into the wind, big or small

I have tried that
Whether you call it zigzagging or tacking, it works. If you can get at a roughly 45° angle to the wind, it is a lot easier than paddling right into it. If you are paddling a very straight-tracking boat with a shallow V hull or a keel, it works best. I can’t confirm it, but at times I have felt like the side of my canoe was acting like a sail and working to speed me up in those cases.

Of course, if you have a boat with high recurved ends and or lots of rocker, I doubt it will work. You are going to get blown around a lot.

Might feel like it, but it doesn’t

– Last Updated: Jul-28-13 6:57 PM EST –

To get the affect of tacking like a sailboat, you need the surface that's affected by the wind to be at a different angle, even slightly so, than that of the surface that's affected by the water. The boat "feels" the force of the wind as being applied at a right angle in the situation you describe, and so the resisting force of water is the same. Slippage of wind past hull isn't noticed as much as slippage of hull past water, and the wind-caused component of your overall direction is straight sideways, though your overall direction is diagonal because the other component is your paddling propulsion. So what you get in the situation you describe is basically just slippage to the side, and whether the boat goes a bit sideways in the water or a lot sideways, it's to no good effect.

On the other hand, if you simply orient the boat at an angle to the wind and simply maintain that angle, with no forward power applied, the boat will actually move backward, with the componant that's sideways to the wind being in the opposite direction as the one you'd be going if paddling. If having this orientation to the wind were in any way beneficial, the boat would move forward when left only to react to the wind (like a sailboat does when tacking), even if it did so only slightly, but instead it goes backward. Try it. Fishermen do this all the time when controlling their direction of wind-propelled drift across a target area of lake bottom. It works the same with all manner of boats.

To properly accomplish what you wish and have the wind actually aid your upwind propulsion, you need the wind-grabbing surface and water-grabbing surface being at slightly different angles, so you end up needing both a sail and a keel (or at least a hull that doesn't side-slip easily. Too much side-slippage, which canoes do quite easily, will eliminate your ability to tack even if you DO have a sail). Your hull can't serve both purposes at the same time because it can't be oriented at an angle relative to itself.

I often find that angling into the wind with a solo canoe is a lot easier simply because I can find a "sweet spot" where I can maximize my forward power with minimal need for correction, and thus move faster with less effort, while going straight into the wind tends to be a delicate balancing act, at least if paddling strongly. When rowing a "canoe-shaped boat", there's no doubt that going straight into the wind is best. Yes, through-the-water speed is faster when going diagonal to the wind, but the component of that velocity in the desired direction of travel (straight upwind) ends up being considerably less than if the boat simply points the proper direction in the first place. Same is true for a tandem canoe (because, just like the rowboat, directional control is less of a balancing act when dealing with wind than it is with a solo).

yep. Going straight into the wind presents less surface to push you backward with. It’s also way easier to keep a heading. Going at an angle into a strong wind means the wind waves keep trying to turn you 90 degrees to the wind then just pushing you sideways (backward to desired direction into wind). You may go faster as measured by a gps for the zig zag but slower to get to your destination upwind. And you end up at least as tired since you have to paddle for a longer distance.

Into the wind is when you really just need to push hard since any slowdown means longer time spent in the wind and you eventually just wear out. So press on hard until you find some shelter or maybe a buoy or such for a rest.

We differ slightly according to boats
With a solo canoe (assuming the use of a single-blade paddle but not sit-and-switch style), maintaining a bit of an angle to the headwind definitely makes it easier to maintain a heading WHILE applying full power. We don’t disagree in principle, but the slight difference due to the propulsion method is worth noting.