Shearwater Open Water Crossings?

Looking for any opinions on a Shearwater and high winds. Even with using packs and sliding seat, my Shearwater will weathercock with a following sea and strong winds on the stern or sides. I am better at triming for such conditions, but at times I cross large expances of open water and get into some big waves. I am curious if a spray cover will eliminate some of the weathercocking, and aid in protecting me form errent waves that my broach the gunnels. So far the latter has never happened but am looking for opinions from those with more experience than me.


All boats tend to weathercock

– Last Updated: Mar-05-08 10:22 AM EST –

in following winds..unless you are way far aft.

Given that a solo canoeist is more or less in the middle even with a slider.. the best attack is torso rotation and a strong stern draw. Sweeps do not have enough of a sideways component..Your shoulders should be parallel to one gunwale (say your stern is veering to the right) Torso rotate to the left and give a strong draw directed perpendicular to the boat in the stern end.

You will still weathercock with a spray cover. It might keep off errant waves if properly designed. And its not the Shearwater in particular.

I realize
the Shearwater is not the problem. I listed the name as it is the one I paddle. It handles weather and waves very well. I appreciate the paddling advice. Mainly, I was wondering if the spay cover would lessen the weathercocking in strong winds on large crossings. Your response sounds like it would be of minimal help relative to wind. I appreciate the reply.

Spray covers do streamline your boat
Upwind you may be able to make faster progress as the air cant dip down and eddy around…you will be more aerodynamic.

Downwind I cant see the same advantage since your effective speed (difference between your speed and the wind speed) would be much less.

There is a sailing term for this that I forget what it is.

And spray covers do keep you warmer…at least the feet.

It depends upon the load
I have a Shearwater with a snap-on cover and I am guessing that it lessens the rather severe weathercocking of the hull when lightly loaded (i.e. 200 lbs) by about third. However, with a decent tripping load (>275 lbs), the cover in combination with more inertia (due to extra ballast) and less hull above water … this is when the cover seems to help synergistically in a larger way - reducing weathercocking by half or more. The ends of the canoe are less buoyant with a load and so less apt to get bounced up higher by waves. Thus, not only is it less exposed in a moderate situation (med. wind, small waves) but the extra load dampens it’s exposure (due to less hobby-horsing or porpoising)when the waves pick up in size.

In other words … using a cover alone is only somewhat helpful when lightly touring whereas using one with 60-80 lbs tripping load is decidedly more effective for mitigating Shearwater weathercocking (reducing wind deflection by as much as half or more, I think). As adverse conditions increase, the cover becomes more and more necessary (for all the reasons spray covers are good) … and is at it’s best when tripping on large bodies of water (long fetch).

PS: Regarding the Shearwater
The relatively flat shallow arch and overall “fullness” of the Shearwater’s hull design make it especially sensitive to wind deflection … much more so, say, compared to a rounder bottomed, lower volume design like the Bell Magic. Lot’s of rocker (bow 2", stern 1"), volume and flattish bottom all lead to “skidding” over the surface when there’s enough wind from the rear quarter. Just make sure that you can slide around your ballast to sink down that part of the hull that’s getting blasted … bow for headwinds, stern for tailwinds. I put towels under my gear bags to help pull and push them around to where I need them and soak up any splash puddles. When the cover is on and I want to be able to shift ballast, I sometimes use a clothesline cord system looping the small hand thwart as a pulley point.

The Shearwater is a large tripping solo … and so ofcourse it has to have volume for gear and rocker for steering control. I just wish it had 1" bow and 1/2" stern (half as much) so it would skid over the surface less. Because I don’t run river rapids with it, I wish it were more lake oriented.

I like it’s primary stability a lot and so I’m not complaining about it’s flattish bottom. But the rocker is a bit much (imho) for flatwater tripping in windy, open conditions. If I’m tripping on really large lakes, I’ll sometimes deploy a dagger board (from a sailing rig) to act as a skeg 3/4’s of the way back from the bow.

Same issue
I have the same issue with my Osprey. I often use large air bags in hopes that they will reduce the windage same as a spray cover is supposed to.

Can’t say I’ve noticed any great improvement.

Dont see 2 inch bow rocker as much
Plenty of boats have that proportion of 2 bow 1 stern.

Yep when the boat is sunk lower there is less windage…but perhaps more sloppage.

Thats why when boats capsize they go one way and you in the water unaffected by the wind have to struggle to keep up.

The Shearwater is sure full to the ends. I have been on a trip with one and been able to compare its hull shape when over turned with my 15 foot Swift Heron. But maybe full bounce is better than sharp knife through the waves.

Only paddled upwind that day in waves…wind about 30 mph and waves to 2 feet.

canoes are IN the water when weighted
I’m not that knowledgeable of the Shearwater’s height(bow…midship…stern), but if it’s a relatively high bow…etc, as you suspect…you have to get it down IN the water much like a kayak…it’ll then track a little easier. You just can’t go from here to there as straight as an arrow, more or less like the greatest kayak. You have to play it by ear when in a canoe I think…



wind effect- opinion
My opinion.

In my years mulling over canoe cover effectivness and what effect the wind has on the canoe.

I believe that like a sail or wing the wind does not Push it Pulls by creating a low pressure area on the upwind side of the exposed surface.

First along the gunnel edge closest to the winds source then along the second gunnel edge along the same vector. So a cover takes away most of the leading gunnells “lift” zone leaving only the trailing gunnel to have the lift.

A cover will never eliminate wind cocking. It does reduce it in my opinion, maybe by the explanation above, or some other areodynamics I am unaware of.

Dan Cooke

yah you can paddle it straight as an
arrow…its all in stacked hands and a good canoe stroke…which does take practice…you should be able to paddle this boat with less than two degrees of yaw…

the real test of control is to paddle a ww playboat in a straight line.

Choice of paddle
Brammy I don’t know what your paddling stick is, but if it were me out there crossing open water by myself with a hefty quartering tail wind and building waves heading down the reach, I’d be switching from my fast paddle to my control paddle. For me that means from a bent shaft to a straight shaft; from the usual 20" blade to a 24" to 30" blade; from high cadence short strokes to low cadence long powerful strokes; from a blade surface area of about 120 sq in to one of 140 sq in or more, and from as short a shaft length as possible to shaft length at least 4" longer than that. I would choke my lower hand on the shaft above the throat about 4" to keep the blade totally immersed even in the wave troughs. I would start my control maneuvers at front end of each stroke and follow through with more at the back end of a stroke as necessary. If I couldn’t control the boat no matter what I did, it’s time for me to follow the shoreline or get off the water and wait for the wind to let up.

remember that control in the wind
is more effective on the upwind side…

The downwind side is apt to have a paddle catch under you as the boat continues its diagonal track…

Interesting hints on wind and waves for any boat…Welcome to big water!

That got me to thinking
Duluthmoose, I liked what you said about switching paddles. I do agree. To that end, I have a question. I have never used a traditional paddle, but plan on practicing with one this summer, a Kettelwell paddle (the Ray Special). It is long and not as marrow as a traditional paddle, used with a slower cadance. Do you have any experience with a long traditional paddle and high winds/waves?


dan’s the man
he’s the end-all guy on this subject, and he makes a damn good cover.

to answer the question, yes, it will help. as i understand it, the wind goes over one gunwale, drops down a bit and hits the other gunwale on the inside. without a cover, your canoe is getting hit by the wind essentially twice. put a cover on and you get hit once. it’s not that simple, and there are other factors, but that’s a ballpark explanation.

Ray Special
I have no experience with Kettelwell paddles or with any 33" x 5" bladed paddle. The Ray Special looks like an interesting paddle; looks like an elongated ottertail to me. I may have to make one yet this winter and try it. As the Kettelwell folks hint on their website for this paddle, long blades have to have uniform symmetrical tapering to the edges or they may have a tendency to flutter in use. Actually the traditional ottertails, voyager style paddles, and Algonquin type paddles all have blade widths between 5 and 5.5". The uniqueness of the Ray Special appears to me to be really in the length of the blade rather than width.

My experience in wind and waves in a solo canoe is in my Wenonah Voyager, paddled with my home built sugar island paddles (8" x 24") blade size based on the old McCann paddles. This is a big powerful blade and not for everyone. With it I control (meaning holding a straight track, with leeward drift but no weathercocking) the 17.5’ Voyager in quartering tail winds up to 25mph with no spray cover, but it requires instantly being on correction as soon as you feel the stern starting to skate. The Voyager has at least as bad a reputation as the Shearwater for being difficult in wind. You also need to know I am 6’2 and my long torso sits tall in a canoe"; my 260lbs buries the stems of the canoe quite well; and I paddle stronger than most recreational canoeists. Your experience may vary.