Weathercocking or Leecocking?

I took my tandem canoe (Wenonah Escape) out on a lake this morning. I sat at the stern just to see if I could handle this boat solo. The wind was blowing at about 15 mph from my left side towards the shore as I cruised along the lake counter clockwise. After a few hundred yards, I decided to turn back, but I couldn’t. If I made a right turn (clockwise) by sweeping strokes, the boat just went straight to shore into some retaining wall. Rudder strokes didn’t do much, either. I couldn’t turn left, into the wind; I could not turn the boat around no matter what strokes I used. I paddled backwards just to keep my boat from getting too close to people’s backyard. Finally, I waited for a calm moment, and then I turned and sprinted back to the put-in. Question 1: Was my boat weathercocking or leecocking? I think she was leecocking from what I read. Question 2: If I properly load the boat or kneel near the center, would I have better maneuverability? Question 3: Do you canoe in a windy day?

your canoe was a sail
Sitting in the stern of a tandem in wind guarantees no control. Not only is some of the hull out of the water, its waving in the air.

If you solo any boat, you have to get into the middle. Kneel on the bottom Canadian style or get a seat up toward the middle; the pivot point. A second best is paddling from the bow seat facing backward.

You were leecocking. But that is not the boats fault. Loading a boat stern heavy into the wind will help the bow blow around. Going upwind, being bow down a little helps. Going downwind, being stern heavy helps.

Yes I canoe in the wind solo or tandem. The windspeed I give up at is usually when its too much effort for the distance gained in 15 minutes. Its not a lack of control though dealing with quartering stern seas is a challenge that calls for a really good stern draw.

Forget sweeps…they are ineffectual anyway and most useless in wind. If you must the sweep goes from hip to stem of boat if you are at an end…In the middle its from stem to stem with lots of torso rotation.

You are better off in the center of the boat, and the lower the better. But for wind paddling, I believe it is best to keep the heavy end of the boat into the wind. With your bow in the air, you were like a weather vane, you being on the pointy end of the vane, it points upwind. Move around, and use ballast if you need to (five gallon bucket of water) so that you make the end pointing towards the wind the heavy end of the boat and you’ll fare much better.

There is also a huge difference in windy-day performance among canoes. I’m not familiar with yours, but had tried to paddle my large tandems in wind. I concluded it wasn’t possible and got a sea kayak. Subsequently, I paddled solo, flatwater boats such as the Dagger Rendevous and Wenonah Voyager and was impressed I could get them to go where I wanted in the wind.


I’ll second the comments of kayamedic and add one. There are several canoe symposia where a course called wind and waves is offered. There is nothing like hands on instruction to improve your paddling and have a great time as well. Check out LaLou just outside of New Orleans this March ( or a bit closer to home, the Adirondack Canoe Symposium (AFS) this July in Star Lake NY. There is also an excellent symposium a bit later in the season in Ohio (Midwest Freestyle Symposium). Info on all of them and more can be found at .

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

On your number 3:
yes but not if it is much more than 15MPH.

And what to do is let the land and Islands be your friends.

Stay on the Lake where the wind is off the land on your side.

To get there use bays and islands as much as possible.

Rudder strokes are good!

cheers, and happy new year,


there is quite a bit to this wind thing
Its a fun challenge if you can outwit the Venturi effect( between constrictions) and use wind shadows and wind ferries to your advantage.

Its amazing, after practice, how much progress you can make in big blows using these tactics.

Sometimes however you have to know when to give up and play another day.

Going upwind is safer than downwind.

Thank you for your thoughts
I will have another chance to try this weekend - kneeling at the center this time. I am hoping for some wind. I thought when I sat at the stern with the bow up, I created a lot of rocker, thus better maneuverability. If this wasn’t so, would a strap-on skeg help my situation at all? or help canoes in general? Yes, seakayaks rule in a windy day. I could solo my Prijon Excursion without trimming. But I think the rudder was doing all the work.

Weathercocking: The bow of the boat turns into the wind.

Lee Cocking: The bow of the boat turns downwind.

you sat in the stern and turned
your long boat into a short boat and skegged the stern. This makes the stern lock into the water. Turns depend on skidding especially solo. Imagine your Prijon with the back hatch filled with water and the bow to the sky…fun, no?

You are on the right track now and thinking hull shape. The fish under your boat would have seen a straight edge at the bow of the boat going from side to side and a strongly sunk pointy back. That blunt straight edge at the front didnt help any speed you were trying to build.

Have kids? Get a floaty toy and put a lead sinker in it at various points.

Bucket Ballast
Like the 5gal bucket ballast idea for soloing a tandem and thought if you carried a small boat type bilge pump with it you could pump water into it when needed and out when not. May be easier and safer than trying to dip a bucket full and haul it aboard when going into the wind or wrestle with it to dump it when no longer needed? Too weird?

even a sea kayak
will lee or weather cock in a strong enough wind–a couple of years ago I was in 30 knot breeze, empty sea kayak and couldn’t turn into the wind to get the final 1/4 mile back to my campsite–tried 3 times—with both sweeps and stern ruddering strokes—the solution, I learned later, is to do a bow ruddering stroke on the upwind side—forces your bow into the wind, followed by a forward sweep on the leeward side–repeat until your bow is pointing in the direction you want to go

----at the time I didn’t know this technique so I just ran abeam the wind until I got in the lee of the island I was camped on, then managed to crawl back to the campsite—and the wind had abated somewhat in those 20 minutes—finally died altogather after I beached my boat.