Kayak Sailing

I live in MI and am waiting for it to get warmer before experimenting with capsize…

I just picked up a 'Wind Paddle" downwind sailing rig that I am waiting to try out.

For a couple of years now I have been intrigued with the idea of kayak sailing and now that is about to become a reality.

Any useful ideas/anecdotes to share?

Please, not too much sail jargon as me no speaket da glot!


Will start on smaller lakes before big water (Lake Erie)

Initial boat = Venture Skye 17 (16’7" x 23" & Skeg)

No previous sailing experience

Paddler = 5’6" 220 lb and about 25 lbs gear (I always keep a 10 lb emergency supply bag in rear hatch to help with boat tracking)


Sail Curious

only one experience
seeing a fellow fly away from me with a downwind rig on 6’ swells outside the GG. Bridge. No real personal experience. I carred a small umbrella once as a sail.

I’ve heard about umbrella sailing
and I think it was the basis for “Wind Paddle” design.

check out www.windpaddle.com

Need a rudder to sail
Even with a skeg you will be blown sideways. You can use a paddle as a rudder. I have sailed a Feathercraft K2 with a downwind sail and a Klepper Aerius 2 with a shirt between 2 paddles. Pretty fun. http://foldingkayaks.org/gallery/album94/kayak2s http://foldingkayaks.org/gallery/album94/P1010038

A lot of the folks on foldingkayaks.org sail their kayaks too.

Yeah, I’m thinking the skeg
should NOT be deployed for sailing.

Paddle rudder a must. Stern Pry, Stern Pry, Stern Pry.

How to keep hands free for steering with the sheets?

I’ve not seen that design before. I don’t think you will be able to do much beam reaching with that set up. Even though the website says you can go 180 to the wind. You will need a leeboard to keep from being blown sideways. Looks like a downwind rig to me.

It’s “trick” is the spring steel hoop, self launching. I used to have a big nylon hat that curled up into a small package.

I lean towards more conventional sail rigs for my canoes.

Here are some links to some fanatical New Zealand kayak sailors. Lots of good info.



Kite Sailing
I’m surprised we have not heard more about people experimenting with kites and kayaks. I would think a soft foldable kite would have many benefits over a fixed sail:

Portability - a kite could be folded up into a small pouch and stowed behind your seat or in a day hatch.

Reduced risk of capsizing - Because kites pull from above their forces can be used to help keep you upright. Their center of effort is where the lines attach to the kayak or body, therefore can be placed much lower.

Increased force - Kites fly up where there is more wind. They also can be manipulated to fly back and forth generating more apparent wind speed. Therefore a kite could have less area and generate more force than typical kayak sail rigs.

Controlling a kite in the traditional sense requires the use of both hands. This means that the paddle would need to be stowed. I think there are ways of overcoming this with a kite controller mounted on ones body or in front of the cockpit. This would be pretty easy to develop if one was serious enough.

Yeah, I think tacking
is out with this rig.

THEY call it a DOWNWIND rig and I have no illusions about cross wind usefulness.

I liked the following:

  1. affordable - why pay top $ for something that probably won’t see much use vs overall paddle time?

  2. area of force much closer to kayak and center of mass than with a masted rig - should = safer as they claim (or is that wrong? Again I have no experience)

  3. looks like fun

  4. “douses” easily and stows/deploys easily

  5. might extend my range

  6. imagining the look on peoples faces as I sail around in my 'yak!

Kite sailing crossed my radar
but I heard stories about tangled control lines and it sounds very complicated.

Also. I have a bit of “Charlie Brown syndrome” and have not had much luck flying kites.

Check that web site (www.windpaddle.com)The rig is based on a hoop of the same material used for self-expanding “pop up” tents. It pops up into shape in about .5 seconds and with a little practice can be folded away easily.

I am not trying to say it is a great product - I have not actually used it yet (when I do I will post results).

I am just looking for a little advice to help me start out.

You need…
a rudder and a paddle leash would be a good idea. I’ve been sailing without a rudder and have found a rudder would be invaluable. So I ordered one and will install it soon.

I’ve got a Pacific Action sail and you can tack with it.



thought you had an OT Nantucket
I mention this because the last sailing rig I saw on a kayak was on a Nantucket—in the middle of East Penobscot Bay between Pond Island and East Barred—wind was between 5–10 knots in the middle of the summer—we stopped and talked the the fellow. He seemed to be having a ball. His boat had no rudder and he was steering with his paddle. It didn’t seem to be a problem for him. The wind picked up to between 22 and 25 knots during the afternoon and I often wondered how he made out in the heavy breeze.

I couldn’t fly a kite as a kid
I sure as heck am not going to try it from the cockpit of my kayak now

is it just me?
or did Windpaddle misname its product?

It should have, of course, been the “Windwing”, since it operates just like a WING PADDLE in air

no need for rudder!
I have to say that I find absolutely no need for a rudder when sailing!

I have several kayaks, some with rudders some without, and the best sailing one, so far, is a skegged Impex Assateague.

Mind you, the sail is mounted pretty close to the bow.

To view a report click on: http://www.qldseakayak.canoe.org.au/site/canoeing/qldseakayak/downloads/MEI%20News%20Jan08_Sea%20kayak%20sailing%20Fraser%20Island%20.pdf

sailing rig custom design
here are some pix of a sail rig that I designed and constructed.

I use the sail on a skeg kayak (Impex Assateague) and on a Necky Tesla (rudder.




Feel free to use mine…

– Last Updated: Feb-06-08 6:18 PM EST –

a bit more complicated but it works really well!

(AND you can use your paddle as well as the sail)


in use on the river:


Still Got the Nantucket
passed it on to sister when I bought the Skye last Sept.

For that matter still got the Adventure XL 139 I bought her for her B-day in '06. If wider beam = better sail, The Adventure is a 28" beam.