Help with weather cocking

I’m hoping someone out there can help me.

Paddling my 16 solo, when encountering 20 mph cross winds the tendency to weathercock towards the wind becomes a nearly insurmountable issue. I have 20 plus years experience with the single blade in solo boats, am fairly strong and have a reasonable level of competence. If I slow down substantially, the issue diminishes as expected. The sliding seat is positioned all the way back but even powerful sweep strokes don’t do the job if reasonable speed is maintained.

I’m a sub 150 lb. lightweight and am wondering if I am simply too light for a 16ft. Solo in those type of wind conditions.

Any wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

What boat?
You might be on the light side for a 16 foot solo which would give it a lot of windage and make it more susceptible to weather cocking or lee cocking.

I would first try trimming the boat a by putting one or two 1 gallon plastic milk jugs filled with river or lake water right up by the stern stem. You might then be able to move your sliding seat a bit forward so that you have some “reserve” capability to move it back when the boat wants to weathercock.

My experience has been that if you trim the stern down enough you can usually correct for the weather cocking. But some longer boats have a tendency to get sideways in wind and “lock in” so that it is difficult to point either the bow or the stern into the wind. I have had this experience with the Wenonah Voyager for example. That is a straight keeled 17 1/2’ canoe.

Maybe you do need a shorter boat
that also sits a bit deeper in the water. You may find that you can paddle it fast more effectively than you can your long boat.

I’m very tall and weigh about 214. I paddle kneeling on a pedestal. So I get more out of leaning back or forward than you do, and my sweep and draw strokes may be more effective.

My screwball opinion is that, if a paddler is going to paddle in a sitting position, then all we have learned about outfitting whitewater kayaks should be applied to padding sitting in a canoe. That is, assuming your butt is already firmly located in a bucket seat, there should be thigh support, and foot support. You should feel rather locked-in so that your sweeps, draws, etc., are more effective.

You wonderful guys!
Your suggestions are truly appreciated and will be tried out tomorrow morn.

I paddle a Placid Shadow.

About a year ago I succumbed and installed a fastrack rudder system. It 100% eliminated the problem, but the purity solo canoe mindset was challenged and it was removed.

Eager to try the water bottles.

All of the Placid Boats
Are well outfitted to achieve the “locked in” quality that you speak of.

I’ve got the high sliding seat and the body position is just perfect for a single blade.

Sweeps Won’t Do!
You’ll have to paddle on the lee side only, using a pitched or C-Stroke (draw the bow towards the blade at the catch, then push the canoe straight ahead past the blade, and end the stroke by pushing the stern away from the blade. Move the sliding seat as far forward as possible. Moving it back will only work against you. 20 kt. wind is very doable, try paddling a rudderless 24 ft. solo outrigger in 30+ kt. wind, now that’s hard work.

lightening the stern
Making the stern light just makes the boat head up into the wind more. The light stern gets blown downwind like a weather vane.

Stern heavy paddle on upwind side
with sweep component on all forward strokes. The Shadow is extremely trim sensitive, more so than many other canoes.

A sweep can be an inside-out “C”

– Last Updated: Nov-18-13 9:22 PM EST –

A sweep performed on the upwind side can be exaggerated so that the first part of the stroke pushes the bow downwind, the middle part of the stroke tends to "twist" the entire boat with the paddler being the pivot point, and the rear part of the stroke pulls the stern upwind. I really think that the effect of this big, semi-circular sweep stroke is stronger than that of a "C" done on the opposite side, but maybe that isn't the case for you. That said, I DO find that when going slowly I can spin the boat to pivot pretty strongly toward a direction that the wind is "discouraging" with a "C" stroke.

And Pblanc is right, that lightening the stern amplifies the problem. When traveling forward, water pressure against the stern is less than that against the bow, so the stern skids more easily causing the boat's aiming point to veer upwind, and this gets more pronounced the faster you go. You don't want to encourage that stern-skidding process to happen even easier than it already does.

If it’s trimmed properly, then all I can
add is to try to firm up your catch. Although I can c-stroke quite effectively, most of the time I just make sure my reach is well forward and my catch is firm. I can J-stroke too, but usually I don’t. If you have a short, firm stroke, ending about when the blade passes your hip, the vector forces are going to make the boat go straight ahead.

Another thing that can help is, if a strong wind is coming from the side and disrupting progress, let the boat come around partway toward the wind and paddle along crabwise, ferrying across the push of the wind.

As to which side you should paddle, I often find that paddling on the windward side works as well as paddling on the lee side. I don’t think there is a rule for this, you just have to find out what works.

paddling side
In a boat that is wanting to point upwind I would generally first try paddling on the upwind side using strong forward strokes and see if the tendency of the forward stroke to turn the boat offside balanced out the tendency of the wind to turn it toward your onside. Sometimes you can find a happy place when you can use nothing but forward strokes applied with abandon and no correction at all.

If the wind is variable, the boat might try to turn upwind with each gust. If that happened I would add a stern draw at the end of the forward stroke. Doing nothing but full half sweeps might work but it gets kind of inefficient.

At that point if I was really having trouble I would switch to the leeward side and apply a strong stern pry at the end of my power strokes as needed. The stern pry is the most powerful correction stroke (apart from a reverse sweep which kills all forward momentum).

Good point - I should clarify
My comment about big sweeps was not to imply that it’s a good method. It’s great for serious, momentary correction when the wind really wants to have it’s way, but not on average, and not for the long haul. I’ve found, as you say, that simply paddling on the upwind side usually does the trick if the boat reasonably well-trimmed for the situation, such that little or no correction is needed – power strokes only.

use a double blade paddle?
While I realize this is sacrilegious to those of you who worship at the “Church of the Single Blade”, but may I respectfully suggest a double blade would have solved the problem. True devotees could use their single blade most of the time while having a two piece double blade hidden in the canoe for the times when needed (if there were no witnesses to this sacrilege).

When I test paddled a Shadow on a windy day (with an Aleutian paddle) I found it extremely responsive and somewhat loose handling. Easy to correct with the Aleutian paddle. Flashing back to the days when I could, and frequently did use a single blade, I think controlling the Shadow in wind would be considerably harder than with the double blade I now have to use (medical reason).


Trim, lee stern pry, heel
Best methodology is a rudder. End of story.

Otherwise for windcocking:

Trim heavier in the stern, as suggested.

Carry a long straight paddle when wind is expected. This gives much more leverage for sweep strokes than a puny bent shaft made for sitting on the floor of an undecked kayak.

Try paddling with C’s on the lee side, also as suggested, being very heavy on a gunwale-assisted stern pry. Really lever the paddle sharply behind you off the gunwale.

Paddle the boat slightly heeled over. Try the heel to both sides. Sometimes the shape of the canoe plus the paddler and gear load will cause an asymmetrical “wind scoop” to help offset the windcock. Sometimes this works heeling into the wind, sometimes heeling away from the wind, sometimes not at all . . . and sometimes you see little fishies.

Maybe, maybe not

– Last Updated: Nov-20-13 12:26 AM EST –

The OP said that "even powerful sweep strokes don't do the job if reasonable speed is maintained." It seems to me that if repeated sweeping on one side was inadequate for getting back on the proper heading, there'd be no advantage in having another blade ready to use on the other side, especially since double-bladed control typically involves adjusting how much power is used and on which side, thereby avoiding the use of corrective strokes. In this case, full power applied on just one side fell short of succeeding, so something else needed to be adjusted, OTHER than having the ability to apply power immediately to either side, and that's what the other posts have been about. To further drive this point home, imagine doing any of the corrective strokes described in this thread which are more effective than sweeps. You could do those with a double blade too (it'd be more difficult), and probably would need to, but then what would you do with your other blade besides leaving it up in the air to catch the wind? I understand that in a lot of situations, double-blade paddling is more effective in strong wind, and I expect that even for much of the time that the OP was on the water that day this probably would have been true, but probably not during the exact situation about which the question was asked.

Does anybody make a kit
to add a good rudder to a composite canoe? I’d like to rudder one of my boats as it would make a sweet photography and fishing platform set up as such.

I saw Wenonah had a rudder option on their little Vision canoe that looked pretty nice.

Ooops… Wenonah Fusion n/t

Call Wenonah
Wenonah offers a SmartTrak Rudder system as a $300 option on the Fusion so they have all the parts ready to go and I’m certain they would be happy to tell you how to install it.

The number is (507) 454-5430.

My experience
I bought a Hemlock Kestrel partially to combat this problem. It is much more wind resistant to my other solos. The worst was my Swift Osprey. The Kestrel’s low freeboard,minimal rocker,and being on the smallside for me all work to help. For me,a single blade is better in crosswinds-I carry both. A longer single like an ottertail is better yet,but would be akward while sitting.


Wind free
I agree with Glenn… sometimes heeling over in one direction or the other works. You want to break the bow lock that keeps it fixed, while the stern gets blown downwind. Heelng may loosen the bow so it is not locked to the water. But in a big blow there are waves to contend with. Heeling over may not be the wisest move, especially if the waves are not consistently predictable in size.

During the 2012 Adirondack 90-miler, I was paddling tandem with my daughter in the bow. Long Lake on day-2 gave us a very strong wind out of the east. Tall trees on the shore offered some break, but not much. The long narrow lake heads north, but about a mile from the end there is a wide bay opening toward the east.

I was about a quarter mile behind a pack of several boats in a group that had started ahead of me. As they approached the open bay, all of a sudden, as if they were perfectly synchronized, they all pitched toward the right heading into the wind. How odd, why would they do that? In a second I realized what was happening… oh boy, here it comes, I thought. When we reached that same point suddenly the canoe lurched to the right in a heavy gust. I had all I could do with sweeps ending in draws to keep us to within at least 45 degrees of our intended course. My daughter alternated from wind side sweeps to lee side moving draws. Ruddering worked, but slowed us, so I kept up with sweeps and stern draws well behind me. I heard later that a voyageur and several other boats flipped in that same spot. Luckily there was a low rocky island just there that people could get to, and safety boats were in the area to assist.

In thinking about what causes such radical weathercocking, it seems there are a couple of different effects. The locking of the bow and wiggle of the stern is one that has been mentioned. But I think there is another as well. Consider that in forward motion the bow is cutting through the air, and even when there is wind from the side, the bow will still cut through and the air may well still be somewhat laminar on the lee side of the bow. But when it gets to behind midships, the inward curvature of the canoe causes a break from laminar air flow, and a low pressure area is created toward the lee stern. All the easier for the wind to blow the stern to a weathercock position. If that is the case, then heeling toward the lee side may reduce the area of low pressure.