confused following chop

In moderate level confused following seas my non-ruddered boats will suddenly veer off my line of direction as the following sea direction changes. I have not mastered the technique of holding these boats (Mariner Express and Seda Ikkuma) on a down weather direction, though moving the seat back on the Express and deploying the skeg on the Ikkuma helps. I do not have this problem on my very straight tracking Solstice GTS, even without using its rudder.

What technique does one use on a quick turning boat to hold a down wave direction in confused but following seas. (I am not talking about surfing a clean wave, which does not cause me any problem. Nor is this question related to weathercocking in wind.)

Paddle faster! :wink:

Learn to work with the waves…

– Last Updated: Mar-09-08 10:19 AM EST –

...rather than against them. Typically in the conditions you describe, the boat is going to yaw back and forth as waves pass under and around it. Rather than fighting the initial turn, wait until the bow starts to swing back, then apply power and edge the boat to turn it back onto the line you want. Eventually, you'll figure out the rhythm and will be paddling and rocking your hips in time WITH the waves, which is much more efficient and effective than fighting AGAINST them. This is one of the things that Nigel Foster emphasizes in his teaching, using the wind, waves and characteristics of your boat to your advantage, rather than struggling with them and trying to muscle your way through boat handling challenges.

you have been handed a challange
the Solstice doesn’t turn,so it jiggles about while going straight in that stuff,and woe to the person who wants to turn in it! My first glass boat was a Solstice.

Basically you were on a conveyor belt paddling the Solstice and now you’re on open terrain with the Express/Seda. Lot’s of choices and challenges you didn’t have before.

I can’t put it better than Brian did. There are moments on the wave where corrections will result in signficant change in direction and other points where it takes TOO MUCH effort to correct. So get used to paddling on waves like you’d ski on moguls.

You won’t be able to rely entirely on visual cues and EVERY paddle stroke has some corrective action. In the Solstice pretty much any kind of stroke makes you go forward. In these other boats you might have one stroke with 60% correction with 40% forward effort with another stroke immediately following it with a 90% forward componenent with 10%bracing.

As a learning challenge it’s like learning 100 spanish words in a couple months time and being able to carry on a primitive conversation.

Next time you get in that choppy stuff play with draw strokes and braces as a way to develop greater facility changing the nature of EACH and every stroke.

A long while back I paddled with two other guys from Sausalito to Alcatraz and around Angel Island after I had my Express for a couple years. One guy had a Solstice and the other guy had a Sealution. The waves were 2’-4’(swell through the gate plus tanker traffic) with 15mph+ breeze. I noticed that I had to point higher than these guys in their ruddered boats to maintain the same course but they were jiggling and bracing a lot more. Where they digged harder with each forward stroke to get a bracing component,with the surprising air stroke unsettling them, I dabbed with a slight draw stroke component to my forward stroke reaching into the rising wave.

Basically you gotta paddle smarter letting the kayak wiggle this way and that never following a straight line. It’s like the difference between walking on a paved path and stepping into a grassy field with 1’ tall grass hiding any holes.

You’re off the beaten path.

Every kayak responds a bit different
in these conditions but I will usually use a low brace stern rudder at the end of a stroke, when needed, to help maintain course. Or if I feel a wave starting to turn the kayak while the stroke is starting, I will use a bit of a sweep stroke to help maintain my course. Some stroke will need to be lengthened and some will need to be shortened also. I enjoy paddling my Pintail in these conditions because it let’s the waves roll under it more than it let’s them grab on and move it.

one of the fun things
is to put in corrective efforts BEFORE the wave takes you in the other direction,and during the forward portion of a stroke,it doesn’t work all the time but every once in awhile it feels like dabbing the surface of the water with the blade and you become the wave.

Worry less about correcting

– Last Updated: Mar-09-08 1:41 PM EST –

I went from a Squall (Solstice series) to a boat with a very loose bow. Following stuff was pretty unnerving until I realized that I didn't need to make the new boat track like the Squall. All I had to do was allow it to wander around a bit and take opportune moments to do light corrections. And relax.
As above, in a more reactive boat you can also effectively anticipate to a fine degree rather than the more brute force approach that the Solstice boats tend to want.

not so fast
greyhawk says to paddle faster. I wish it were so easy.

bnystrum says to work with the waves. Again, I wish it were so easy. In 10 years of going in and out that channel in the Express I did not learn the trick. It continues to be much easier using the rudder on the GTS.

LeeG says the Solstice GTS ‘jiggles’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The GTS is the most rock solid boat I have paddled in these conditions. I used it in tidal race lessons and it works great for powering through them, and I practiced with and without the rudder. The rudder helps.

Celia implies these conditions might be unnerving. I have been doing this long enough that I am quite relaxed, except for working too hard to control direction.

Maybe I just have to accept that I don’t have either the athletic ability or coordination or something.

Bow rudder
You may want to try a bow rudder. The nice thing about a bow rudder is that it can be used at the beginning of any paddle stroke and you can just follow along with the paddle stroke. I use it a lot for minor corrections. The following sea is when the “playful” hull can be a challenge without a skeg. If the sea is pushing you strong enough and you don’t have a skeg or rudder it can be tough. I have experienced that in a Pintail with a stuck skeg and you can’t wait to fix the skeg. I think paddling faster has validity in some instances. If it’s mild waves, paddling faster than the wave speed doesn’t allow the waves to push your boat from the stern which is causing the problem.

"working too hard to control direction"
The unnerving was my initial response, didn’t intend it as a universal.

The point of my post was that you are perhaps trying to control it more tightly than is needed, unless there is a time factor involved in how fast you make it thru the chop. You have a boat that will wander thru that in a way that the GTS didn’t. I am a little flummoxed as to why, after all this time, you haven’t been able to enjoy the ride or switched boats if it makes you so frustrated.

that’s right

– Last Updated: Mar-10-08 6:27 PM EST –

I like the skiing mogul analogy--and using the ruddering stern brace stroke alot as suggested above and below. Don't expect to steer an absolutly straight line--you won't. Just relax and enjoy it and let the wind and waves do most of the work--I get really frustrated paddling with others and trying to keep up with those who are faster or have faster boats. Just concentrate on the bracing and steering and enjoy---nature will take care of the propulsion(I'm assuming you are going down wind.)

When I first started sea kayaking going downwind was problemnatic for me---I felt very tippy all the time---and I prefered to paddle into strong winds because I felt more stable. Now its just the opposite. Once I learned to relax and enjoy it I really prefer to paddle down wind--upwind takes too much out of an old guy like me.

bow rudder
is particularly useful when you are paddling into high winds and waves also. It helps correct the tendancy of a boat to leecock

still fun
Celia wrote that I am working too hard. Perhaps. On entering the channel I try to keep fairly close to a long jetty, so when I relax I suddenly find my self further toward where boat traffic is. With my ruddered GTS I am able to keep a straight path very easily. But I love paddling my non-ruddered boats and just wishing it was easier.

jaybabina relates a similar experience in the pintail. Thanks for a bit of sympathy.

I don’t know how to use a bow rudder. I am fine with stern rudders but if I use one to hold direction it slows me up too much. Also, I don’t know how to put a draw component in the forward stroke as LeeG suggested.

I have no trouble in winds to 20 kts on the open ocean with my non-ruddered boats. It is only the following confused conditions of the channel entrance that are the problem.

Listen to Bnystrom

I agree Celia!

The idea with a maneuverable kayak isn’t to go in a straight like so don’t expect a straight line. When I said “jiggly” I don’t mean stabilty I mean that the sharp ends with no volume combined with a full midsection makes for abrupt transitions in stability. It’s nature pretty much eliminates any feedback for learning effective blade control as the boat won’t respond to different strokes.

Find out where your stroke is effective and use it then. Find out where it’s ineffective and try using the other blade.

I’m guessing that the majority of your steering input through a paddle is primarily paddling harder on one side or the other or primarily through sweep strokes of questionable efficacy, especially stern rudder strokes that slow you down.

Play with all the various ways you can steer your kayak without paddling harder or using steering stern strokes.

Here’s somethng to do on flat water over a few weeks of paddling.

  1. do draw strokes at six positions around your kayak for at least 10’ in each direction. Do each maneuver with three different kinds of draw strokes. It’ll be obvious that some strokes don’t work or you have to radically alter your postion/grip. You cannot do this with effort or some muscles will cramp up.

  2. play with doing a draw stroke while under way, paddle along,coast a bit, put the blade out to the side roughly vertical and draw yourself to the blade then let it release slicing back out. Try this forward and aft with just a bit of blade. This will be the most effective way of maintaining a course next to a seawall or another paddler and you don’t want to swing in one direction or another. A little half blade dab up near the bow drawing you over exactly when needed and not waiting for the opposite side blade to rely on a marginal sweep that requires twice as much effort will clue you into why you’re over controlling by putting the blade where it’s less effective and missing the opportunity to using it where it’s most effective.

    I’ve paddled next to people who have paddled much, much more than me in ruddered boats but they have not learned how to paddle in a straight line next to another paddler by using a slight bow rudder to draw the bow over as it starts to swing.

    That’s the reason for the above exercises, especially playing with the draw while under way.

try a Chatham 16. You’ll have a bit more tracking than the Express and more ease keeping course down wave. It won’t make as big a difference as learning draw strokes but it might help.

It occured to me you need a goal that cultivates better boat control.

Get a rubber ducky, the little yellow bath toys.

Paddle along and throw it forward a few feet to the side, and use only draw strokes and forward strokes to get to it. No sweep strokes.

Now do the same down waves(little ones).

"when I relax…"
I think that’s a clue that your boat control/steerage is a function of physical effort and not control of the blade.

I am not at all a fast learner and much less skilled than a lot of natural athletes but one thing I noticed when I was teaching basic sea kayaking and participating in instructor workshops was that a LOT of paddlers couldn’t make effective strokes with both hands across the centrline. A sweep stroke(NOT a stern rudder) is most effective in the last 30degrees next to the hull. That requires both hands across the centerline and a hard torso rotation. If your sweep stroke ends at 4:00 or 8:00 there’ s a lot more available.

Likewise a rudder while underway requires a clear sense of when the blade is under power and released. Some spooned blades aren’t as user friendly as flatter blades for learning draw strokes as they catch easily in the wrong direction.

Body movement is vital
Many paddlers do not undertand the importance of body position. Agreesive torso positioning etc. Next time you feel the kayak turning to wind try twisting your trunk downwind and facing downwind. Not to interfere with paddling torso rotation, rather in addition to it. Now lean back and twist and load that aft rail/chine. Feel the stern rise on a wave it’s forward lean and a couple of strong strokes to surfing…etc. Too hard to write, but watch a Nigh Performance surf kayaker and note how the body leads the turns. Having the ability to aggresively use your torso works in a sea kayak as well. Don’t be static,

there’s places the blade works well and you cannot apply effort effectively at the right angle unless the torso is turned in the direction otherwise ones wrists are all cranked at their limits.

It’s like the difference being able to lean forward on a bicycle seat with a bent arms comfortably resting/pulling weight on the bars so the pelvis is anchored against the forces of the legs or sitting straight up with limited rpm output before one starts bouncing up and down.