own weight forward, and the hinge point will move forward too, causing the kayak to go more up against the wind.

    With this knowledge, you should read nickrowhurst's suggestions again and try to understand what he wanted you to achieve with the experiment. And you will see that it crucial to the result that whenever the kayak is turning away from the direction you want it to travel in, you ask yourself this: "Is the kayak right now trying to turn up against the wind, or is it trying to turn away from the wind."

  • edited July 2017

    I did not address these two points in my previous reply. But they are important too:

    @David R said:
    Celia: The wind, when there was some, was coming more or less toward me from the front while I was doing the steps Nickcrowhurst listed.

    I know that Nickrowhurst wanted you to travel exactly against the wind. But I think you should start with a more basic situation:

    • Find a place with some wind (preferably 10 knots or more, depending on your abilities) and no waves.
    • With the skeg fully up, paddle with the wind coming from the side while you focus on paddling symmetrically, doing absolutely nothing to keep your direction. Will the kayak now try to turn into the direction the wind is coming from or away from the direction the wind is coming from? Hopefully, it will turn into the wind.
    • Now repeat the same with the skeg fully down. Hopefully, the kayak will do the opposite of before: It will turn away from the wind.
    • Finally, try to find a skeg position where the kayak does not want to turn to either side.

    In this experiment, if you find that the kayak wants to turn to the same side all the time, no matter if the skeg is up or down, then you should try to move your seat forward or backward. Seat more forward = more able to turn into the wind. Seat more backward = more able to turn away from the wind.

    When you have this in place, and you can make your kayak go left or right in sidewind just by adjusting the skeg, you can go on to the experiments Nickrowhurst suggested.

    Several of you asked questions pertaining to the exact wind direction and even wave directions, and I honestly don't know how I'd even determine that without a windsock I could stare at. I'm paddling on/around Lake Erie and the wind and waves (waves, especially) are all OVER the place. And even when the wind is constant, knowing if it's perfectly aligned with my direction is something I'm unable to determine accurately at this stage, I'm afraid.

    Yes, that is actually harder than one would think. It took me some time to learn to feel the wind direction. The best trick I have found is turning my head from side to side while listening to the wind blowing past my ears. When I get the wind exactly from the front or rear, the sound of the wind will change.

  • That's a superb explanation by Alan.
    Nick.

  • edited July 2017

    Alan's explanation is great. My only quibble is the suggestion that the skeg when all the way down should fully hold the stern against being pushed around, so that the bow is the only end being pushed off of a straight course, Once it gets to a reasonable afternoon offshore wind speed, that is not the effect of the skeg in either of the primary boats I paddle, nor was it in my husband's first sea kayak. The skeg helps more in one boat than the other, but there is still some edging and corrective paddling involved. In my experience what you can count on is the skeg mitigating the problem, but when the wind gets up to 15 knots or so it'll be mitigation rather than a full course correction. I am also a lighter weight person, so this could have an effect. I should add that the cockpit itself is way back in one boat and the seat is as far back as it'll go in the other. So it is not my setup.

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