Paddle left, go left... hmmm?

Okay, so I have owed an ocean kayak sit on top for years and never had any problems steering it, though do struggle with strong tides, but I took a beginners class with a friend and they put me in a dagger… about 12-14 feet. We were doing fine until I went to paddle harder and faster and it started tracking to the left.

I wasn’t leaning. The paddle was offset, not adjustable, but I could paddle five strokes left and would still veer left. There was not tide, no wind. I was pulling straight back and stopping at the hip. It was very frustrating. I even checked to see if the rudder was up. I tried doing a sweep to correct and it made it worse and kept having to sweep back to the right to course correct, slowing me down.

Any ideas if it was me or the boat? I have had this happen before in the canoe when a side wind hit me, but there was no wind I could detect.

If the boat starts to turn

– Last Updated: Sep-17-08 11:03 AM EST –

to one side, which it will tend to do rather than go straight, you need to overcome that tendency completely before it starts going straight or turn the other way.

If you only partially overcome the initial tendency to turn to one side, you are just fighting endlessly. So, paddle harder for a couple of strokes, may be do a sweep stroke or two and when the boat straightens, then keep it there by doing early corrections and not letting it start to turn too much.

Not sure if I'm making sense here. It's like riding a bike with not hands - if you let it turn too much you need a very strong conter-lean to straighten it and you are moving in big arches rather than in a straight line. If you do small corrections as soon as you feel it starts to veer-off the straight line, then it is a lot easier and it goes in an almost straight line with minimum turning and very small correction effort.

If the boat is bent, then that's another story and you are at a loss - constant corrections...

I did correct

– Last Updated: Sep-17-08 11:47 AM EST –

At the first signs, but I would paddle to the left, not using right side at all and the boat continued to go left and would not straighten. The only way to right it was to draw the right paddle back, which of course slowed forward movement.
If I went slow, it didn't do it so much, but as soon as I would try to get up to speed the back end of the boat swung to the right almost like something was pulling it. I'd take a corrective stroke to the left and it would keep going left. I tried several diferent types of strokes, but no luck. It was very frustrating.

Is there a way to check if the boat was bent? It looked fine.

heard this mentioned before
One comment was that perhaps the paddler wasn’t sitting directly in the middle of the boat and it was tilted a bit to one side, causing it to veer a bit that way.

since you’re not positive
whether or not it’s the boat, I will assume it may not be. Make sure at the end of your stroke that you’re quickly snapping the paddle out of the water. If you leave it in the water even for an instant, it will turn your boat. You could be sweeping on the left side to turn your boat, and at the end of every sweep allowing your paddle to linger in the water for an instant, allowing it to act as a stern rudder, turning you in the opposite direction you are trying to turn.

If you’re truly free from current and wind, line your bow up with something out in front of you. Make sure that if your forward stroke is causing your bow to move left and right with each stroke, that it’s moving the same distance to the left and to the right. (Bow wag is not something desireable to achieve, but it may help you figure your forward stroke.)

A pretty common thing that could be occurring is that as you attempt to paddle faster, you aren’t using the same torso rotation on one side as the other. Perhaps when you’re rotated to the left, you’re planting your paddle right away and getting a full rotation with your stroke with your right blade in the water. Then you’re allowing you’re body to unwind a bit before planting your paddle on the left side, thereby getting less power on the left side and causing the turn to the left. Pay close attention to how hard you’re pressing with each foot as you paddle. If you notice you seem to be pressing harder with one foot, figure out why and correct it. Again, line up your bow, watch the immediate effect of each stroke on the bow, and you’ll be able to work out your own kinks, or possibly discover that it’s not you at all. Have someone experienced jump in your boat if possible and they should be able to tell in short order if it’s the boat.

some other things to check
Here are a few things to check:

  • are you leaning a little to one side than the other?
  • are your paddle blades both going the same depth into the water?
  • are your paddle blades entering and exiting the water the same distance from the side of the boat?
  • are you holding your paddle in the middle?
  • are the power faces of your paddle blades both attacking the water at the same angle?
  • are you rotating your torso more on one side than the other?

    Any of these things can cause the boat to turn slightly, and you may not be realizing you’re doing any of them. Maybe next time you’re on the water, focus on each one of these one at a time and see if it fixes your problem. I hope you can figure out what the problem is! (it’s probably not the boat, unless it’s just a bad hull design that doesn’t track at all)

  • Jim

    Sunapee Outfitters

I am guessing that your
right and left side strokes are not symmetrical. For whatever reason you have a tendency to sweep on the right side…too long a stroke? Blade just a tad longer on the right?

And that is enough in this particular unruly boat to get the stern to skid. Short boats do that easily…look at ww kayaks…they also develop a bow wave that pushes against the wave. Once the stern is a little out of line that bow wave makes it extremely hard to countercorrect.

Congratulations. You are doing an inside circle with uncorrected forward stroke for canoeists…this is a hard skill to master! (yes I know you didnt want it). Properly done inside circles spiral inward and inward even more.

You don’t own the Dagger, right?
Check your OK boat to see if IT is straight. It is possible that it is warped one way and your stroke has adapted to it, and therefore screwed up when you paddle another boat. Especially if the Dagger was warped in the other direction. Don’t laugh–this is an entirely possible scenario.

I know I wasn’t leaning, but I could have had more weight on my left hip bone. I tried to shift my weight to the right to see if that would make a difference and then tried shifting left, but it didn’t seem to affect it much. I wonder if dropping a shoulder down or using blades offset for a right hand person when I am left handed would affect it??

This sounds quite reasonable.
I was in a rental boat for the class and the foot pedals were too short… would not even extend out to the ends of my feet and I have a left shoulder injury that has healed, but does prevent me from lifting the left arm as high as the right. Funny, never had that problem with the sit on top though, guess it is less sensitive since the bottom is flat.

ha ha!!!
I was thinking I was totally losing it! Didn’t know I had perfected a canoe stroke! That’s one way of looking at it. I felt quite stupid almost turning around in a circle trying to go right, and still going left.

I am going to have to borrow a regular kayak from someone and spend time playing around with it. I hate that the boat got the better of me.

I do notice in the sit on top I tend to choke down on the paddle on the right side and the paddle I was using was a bit too long for me. I tried to focus on holding them level and reaching the same distance and entering the same angle and depth, but did feel off center a bit. My friend said she would have liked to have had a video so she could see if she was doing it right, so that might be an option if I try it again, then I can see what I am doing and know for sure.

Thanks, that was helpful!

My friend was in a similar Dagger and hers was shifting left too, but she had less problems with it. All of us were in the Dagger style kayaks and all of us had problems getting them to go staight at first, but everyone else seemed to adapt and I seemed to get worse. Since I was the only one with kayaking experience, that was kind of humbling. I was hoping this was a problem with these style boats and not me!!! I do have back and shoulder issues though, so am thinking it was more me than the boat.

Get someone else…
Get someone else to paddle the same boat. Can tell you then if it is you or the boat.

I wish I could but…
It was a class I signed up for for Kayak for a Kure with a friend who wanted to learn to kayak. She had a very similar boat and had very similar problems with it, but she was able to correct hers. I kept getting worse the harder I tried to correct it.

Was it a Dagger Cortez ?
I don’t use rudders on my own boats. I did a two hour paddle in a Cortez and could not keep the stupid boat tracking very well without the rudder. That was a first for me. For a boat of that length it was very squirrely.

I’m not sure what it was
It didn’t have what type it was, only Dagger. The three the girls were in were all sort of rounded on the bottom and v shaped at the ends… maybe 12 or 14 feet with wide open cockpits. I know I could not keep my feet upright without having to curl my toes back or point them, so the front hull could have only been about nine inches deep inside. I had about a foot of wiggle room for my hips though.

Turning Left
I have similar problem with a spectrum. The stern would slide across the surface of the water. I cured it by gluing a molding under the keel on the rear half of the boat.

I just read some of the reviews
on the Cortez Dagger and I do believe it was the boat now, as they all described similar things. The instructor had disabled the rudder because he said people were using it to steer instead of the paddles.

It’s interesting to learn all this. I think next time they have a kayak demo/test somewhere, I will have to try out several different boats and see if it is me or the boat!!!

Who was your instructor ???