Am a bit concerned so I share my thoughts. Am an average skilled paddler. Very weak roll. Fairly strong lower brace. Very confident edger and turner and descent bow/stern rudder exercuter. Currently paddling an NC 17.
So today I was out at the local reservoir. A recently acquainted fellow paddler showed up as well and wanted me to try out his boat. Was a Mariner Sprite or something of that sorts. I took it out for a spin around the 3.3 mile reservoir. Turning the boat was a joy. Did so on a dime. Tracking was not all that great. Secondary stability was good. So half way through the wind picks up ... about 15-25 mph I reckon. Keeping the bow headed in the right direction (paddling downwind) was somewhat of a challenge. Stability was great and I was faily confident in my staying upright (edging/ bracing). Then I started to make my way up headwind and the wind just kept on blowing my bow out downwind. I was on a constant edge and barely maintained course. At one point the gust was around 30+ mph. And the bloody boat would not in anyway comply in going straight (no drop skeg in the boat). My arms/torso was getting really tired from paddling (balancing) the boat. Tried doing a bow draw but the winds were too strong for me to execute that properly. So I decided to stop paddling just to see how bad it was and the bow turned 100+ degree in 10 seconds or less! I would like to blame it on the boat, but I know that part of the mix was my weak skills. What should I have done in that situation to keep the bow straight and from going down wind so fast (in such windy conditions). And any tips on strengthening my paddling in extremely windy conditions.
p.s> I started paddling backwards and made more headway that way! The stern seemed to track a lot better in the wind than the bow!
get weight forward
It sounds like you were probably trimmed stern-heavy (which is common for calm solo paddling). A light bow is easy to blow around.
Into a wind, get some weight in the bow. Abandon whatever seat/thwart/saddle you have and kneel as far forward as you need to.
It’s especially tough with a lightly loaded boat, it would probably settle down more with a load.
Good Test Of The Boat’s Trim…
The mariners don’t employ skeg or rudder. Rather the boats have moveable seat which allows you to adjust the trim. As the previous post mentioned, you were situated to far back, locking the stern in and resulting in leecocking (turning downwind). Off course, you would not know how the boat’s trimmed for you since it’s not your boat. You have to be out out in the conditions you described to find out. You could have tried to scoot as far forward to compensate but that would have been tiring after awhile, being in an uncomfortable position. Or, go ashore, readjust the seat placement and the boat would have more directional control for you.
Sounds like you did pretty well, all things considered.
Weathercocking–bow turns into wind
Agree with yarnell and Sing, esp sing's comment that you likely did as well as you could under the circumstances, wind and skegless/rudderless boat both working against you.
A J-stroke -- or a stern rudder type stroke on the upwind side-- may have acted as a rudder, in a sense, and allowed you to stay on course. Perfecting this stroke would act to turn the boat toward that side (i.e. away from the side the wind is tending to turn you) and aid in keeping you on track. Perhaps you were doing this.
On a quiet day, see if you can stern rudder stroke on one side and, keeping the paddle strokes roughly equivalent otherwise, see how the boat responds. See how fast you can make it turn. Then add an edge, but as you are efficient at edging, mostly focus on the J-stroke/stern rudder. Get a feel for your abilities with this technique for the next maelstorm.
But, as sing said, you may well have been doing all you could when the wind was 30 mph.
Here is a nifty June 2006 Sea kayaker magazine article on the stern rudder, with photos.
Interpreting CONDITIONS Would Be Good
Especially in a new boat, understanding what the weather conditions will, or could potentially, do is extremely important.
I learned this on Lake Huron, proper, and Drummond Island inland lakes. A buddy of mine, whom I consider a mentor, stopped our group from crossing to Harbor Island off Drummond Island. The wind was picking up and his experience told him of the danger. The “newbies” were ready to cross over, to Canada if he had said, “Go.”
Same thing on First, Second, Third and Fourth Lakes on the interior. Storm coming in and compass wouldn’t work, but I had remembered my Dad saying, “ALWAYS trust your compass.” So me and my buddy were able to find our way back to the other two paddlers who had taken a break. All this area is NOTHING but channels through the reeds, with NOWHERE to go if there is a capsize (no HARD shore).
Anyway, I pointed my Solstice GTS west and we flew off those lakes just before a bitchin’ storm hit. Volatile weather is often hard to predict, but you have to have some sense of same…
Know your boat…or your friends boat
Even if they don’t. Found this on the Mariner web site. Mariner absolutely does not believe in rudders.
· Our sliding seat can be moved back in an instant (even when upside down) effectively making a longer cockpit. This makes entry and exit quick and easy even for those with longer legs. While this is a major advantage when launching or landing in surf, it will be much appreciated anytime you put in or take out under less than ideal conditions.
Tracking and Maneuverability
Mariner kayaks are easily kept on course in conditions that are difficult for most other kayaks. The hull design, windage balance and instant trim changing capability of the sliding seat all contribute to this. This excellent tracking is not at the expense of maneuverability, as with “stiff” tracking kayaks. Many kayaks are so stiff tracking that it takes several hard strokes on one side to make a correction every time wave action pushes their long keels off course. Some designs may turn quicker than a Mariner, but most of these also require constant attention to keep on course.
I took advantage of the sliding seat sliding all the way forward (but remember I am only 135lbs) and it still did not do much. What was strange was that a WS Tsunami 140 with a fairly new paddler was keeping the bow going straight. Thats why I started to question my skills.
I tried the stern rudder stroke , but given those winds the darn paddle was about to fly out of my hands, so I did not do it … instead I used an offset on my paddle grip and did a bit of a shortened sweep stroke all the time.
I guess I am still asking in the back of my mind what should I have done? Anybody here of the flying stroke (you paddle hard thenstick your paddle all the way out on the surface of the water of the upwind side (holding only the blade), lean over so your whole body is on the water and then knee your boat (turn) it upwind). I have done it in calm conditions, but in no way, given my weak roll, I could be confident in doing it in these conditions.
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s not your boat. How does your NC 17 do with you paddling it in such conditions?
Yesterday’s wind was a bear. I didn’t mind the baseline 20-mph stuff. It was the gusts over 30 mph that I gritted my teeth against. I was in a S&G kayak with no skeg or rudder and it behaved well enough. Not exactly confidence-inspiring, but no problems, either.
Sometimes you CAN put part of the blame on the boat. Work on your skills, yeah–in YOUR boat.
I’m pretty sure not all Mariners have the adjustable seat.
No way around the fact
maybe that boat and that wind and your weight isn’t a good match?
it was the boat
okay, I’ll be the only one to say it: IT WAS THE BOAT
There’s a reason why many sea kayakers prefer a boat with the cockpit situated in the center of the boat now. Mariners, God love em, had it further back. So, all things being equal, the boat was more prone to this sort of thing than an NC, Explorer, etc. As experience showed.
(“I would like to blame it on the boat, but I know that part of the mix was my weak skills.”)
requires a different location. More volume to the back. Is it bettter? Don’t know as other hull design characteristics need to be adjusted according. My waveskis are “swede forms”, looking top down. Also, the hump (volume) is also to the rear.
Swede form. Not better, not worse. Different as with fishform, as opposd to the more general symetrical shape which can also be very affected by weatherhelming and thus rudder and skeg dependent in windy conditions.
correct me if I’m wrong
I thought the fish-form/swede-form distinction addressed where the widest part of the boat was vis-a-vis the cockpit, not the location of the cockpit via-a-vis the boat as a whole. I had cockpit location in mind.
I don;t know how practical your flying stroke would be under the conditons, al-jazaraa, because by moving your hands/grip so much on the paddle, esp with the grip on the blade, you would likely lose the paddle in the wind and perhaps even lose your balance in the process.
If you have not seen it though, and maybe you have, the Beyond the Cockpit DVD featuring Derek Hutchinson (available on Pnet), is a keeper. I've watched it five times or so. I find it the most entertaining of the US Kayaking series, as Hutchinson is a hoot. He goes over the extended paddle maneuvers thorougly, with on the water demos, and takes edging to a new level. He does many strokes by using the blade end of the paddle as the grip for leverage on braces. But he does not mention it in the wind.
I'm with the camp above, though, of a skegless boat, cockpit too far back by poor boat design, and small-size paddler = windswept ride. I reread your initial post and indeed see that you are describing a leecocking and a weathercocking both (my misread initially) which is far less common than weather-cocking purely and, in my experience from the keel-less Prijons (which are known for all sorts of cocking), your friend's boat is the major factor in your joyless ride.
The good news, it's not your boat. It's your friend's. Celebrate!
Addendum: The newbie in the WS Tempest did so well right near you in same conditions. That says something about the "Mariner boats are lame-o" theory.
Original poster writes:
"Keeping the bow headed in the right direction (paddling downwind) was somewhat of a challenge. Stability was great and I was fairly confident in my staying upright (edging/ bracing). Then I started to make my way up headwind and the wind just kept on blowing my bow out downwind."
Question for all you knowledgeable paddlers (celia, w-jo, sing, tsc, marshall, etc.) -- why would the same boat weathercock (turn bow back into the wind) initially when original poster was heading downwind, and then leecock (turn bow away from the wind) moments later when he is paddling upwind? Now there is a mystery, no?
Mariners with lots of bow rocker and a stiff tracking stern,and cockpit further back sound like a recipe for leecocking to me, all those put the pivot point of the boat far back and gives wind a lot of leverage . the best thing to do is keep it pointed straight into the wind and not let it stray at all.
You are off a bit. Even with symetrical kayaks, the cockpit is still slightly behind the mid point. Does this make the boat a fish form? Does it become swede form if you were to locate the cockpit even further up? No. it's still symetical.
The form is determined more by where the greater volume and width is placed vis a vis the mid point of the kayak. After that the cockpit gets put in the place seems to achieve the trim that would be appropriate for the average paddler. In most cases, this would still not be too far back so that the boat has some weathercocking (turning upwind) tendency (considered safer) which can then be corrected with rudder/skeg. Mariner chooses a sliding seat to adapt the trim to the particular paddler.
vis a vis the mid point of the kayak
not the cockpit
I have a thought
When I hear someone say they were on constant edge and not maintaining course that sends up a flag. It suggests to me the paddler is not loose at the hips and maybe too stiff. Stay centered when powering up and edge at the ends of the stroke. A mariner will respond pleasantly. Start your stroke leaning slightly forward and end leaning slightly back. Throw your shoulders. Exagerate you rotation. Twist at the hips. The mariner will listen when you tell it what to do. That is what makes these boats so sought after. They are far more responsive to body english than a typical sea kayak. You dont have to be strong. It is all about boat specific technique. I aint no instructor or nothing but if I want to turn my Mariner express in winds like you describe I put a lot of emphisis on torso roatation especially at the end of a correction stroke and I can honestly say I enjoy paddling that boat in very windy conditions. I find it to be extremely responsive to body position. I can easily overpower the wind to maintain course. That is what I love about the boat. But, I am much heavier (225) than you. Maybe that has a lot to do with the ease at which I find the boat turns in the wind.
I actually find it easier to turn my mariner by leaning the way I wish to turn. Kind of the opposite of egding. I mean the boat edges very nicely but if I want to turn fast to the left I lean to the left and power up on the right. I lean far enough to shorten up the boats waterline making a change of dirction easier. Not too much but at some point well below the limits of the secondary the bow frees up consideralby allowing me change direction easily. It requires a lot more power but turns pretty quick compared to the long slow edging turn.
PS my express does not have a sliding seat. Not sure if the sprite is as volumous as an express.
Another ps. When I first purchased my mariner it was a boat unlike anything I had paddled before and on my first few outings I was really uncomfortable until I got use to the secondary. Since then I have learned to appreciate how much body english can affect paddling technique.
I am not surprised that you found the mariner to be less than appealing on your first attempt at paddling it.
Wow. These pain killers are making me long winded this morning. Sorry bout that.
I cant stand sitting in a symetrical sea kayak. Makes body english seem boring and worthless.