Weathercocking in a Gale Part II???

-- Last Updated: Sep-07-08 8:00 AM EST --

Okay this is a followup to a message I posted last winter that sparked some interesting conversation about boat handling in very high winds.

I went out paddling yesterday on the Chesapeake in the peak of the tropical storm that was passing through (Hannah?)Winds were pretty high and close to gale force (probably about 25-30 knots) and slightly less than those I experienced last winter with my original post.

First in the event you are wondering why the hell I did that...I like to paddle on the windiest days around here b/c it's the only time that we get conditions to kick up here on the bay. With the warm water, etc, there was actually little risk.

Secondly, because of the wind direction there was little fetch and therefore waves were not big. It was mostly just a lot of wind and driving rain.

I took out my Kajaksport Viviane, a 19 foot high volume gear hauler (which I have only had for about 6 or 8 weeks). I actually had intended to switch to my Romany S which would probably be the better boat for such conditions but did not end up doing so.

So here is what I learned and my primary question. In my last post I had noted that my Explorer (which is usually a pretty neutral boat in the wind) became very hard to maintain a course with or without the skeg and how instead of weather cocking it turned sideways to the wind. I now understand why.

My experiences yesterday were quite different. The Viviane, which is a long boat with a lot of free board and a real PIA in the slightest wind, behaved very differently. This boat usually weathercocks SEVERELY in even a 10 knot wind and becomes a real handful.

HOwever, in yesterday's extremely high winds I found that the boat became very neutral in the wind, pretty easy to maintain a course in any direction even without the skeg, and pretty easy to turn up into the wind.

Now why would a boat that is so hard to handle in light winds become neutral and easy to handle in such high winds? This is the second time I have noticed this with this boat too as I had the opportunity to paddle it in about 20 knot winds about a month or so ago.

I will also point out that I have been dabbling with a GP a bit and this was the first time I had gotten out in any sort of conditions using it. I found it to be a great paddle in the wind...much less resistance than my Cyprus or Ikelos in the wind and very easy to turn the boat when using it in the extended position. Definitely a winner for windy days.


it’s the paddle. make all the difference in the world.


I found the Viv quite nice ‘in conditions’ as well. It’s just well balanced.


The extended paddle
is one of the advantages a greenland paddle can offer, especially in those conditions.

Hey Matt
You need that adjustable rocker boat! Ken Whiting liked it, and it seems right up your ally! Glad you’re still having fun with boats. All good.

I may not have made my observation / question entirely clear…

What I was trying to emphasize was the difference in boat handling that occurs at very high winds over 20-25 knots.

Seems that with my Explorer which was a neutral boat at most wind speeds became hard to handle and tended to get pinned sideways to the wind (rather than weathercock into the wind) when at really high winds.

The Viviane, on the other hand is the exact opposite. It is a handful and weathercocks badly in low winds, but seems to be pretty neutral in high winds. Very strange.

However (partly due to Steve’s comments in an email message I sent him) I think I may have the answer.

As Steve pointed out, the Viviane has a very significant amount of volume above the waterline forward of the cockpit. This is a very noticeable design feature about the boat and perhaps I now know why.

This boat was designed to be a fast boat in rough, open water conditions.

Perhaps it was designed to be more manageable in high winds vice lower winds.

Most boats are designed to turn into the wind (weathercock). This is due to the wind pushing the stern down wind. The bow generally does not get pushed downwind because it is held in place by high water pressure caused by the bow cutting through the water as the boat moves forward.

Perhaps with this boat the high volume in the front catches enough wind that when the wind is really high it can overcome the tendency of the bow to be locked in place by water pressue and therefore even out the high degree of weather cocking that occurs at lower wind speeds when the stern gets pushed downwind when the bow is locked in place.

Perhaps it is just a matter of what a boat is designed for.

I just found it interesting that a boat that weathercocks badly in low winds can become amazingly neutral in wind conditions that most people would not even want to paddle in.


light vs high winds, waves vs no waves
wind profile and wave height actually have a significant impact on kayak handling.

My silhouette for example is a real pig in medium to variable winds with NO waves. the tail skids out and the boat takes a lot of sweep strokes to keep on course with no skeg.

In high winds with waves of any height, the silhouette can stay on course no problem, skeg or no skeg. The waves protect the kayak from being exposed to the full profile of the wind.

This is unfortunately not covered in Nigel fosters directional control dvd, wish it was…

A longer boat in even low to no waves will get pushed around. I think you’ll find though that smaller kayaks tend to do ok in almost all conditions. though a bit of extra waterline will most likely not go astray when headed down wind!!!

to bowcock or not to bowcock

– Last Updated: Sep-08-08 9:05 PM EST –

I'm wondering if it is the wave action (rather than the wind) that causes some boats to turn broadside in rough conditions. Most kayaks tend to broach in a following sea, and it's easy to get turned sideways by waves if your bow is not square into them and if you do not have enough momentum.

As someone else said, maybe it's just the paddle. Glad to hear the GP is working out, Matt.

not my experience
with the explorer.

have paddled 30+, gusts to 40 in “very rough” (don’t you love brit understatement? 4-6 meters) conditions and didn’t feel that the boat was pinned sideways at all.

progress was a bitch and turning presented it’s own issued but being pinned side to was not my experience.

Did you load up the boat?
Wonder if it will behave differently then.

I need to do that with my Explorer. I feel like I barely sink it into the water, unloaded. It weathercocks easily, but since I installed the seat forward of the “normal” placement, that’s not surprising.

On the Explorer my term “pinned sideways” was misleading. It was not truly pinned but kept wanting to turn sideways to the wind rather than turn into it. I heard someone use the term pinned vs. weather cocking. It just had a strong tendency to want to turn sideways to the wind whether I was heading up or down wind.

On the Viviane…it was not loaded this weekend when I experienced this. It was fully loaded when I experienced this a few weeks ago (was on a multi-day trip when a storm kicked up).

As to the paddle, I was using a normal Euro blade on my trip and I experienced the same thing so it was not the paddle, although the extended paddle did make it slightly easier to turn into the wind than sweep stokes and a bow rudder / cross bow rudder. It still turned pretty easily into the wind with the more conventional strokes.


the term for that is leecocking

– Last Updated: Sep-09-08 8:50 AM EST –

wanting to turn away from the wind as opposed to into it or weather cocking---my tempest 170 has that tendancy in heavy winds and seas when it is not loaded--when loaded no problem---when unloaded it can be corrected by keeping the skeg up and using ruddering bow strokes to windward combined with forward sweeps on the downwind side

lee cocking…
My understanding is that lee cocking is turning downwind. What I am describing is neither turning up or down wind…but sideways to it.


The SEA does different things
to different boats at different times. Ever changing, ever so dynamic. No perfect boat, only skilled paddlers that improvise and make whatever boat “work”.

I think
we are talking about the same thing—lee cocking as I understand it, is the tendancy of a boat to resist turning into the wind and to want to turn away from the wind—in extreme cases can result in a boat actually being pinned–unable to go into the wind at all.

different forces
A 10 knot wind po dunking along is having no effect. You speed up and your boat begins to weathercock. The additional water pressure on the bow of the kayak and reduced pressure on the stern due to the hulls movement through the water causes the stern to blow down wind more easily than the bow, resulting in weathercocking. Is it possible that the difference in water pressure against the bow vs stern is no longer significant in relation to the force of the wind on the exposed portion of the kayak once the wind hits a certain speed? In other words, the wind is pushing the entire hull downwind at such a force, creating such a water pressure uniformly on the downwind side, that differences forward motion would create in lighter winds no longer exist at a significant enough level? That’s my stab at an answer.


I agree with CapeFear and Salty…this is the case with the Explorer and probably with the majority of boats.

Seems though that it is somewhat opposite with the Viviane…weather cocking in light winds but having enough volume above the water in the bow to allow it to get pushed down wind when the wind speed is high enough to exert a force higher than the water pressure caused by forward movement…thus evening out the boat that otherwise weathercocks excessively.

I went out this morning and confirmed the weather cocking tendency and behavior with the skeg.

Wind was barely blowing at about 10 knots, but weathercocking was very strong requiring deep edging to counteract without the skeg. With the skeg though, I noticed that dropping it bit by bit had a similar effect to a rudder as it turned the boat progressively down wind (very effective skeg…but very skeg dependent in light winds).

When the wind picks up though and when other boats would become a handful the Viviane seems to be a breeze (sorry) to handle.