Monday, April 19, 2010

Wind and practice

I spent this morning playing in the wind. I go to a particular lake when I am alone, unfortunately I live about four hours from the coast. this lake is small but I enjoy paddling there. It has a few secluded coves where I can work on particular skills. This morning it was still pretty early but the wind started coming up. I knew that by the time I left the water the little wind would be whitecapping the water. I paddled across the lake into the wind directly, and decided to stop and watch how it affected my boats drift. I watched the way the wind, water, and boat interacted, and how the wind turned my boat. When I saw that it behaved as I expected I continued on. As I got closer to the other side of the lake, the trees and a small point of land gave me some protection from the little wind, the water got flat, with just a little ripple. I paddled towards the point of land and as I rounded it, there was my little wind again. The corner interacting with the wind intensified it. So I had some small standing waves. I played in this spot for close to an hour. experimenting with different strokes, letting the wind turn my boat, and continuing the turn with paddle, backing into the wind and spinning slightly with it. Seeing the effects of edge on different turns and different strokes. It was a dance between myself, and the wind, and this little section of land. It was unbelievably enjoyable. I finally let the wind carry me off the point, and I steered into a little depression of land so I could shoot some video for the blog, and when I was done, paddled with the wind behind me, back across the lake. Still playing with edges to hold my course so I could just paddle without correction strokes. This to me is my meditation. While I meditate in the traditional sense, it takes me a while to get my mind to quiet down. But in a kayak, where I can focus on just movement, my mind quiets down by itself.

This is my practice. I continue to practice hard, as I am my own task master. I continue to refine strokes, and try new ones. I am continually looking for was to improve my skill, always trying to get more fluid, more relaxed. I think in anything you do you have to work to get better. As I get better and become more skilled, my enjoyment goes up. Everything is easier.

I am not nearly as good a martial artist as I am a paddler. Though I see many similarities between the two. The more I work as a martial artist the more fluid I become, the more competent I become, and the easier it gets. It is still hard work. And going to class is sometimes not where I want to be going, though after class I am almost always glad I did. You have to get in your boat and do more than paddle. You have to challenge yourself and push your skills. the payoff is beyond words.

Today's video is simple. A view of how a slight wind effects the direction of a boat at rest. This may seem a bit like watching paint dry, but it will only take 40 seconds. The video starts just as I have stopped paddling. Watch the background move behind me. Watch, towards the end, the difference in the surface of the water on the left and right side of my boat. This is a little wind. Imagine a lot of wind. Then imagine a lot of wind and having to perform an assisted rescue.

I should also point out that this is wind only, no current. Wind and current effect our boats very differently. For now, watch the wind.

wind from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.


  1. PO, wind effect very strongly how a sea kayak behaves on the water.
    While most rudderless sea kayaks are designed to slightly weathercock occasionally there is a kayak that will leecock.
    With a skegged kayak, weathercocking is easily corrected by deploying a bit of skeg.
    The same can not be said for a leecocking kayak.
    What to do when a kayak leecocks?
    Shifting weight (loading the bow) to effect the trim can only go so far...
    My latest project saw me modify and cut away some of the stern of one of my kayaks.
    Not for the faint heated :-) , I documented the project with some images:

  2. Gnarlydog, did the speed you were paddling effect the amount the NorthSea would leecock? Did wind direction effect it? Or did it leecock in wind from any direction?

    For those unaware, Gnarlydog has asked a good, but difficult question. Leecocking is the opposite of weathercocking. In the video above, my boat leecocks (moves flat to the wind) because I wasn't paddling. If I had been paddling the kayak would have turned slightly into the wind unless I corrected it.

    it's interesting that you chose to cut the stern - making it 'looser' when the problem was the bow was too loose. By the way, you are a braver man than I taking your dremel tool to your kayak!

    So yes, you can load the bow - which I am not a fan of - I am curious what would have happened if you loaded the bow AND stern. essentially forcing the entire boat deeper in the water, increasing the effects of the bow without effecting the boats trim.

    minor leecocking can be corrected by stroke. Either adding a sweep at the end of your forward stroke on one side, or sliding the entire paddle to one side, so it is longer on one side than the other. These stroke adjustments in combination with edge works well to control the boat as you will see in fridays video.

    But I think the real answer is one you wont like. The best correction is a rudder. Not to tighten the stern, but to redirect the bow. To keep the bow turned into the wind.

    But I suspect two things. first, I think you aren't a fan of the rudder. and second. I think your boats designer had a very specific use in mind, and it was probably (though I could be wrong) maneuverability. As I am sure you know, everything in Kayaks is a trade off, you want to go straight, it's going to be hard to turn. You want to turn, it's going to be hard to go straight. I think this is a case where the designer was trying to make a long kayak turn easier.

    Wonderful question, thanks.


  3. PO, yes, the speed I was paddling did effect the leecocking: more speed less of a problem.
    Of course that is because as I sped up the pressure on the bow increased and “anchored” it in the water more firmly.
    If I paddled at a relaxed pace the kayak would leecock enough that some correcting strokes were needed to keep it on track.
    Speed will effect most kayaks in regards of lee/weathercocking.
    I chose to cut the stern’s keel line (it really was too deep/long) since “increasing” the bow is not as easy :-)
    If I could somehow firm up the bow the kayak would be even less maneuverable.
    Since I cut the stern the SeaBird is so much easier to turn, very similar to my other British style kayaks.
    The SeaBird originally came with a rudder which I removed soon after purchase.
    I could have left the hull as is and not installed a skeg: the boat tracked straight even in following seas.
    However, since the hull is rather round (the chines are very soft/round compared to an SKUK Explorer) edging the kayak to change direction is not very effective.
    The long keel line in the stern did not help either: the stern would not release when edged (unlike let’s say a VCP Nordkapp).
    Before I cut the stern I moved the seat forward (up to 6”) to adjust the trim. It worked but the stern still was not loose enough for my likings.
    While the easiest solution for any kayak that is not balanced is to add a rudder, I dislike paddling with one.
    I used to have rudder kayaks and they really were preventing me from using my body (edge, lean, sweep strokes etc) when paddling.
    It became more evident once I started to paddle in heavy seas and swell, not to mention that surfing with them was just bad.
    I have not looked back since I got my first skeg kayak.
    If anybody is interested to improve his/her skills I always suggest paddling a skeg kayak.

  4. Gnarlydog. You bring up some very good points. And you touched on somethings that I will be covering in the future. I totally agree with you about the rudder. it can be a crutch to some (many) paddlers. My boat has a rudder, and it is in the stowed position most of the time. It comes down when I am paddling in a wind that is keeping me from going where I want to go. I dislike the skeg for one reason. I like to paddling long distance/multi week trips. That skeg makes it much harder to pack the rear compartment, and a rudder will help with tracking in a cross wind just like a skeg. to each his own.

    in terms of your boat and leecocking, I think we are on the same page. There are a number of things to tweak it, but probably none a great cure.

    thanks again for the insightful comments.