What was wrong with my paddling?

Scenario: Ross Lake, Washington, winds from the south end of the lake, 10mph ish with some higher gusts, choppy water as we were closer to the north end of the lake and wave energy had a long time to build given the distance travelled along the lake before reaching us. Run on sentence I know. Boat fully loaded.

I wanted to travel in a northwest direction but the wind/wave action kept pushing my bow to the left into the wind! Or was it pushing my stern? Net result is boat was always turning left. I did a 30 minute crossing and had to paddle on my left side exclusively at least 20 minutes of that time and still was only able to travel in a westerly direction.

My tendency is to blame the design of the boat but my intellect says it was my paddling/boat handling. That being said, does the hull shape contribute to this behavior?

The Boat: Point 65° North, Whiskey 16 composite, skeg. Designed by Nigel Foster. http://www.nigelfosterdesigns.com/852/873.html


Waves and likely wind is pushing stern around. Wind as you describe is on port quarter. ( Over left shoulder) Paddle forward sweeps on windward side(left, port) , shorter strokes on other, lower skeg or put some opposing rudder. Note you’ll need a rudder installed for that one. Of course if you paddle faster so boat is “surfing” the rounding up will be less.

Then it would be broaching. :wink:

You can also offset the paddle shaft so left strokes are longer radius.

You can also “edge” but it will still beIN combination with other strokes.

“…wave energy had a long time to build given the distance travelled along the lake before reaching us…”

That’s called “fetch”.

Was your skeg used?

Not necessarily anything wrong with your paddling - it is the boat. Really, most any boat will do this.

Skeg or rudder could help a lot in this situation. There is some body adjustment that could also help - edging the boat to the left will make the boat want to turn a bit to the right. Likely wouldn’t offset the full turning motion fro wind/waves, but could possibly help.

If you know you will be dealing with this in advance, changing the load pattern in the boat may also help. Not an expert on this, so others may have a better feel. But I think putting more load in stern (so weighing it deeper into water) may help reduce the turning effect.

Research “weather cocking”. In a nut-shell, if you are moving forward, your bow is held partially in place by the bow wave that forms (for a visual, imagine the “pillow” of water on both sides of a tug boat’s bow, when plowing ahead). The stern has no such pressure and is free to blow downwind, so the kayak turns into the wind.

Anything that you do to increase water pressure on the stern (e.g. drop a rudder/skeg/put more weight in the back hatch, etc) will help.

There are techniques to correct for this. Leaning into the wind and using strong sweep strokes work, but wear you out since the bow is not free to move. Since the stern is free to move, often it is much easier to perform a stern draw See this link by Nigel Foster.


I have a canoe but a paddle craft is a paddle craft… The stern gets slewn around and sweeps just dont cut it… They are exhausting. So what I do is relax and when the stern starts to get away I give a sharp stern draw to the end of the craft. This requires a fair amount of torso rotation… It must be a snap draw perpendicular to the boat.
Greg the link doesn’t show…

This might be sacrilege in kayak circles, but what I commonly do in similar windy situations when rowing across a large lake (I say “similar” because the boat I’d be using for a long lake crossing handles the situation you describe with no trouble, but certain other scenarios can be a bit awkward when wind speed gets up around 25 mph or more) is to travel a zig-zag pattern, alternating headings which are farther left and right of my ideal heading, but which present easier boat-handling. The longer route that results from zig-zagging is made up for by the decreased energy spent on controlling the boat.

kayakmedic, the link works for me (you have to click on it), but for clarity the article is at https://rapidmedia.com/adventurekayak/categories/skills/328-master-the-stern-draw.

One trick that I was shown in Greenland, that I found brilliant, is that instead of “hanging a knee” to lean the kayak into the wind (the mainstream method that works but hurts your lower back over time and prevents strong torso rotation), is to simply slide your butt in the seat laterally toward the windward side, and the kayak will now lean passively and allow you to paddle normally. This is why hip pads limit you, and one reason why Greenland Skin on Frame kayaks are built with a width of “your hips plus two fists”, to give you some room to move.


I love my rudder in strong quartering winds!

Thanks all for some great comments. I’ll be looking at the web resource gstamer supplied. No rudder on this boat but I generally run my skeg half way down. In this circumstance the skeg was fully deployed.

This does make me feel a little better although I may be in the market for a ruddered boat with more of a greenland hull shape. My partner has a Looksha IV S (she is small and the low version is a really nice boat for her) and does not have wind issues at all.

I really like the Whiskey 16 but it may not have the performance characteristics I ultimately want.

@JackL said:
I love my rudder in strong quartering winds!

Amen. I watch others struggle and I power down in my Solstice. I practice no rudder in bad conditions so I am not in shock if I lose it.

I routinely paddle weaker then hubby but in strong stern quartering winds with a rudder I outdistance him quite easily. His Greenland style kayak has no skeg nor rudder but he still loves it… He has been wedded to it for 25 years. And when I talk strong winds I mostly refer to Lake Superior waves which routinely are over your head…

I let the skeg do what it can and also do what guideboatguy does. If it’s really bad I’ll tack. Much better.

Wind was pushing your stern, or should have been because the bias for safety is to windcock rather than leecock.

Whiskey is designed to be a pretty maneuverable boat. It is going to be less interested in going straight in those conditions than many others no matter what you do. There are three options that combined should help.
Drop the skeg.
Play with your weight loading so that the trim helps resist the wind a little. There are no hard and fast rules about this, you need to experiment. In one of my boats I typically use I load the bow heavier, in the other the stern carries more weight. I get the same benefit in both boats but I do have to load them differently to get that.
Sit in the bilge of the boat, off center, keeps it a bit on edge without having to use leg strength.

It is a good boat but she will manuever.

When wind and waves are factors, there will always be techniques to deal with what is going on with the boat. If it means that you will need to paddle on one side of the boat for awhile, so be it; if it means you will need to tack, so be it.

Yesterday I was paddling in conditions that I’m sure were much more severe than what you described and at some points, I did make more strokes on the windward side to keep the course I wanted. This in a boat that tracks like it is on tracks. You just have to do whatever it takes and not feel inadequate about it. All of the suggestions are good and might be helpful, but in time, you will automatically do almost all of the adjustments without even thinking about it and still end up doing what works for you.

thanks, nicely stated magooch. There are lots of good ideas and I get your point about doing whatever it takes and with time I’ll know what that is.

If one has to paddle on one side to maintain course then the fault is mainly, not entirely, the boat. I don’t know and don’t care how the shape of the boat causes this. For example, my Seda Ikkuma is very easy to maintain course in side winds and waves. A bit easier using the skeg but fine even without the skeg. This is with no load except for my body weight. It is better than either a Mariner Coaster or Mariner Express in this regard. On the other hand I have found a borrowed Caribou very difficult in strong crosswinds.

Better still to have a rudder, if holding course is the objective.

Here’s a link to info on skegs and weathercocking: http://kayak-skills.kayaklakemead.com/skeg.html

Nice thing about a skeg is the ability to adjust the setting. BTW, that’s a very nice kayak you’re paddling.