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Weathercocking in a Gale???

I went paddling yesterday on the Chesapeake in some very high winds. Winds were over 40-45 knots.

I was out in my Explorer which has no problem handling such conditions and which is a very neutral boat in the wind.

However, I noticed some strange "weathercocking" I know that generally a boat will turn into the wind; however, in this instance the boat would turn sideways to the wind.

Even with a strong cross-bow rudder the boat was hard to get turned back into the wind and would eventually end up sideways again.

I noticed the same thing going down wind as well which I found surprising. Unless I maintained a stern rudder in the water the boat would again turn sideways.

I have noticed other somewhat strange boat handling in really high winds in the past. In winds over 25 or 30 knots it seems to me that the boat tends to get blown downwind rather than turning up into it.

Is there a reason why a boat would act any different in winds over a certain speed (turn down wind or across the wind as opposed to turning up into the wind).

Just curious.

Incidentally I did not use the skeg (it was cold and I was using pogies and did not really want to mess with getting my hand out and back in the pogie given the wind). Skeg might have helped or at least changed things.




  • Options
    I don't know why
    but when a boat is just drifting it will alway turn 90 degrees to the wind. If you did not have enough power to compensate for this than it will begin to turn side ways. (I'd guess)

    It must be some kind of magic.
  • you're not paddling hard enough
    50mph winds you should be blowing sideways. Strongest winds I've been in was 25-30kts and I was maxed out.
  • Options
    Was it blowing a gale when you launched? Just wondering? VF
  • In Those Conditions...
    You need a Nordkapp LV....
  • Options
    you work and work
    to bring your bow into the wind, and every time you crest over a wave, the wind just blows it back. A strange, unnerving sensation the first time you experience it.
  • weatherhelm, lee helm, etc
    When a boat is sitting still in wind, it will always lie to the wind more or less perpendicular. More or less, due to the differential windage above the waterline (most kayaks have more windage ahead of the cockpit, therefore the bow will set slightly downwind), and the differential lateral resistance of the hull (again, most sea kayaks have more rocker forward, allowing the bow to set slightly more downwind). This difference in the many kayaks available (again, sitting still) is surprisingly small- 5-15deg from dead perpendicular to the wind.

    When the boat is moving forward, the center of lateral resistance changes (aka, "pivot point"). The faster you go, the farther forward. It is this change (again, speed dependent) that makes a kayak exhibit weatherhelm (helm of the boat goes towards the weather, or, into the wind).

    While speed of the boat is a factor in how much weatherhelm occurs, so is the wind speed. There will come a point of wind that, with so much pressure ahead of the point of lateral resistance (again, "pivot point"), the change of that pivot point forward just isn't a great enough ratio (compared to the force behind) to have much effect on the helm. The boat lies perpendicular to the wind, as though it is sitting still. But of far, far greater effect, the waves that are lifting up the bow and the stern free of the water offer so much windage unaffected by the point of lateral resistance that the wind will easily blow that exposed part downwind. Again, the boat will become perpendicular to the wind.

    Going downwind in such a scenario is somewhat easy. The paddler can change the underhull resistance dramatically. Put your paddle blade very deep at the stern- the resulting force is not unlike a flag (the boat) on a flagpole (the buried paddle). Which side to bury the paddle, upwind, or downwind? Upwind,for certain, as you are also braced into the wind and waves(BTW, this is leehelm).

    Going upwind is much harder, and IMO, is the critical test for boat handling skills for an advanced paddler. Indeed, for a group to be safe, the ability of at least the leader to be able to turn upwind is a major component of safety. First is to develop as much speed across the wind as is possible (remember that weatherhelm of a boat is dependent on both wind speed and boat speed?). Then, to assist any weatherhelm that develops (not showing yet? Go faster, first), add in downwind sweep strokes. Edging, while it does help tremendously, can be problematic, as the safest edging is into the wind. Now, here is the rub. The moment your bow starts to rise up on a wave, the wind will knock your boat back to perpendicular. There is a wind speed for every paddler where their muscular strength is insufficient to compensate with a stronger sweep stroke. As a side note, extending the paddle does not work at this point, as it puts the paddler at the unforgiving end of a lever. Choking up on the paddle, and above all increasing the stroke rate of the sweep (by this time likely only a half sweep at the bow)is more effective. But, back to the bow rising up- the moment it is exposed, place your paddle into a bow rudder to hold it (imagine holding onto a post)from being blown downwind. It may be necessary to employ a rarely used stroke in sea kayaking (canoeists, rejoice here), a strong bow draw. After the wave passes and the bow is in the trough, resume speed and sweeps. Above all, do not try the sweeps/bow draw combo until you have simply reached a high speed.

    This is also a good point to hit home the importance of learning and understanding the Beaufort scale. In my area, there are some kayakers that have claimed to have paddled in 80mph winds! I have no respect for their seamanship and judgement, as it is just not possible to do so! You can't even stand on land in that. Checking the forecast is critical, but interpreting it by critical observation is the way to knowledge.

    And remember, try to avoid arm wrestling with Neptune.

  • Options
    what he said
  • what he said and a little more
    Was in those winds as well, but with a shopping cart. First time I had a shopping cart crab across the parking lot.

    Going into the wind in canoe you can move your body forward and paddle from there to remain in the wind. If going downwind you can move your body to the stern to change your pivot point.

    I've never found a way to do this in a kayak however, crossing my legs indian style or moving equipment aft has helped me in going downwind in high winds without broaching.
  • Options
    sounds suspect
    50 mph and comfortable? come on. are we talking about 100-foot yachts?
  • Options
    40 to 45 knots?
    if you're paddling in those conditions on open water in any craft, hats off. you're the God of all things paddle. what's it cost to tithe?
  • a bit more on sweeps
    There is always something more!

    If the wind is new and hasn't developed much waves, it is less necessary to use the downwind sweep/upwind bow draw combo. Speed is again the key before attempting the turn, next, apply short, high cadence half sweeps at the bow.
    The reason why is also related to wind speed and available muscular strength, but also, a slower, more powerful full sweep can work against you. As soon as the sweep passes amidships and towards the stern, there will be a wind speed where the paddlers strengthe cannot overcome the effect from the wind. The last half of the sweep will in fact anchor the stern, and the wind will pivot the boat downwind off the paddle! This, no matter how hard you squeeze.

    BTW, understanding the effect of the wind on a kayak that is moving that is not moving is critical to getting the boat to do what you want without working too hard. It always amuses me to see paddlers using rudders, starting off from a dead stop, trying to go upwind in Force 4 or above...they are almost always surprised to find that the rudder doesn't work very well! Again, think of the flag and flagpole analogy, and the reason should be clear. Answer? First, get going fast across the wind....and even consider putting the rudder up (boat design, paddler's speed, and wind speed dependent).

    And then there is the story about a kayaker who refused to put her skeg up when going into a strong quartering wind...and wondered why the boat kept falling off the wind. I had to stay at her stern and push it onto course with my bow, only because she just wouldn't even try to put up her skeg!

    Funny how we hold onto our preconceptions, when observation should prove otherwise.

  • Two Points
    -- Last Updated: Feb-12-08 10:30 PM EST --

    1. As Karl says, the ability to "jog to weather" is for all upon the sea in small vessels a critical function. I think the ease with which you can do it in a kayak is one very good good measure of its big water ability as is the ability to regain course after getting pointed downwind on the top of waves.

    2. In my experience, after battling fierce winds and waves on a paddle, it is often rather humbling to check the buoy data for the closest buoys to ascertain actual wind speeds and wave heights.

    Whenever you cannot make way, the odds are you will end up with a beam wind and sea if you cannot get headed into the wind or downwind if brave. If you are near a lee shore...good luck. Without making way, a kayak will not weathercock in my opinion nor will it leecock unless it is one very unbalanced boat.

  • Otterslide knows his stuff. Refreshing.
  • Forget the author, but
    "Observation is a merciless critic of theory."
    On the wall in my office...
  • try to avoid arm wrestling with Neptune.
    Words of wisdom capping an extraordinarily informing essay.

    Thank you very much!
  • Been There
    It didn't matter what I did with the skeg. The boat just wanted to stay locked in horizontally between waves.
    I think that was nature's way of telling me to get the hell off the water. That's what I did.
  • Very interesting
    Thank you for the thorough information. Sounds to be about what I was experiencing. I was working hard to get the boat to turn into the wind by picking up as much speed as possible, making an aggressive sweep and then using an agressive crossbow rudder transitioning into a bow draw and then a reverse sweep and still could not quite get turned up into the wind.

    Seemed that I would get to about 11 oclock and then eventually get blown sideways. Almost seemed that a conventional bow rudder was more effective b/c I maintained more forward speed.

    Going downwind was interesting. I could get turned down wind but about the only way I could stay in that direction was to maintain a stern rudder in the water. Seemed like doing so would lock the boat down wind to an extent and the upper blade would act as a sail. I would actually move downwind fairly well like this without paddling.

    To address some of the questions raised....The wind was blowing pretty hard when I launched but not that hard. It definitely picked up when I was on the water.

    I launched from a wind-protected launch site on a river than runs into the bay.

    As a result getting out was not that bad.

    I got out into the open water and played for a while.

    Heading back in was when I hit the really strong winds. I was fairly far from the shore when they did hit.

    Comfort level...I was fairly comfortable as the Explorer is a super stable boat. Given that it was the Chesapeake and not the ocean the water conditions were not too bad (smaller fetch) and I don't find the Chesapeake a threatening place to paddle as you are near people, land, etc. No surf landings. If I were on the ocean it would have been different.

    In the really big gusts I would lean into the wind and scull momentarily until the gust passed and then continue paddling.

    I will admit though that I was having trouble controlling the boat on the way back b/c it kept turning sideways. Luckily though sideways was toward land at that point so that was okay. Mostly it was just tiring at that point. Once I got toward land I found protection from the wind and was able to parallel the shore back to the launch site. So paddling in such high winds was not a super big deal given the location where I was paddling. I WOULD NOT have felt very comfortable if I were on the ocean.

    As to this being a fish story, beauford scale etc. I can tell you that the wind speed was documented by the forecasts and I can describe some indicators:

    -excessive spray being blown across the water

    -large trees in full motion

    -wind damage to houses and trees

    -walking very difficult

    -driving in wind, very difficult (I went very slow on the way home as I did not feel comfortable with the boat on top in these conditions)

    -traffic lights blown nearly sideways by gusting winds and held in that position until the gust passed

    -large amounts of sand and small pebbles being propelled at high speed by the wind (my truck got sandblasted badly when making a U turn).

    Put it this way. On my way back home it was so windy that I thought there may be a tornado in the area given the wind speeds and the darkening sky...and I have lived in Oklahoma where tornadoes are common.

    So there are some indicators of the wind speed. Some of those are on the Beauford scale and some are not (like traffic lights blowing sideways perpendicular to the ground...don't recall that being on it but it is a good indicator). Look at the Beauford scale and make your own determination as to what the wind speed was.

    thanks for your help though. This has been very informative.

  • In a similar situation...
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-08 11:34 AM EST --

    It isn't strange. At some point of strength the wind will just pin the whole side of a boat and the associated waves will complicate things further. Otterslide, in a post above, describes exactly the situation four of us were in a couple of years ago, high winds with waves. Much better than I could even having been there.

    We were out in winds that measured into the 30's standing on the shore afterwards, probably (slightly) more out there. We had a situation that required some turning around and reverse of course out in the middle of the channel. My Vela greatly profited from a bump on the bow to get turned at one point, the wind kept taking it at the top of a wave, and a much stronger paddler with us in his Explorer found that it worked much better to turn into the wind by turning backwards rather than working with the bow.

    I resolved to remember the backwards thing - in hindsight he was probably doing something very similar to what Otterslide describes by focusing on turning the stern rather than the bow.

  • Your bio indicates BCU 4 Star
    shouldn't you already have knowledge to answer your own questions? You also state you were trying to run w/the wind without your skeg down in 'a gale' and wondered why your boat was weathercocking? Haven't paddled any boat that didn't try to broach in anything near those conditions w/the the skeg down, let alone up.
  • Rudder question.
    Otterslide mentioned in his very good post that the rudder was not effective and the skeg should have been up to aid turning ability. What would be the case with an under hull rudder?
  • Matt
    I don't think it's a fish story you were in very high winds, just that without a wind measuring device it's guestimation on the numbers. When I paddled in the highest winds I ever paddled on the inland side of Assateague the waves never got higher than a foot but every top was blown off with horizonatal spray. The measurment of 30-35mph came from the closest wind measuring device on the weather radio.
  • Options
    Upwind turning
    I also find turning upwind in a really strong wind easier by going fast backward, doing a back sweep with a strong upwind lean to initiate the turn upwind, then immediately doing a bow high brace turn on the downwind side, with as much downwind lean as you feel comfortable with depending on what the waves are doing right then. You can use a couple of quarter bow sweeps if you don't quite make it. Fairly stable way too. I don't know what is going on with pivot points and all that.
  • depends on the rest of the hull
    I would think a long boat has LOTS of leverage working against a paddler so talking about a rudder in isolation misses what is being levered by the wind.
  • My $.02
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-08 12:13 PM EST --

    "Going downwind was interesting. I could get turned down wind but about the only way I could stay in that direction was to maintain a stern rudder in the water."

    I don't know, but I've be told. Given the way the water moves in a wave, it is very hard for a kayak to run true down a wave and if you are talking short period, steep wind waves things can happen fast and hard in my limited experience. The manner in which a kayak broaches running downwind is likely a function of many things including the skill of the paddler to sense what is happening and take corrective actions before things go too far and the ability of the hull to respond. What Matt describes sounds about right to me since he was, I assume, basically surfing and needing to stern rudder to limit the broaching movement. Perhaps he could have caught it earlier and carved more down wave to turn the boat downwind, but the Explorer may not be the boat for that. I suspect it relies on other traits to be manageable in a following sea.

    It would be interesting to see what those knowledgeable in this area think, but I have come to dimly see that in both rough water and heavy weather the traits in a boat I most value are the ability to telegraph what is happening and to quickly/easily respond to inputs. Of course these traits could be viewed as making a boat a pain to paddle, especially in calmer conditions. Given a choice between a staid boat and a lively boat, I am starting to see the value of the lively boat when things get "exciting". Seems counterintuitive perhaps.

    As for Matt, 4* and questions. No such thing as a bad/stupid question, and to me it is a sign of intelligence and inquisitiveness to ask them. I suspect he is looking for more data to process as opposed to answers from on high. I rather doubt passing a 4* assessment says much if anything about a paddler's ability or knowledge in dealing with the conditions he described.

  • Options
    I about busted a gut...
    ...your killin' me! :)
  • Options
    Misunderstanding Otto's Comments
    I understood Ottoslide to have said that some paddlers who are ARE NOT MOVING forward through the water do not understand why the boat will not turn in to the wind when they push the pedals.

    A rudder acts just like a skeg if there is no flow over it. If one wants to turn the boat into the wind without forward speed, the best thing to do is to flip up the rudder or skeg. Skegs and rudders tend to be a hindrance to slow speed maneuverability like one needs when parked in a rock garden or returning back to sea after a surf run into shore.

    However when moving forward with sufficient speed a rudder will steer most kayaks in to the wind when asked. A deployed skeg will resist steering in to the wind no matter the boat's speed.

  • Real life examples
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-08 4:38 PM EST --

    First, one has to understand that a rudder, or deployed skeg, moves the center of lateral resistance (CLR) back.
    As Lee mentioned, the overall design still plays a big part. Most ruddered sea kayaks are designed to be fairly well balanced without having to use the rudder, ie, they track well. Putting the rudder down significantly moves the CLR sternwards. Most rough water racing kayaks are designed to operate integrally with the rudder, and will have much more stern rocker. The CLR isn't quite as far back, making these boats more responsive to turning upwind while making way when compared to most sea kayaks.

    Lots of personal observations on that one! It is fun to put an accomplished paddler in a Looksha II, with the rudder up, and have them try to go straight! Very funny. More funny is the time a freind of mine ran over a log in his Eagle and took off his rudder. He was a loooong time getting back to the dock, doing a lot of zig-zagging. The Eagle was noted for quite a bit of stern rocker, compared to say, a Cleaver. Or, the tales of a top notch surf ski racer who lost his rudder on some rocks during a Sound Rowers Race. Went from first place to having to simply bail out because his boat was unmanageable without a rudder, as the light winds had their way with him.
    Conclusion- boat design is critical in making any assumptions about a ruddered boat being able to turn upwind.

    But Envy, I gotta say, the comment about only needing sufficient speed to make the rudder work well enough to turn a boat upwind is getting close to being dangerous advice.
    Define "sufficient speed". I can. In 35+ knots of wind, a surf ski can be a major PITA to turn upwind- and remember, these are boats that should be easier to turn upwind than most sea kayaks. The usual technique (can you tell by now I used to race skis?) is to use the waves to surf downwind as fast as possible, and then use the rudder to turn, while trying to maintain the surfing speed. Lose that speed, and you wind up perpendicular to the wind, and having to try it all over again. The "sufficient speed" was not attainable by paddling speed alone.
    The clinch to this is in the read of the incident last year in Bellingham, Wa, that resulted in a helicopter rescue of surf skiers. These were very strong paddlers, with a lot of top placements in races. They were out in what was at least 45kn wind, and they found out they could not turn upwind. It is obvious in reading their account that the very fact that they couldn't, and their surprise at their inability, was contributary to the incident.


  • To be blunt
    Peter, if you are using that technique to turn upwind in "strong wind", I guarantee that some day you will be in for a surprise. You just haven't experienced the sufficient "strong wind"!

    Going backwards fast will set the boat for the stern to exhibit weather helm, ie, turn towards the weather. Going backwards, fast, is another method for getting the boat to face downwind.

    Most critical, when the boat is going backwards, a reverse sweep stroke in high winds can have a shockingly quick and powerful outcome- the moment the reverse sweep is initiated, the back of the boat is held against the wind, the bow is left free, and the boat can swing downwind so fast, that you can have your boat facing downwind before you can say, "but, I am not even halfway through my reverse sweep!".

    The Columbia River Gorge, world famous to sail boarders, is my back yard. The comments I have been making on this subject have come about not just through personal experience, but by consensus by a quite a few very skilled boaters over a decade of play in that crucible.

  • ... and that is why...
    ... skegs are kept up when paddling upwind - and also raised briefly while doing any major turning (up or downwind) - particularly in snotty conditions. Skeg down is typically for running downwind. Partial skeg for quartering/beam (and all while moving as noted). As with anything there may be times when violating these skeg basics works - but mostly doing so is going to pretty counterproductive.

    Even with no skeg or rudder - the conditions typically stirred up by higher winds often create steep short period stuff that can create some of the most challenging conditions to deal with. Can be nigh impossible to get a long boat out of the rough once broached in this stuff without some forward speed and getting that speed can require you go a bit out of your way. Larger waves and swell can be worked - quick pivot turns on peaks and such - where slop can't.

    Having to get a long kayak out of the trough and back upwind a few times can get very tiring. Best to do all you can not to get spun sideways. This can mean giving up the desired heading (if it's not quite straight upwind) for a more head on course or a taking zig-zag approach of alternately attacking head/beam (neither really being optimal as on is slow and more stable, the other faster and more of a balance/control challenge) to get where you need to.
  • Makes Sense to Me
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-08 1:48 PM EST --

    Otterslide's comments so far ring true to me. I'm no kayaker, but I've experienced this same problem when out in high winds in my guide-boat (I try not to mess with such winds in a solo canoe, though weather changes being what they are, that day will come). Regarding the comment that with enough speed, it should be possible to rudder the boat into the wind, I'd apply Salty's comment about observation being a merciless critic of theory. In a "typical" strong wind, forward speed makes my guide-boat weathercock because that forward speed creates a condition of having less pressure on each side of the stern than there is at the bow. However, if the wind gets REALLY strong, the boat gets pushed sideways at a speed that pretty much eliminates the difference in resistance to sideways skidding at the bow versus the stern, so the boat just feels "locked" in that sideways orientation. Believe me, with eight-foot oars being horsed in opposite directions, the turning power of a rowboat such as this greatly exceeds that of a stern-mounted rudder, yet getting the boat aimed into a very strong wind can still be a real battle. In the winds described by the original poster, I rather doubt that I could successfully make such a turn at all.

  • you guys
    are way beyond me in skill and strength,,that one trip six years ago was an eyeopener. There weren't any usable waves, just a mess of shallow chop and unrelenting wind. It was the oddest experience to focus on putting the blade in exactly the right place with my guts lined up for the effort and it was like a little motor magically pointed me were I needed to go. The moment I lost focus or tried brute strength corrections ZOOOOOOM I was flying sideways in the Express.
    Not getting stronger since I tried out a Chatham16 glass boat and that did it. I like being able to point the boat where I want to go.
  • Another good one Karl.
    Seems like threads are getting more informative and accurate these days...perhaps a by product of sharing information over time?

    Turning to wind even in a highly playful coastal touring boat can be tough. Last year my friend and I tested a couple of very playful boats in surf at Jordan River. Winds were gusting 50+ with trees falling...major storm.

    We surfed a bit and had fun in blowing sleet, but neither of us could turn up wind without aggressive reverse sweeps prior to strong edging and forward sweeps. He is an former Olympic slalom coach, and designer, so skill was not the problem. Because the kayaks were so playful, we were able to work with that and have some fun. I'd hate to think of being in a big 18ft. tracker in those conditions.
  • Less criticism
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-08 2:57 PM EST --

    Re about threads - I am not sure that they are getting hugely more informative, but overall there seems to be less of people jumping on what others say with both feet. That'll automatically improve the content.
    (Later add - and the likelihood of more people wanting to get into the discussion)

  • Perhaps, but also
    some really experienced people posting technically accurate information.
  • Nice one GH .. LOL
  • ....
    RE-read the post and you'll see why I was not using the skeg.

    Actually I have never paddled in conditions before where I HAD to use the skeg...generally is just an optional aid.

    Weathercocking generally means turning into the wind, and yes I know exactly why a boat does that. Turning sideways to the wind is not something that I have experienced except in super high winds and did not quite make sense to me.

    You probably need to re-read the post.

  • You knuckle-draggin' animal!!!!
    You are one gutsy SOB Matt!!! I am too scared to even venture out into that kind of wind/waves much less alone!! The water is most likely colder up here in NE (34 degrees) but still think you must eat nails for breakfast and go fishing for great whites by slapping the water with your hand.

    You be 'way out there' compared to me!! (but then, I am pretty timid)


  • Call me nuts, but
    When the wind whips up on Puget Sound, there are a few of us crazies who want to rush out and practice in it! However choose our location, gear and buddies carefully. This weekend we paddled to Alki Point, at the light house to face the 20 miles of fetch the South wind was throwing at the point. If you did not understand any of the wise words from Karl, this type of wind practice will acclimate you to what he was trying to tell you, and your brain will communicate in ways that you will understand. People learn in different ways, spoken words, book words, visually and or kinetically. You will figure out what works and what does not work so well in trying to navigate in high winds. It may help you get home safely some day. But be safe... in our situation, we had a point to hide behind. In other cases, we select a place where the wind will blow you onto the beach.
  • Karl, I was hoping someone would
    reference that incident. I hate rubbing the puppy's nose in the rug myself, but it was revealing and instructional. Recently one of their peers died doing a similar run in the same area.

  • If you are a rudder paddler raising it
    to your rear deck may create enough surface area to assist in turning to. That is not an option with underhull rudders.

    Another thing I've yet to see is posture and loading. Posture forward weights the bow and allows the stern to slip. If your day hatch or back hatch is filled with stuff you might be imbalancing for a more weighted rear and a down wind run. A "more experienced friend" may bump the stern in a position able to take advantage of turning to, but inform the paddler as I might be doing something completely different and some idiot is preventing me from that. Finally, I love draw strokes, stern and bow, to trim myself or turn about.

  • Options
    Low decked or heavily loaded boats...
    If Matt's Explorer had been heavily loaded and trimmed fore and aft correctly, (or had been an LV or just low decked boat) This would make the boat easier to handle in wind, right?
  • Reread it
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-08 10:40 PM EST --

    yep, my brain read trying to go with the wind, not upwind, hence my comments. Maybe you found the limitations of the boats abilities in high wind? I'd suspect those neutral handling characteristics you mention go 'out the door' in those wind speeds. I once had my kayak literally spin around heading into steady 15-30mph cresting a wave and having a stronger gust hit. Very cool. In winds you encountered (clocked or gut?) it wouldn't take much for a yak to get blown sideways to the wind, and be a fight to get back upwind again once it was. Also curious why you felt the need to remove your hands from your pogies to deploy the skeg as a couple friends who wear pogies have no issues deploying their skegs with their hands in their pogies. I might also state that no boat I've ever paddled naturaly turns into the wind as you state yours might. Virtually every boat I've ever been in, be it a canoe or kayak, WANTS to go sideways to the wind IF I'm not paddling, and with skeg/rudder up. You would most likely be bow heavy for a stationary hull to wanna turn into the wind. Even if paddling into winds any neutraly balanced hull would eventually go sideways to the wind without some sort of concious/subconcious effort, be it edging, ruddering or stronger stroke to one side.

  • Not necessarily
    -- Last Updated: Feb-14-08 1:45 AM EST --

    The 4* assessment is an attempt to objectively define what skills are necessary to possess to be an intermediate skill level.
    The remit of the 4* is Force 4. The winds bowler felt he was out in, 40-45kn, would be Force 9.

    The 4* assessment is not always easy to pass, but it is very reasonable. Force 4 isn't really that much, but the level of skill demonstrated by the 4* paddler must be very high. The test is not about gnarl factor, it is about ownership of skills in reasonable sea conditions.
    Take those skills into Force 5, and nothing really changes except the judgement to be there, and acceptance of risk. But everything changes dramatically at Forc 6.
    Force 4 is 11-16kn. At twice the wind speed, the actual forces on the boat go eightfold. That's right, it becomes exponential, not linear. That happens somewhere about Force 6 and 7(6 is 22-27, 7 is 28-33).

    The behavior of a boat changes quite a bit at that point. Some of the design features that can balance out a boat at reasonable wind speeds (Force 3-5), can start to play havoc; the skill set of the paddler also needs to change. Much of what works at Force 3-5, the domain of the 4* paddler, may no longer be working.

    I would suggest that the knowledge bowler possesses as a 4* paddler do not infer skill or awareness of what happened, but it does give him appreciation and ability apply the feedback from taking his intermediate skills into an advanced environment.

    I would say, well done.


  • "I would say, well done."
    -- Last Updated: Feb-14-08 1:39 AM EST --

    Coming from Karl this has weight.

    Thank you Karl for succinctly noting the nature of a 4*.

  • Backing up to go forward
    In one of my responses in this thread, plus another Celia referred to, there was brought up the technique of backing up to turn a boat upwind.

    I think it needs elaboration.
    I made the comment that, if a paddler is using this technique, the wind could not really be considered "high wind".

    Here is the background.
    It is true, valid, and usefull to understand when and why a kayak can turn more readily when backing up. And also, the limitation. The great majority of sea kayaks are not symmetrical in their lengthwise underwater profile. In designing for the goal of tracking, most have more rocker forwards, and some form of hull design aft to enhance tracking- a stiffer stern, if you willl (note- a stiff bow is not a good tracking feature!).
    At this point, it may be useful to do an experiment with your boat before you read on. Put some weight of significance in your bow compartment, then try to paddle in a straight line with that slightly deeper bow. Hard, huh? Now, back up and try to go straight (usually difficult for many). Easier, right?

    Thus it is with a trimmed sea kayak. Backing up, once a turn has started, the quality of the turn is more dramatic than it is when going forward.

    Some kayaks (Nordkapp HM, the old Eddyline Falcons) with permanent skeg sterns were found to be very hard to turn around. Back them up and initiate a turn, and they turn wildly!
    So yes, going backwards can be a valid way to turn upwind.
    But only in moderate wind. If one thinks that this is "the way" to turn upwind in high wind, they will absolutley be shocked,and scared silly when they try it in truly high winds. The simple initiation of the reverse sweep will act as an anchor, and the boat will pivot strongly downwind off the paddle. Remember that the force from wind goes eightfold when the wind speed doubles- pushing hard into the wind off the stern, even though you are thinking you are just pushing the stern farther downwind, you are also trying to spin the forward part upwind. Even if your name is Arnold, no one has the strength to do this at a certain wind speed. I guarantee you, the first thing you feel is fear when you push as hard as you can, and the boat does the opposite of what your goal was!

    Anybody out there reading this own a Pintail, or the old drop skeg Elaho? Paddled it in very high winds? Noticed that it may have been less problem than your friends were having when turning upwind?
  • Love it when Otterslide talks theory
    "Observation is a merciless critic of theory." - Very true Salty, but it is a thing of beauty when well thought out theory is used to explain careful observation.

    The only thing I can contribute from my limited experience is that you may have to make modifications when you are pointed at a hard place. I was in a sudden squall - no waves; pure wind and foolishly got myself sideways and pointed at a cliff. By the time I figured out to paddle backwards to turn downwind and then hard forward to U-turn upwind to the open side, I'd blown a long way. Also learned some stuff about packing a kayak for trim.

    Listen to Karl; the only thing better would be to have this discussion over a flask of Scotch.
  • great questions
    are leading to excellent discussions.

  • High winds
    -- Last Updated: Feb-14-08 3:45 PM EST --

    That 30 plus mile per hour stuff, for sure the higher gusts we measured on shore, was the heftiest I'd been in so far where I was well offshore. Maybe since then, certainly there haven't been a lot of such days. It was also the highest wind condition in which I've had the pleasure of making so many new discoveries, like that the deck of a Vela is a lousy rescue platform for an over 6 ft tall person.

    I have messed around in what the weather did later report as 47-50 closer in to shore and had the chance to learn two probably useless things. One is that rolling up against that level of wind is a real pain, and the other is that doing a balance brace on the favorable side is really really easy. (as long as you come back up again before you get blown into a dock)

    Seriously though - I think that Otterslide's comment about what constitutes truly high winds goes to a critical part of this. What Matt reported out as wind speeds is going to be a problem for even fairly experienced paddlers. And it does happen - that high wind day (I think 50 qualifies) I mention above was the only day we've experienced like that in many years of visiting Muscongous in July. There was a gathering the same day at Popham of some very experienced paddlers from the Boston area, and word we got later from a participant was that the capsize rate was running awfully high for this bunch.

    And before someone says anything about weather reports, it was a shining moment for NOAA. They had changed their programming and every NOAA station south of Ellesworth had sudddenly found their marine forecasts weren't broadcasting. So anticipating things wasn't the easiest.

  • Praxis
    Theory in practice.

    Gosh, I wish I was on the water with Karl in winds really benefitting from this!
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