What is weather cocking?

When my wife and I are out in our Kevlar prospector, we seem to get blown off course with the wind. Is it a technique problem or is this the wrong canoe for us. I am 200lbs sit in the back, she is 125 lbs. in the front. The front does stick up out of the watewr a little with this seating arrangement.

You’ve already answered your question
"I am 200lbs sit in the back, she is 125 lbs. in the front."

You probably have no problem going downstream, or with the wind. Your problem is probably going into the wind.

Think of the boat as a weathervane. The heavier end tends to point into the wind, waves, current.

I remember a comical experience toboggoning years ago. There were three of us, one MUCH heavier than the others, and he always wanted to sit in back. The hill was icy. Every time we went down hill, the toboggon would turn around and we would find ourselves going downhill backwards!

Other than brute force, the most effective method to counteract this weathervaning is to adjust the trim of your boat, that is, the weight distribution fore and aft.

Going into the wind, you could switch places. Alternately, you could shift your gear forward.

Don’t overdue it, or you’ll be faced with the opposite problem and find it difficult to paddle away from the wind, waves, current.

By the way, in wind the surface area above water also comes into effect. This would be more pronounced with gear strapped to the deck of a kayak, but might hold true with a canoe that is really loaded.

Happy Paddling.

Were you blowing into the wind or downwind?

Wait a minute…
Partly true on the first answer. In the wind the light end of the boat will tend to point down wind. trimming the boat to bring the bow down will help with that.

In current though the light end of the boat will tend to point upstream. Again trimming to bring the bow down will counter that though often in current being a little light in the bow is a good thing.

One way to trim your boat is to bring empty gallon milk jugs and fill them as needed. Five or six of those as close to the bow as you can get them will probably do the trick.

To answer your original question…
“Weathercocking” is when the boat tends to turn into the wind (upwind).

“Lee cocking” is when the boat tends to turn away from the wind (downwind).

If a boat weathercocks, adding weight to the stern will balance the handling. If a boat lee cocks, adding weight to the bow will balance the handling.

Change seats
Weathercocking can be a pain & is usually worse for solo paddlers. The bow is pushing or cutting through the water & the stern has less pressure so it slides. I’ve paddled a racing C-1 in a steady beam wind taking 12 stokes on the windy side & only a couple on the off wind side. While not as bad in kayaks, it can be difficult. I’ve paddled a rudderless downriver kayak in tail winds of 26-28 with gusts up to 35 & it really wants to hook back around into the wind. Most canoe racing teams have the bigger paddler in the bow & trim with sliding seats. Mixed teams nearly always have the man in front & woman in the stern.

Thanks to all who responded
Thanks for the trimming suggestions. I was ready to sell the canoe because it was hard to handle in the wind. I will try changing seats with my wife. Maybe I could sit more towards the middle.

Thanks Again.

moving seats
Most mixed racing teams I know put the male in front and the female in back so the less powerful paddler is making corrective strokes and the bow paddle concentrates on power. They still need to trim the boat for the wind conditions, which is easily done with sliding seats.

If you paddle unloaded and do not plan on carrying gear or water jugs to trim the boat, it is not too hard to move your seats. If you move the your seat location toward the center or your wife’s closer to the bow, you can acheive a level trim. It does require drilling some holes, and if you move the stern seat forward you will have to buy a new seat (the old one will be too short because the boat widens towards the center).

Weathercocking ==> weight the rear

– Last Updated: Aug-08-06 11:53 AM EST –

That's my understanding too -- weight the stern to oppose weathercocking.

Note that a lot of the posts in this thread say the opposite. I assume something else is going on, because overweighting the bow will increase weathercocking, all other things equal.

The dynamics of weather cocking are thus...

When the boat is moving forward through the water, the pressure of the water moving past the bow "pins" the bow in place somewhat. That is, it hits the both the right and left side of the bow, creating pressure in both directions which opposes any sideways movement.

But the stern, sitting in the middle of the fanned out bow wake, and also presenting a different shape to the moving water, has little or no such pressure, and it is still free to slide sideways. So, a beam wind slides the loose stern more than the pressured bow. Voila, the boat turns upwind.

A skeg corrects weathercocking by opposing the sideways force of the beam wind, effecively tightening the stern laterally. Extra weight in the stern has a similar effect.

To test this theory...

* In a decent wind, stop paddling and watch the boat. It will turn roughly beam to the wind.

* Now start to paddle slowly forward, not favoring either side. The boat will start to weathercock. Speed up and it weathercocks more.

* Instead, paddle backwards, again not favoring either side. Now the stern is pinned and the bow loose, so the bow turns downwind and the stern upwind, weathercocking in reverse.

* Try the forward paddling with the skeg fully extended -- that will reduce or eliminate the weathercocking.

* Paddle backwards with the skeg extended and it will reverse weathercock just as much as before or more.


I can think of three effects…
… of putting large objects – like human bodies – in a kayak or canoe to change weather/leecocking beahvior. A large object in one end…

  • tends to sink that end, increasing the hull surface below the waterline, and thus increasing resistance to being pushed sideways by wind. In the stern, that promotes leecocking; in the bow, weathercocking. This is the same effect as a skeg, excpet that the extra hull below waterline is acting as the “skeg.”

  • causes more inertia, requiring a larger force to move sideways. Same results as above.

  • catches more wind. Opposite results from above – in the stern, weathercocking, in the bow leecocking. Of course, this effect depends on the lateral surface area of the “object”, not the mass or weight.

    I think most people in this thread are talking about the second and third effects – inertia and windage. My intuition tells me, however, that the first effect, the skeg effect, is larger than either of the other two for normal human bodies, that is, bodies not outrageously huge or tiny, and not clothed to act as sails. Given that, the second effect is second-largest. So the overall result is that putting the larger person in back promotes leecocking, opposes weathercocking.

    For solo canoists sitting toward the stern, however, I imagine that the inertial effect is pretty significant (neglecting cargo weight distribution), and the windage effect increased, but perhaps not as much in paddleable winds. So that will tend to leecocking on the whole.

    Make sense?

    Any physicists out there that can actually put some equations down to address these questions?