Turning a low-rockered kayak in weather

-- Last Updated: Sep-25-07 1:42 PM EST --

Had my first-time experience of less than ideal boat control with my Impex Outer Island yesterday, on a lake with 30+ knot winds and 2.5 foot + white-capped waves. I have never needed or used the skeg on this boat and yesterday's try did not offer help. With a desired heading of straight into the wind, I expected the boat to assist via weathercocking into the wind but it strongly got pushed sideways. I used all the edging and sweep strokes I could but lost eventually and got in a broaching side position and then almost opposite direction desired. I tried the skeg at various settings and found no benefit so just left it off. Continued edging tired me out and just kept me in a broached position.I can assume that a) I just needed to paddle harder than I did, b)this is a casualty of a virtual no-rocker boat, or c) I did not have the boat leveled with to much gear in the day hatch versus the front. This is obviously a boat design that works fine in tough coastal waters so I assume I need some additonal skillset for such conditions. Other than strong edging, sweeps, and rudder strokes, not sure what else there is when you have no rocker to assist. Suggestions welcome.

I suppose I’m curious to know what leads you to think the design is suited for those conditions.

Certainly any low-rockered long boat is tough to keep from being pushed parallel to waves.

The OI also has working against it what was a strong design attempt to reduce rear deck height for rolling, which also reduces rear-end windage. Minimal, if any, weathercocking results. Some of the reviews here mention that, though not all seem to agree.

The skeg is the wrong thing to counteract this, as you found. I think your only choice would have been to put more load in the front hatch, though it’s a little tough to change that once you are already out there.

The Force series, also quite low rocker, doesn’t have such a low rear deck and mine weathercocks plenty, so I use the skeg liberally if needed to keep it pointed in the direction I want to go with minimal fuss. I don’t have much trouble keeping it pointed into waves, I do have a lot of trouble keeping the back end from being pushed aside by following waves. It also has a more prominent chine allowing a skilled paddler (not me) to get it up on edge and turn it quite nimbly. I don’t think the OI responds to this technique quite as well, since it has a rounder hull shape.


turning oi

– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 2:31 PM EST –

the oi is a joy to paddle in all respects save one, turning upwind in beam or quarterring seas and strong winds. if anything the oi tends to leecock, which makes turning the oi downwind easier than upwind. deploying the skeg only makes leecocking worse, but you can use a deployed skeg to your advantage to turn downwind. to free up the stern so it will be easier to turn upwind, you can radically edge the boat or turn on top of a wave or shift the weight forward. i typically do some combination of all three. with solid secondary stability you can get it way over on its edge. small course corrections stroke by stroke work better than letting yourself get sideways and then trying to make a big correction. if these strategies don't work, you can always padde in a z--longer distance but less arguing with beam winds/seas.


– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 3:16 PM EST –

yes, once I got sideways between waves, I could not get out of that position and gradually became downwind positioned. This is something I wish I had understood when choosing between OI and Force 4. Unfortunately, when test paddling boats, you rarely have these wind/water conditons to help in the decison making. Other than this event, I have loved the OI overall.


– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 5:00 PM EST –

As above, little is going to change the fundamental nature of this boat. But for every high wind day like that one you'll get probably more days where you appreciate its forward speed, so always a balance.
The only thing that I can think of, which did work with my first pretty much no-rocker sea kayak as long as the periods were long enough, is to start a turning action just before you are going to be at the top, in the skinniest part of a wave or swell. Then edge and turn like a banshee to get facing around before there is water under the full length of the hull again.
It's pretty much the same as turning on top of moguls skiing.
Granted this may not be a plan in close-period lake waves with an 18' long boat.

Just to add (later) - I've been out with a group in that kind of wind, just that the waves were a little higher, and most of us were having the devil of a time turning even our more rockered boats against the wind. There was some bow-bumping for assists happening as we realized tiredness was going to become a real factor. So, if this is the first time you've had trouble turning the OI, I'd say it is behaving well.

OI in wind.
Your opinion is certainly valid and your experience certainly reflects that of some others. 30+ wind is pretty strong. I paddle in that too and in the group I paddle with often, there’s about 5 Oi’s and most are wood and a few glass. We paddle with many rockered boats too and sometimes they have a rougher time than the Oi’s to keep on track or correct. I heard that the glass OI lee cocks and I have asked a friend who paddles a glass Oi and has an Explorer too. He told me “no more than the Explorer”. But everyone’s opinion is there own.

If I’m getting really whacked by the wind sometimes I turn it on the crest of a wave, however I’m good at leaning it pretty hard to put it where I want. Turning is definately something that sells boats and the OI trades hull speed for that but the OI does have rocker but not extensively. I always liked a boat that when you stopped paddling continued in the direction you were going.

It’s always dishartening to hear of someone who is having trouble controling the boat. I was in a rip playing with others with every boat made a while back and had no problems putting where I wanted and it seemed to be quite forgiving. If my MO was playing in rips, I would want a more rockered boat. You try to have a boat that does a lot of things well and there’s always going to be situations that don’t agee with it or offend paddlers.

I have been with paddlers with high rockered boats in following seas who had trouble controlling them.

Sorry to hear of your problems or discontent with it or at least on that day. You may have hit that one bad situation day where things really offended the handling to your taste or abilities. You may want a boat with more rocker. I always feel that I would rather see two boats sold to happy customers than force a sale to someone who doesn’t love it. Believe it or not, I get a lot of favorable mail about the boat but I fully know it’s not for everyone.

When Impex has boats on a beach they don’t push it. Every now and then somebody arrives - usually an experienced paddler with a few boats, tries it and it’s sold. It becomes part of their arsenal of boats and they love it for what it is. I have paddled in very rough water with it and it was always very forgiving with it’s strong secondary and primary and often I could get surf rides where slower hulls would not pick up. But because of it’s long narrow length and low rocker you would not want to be surfing really large 5+feet types because you may do an ender. There a more rockerd boat would be more friendly.

I don’t know what more I can tell you. I know Impex as well as me want happy customers.

jeez, those are dificult wind levels to begin with. You’re getting into conditions where technique has to be nie perfect as pure horsepower has to be extremely high to compensate for marginal technique. It’s a very dynamic situation utilizing every moment of leverage according to placement on the wave, like Celia suggested.

A while back I was paddling a Mariner Express in those conditions with two friends in a rudderless Glider and a ruddered Pisces towing someone in a Sea Lion. The fellow in the Glider could NOT point up wind and ended up walking across the marshes from one bay to the next. It was the first time I’d been in those conditions,and last,it took a lot of consistant technique since more effort would make me blow up sooner.

still love the OI

– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 3:55 PM EST –

Jay and all,

I am sorry that you may have read into my post more negative than I intended. I am talking , as Celia said, one day out of two years that I have very happily paddled my OI! This was the most severe wind day I have paddled, either by choice or chance, in two years. So, my post was not suppose to be critical and down on the OI. My purpose of the post was truly to see, given the conditions for the boat, if I could adapt additional boat control. In sumamry, I'm not going out and selling the boat from this one event.

Quite frankly, until yesterday, every paddling experience has been very positive with the Impex OI. My frequent group paddles are basically point A to point B trips of 7 to 16 miles with mainly straight ahead paddling. These are large inland lakes, not coastal rock gardens, islands, coves, etc. For this, it has been a joy to paddle without ever needing a skeg and without thinking much about maintaining a straight line. Rolling and bracing with my GP of course can be done while semi-conscious. :) I can lay on the back deck all the way and take a nap. :) I even adapted my gear backpacking style (Thermarest prolite, 1 person tent, down bag in drysack) and enjoyed camping trips.

So what we have here is a condition that perhaps some paddlers often have, that I do not - strong gusty winds. I was just taken off-guard yesterday, in a group of eleven, to have for the first time, experienced boat control issues.

Not fun…
I’ve had it happen to me a few times in normally protected waters during squalls in a hard tracking boat and seen it happen to others. You just can’t get the boat to turn upwind without a real struggle.

This is the reason I went to a highly rockered boat that doesn’t track as hard. I would rather induce a bit of tracking with the skeg than be locked in a beam sea.

Frustrating conditions
Wind waves and chop between 2-3’ can be frustrating with just about any narrow/long waterline.

I’ve had similar moments in my skegged QCC (which turns easier than an IO for me on flat water - and has more rocker than it looks - but also catches a bit more wind and has a bit longer waterline so can be a bit much to horse around in conditions like that).

That size waves are high enough to shelter hull from wind and make the skeg all but useless except for running downwind. Otherwise, deploying the skeg may only reduce maneuverability and make things worse.

Wind waves that size are steep and short, so you’ll rarely get both ends lifted out on a single wave to allow easy wave assisted pivot turns (take ‘em when you get ‘em). On freshwater, even steeper - and no swells to moderate things or work with.

Worst case, if really having trouble maintaining a course through it - adopt the zig-zag course already mentioned. Alternating 30 degrees or so to either side of your intended course - may be the best bet. It’s certainly less frustrating, and the OI’s speed and good manners otherwise can be used here to advantage. It may make for a longer distance paddle, but can get you through it quicker overall.

A more playful hull may come around easier in short troughs like that, but can also come around when you’re trying to go straight. Can be really annoying going from A-B. I’m sure there are some designs that excel in these conditions - but such conditions rarely persist. They usually get better or worse, and then a different design would fair best.

Of course someone will eventually chime in with the rudder suggestion for these conditions too! I personally like skegs on sea kayaks (for general mixed condition touring), but I also think there is an upper limit for LWL, above which skeg are not as optimal and rudders make more sense (and of course work on shorter hulls too). I suspect the OI is pushing this upper limit, and my QCC definitely is.

Just a pet theory of mine. The other way to say this is I think there is a sweet spot for waterline lengths where skegs work very well and are great assets. Something like from LWL of 14.5’ or 15’ up to 17’ to 17.5’. Under this range (and at the lower end - aka “play” and “day” boats) a skeg isn’t likely needed. A shorter hull is easy to correct without a skeg as wind has less kayak to lever and course is easy to correct with body and blade inputs. Hulls in this “optimal” range for skegs are more affected by wind (and beams typically narrower) so there is more correction/balancing of forces needed and it takes more effort to do this without a skeg (or rudder) to help. Over this range (and at the upper limits of it), a skeg still works - but reduces maneuverability so much as to be counterproductive a good deal of the time - and rudders become the better choice for really long hulls (many being rudder dependent - and I don’t mean that in a bad way - just the way it is).

Just a theory.

turn oi upwind
Just want to second jay’s comment that turning the oi is easier (1) if you put it on edge and (2)turn on the crest of a wave. Sweep strokes beam on from the trough are pretty hopeless. I have had the keyhole OI for two years now, and love it for point A to B paddling, and have taken it into lumpy water/surf enough to know that is fine in these conditions too. In fact, I like it enough that I just purchased the OC version, which is way easier to get on its edge and horse around than the keyhole. Will probably sell the keyhole version–anyone interested? Comes with a Rapid Runner Bilge System pump!

I find that hard tracking kayaks
can be hard to get back on course in rough conditions and that’s why I like kayaks with some amount of maneuverability. I have played around with the tracking on the wood kayaks I have built and it can be changed usually by just a mater of removing some of the stern keeline. Since the OL has a skeg it might be worth a try if it will make the kayak handle more to your liking. Removing 3/4" off the stern keeline makes quite a difference in tracking and maneuverability.

Interesting thread
which highlights exactly how no boat is perfect and no design excellent at everything. Any number of the so called slow maneuverable boats in the hands of a good paddler would excell in those conditions and may leave the OI behind. Tone the sea down and the OI has the edge. Boats like the Explorer blend variables to be an excellent compromise all round, albeit not outstanding at any end of the spectrum. The more focused a design around one objective, be it coastal play, or straight ahead speed, the less well rounded it becomes in general. I doubt any long, tracking, straight ahead efficient hull would be fun in those conditions overall. That’s where the play boats excell. Someone said turny boats sell. I’d say the opposite overall. Tracking boats appeal more to the masses and I bet sales figures would support that. Just a guess?


– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 7:53 PM EST –

My criteria for selecting and purchasing just one boat was to choose one that does well in the majority of my paddling waters and conditions. Thinking through this, my longer term options might be:

1) keep and enjoy the OI for what it excels at, if those high wind conditions are as minimal as they have been in the past for me.

2) if my future paddling destinations change over time such that really gusty wind is a more common occurence, consider other boats I've test paddled and liked, with more rocker: Impex Force 4, NDK Explorer, or Valley Aquanaut to name a few.

Not bragging or advertising , but
the Placid BW Rapidfire canoe could care less about wind - front back,quartering, whatever. That is not true of the long boats I have owned. And it is fast.

lots of great info has been stated.

what I generally do in a leecock position is add forward speed to the equasion. this helps move the pivot point out front and then try and time your sweeps/edging to wave tops, tho sometimes down in the trough (protection from blast) can work too. It’s all about knowing your boat and skills.

In the Columbia Gorge we say ‘Life begins at 30’. Anything over 30 knots is quite challenging (and FUN) Over 40 and it kicks @$$.


the fourth dimension!
good point.

Horses for courses
For a few years I used my Aquanaut for all my paddling. I picked up a Romany a couple of years ago and paddle it more than my 'naut.

I use my Romany for surfing, tidal work and play because it is so easy to throw around.

After two days of 4* training using the Aquanaut off MDI earlier this month I’m thinking of picking up a boat with more hull speed than my Romany, but easier to throw around and to control on the face of a wave than the 'naut - maybe a Nordkapp LV or an Explorer.

Good boats CAN do a lot. Different boats excel at different things…

That’s what rudders are for
Turning long unrockered boats into the wind.

Leastways that’s what worked on my Solstice.

the hatch contributor

– Last Updated: Sep-26-07 8:01 AM EST –

one more thought . . because of the small bow hatch cover on the OI, I perhaps am too inclined to throw day gear in the stern and day hatch. Thus, leading to an untrimmed boat light in the bow, contributing to my problem.