Seat position vs tracking?

I just purchased a used Eddyline Journey. It has a fairly pronounced rocker with a skeg. On my first paddle, I noticed that without the skeg down, it tracked horribly. That is to say, with no wind, when I stopped paddling and let it glide, it would veer to one side or the other rather than holding a straight course. Deployment of the skeg corrected this.

The journey’s seat is adjustable forward and back. I had it in the full back position which allowed more room in the bow for my size 10 feet. I’m wondering how much effect moving the seat forward is likely to have on tracking. Of course I’ll experiment, but the weather is getting colder and there may not be many more good days that correspond to my work schedule before the snow flies.

Any thoughts on the theory of how seat position/balance point affect tracking are appreciated.

Turning from the rear

– Last Updated: Sep-18-13 11:44 AM EST –

Kayaks tend to turn by sliding the rear end. So, if you move the seat forward, you will probably make your tracking problem worse. Moving the seat to the rear, however, will not necessarily fix that. Use a bit of skeg if this is what makes it go straight when you are not paddling. This is normal, most maneuverable kayaks will do that. I have a video link to show the difference with and without skeg:

Notice that, with a bit of skeg, the tracking behavior changes. the rear end is prevented from continuing to slide and when the paddler changes the edging to the other side, the boat changes direction accordingly. That's what you want to maintain your heading or to change directions through edging. If the guy was not edging, the kayak would go straight with the skeg down.

When the skeg is up (second part of video), skeg is not used, and the kayak veers off to one side and continues to turn in that direction despite edging to try to correct it. Even if he was not edging, his kayak would likely turn left or right sooner or later.

I suspect you are not edging on purpose, but even the slightest change from perfectly centered will initiate a turn and the kayak will just keep turning. That's normal for your kayak and for many others. Use the skeg to counter it. Good kayaks will do what the kayak in the video does - gives you the option to slide or not slide, depending on skeg position.

Trimming the center of gravity with the seat position can help with that and also with weather cocking in wind, so use that to your advantage once you have had a chance to experiment and find what works in what conditions. Use the seat if you can't achieve good balance with or without the skeg (and for comfort), otherwise, leave it alone. If you load the boat more in the back with some stuff, move the seat forward to compensate, for instance.

If you are having problems tracking while paddling actively, then it is your paddling technique that needs polishing, but I think this is not what your question was about.

Seat Position vs tracking
Thanks Kocho. While I’m sure my paddling technique can use work, you’re correct: I’m talking about glide after I’ve stopped paddling. My experience is fairly limited, but I haven’t experienced this much drift in other kayaks…or even my canoe. I guess that’s a trade-off with maneuverability. The skeg does counteract this issue, I just hadn’t expected to need it unless I was experiencing weathercocking.

Nice video BTW.

edge your boat
and blend in a stern rudder at the end of your stroke. With a turny boat, practice edging your boat by raising your knee. Lift your right knee to go right as kayaks are edged away from the turn. Also practice blending a stern rudder into the end of your stroke when you stop paddling such. Also finishing your forward stroke sooner will reduce the amount of turn you initiate with each stroke.

It sounds to me…
like your seat position could be part of the problem, especially if you notice it mainly during the glide and not while actively paddling. Even with a highly rockered boat, the more surface area you have underwater lengthwise, the better the boat will track on the glide. If the boat is weighted so that the back end is deeper in the water than the front end, I would think it would be far more likely to turn on the glide. I would think you’d almost always want the boat to be balanced front to rear, for a number of reasons with that being a big one.

I used to feel the same way
when I first got my Journey. It seemed to weathercock with the slightest amount of wind and would slide off course whenever I stopped paddling. But by the second season I noticed that I was no longer aware of any problem at all. I can’t tell you what I changed, but I assume I adapted my stroke and body position to work with the natural tendencies of the kayak. Maybe we also stop being so particular about things.

From a review in Sea Kayaker magazine: “In the wind the

Journey wants to weathercock, but corrective

leaning was enough to correct

the problem. The boat is so nimble that

course corrections are easily made.”

My seat is jammed right back to the rear coaming and I no longer have a tracking problem, so I don’t think it’s your seat position.

Now, a manufacturing defect or deformation is theoretically possible. I returned my first Journey due to a lot of water in the rear hatch. That one had a noticeable tracking problem, always veering to the same side when I stopped paddling. The replacement was dry and I also noticed that it tracked better. So if you feel the tracking problem is significant, check the hull for any deformities and sight it down the center.

It’s said that thermoformed plastic can’t deform, but I’m betting that if you left it very tightly cinched down on a roof rack in 100-degree sun for a week that that could do some damage. I always loosen the straps whenever possible, like in a hot parking lot.

A tale

– Last Updated: Sep-18-13 8:32 PM EST –

Once upon a time I had a thermoformed Aquaterra Spectrum. The darn thing had such a loose stern that even a rudder could not prevent weathercocking and I fought that beast for two years before sending it off somewhere.

Years later I met the designer, who I respect. I have a number of his boats and all behave wonderfully. I told him that I wondered why I found the best boats were designed by him but this one was the absolutely most horrid boat I had ever paddled.

He told me that it was not designed that way but when it came out of the mold the stern sprang up. And the cost to fix that defect too high to warrant doing it.

So sometimes it is the manufacturing process and the reward/cost ratio. The boat was an entry level weekend kayak that we were pushing in severe conditions for it.

A regional rep told me heatedly that it was impossible for a thermoformed kayak to have any such defect but I didn’t believe it.

I’m wondering if a problem with the skeg box could cause a slight tracking problem. It’s alignment, for example.

That’s indeed a nice video. Not mine, but it inspired me to try and experiment with attaching a small skeg on a skegless and maneuverable kayak (Perception Sonoma 13.6). Without the skeg it would behave a bit like yours. Just too loose in the stern as my long legs seemed to make it nose heavy (the front would be well planted, the rear - loose). I could not move the seat - glued to the hull. With a very small skeg, however, placed wel forward of the rear end, I managed to tune it to both paddle straight easily and also to turn with edging like the kayak in the video. Very cool and useful, because now my edging was actually effective in changing direction, while the kayak would go straight if I did not edge it. I did lose a bit of maneuverability (not much) but the kayak was much more pleasant to paddle in a straight line. Mind you, I also paddle 7’ long whitewater playboats so I don’t have issues with paddling turny boats (these would spin out of line the second you stop padding), just when a kayak has an annoying behavior, my thinking is that if the skeg fixes it, use the skeg :slight_smile:

No problem to be solved
Without the skeg down it should turn into the wind. With the skeg fully down it should turn off the wind. In between you can choose what you want. This assumes you are not edging the boat. Which is important. With correction strokes and edging any decent sea kayak should go straight forward without a problem. It is unreasonable to expect the boat to do what it is not designed to do. Maybe take some lessons?

Quick Experiment
A easy way to check to see if moving the seat forward

would help : put some weight into the front hatch, this would trim the bow down. Give it a try to see if this works for you. For cruising I prefer to have the bow down a bit on high rockered boats to help the bow from climbing up and plowing water. See what works best for you and your boat.

Isn’t the boat

– Last Updated: Sep-19-13 9:51 AM EST –

Journey, accounting for bow and stern layout, has a Length to Width ratio of 8, indicating strong tracking tendencies. Movint the seat aft will improve tracking as it "skegs" the stern. Stern rocker effects tracking relative to misdirected forward strokes, bow rocker in pretty insignificant in that regard.

Two suggestions: Use a more vertical forward stroke. End it mid thigh. Most misdirection occurs when the blade is carried aft of the body. The strokes end is always sweeping, which turns the boat.

Lastly, Journey is a relatively narrow hull, so any unintended weighting, even dropping an elbow, will cause the thing to carve away from the weighted side.

bon chance!

good discussion
Perhaps someone could take a picture of you while paddling the boat - obvious trim issues can be quite apparent. One would look for equal submersion of both stern and bow.