Weathercocking with a Loaded Boat???

I have been meaning to ask this question. I feel like I should know the answer, but I don’t.

I went on a multi-day trip this winter that involved long crossings over open water with a descent amount of wind.

I noticed that my boat (an Explorer) wanted to weathercock when it normall would not. Edging did not seem effective for preventing this and I used a bit of skeg…which I find you rarely have to do with the Explorer.

It seemed that the loaded boat had more tendency to weathercock than the unloaded boat and that it was harder to counteract.

It would seem to me that a properly loaded boat would weathercock less…longer waterline, less maneuverability, heavier, etc.

Why is this?

Is it just the fact that the corrective strokes we often use without even realizing it were not enough to put the boat back on course one it was blown off course? That would be my guess, but I am not sure.

It just seemed counterintuitive to me that the heavier loaded boat would weathercock easier than an unloaded one.



distribution of load

– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 10:42 AM EST –

if you put more and heavier stuff in the rear hatch, the tendancy to weathercock will be less---but the tendancy to leecock will be greater--you should try to get an even distribution of load with the heavier stuff towards the center of the boat in the bottom of the load. Unless of course you know that you will be paddling downwind all day, then put the heavier stuff mostly in the aft cockpit and hope you don't have to head into the wind.

Yes, trim
Here is one way to look at it.

Assume you are properly trimmed and making a straight course with a beam wind.

Now, if you drop 50 pounds onto your rear hatch, what happens? Underwater, the beam goes down and so offers more water resistance to the side force of the wind and less area for the wind to push it. At the bow, the opposite happens. There is less of the boat underwater, so less resistance to side slipping, and more of the bow exposed to the wind, so more side force.

Compared to where you were when properly trimmed, the bow now wants to go downwind, and the stern upwind, giving you a lee cock.

What probably happened is that when you packed the boat you had the trim with the stern down a bit more. Or it could be something about the design of the boat that gives the boat more “stick” in the rear as it goes down with an even trim.

I have noticed that my boat (Foster Legend) is very sensitive to weight placement, and I can effect the wind sensitivity by leaning forward or back, and use that to help controlling the boat in wind during turns etc.

Related question

– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 4:47 PM EST –

I've noticed that in flat water with little to no current, if I stop paddling completely, the wind will slowly turn my kayak so that it is coming completely from the broadside. In other words, the wind turns the boat until it is hitting one side at 90degrees, and will slowly push it so that I am moving perfectly sideways, as if I was doing a sculling draw.

Is this ideal and does it signify a neutral balance, or is it preferable to have the boat balanced so that it points into or away from the wind? Is there a "right" way, or is it just a matter of preference?

Is not paddling at all to see how the wind positions the boat a useful method for finding the proper balance between weathercocking and leecocking? (assuming little to no current)

The Skeg…
“Edging did not seem effective for preventing this and I used a bit of skeg…”

Your load and conditions can’t always be perfectly spot on and may change though out the paddle. The skeg is there to fine tune the boat.

none of the boats

– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 6:46 PM EST –

I paddle: Enlightened Kayaks T-16, Prijon Kodiak, and QCC700X, seem to have problem behaviors associated with being loaded - actually they all seem to "firm up" under a load.

Since I paddle mostly alone, even a day trip has everything on board for the unplanned overnight plus stay. I load toward the center of the boat, meaning heavy metallic stuff in stern, near stern bulkhead, and heavy non-metallic stuff (including some water for ballast)in bow near, bow bulkhead.

In the potentially "confused", shallow, Northern waters on which I regularly paddle from April to November (i.e. the American and Canadian Thousand Islands of Lake Ontario, and large Adirondack lakes like Cranberry Lake), I have found that a loaded boat (that is loaded within the boat's design displacement parameters) actually seems to be more stable than a lightly loaded boat.

All three of my boats have a rudder, which I deploy without guilt, about 5 per cent of the time. Watched a MUCH better paddler than I, about the same age (i.e. 60 years plus old) struggle in conditions in a lightly loaded Brit boat until he finally deployed his skeg, and all then went well for him.

Boat trim seems to be the key, as well as feeling OK about deploying skeg or rudder as needed in conditions.


You ask interesting questions.


Should of had a rudder !
and joined us lowly paddlers that have no trouble keeping the boat on course in all kinds of water conditions, and many times loaded for some overnighters



Boat trim / weight distribution
I meant to mention in my post that I was pretty sure that my weight distribution was pretty equal…but maybe not. It did occur to me that might have been the issue, but I guess I just assumed my load was pretty balanced.

I did a test pack of my boat at home to make sure my weight distibution was pretty even and it was.

I guess that maybe my consumption of my water may have thrown my trim off a little.

Maybe the morale of the story is to make sure you lift your boat each morning and verify that your trim / weight distribution is still in balance.


Even distribution is not recommended.
On Mariner kayaks website (and in some others I have read somewhere) it is generally recommended that the weight behind the seat is twice the weight in front of the feet. This is supposed to compensate for the fact the the weight forward of the feet is further from the center of gravity (the seat) than the weight behind the seat. In some practice tests I found that this 2:1 ratio really made a difference.

By the same reasoning you get the same trim change by moving a small weight far forward or rearward as moving a heavier weight a small distance.

Try the 2:1 (rear to front) weight ratio and let us know if it works better. You still want to keep the heaviest items closest to the center of gravity if possible.



The profile…
does catch the wind also.

Your body is like a sail in windsurfing.

If you move forward the more it will catch the wind and push the bow downwind.

If you move back your body will catch the wind and push the stern down winding (weathercocking)

Even a deck bag on the back will catch more wind.

Therefore if the front is weighted down and rides lower it will also catch less wind with the profile.

Even if you have on a life jacket your body will act more like a sail.

Each boat is probably different but don’t discount the wind profile factor.

All kayaks will eventually drift sideways to the wind while stopped unless the unbalance in lateral resistance/wind resistance is extreme.

Don’t know about ideal
I see from older posts that you have a Dagger Specter 15.

I don’t know about the weathercocking tendency in that boat. A shorter boat is not going to be turned as much by the wind just because the wind has a shorter lever to work on.

In general, shorter boats, especially lacking a rudder or skeg, are usually designed to be more wind neutral, and they are generally easier to turn also.

Matt’s boat is a typical longer Brit boat. In general, they are designed to reasonably weathercock in most conditions, and designed so that they will lee cock with the skeg fully deployed. That is pretty much the definition of proper trim. The longer boats are more difficult to turn than your 15 footer, which is why the skeg or rudder is usually used.

A boat that can’t be turned into the wind could be a real problem in higher winds and seas. I don’t think that your boat is designed for more advanced conditions - the kind of conditions that Matt probably loves to paddle.

a rudder???

– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 8:48 PM EST –

a skeg is bad enoughbut at least nobody can tell if you are using it but a rudder is definitly beyond the pale and not very british either---:)

weight distribution…
The recommendation to pack the boat heavier in the back is an interesting one.

With my packing though I was not really comparing weight as much as trim. I packed the boat and then lifted it from the cockpit to judge if it was fairly balanced forward and aft of the cockpit.

Ultimately I assume that is what Mariner’s recommendation is trying to achieve I would think right?

I’m not sure they are suggesting that when you pick the boat up from the cockpit that the boat tips hard to the stern. Although maybe I am wrong.

It is an interesting rule of thumb though at least…pack heavy items close to the bulkhead and generally heavier items go in the rear.


moving the seat forward counter weather cocking also?

That’s the way you steer a wind surfer… move the sail forward when you want to go downwind, move it back to the stern to go up wind.

getting rid of the deck bag on back also helps

mine weather cocks so I moved the seat forward and got rid of the deck bag.

adding weight to the back might also help, but i’m kind of heavy for this size boat, so it’s just a day boat

My limited experience with 2:1 ratio
is that it will produce a slight shift in carry balance point to the rear. I think maybe 4-6 inches for the point where I can balance it with one hand in the cockpit.

I do not think you really care about “level” trim in the kayak. What you really want is trim that makes the kayak handle the best. This trim should be close to level, but what matters is how the kayak handles. If the kayak is weathercocking more than you want, then try shifting more weight to the rear regardless of how it balances.

Another thing with loaded kayaks and weathercocking is the momentum factor. Once the loaded kayak starts turning it wants to keep turning more than an empty one. You have to overcome the momentum of the load plus the weathercocking forces before the kayak starts to turn back. This makes it more important to correct the weathercocking early in a loaded kayak than in an empty one.

Try some different loading until you can get the kayak to actually start leecocking. If you are carrying all your water for a multi-day trip you may find that you do need to redistribute some load as your water containers (usually kept close, but behind seat) are emptied. Because of this I like to plan my initial loading with some water stored in front of my feet so I lose water weight both from the front and rear of the kayak as the trip progresses.

Good luck on finding your best loading scheme.


Not the same
On a wind surfer, when you move the sail forward, the center of effort (force from the wind) moves forward, pushing more on the bow and less on the stern. When the wind pushes the bow more, the boat turns downwind. It is not a matter of weight distribution.

Moving the weight in a kayak is different. There you are acting on the boats pivot point, and only a bit on its profile.

As I recall, you have a Capella 169, which for me is a pretty hard weathercocker. Try putting a sandbag all the way towards the bow and you will see that the weathercocking increases quite a bit. Then put the weight in the stern and you will see quite a difference, although that 169 has such a loose tail that the boat may still weathercock if you are a heavier paddler.

True, but it’s still good to think about loading the boat to get it as neutral as possible. If you have to hold more than a few degrees of rudder you’re adding a lot of unnecessary drag.

Thanks for
repeating exactly what I said. I assume you were agreeing with me?

“On a wind surfer, when you move the sail forward, the center of effort (force from the wind) moves forward, pushing more on the bow and less on the stern. When the wind pushes the bow more, the boat turns downwind. It is not a matter of weight distribution.”

I didn’t say it was a matter of weight distribution. However moving the seat forward can reduce weathercocking? Can it not, despite moving more of your weight forward?

I was just adding the wind profile aspect to the equation.

You have to ballance out weight distribution with seat position and rigging on the deck. All of it contributes to weathercocking.

And what’s up with this, “As I recall you have a 169…” Yeah, it’s in my profile. I said I moved the seat forward and got rid of the deck bag on the back to counter weather cocking.