Down wind in a loaded Osprey?

A question about paddling the Osprey down wind.

I took my Osprey (built by Swift) up to Moosehead and Chesuncook Lakes in northern Maine this last week. I had the boat loaded with roughly 100 lbs of gear, roughly evenly split fore and aft, as well as my 180 lbs on the sliding seat.

We had some moderately windy days, blowing 10 to 20 mph with 1 to 3 foot waves (peak to trough).

I was able to to paddle up wind pretty well taking on only a little water from time to time. I had a down wind sail, no leeboard or rudder and that worked pretty well also.

Our last day out we had to go a few miles down wind on Chesuncook. That was the windiest day. I found the sailing a bit more exciting than expected and I thought it might be prudent to drop the sail and paddle. Boy was I wrong!

Paddling I could not hold a down wind course. The boat consistantly broached and sat beam to the wind and waves. Nothing I tried, shifting my weight, heeling the boat or paddle strokes let me hold the down wind course I needed. Fortunately with my knees in the chines she was reasonably steady and the surf was minimal so I was able to let the wind drive me almost onto the rocks before jumping out and landing her. A short carry over graveyard point got me into the sheltered bay where I was going so all was well.

I’ve had the boat out in similar conditions with only a day tripping load. It was a handful but I was able to hold a course. So I believe it’s the extra 100 lbs that is making the difference.

I wonder if anyone might have any suggestions as to what I might do if I was faced with those conditions and had farther to go?

Of if perhaps those are not conditions the Osprey should be asked to handle?


Improvise a sea anchor?

has to be
the way that you had your load distibuted I would think.

Probably had the trim such that the center of balance was too far forward, thus making the stern loose.

The Osprey is squirelly in the wind in my opinion…but should not broach so badly as you describe.

That is just my guess but if you were broaching downwind I would say that you had too much weight in front and not enough in back.

Even if you had equal weight front and back the weight in front is probably farther forward of the center of the boat thus making it “heavier” in essence in terms of boat handling.


Mariner Kayaks
website talks a lot about balancing a load for paddlng in windy conditions since their kayaks have neither rudder or skeg.

They do claim that weathercocking increases with an increased load. They suggest a 2:1 (rear to front) ratio of weight balance. This is because the front load is farther away from center (out in front of your feet) than the rear load in a kayak. Not sure how the distance from center is for an Osprey with a sliding seat. I would try the seat as far back as possible and something close to the 2:1 (rear to front) weight balance to see if it makes a difference.

One problem you do have with a loaded boat is momentum. Once a wave or wind gust starts the bow swinging you not only have to counter the normal wind/wave force, but you have to stop the momentum of all the extra moving weight. When my Mariner is loaded I find I have to use an extra opposite correction. Once the kayak swings off course I will do a correction (edge or stroke) to start it moving back. In an unloaded boat coming off the edge stops the correction. With a loaded boat the correction continues until I make a small corrective stroke in the other direction or do a quick edge on the opposite side to stop the swing.

You also have 2 different forces acting on the canoe. The wind is producing weathercocking and the waves (speed difference front to back of wave) producing broaching. If you get just the right wavelength the broaching part can be terrible even if the wind is not that great. Some of my worst control days were in winds in the 15-18 mph while I easily rode longer wavelengths waves in 20-25 mph winds.

Please let us know what you tried and if anything worked. I know I am going to run into a similar problem in my canoe one day. I really wonder if it will be a lot different adjusting than with the kayak.


How about
Did you try deliberately making the boat very decidedly stern-heavy so that it would lee-cock? Were there any significant waves that were tending to cause the boat to broach into the troughs?

What you describe (in addition to the possibility of immersion hypothermia)is one of the reasons I treat open-water traverses of big lakes with a lot of respect.

Don’t know that this is Osprey specific
Probably could happen in any canoe, unless you have reason to believe the Osprey is an abnormally aggressive windcocker independent of load.

The first line solution of shifting load aft has been discussed. Of course, even if that worked, the Osprey’s modest 15.5" stern depth could have presented a rear swamping risk in downwind waves with a heavy load in the stern.

I can relate. The most out of control I have ever felt was on one of the lakes on the Maine Moose River. I was in a highly rockered whitewater boat, a Millbrook ME, going downwind in a stiff but not overwhelming wind. I couldn’t control the boat at all and had to stay broached. Thank goodness it was a deep WW boat.

Its embarrassing to paddle
downwind backwards. But on La Verendrye’s Antostagan Lake with breaking waves I had to do it.

My load was not cooperating…Dog refused to tuck into me and stayed way in the bow. Sure it was related to the load distribution in the Merlin II.

What I did find with my unhappy dog experience is that broaching could be corrected only by bring the boat to a dead stop and then pivoting. That is another tactic that I have employed successfully with boats with differential rocker and no dog but a heavy load.

I have not figured out the physics of why that works yet.

I asked a similar question awhile
back, and the few responses didn’t help much with understanding the dilemna.

Weathercocking or windcocking is a reality, and very

uncomfortable when you are confronted with its presence.

I appreciate the responses you got, as they are full of

insight to the situation. Thanks for helping me with

some understanding, although I don’t understand how the

weight of 2:1 (rear to front) would benefit when the

rear usually has less wetted surface area. My impression was that I should have had more weight up front. That’s ok,

I learned something from the post responses anyway.

mickjetblue, read my long post here …
… about paddling in wind on Clock Lake. Also the rest of the thread.

A few more thoughts

– Last Updated: Sep-22-09 9:14 AM EST –

A few more thoughts.
I was working to keep pointed down wind even with the sail up. The fear of broaching under sail was the reason I took it down.
No way I could ever paddle that fast.
But that may support the idea that I was bow heavy. Unfortunately I've only been able to fit my portage cart up in front. At almost 30 lbs that's a hard bit to balance. I'm thinking I need to do something different.
It sure was nice on the 2 mile Northeast carry though.

edited to add,
Whoops I took my cart to work and weighed it. The manufacturer said it was 27 lbs but my scale says its just under 17 lbs.

That’s a good thread Glen
Thanks for the link.

I’m pretty clear on the effects of trim on windage ie weight the bow to paddle upwind, weight the stern to paddle down.

I’m not so clear on what all those waves overtaking me are doing or how to compensate for them.

So much to learn !

Same spot, similar conditions.
Fully loaded OT Penobscot 17 trimmed slightly aft. About 9 or 10 A.M., increasing wind out of the northwest. Partner in the bow with jury-rigged poncho/paddles sail, and me standing in the stern, steering with a long guide paddle. We were just tearing along, and I was thinking we’d get down the lake by noon, when I suddenly got a funny feeling like I’d lost steerage and the whole boat just kinda rose up, bow sticking out into the open air! I dropped to my knees about as fast as I’ve ever done anything and Becky instinctively let the rig blow out. As we came back down into the trough, in danger of broaching, we managed to regain our course and stayed seated for the rest of the day. It was the closest we ever came to a very bad situation, as we were at least 100 yds. from shore and absolutely alone on Chesuncook. It was half dumb luck that were okay. Neither of us had experienced conditions quite as dramatic before. We never had a problem maintaining course, though the wind kept up strong all day.

How did the tandems on your trip do in those conditions? They looked a bit stern-heavy in your pics.

Mike and Chuck, in Mikes 17’ Explorer, held a steady course and surfed down wind into the inlet by the Lakehouse no problem. Exciting but no problem.

Billy and Jim, in Jim’s 16’ Prospector, were taking waves over the side trying to paddle out above Graveyard Point and carried where I did. I suspect had they held their original course they would have been fine as well.

Nice thread, Glenn.

That you may have been bow heavy …
… might also be suggested by how easily you maintained course into the wind the day before, assuming your gear was configured the same.

If you had 85 pounds of lead ballast on your inside keel, you could test the weight effects by sliding the ballast around during a test on a windy day.

Have you considered the possibility that your scale reads 10 pounds under? Scary, I know.

With Mike in the back, our trim was pretty good for that wind. We had seen you, Bill and Jim pull to the right on the other side of that sand delta to wait for us, but we had a good bearing on Cemetery Point and felt that had we followed you, regaining that bearing could be difficult…so we went for it. The wind was big and the waves were big enough to occasionally surf us, but I never felt we were out of control or in danger…until just before we reached the point.

At that point, it seemed we just crossed a divide between having some wind shadow helping out, and nothinig but a huge wind fetch, and the wind speed seemed to double. It howled. The canoe seemed to accelerate, and all of a sudden, we were passing the point at a higher rate of speed. I still felt like we were in control, but looking to the side as we blew by, I was stunned at the size of the waves…had to be 3 foot curlers. That’s right, not swells…curlers! Breaking faces! But the next thing I know, with me prying and Mike sweeping, we entered the lee of the point and everything got quiet. Ahhh.

I suspect your issue was trim. It doesn’t take much, especially in that wind, to make a huge difference.


Trim and load. Our old 18.5 Moore
Voyageur was fairly indifferent to wind and waves in conditions similar to Tommy’s, when it was fully loaded with us and gear to maybe 550 pounds. But when we took little voyages from camp (Agnes Lake, Quetico) with just us and no gear, trimmed a bit bow light, we were blown helplessly around and downwind. We’ve had less trouble in our newer tandem, because I moved the seats so that when lightly loaded, we’re trimmed dead level.

Trim can make you vulnerable, and a light load also.

just wondering
if a small leeboard might help, especially placed more aft, like a skeg.

Rowing shells have a prominent skeg
toward the stern, even though they also have a rudder. You’d think such long, narrow craft would be strongly directional without a skeg. I think that the skeg, really a fixed fin, might have had the most effect when rowing downwind or with a quartering wind.