Against the wind


I have been working a lot lately and have been taking some time to read about paddling my canoe. I thought that I would put some of that into practice and take it out on a small local lake (45 acres) and try to get some fish.

I did very little fishing and a LOT of paddling. It was windy, off and on. How fast? IDK. Fast enough to raise 6-8" waves in the center of the lake. Well, I was trying to follow the shore line and was J-Storking like crazy. Sometimes very big Js. Well the wind came up and got blown in a big circle and sent straight into the shore.

I tried again and again but the wind just kept having it’s way with me. I tried tacking. Blown about. I tried to put the boat in irons. Blown about. I tried to broad reach. Blown about. In fact the only thing that I could do was paddle like a mother fracker when the wind was down and then try to steer in the least detremental direction when it cam back up.

I was paddling a 12’ Radisson from the kneeling position amidships from the rear mounted seat. I had a standard issue Wall Mart anchor and all my gear as ballast forward of the thwart.

What was I doing wrong? What magical paddle-stroke will keep me going into the wind? Is it simply a matter of “getting the hang of it” or is there a particular way to paddle while going up-wind on a breezy day?

buy a sea kayak

With a very strong wind and a lightly
loaded canoe, sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to maintain control.

Paddling tandem, in a much longer and more “directional” canoe, we can fight strong, even gusty winds when the boat is loaded to about 500 pounds total. But if we are paddling the same boat, empty except for us, in the same wind, it can be very, very difficult to avoid being blown around and downwind.

If you want to keep headed into the wind, you have to be trimmed bow down. Sounds like you were trying to do that by putting extra stuff in the bow, but do you know if the boat was actually trimmed bow down?

Wind makes things tough

– Last Updated: May-07-08 11:37 PM EST –

We all have trouble with the wind, and "time on the water" is your biggest ally in learning to deal with it (or about any other paddling obstacle). I'm gonna go out on a limb here and make an educated guess that basic practice will make more difference than any quick fix or special tips. That's no insult, more a statement of hope.

First, I figure that if you were experienced enough to be a pretty decent paddler, you would already know enough about dealing with strong wind that your response to that situation, depending on the strength of the wind, would be either to recognize that there was no way to handle the wind in a canoe, or to recognize that your skills were not yet up to the task but could be eventually. You might even recognize the that a different boat would make it easier (as that's another thing that comes with practice and experience).

My main message is this. Listen to tips like trimming-down the bow of the boat, or shifting your position a bit forward of center, and anything else that comes up, but in the end, remember that it takes a lot of practice to get good at solo-canoe handling, so don't worry if nothing seems to "help" right now. Advice that doesn't seem to help enough right now might very well work just fine as your skills get better. I say this the way I do because it wasn't long ago that I went through the same learning process, and the main thing I learned was that small nuances in "how" the paddle is put to water make all the difference. I paddle a few hundred miles every year, and after three years of that I am a LONG way from being a "good paddler" and I still improve steadily on a week-by-week basis. If you paddle on lots of trips, learning to be more efficient with your strokes will come naturally. If you paddle mainly just to get to fishing spots on a small lake, you might consider putting plenty of time into paddling just for fun in addition to your fishing time.

Someone here had a great advice line to another the other day, about "what seems impossible now will seem probable tomorrow, and comfortable at some later time, and pretty easy way down the road ... and that's the beauty of canoeing." The very best advice I have is don't get frustrated.

it’s true, don’t get frustrated
and get a sea kayak…

I have a Yak
Of course I haven;t so much as put it in the water yet and I can barely keep a 12x40 canoe full of stuff organized. I don’t think that I will be organized enough to fish from the Kayak for some time.

I went out today mostly to paddle around ad parctice what I read about J-Strokes and pulls and pushes and such. THe rods were along for a reason to take brakes. I caught nothing and never made it past the back-half of the lake! I’ll take it out again tomorrow or the next day. I pop my Kayak Cherry on Sunday!

trim bow down
I think g2d and guideboatguy make very good points here. Based on your descriptions I’d guess you had more weight aft of midships than forward. Its not enough to have some gear forward. You need to have more weight forward of midships than abaft.

I have a canoe
though I seldom use it as I prefer my kayaks. However, when I’ve been in the canoe solo in wind, what I did was sit it the forward seat and paddle into the wind. The wind will act stronger on the stern as it has more freeboard back there. Makes it real easy to control that way and I don’t really know what I’m doing in a canoe. I use my 230cm kayak paddle which I’m sure is blasphemy in some circles.

More comments

– Last Updated: May-08-08 11:12 AM EST –

I re-read your post and noted one particular thing. You talked about J-stroking like crazy, sometimes very big Js. If you need to apply really strong correction during a J-stroke because of the wind, usually that means you would be better off paddling on the other side in that situation. Often, you can paddle with no correction (just a straight power stroke) on one side when the wind is making your boat want to turn. Sometimes you might even need to broaden that power stroke into a sweep, but that sure beats relying on a J or stern pry as you'd need to do if paddling on the other side. Also, every boat is different, but most likely you will find that there are certain headings relative to the wind direction that allow easier direction control than other headings. You may find that it's best to aim the boat in a direction that's not quite the direction you want to go, just to make paddling easier, and then paddle or more indirect route to your destination. Sometimes, that will make paddling very easy, but at least it will make it "not so hard" as paddling at a more-difficult angle to the wind. Experience will teach you which angles to the wind (along with which side to paddle on) your boat "likes".

Another thing I noticed this time around is that you are paddling a very wide, stubby boat. The short length is probably an advantage in wind, but that extra width will make solo paddling more difficult than it would be in many other kinds of solo canoes. In a wide boat, it's going to be a lot harder to keep your paddle pretty close to vertical while it's in the water, and the variety of different "touches" you can apply to the blade will be more limited. For normal straight-line paddling, you will need more correction on your stroke in that boat than you would in a narrower solo canoe. Overall, I bet this is a winnable battle though. It just takes practice. I wasn't very good at controlling a solo canoe in strong wind until my second year of paddling, and I was getting quite a bit of practice.

Thanks for the help guys!
I was wishing that I had my old canoe yesterday. It was the same length, about 2/3 the width and twice or mor the weight of the Radisson. I’ll be that would have tracked a lot better. I might actually break down an dput the trolling motor on the canoe and save the fancy paddling for the kayak and calmer watter canoing days.

back in my pre kayak days
I used to paddle an old town tripper solo occasionally in the wind—I found the best way to do it was to sit in the bow seat facing the stern—that way I was paddling closer to the middle of the boat and the bow(the stern acually) wouldn’t go up in the air----spent a lot of time doing c and j strokes in winds.

Kayaks are for wimps
You need some ballast in your canoe is all. Probably not a lot either. Try bringing 5 or 6 gallon milk jugs and fill them with H20 when needed. That will give 40- 50 lbs ballast is easy to empty and won’t sink your boat if you decide to swimming.


12’ x 40"?
that sounds like a great rowboat with 6’ oars! you would have no prob rowing in the conditions you describe with a little practice : )

ah Hello Mr. Grumpy this is Mr. Obvious
First off lets look at the boat.

Sportspal/Radison a favorite gun platform for duckhunters everywhere

construction…aluminum sheet, pop rivets and caulk. Expanded closed cell foam sheet on the inside for flotation and sound deadening.

length 12’… not, It’s 11’6"

Beam 38"… Square dancing anyone?



weight only 34 lbs.

Capacity 500 lbs. WHAT?

This boat is available with ore locks, I would say try that. It should handle better with ores or maybe a much wider paddle.

If this post is not a Troll it should be.

Hey, that’s a good idea
I call my little 12-foot packboat, which is a rowboat, my “windproof boat”, because I have yet to encounter a wind that’s too strong to let me maintain control. it’s 12 feet long and 36 inches wide. As long as the waves are not big and closely spaced, it’s invincible. Go ahead - put oars on that machine! Problem solved!