Just got back from my first excursion out on Lake Michigan in my 15’ Dagger Cortez.It was a semi-rough day with some swells. It was the first time I felt I did not have control over my kayak. Finally broke down and lowered the rudder. I had a really difficult time paddling even when I kept the bow faced into the waves. I am not an expert on wind directions, though I am trying to learn. Was I experiencing weathercocking? Is this sensation normal to coastal runs? Thanks for your help.

OK, I’ll start.

Weathercocking, as I understand the term, should really be called “windcocking”, as it is the tendency of the kayak to turn into, or away from, the direction of the wind.

Waves can affect your boat, especially following waves, but this is not weathercocking.

Wind can come up anywhere, so it is not necessarily a standard feature of “coastal” kayaking. Usually, larger expanses of open water have fewer features to break the wind; you get the full effect of whatever wind is blowing, so in that sense, you will experience more wind on open water than on sheltered rivers.

The difficulties you experienced could be any number of things, includng weathercocking. Perhaps your boat – I have no experience of it – doesn’t like bigger waves. Perhaps it’s just a skill and comfort level thing. I know I paddle in MUCH bigger waves today than I did several years ago when I was starting out. The boat is the same, but the paddler has changed.

All the best,


In the Same Boat…

I’ve had the exact same problem with the exact same boat (15’ Dagger Cortez). I’ve paddled for a while, but with this boat, I struggle when things get windy or choppy. Unless the water is very calm, I just drop the rudder. Using the rudder does have other advantages, like being able to steer when I’m not using the paddle, i.e. taking a photo or using my little handheld sail on windy days.

I like everything else about the boat, the size, the fit, etc.

refinement to terms + 5 techniques

– Last Updated: Sep-16-04 11:17 PM EST –

Weathercocking is turning toward the weather side (I.E. upwind). A moderate amount of this is OK. It's hard for a 15 foot boat not to weathercock a good bit. As a rule, the longer the boat harder to turn( for the wind and the paddler). That's why many people set a standard for a true sea kayak at about 16 feet (nod to the mariner coaster, a capable short length sea kayak; I'm sure there are others).

Lee cocking, as opposed to weather cocking is turning away from the wind (and weather). Some boats do this and it is not desired. Better to be facing the waves.

I was taught four standard techniques for boat control of weathercocking without use of tracking aids (rudder or skeg). 1: J lean the boat to the upwind side. Stroke harder on the upwind side. 2: Bias grip on paddle so that the upwind side is longer. 3: Bias stroke so that the stroke on the upwind side is stronger. 4: Sweep on upwind side.

If those techniques singly or in combination become unworkable or horribly inefficient. or you feel the need, then just deploy the tracking aid. Best to learn to use the tracking aid before you need it.

Derek Hutchinson says that learning to turn your boat with an extended paddle can save your life. Another trick in the bag.

"The boat is the same, but the paddler has changed."

Good comment, same here! I used to have a boat with a rudder (not to start that argument again) and it would weathercock mainly because the rudder was out of the water on the back deck. The wind catches it and pushes the back end around - it’s at the far end so it has some leverage. I found that just by putting it in the water (not steering with it) took care of most of those problems.

Also, if you had anything in the hatches, an improperly loaded boat can have a tendancy to weathercock.

weather boats
I’m not familiar with the Dagger boats but my Perception Sonoma does weathercock a fair bit. It’s a short boat so that’s obviously part of the problem. I think the rest is the fairly high freeboard (deck height) and the fact that the kayaker sits toward the back of the boat. Weathercocking is actually caused by a separation of the center of wind resistance and the center of gravity of a boat. So any boat where the kayaker (the majority of the weight) sits slightly forward or aft in the boat (without some sort of offset ballast to even things out) could be subject to weathercocking. It’s just something I anticipate and expect to deal with.

Weather cocking is the back of the boat being blown downwind as to turn the bow upwind. If you carry anything on your rear deck it would aggravate this condition, even the rudder being up. Something that helps balance one of my boats is to lean back a few inches putting weight on the stern and unweighting the bow…

learning conditions
For most folks paddling in flat water with ruddered boats you can get away with paddling harder on one side in order to steer. Once the wind/waves get to a point that it matters WHERE you put the blade and HOW you move the blade you have control,or you don’t, there really isn’t an inbetween. Some hulls really max out at the above point with the rudder taking care of the difference. Some hulls may or may not have rudders and still be controllable in bigger conditions by a skilled paddler,others need the aids.

If you’re cortez 15 is anything like the Cortez 16 then a rudder is needed. I paddled a Dagger Baja and found it wasn’t worth paddling without the rudder in 15mph+wind. I was capable of paddling it straight but the lack of responsiveness didn’t invite me to want to work at it. “hell if this thing takes this much effort to go straight I’m going to use the rudder”

Thanks to everyone!
Thank you for all the valuable advice given to my “weathercocking” question. I learned a lot about the proper terminology as well as, ideas to combat the situation as best I can. I thought the 15’ Cortez could be a good coastal yak and maybe it will be given more practice in similar situations. I agree, the level of expertise in paddling in different conditions is limited due to my newness with kayaking but, I love the challenge. Guess practice is the key.

adding to what p-k said
i scoot my booty to the windward side to make the boat lean to windward if i’m going to be on the same course for a while.

are you clear about the distinction between a forward stroke and a sweep/turning stroke?

My booty fills the entire seat!
No sideways scooting is possible! :wink: Great idea though!