newbie advice: paddling in windy weather

hey all, i am an avid big game hunter and have been bit by the duck hunting bug. i cannot afford a boat but i do have a 174 oldtown canoe and will be hunting in the saltwater creeks and marshes around the chesapeake bay. my concern is, as most hunters know, ducks like windy weather and i am wondering if it is unrealistic to expect to paddle in a 15-20 mph wind across open water and survive…maybe a half mile or so. i am in great shape and can begin practicing in warm weather to get a feel for it. remember, i am new, so this may very well be a “duh” answer. thanks for any tips! one more thing, two people will be paddling.

If you have to ask
If you have to ask, its probably too risky. I’m not knocking the canoe or your paddling skills, but its obvious you have some concerns and that’s a realistic attitude.

Given the “fetch” available on a bay, the waves could be pretty big and a stiff wind will only complicate it. Add in another paddler, shotguns/shells/decoys/retriever, and you are looking at problems.

Check out what other hunters are using in the area and go from there. It may be a v-hull with an outboard–yetch–but you can probably find a good deal on a used one and live.

should have been more clear
some details i should have posted in the beginning. i will be hunting small, narrow guts and wind will not be a problem. getting there, i will have to cross a 1/4 mile area of semi open water, a very small “bay”. this is the spot had some concern about. max seas will be 1-1.5 feet, max wind about 15-20 mph. going will be a head wind and returning will be fair, going by predominent north, north west winds in my area. with details, what do you think?

controlled paddle prior to hunting
Just get out there to experiment with paddling this section with people along that can keep you out of trouble. Make sure and paddle out there to a point where conditions make you uncomfortable, until you swamp or capsize, or you’re unable to make any headway against the wind, etc. Then you will have experience with what you can handle before that flock draws you out into something you don’t belong.

Know your limits
Like CapeFear says, you have to give it a go in a controlled sitation so you know your limits. Experiment with kneeling vs. sitting and how you pack your boat. The boat will feel and paddle differently.

Not uncommon to paddle in 15 knots of wind and 1-1/2 ft chop on big lakes. The tricky part is if it kicks to 25 knot gusts or 1/4 mile fetch builds bigger waves. A much bigger chance of getting munched. It is totally about judgement and what you and your boat can do.

When you practice make sure you take it on the beam and in a following sea, the boat is really going to move on you and you need to be aware.

Lower center of gravity
If you lower the center of gravity by adding ballast to the bottom of your hull (water bags pushed out to each side and hung from the gunwales is best), you will accomplish two critical things. Your primary and secondary stability will go WAY UP and the amount of wind deflection will diminish … mostly due to increased inertia and the hull being deeper in the water (more surface area).

So, paddling it in more difficult conditions will be easier. If you put some oar sockets on the gunwales (simple drill and bolt job) and row it with pinned oars, you could easily control an Old Town 174 in semi-rough conditions. Even just paddling it (much harder than rowing) is doable over a 1/4 to 1/2 mile given the situation as you describe it.

The key is to add balast to the hull bottom … it will make whatever else you do safer and more controllable.

can be done
I paddle a solo canoe in that kind of weather all the time, and I’ve never capsized because of the conditions. But I’ve been paddling frequently since about 1992. If you don’t have as much experience, you might want to work up to it slowly.

The Old Town 174 will be a lot of boat to handle in those conditions (big, hence lots of sail area for the wind to grab). Again, start small and work up to it. The first few times, you may find yourself being blown downwind side-to-the-wind, so choose a day when the wind is blowing somewhere where you want to go.

– Mark

That boat is a heavy boat, and there
should be no problem with two experienced paddlers going into the wind or with the wind behind you, but if that wind is quartering and is blowing at 20, I wouldn’t go out in it.

Heed the weather report, and don’t take any unnecessary chances