Kayak sailing?

I have a 10’ Eddyline Sky 10 and am thinking about attaching a sail. I’m concerned about the size of my kayak and am concerned about tipping over.
Also curious about the minimum wind speed needed to kayak sail.

The round sails that seem a bit like an umbrella won’t likely flip you (like this or this), but only work down wind and you need a good 10 knots of wind before you really feel it. But the waves created by 10+ knot winds could be an issue.

The sails that allow you to sail a bit more into the wind (triangle shaped sails, like this Falcon Sail) could flip you. Plus, they are made to fold down on your front deck, and a 10 foot boat may not have enough front deck to fit it.

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Thank you Peter. I appreciate your response.

Any sail can flip you if you try hard enough :upside_down_face:

That said, I find kayak sailing to be pretty forgiving. The sails are small and you have your paddle to brace if needed. My sail has a small piece of bungee between the sheet and the sail - something you would never do on a “real” sailboat - but it takes a lot of the bite out of any gusts.

Peter-CA makes a good point - the Sky 10 is a short boat and the mast on any fold down sail will overlap the cockpit a lot on a boat that size. I have some overlap on my 19’ boat. Take a look at the installation instructions for Falcon sails, Flat Earth and Sea Dog and see if the numbers look reasonable before you make the sizeable investment in a sail.

The minimum and maximum wind speeds vary a bit depending on your setup, the conditions and your skill level, but generally I keep the sail up unless it is actively slowing me down (ie paddling into a strong headwind). Upwind in light air works better than downwind in light air, conversely upwind in breezy conditions will get dicey faster than downwind. Generally if the wind is enough to fill the sail it will move a light boat such as a kayak.

Last thing to mention (although this maybe should have been the first) is that there two ways to approach kayak sailing IMO. One is the sail as an assist - this would be a setup with a smaller sail where you are generally still paddling most of the time. No outriggers or leeboards necessary but a rudder is very helpful. The second option is to make the kayak into a sailboat where paddling is only used when there is no wind, or for tight spaces. Generally this would require a larger sail and some sort of outriggers and a leeboard, and a larger rudder is mandatory. The Balogh sailing rig is a good example. Decide which option you are trying to do first will save a bit of frustration later.

Mast overlap on cockpit of a 19’ sea kayak with 0.8 m2 Sea Dog sail. I can and do hit the sail with my hand while paddling.


As others have said the small round sails that assist you in sailing downwind would work fairly well. However a true sail with a mast that will enable you to sail across or into the wind generally also require either a leeboard or outriggers on a kayak to stabilize it and keep it on course.

Also a rudder is fairly important for any type of sail, particularly a sail with a mast, not only to keep you on course, but also to enable to quickly have your hands free to tend the sail or brace in changing conditions.

No rudder. My understanding of downwind is moving in the same direction that the wind is blowing. I don’t need a sail for that. It’s going against the wind that I thought a small sail would help.

It will. And you’d be surprised at how close to the wind you can sail without a leeboard. I can get 60 degrees apparent, maybe a little closer before leeway gets the best of me. Since I’m using the sail as an assist, not as a true sailboat I’m happy with that.

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After watching a video of canoeing with a round sail (pretty cool) it occurred to me that a) conditions have to be just right - stiff following breeze, and b) a golf umbrella would probably work just as well. You might be able to steer a little by angling it or hold it off centerline. Anyway, easy enough to experiment with.

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I have a 10 foot fishing kayak, and I put a falcon sail on it! It works, though the sail has to go under my legs when down. You could also just have it down a fair distance to the side of the boat. I took it out in strong winds and immediately flipped it! Usually my fishing kayak is pretty stable, but I got hit with a big wave at just the right moment when I was putting up the sail. Got the wind knocked out of me, but I survived. If you’re kayaking, you have to be ready for what to do if you get dunked!

I find the sail is helpful in almost all points of sail. If going against the wind, you can paddle “close hauled” at a tack to the wind, and it will still give some boost. Where it is most helpful is downwind, of course. A 10 foot fishing kayak is not the best for sailing, but it works! I’m making some lee boards and buying a bigger sail! I agree a rudder is super useful, but not essential if you’re still planning on paddling 100% of the time.

I appreciate the info but who the hell needs a sail going down wind. I need it mostly for going against the wind.

Then maybe what you need is a motor!

Or a younger body. There was a time when this was not an issue for me.

Ha! I don’t mind a little breeze or some chop, but I stay on shore when it’s too windy. Yer bound to be fighting it on the way out or on the way back … or both.

I got a “Sailboats to go” sail for my MyCanoe folding canoe (figure I could use it on my 180T tandem Loon Kayak, also). It comes with outrigger floats, leeboards and setup for a steering paddle. I used it once, but being a sail boater, was not impressed with the steering oar. That being said - it works fine, but for a larger boat than yours. The MyCanoe is 14.5 feet, I don’t think a 10 foot kayak could hold the sail setup. The outriggers (which are pontoons) would keep you upright in many conditions (as someone said - you can capsize if you try), but the 10 foot length I think would cause you issues with anything with outriggers. the rig can be set up on your deck, but the pontoons would get in the way of paddling. So, while a rig with pontoons for sabilizing are nice - I don’t think that would be an option on a 10 foot boat. That said - smaller sail, which has less tipping force would be recommended. As someone else said - a sail to provide some help, but not full locomotion would be the best option.

@harvey.davidowitz - do you have experience sailing in non-kayaks? Do you understand the basics of sailing and what a sail boat is capable of? Your mention of wanting to use it to go up into the wind makes me ask this.

No and no. The more feedback I’m getting the less inclined I am to even getting a sail. Again, I have no problem paddling with the wind. It’s getting back to the dock after paddling with the wind at my back. That’s the problem. if I had a true sit in kayak maybe the wind wouldn’t be such an issue. But mine is not.

Sail boats can not sail directly in to the wind. With an efficient triangle “sloop style” sails and a keel or dagger board to bite into the water to keep from being pushed too far sideways, you can get to about 45 degrees off of directly upwind.

Less efficient sail and/or no bite in the water (like a kayak not having a dagger board or lee board) and you would have a higher angle of no sail zone.

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@Peter-CA I had the same thoughts. @harvey.davidowitz, no sailing craft can sail straight into the wind. At best around 45 degrees from the true wind direction. And that’s for actual sailboats, not kayaks pretending to be sailboats. To get upwind in a true sailboat you need to do something called tacking, where you zigzag across the wind to make progress to windward. So I think you were hoping to do something that physics just doesn’t allow.

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I knew there was something about changing direction that had to do with tacking but wasn’t sure what it was.
This clears things up and helps a lot Peter, so thank you.