Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The wind going round and round.


It seems the kayaking blogging world is having some trouble with wind lately. It is keeping some ashore, and some are venturing out, to explore, and play with the unseen partner we paddle with, but rarely think about. The only exception being if there is too much of it when we want to be on the water. Today I joined the club - though it had kept my trip from happening two weeks ago- as I got to my little lake where I paddle when I am alone, it was blowing at a good 20 to 25 knots. I knew this because the Beaufort scale states that 'Larger tree branches are moving, Umbrellas are problematic' which I was observing. I also had consistent whitecaps, but the waves were pretty small, and that's because I was in a narrow V shaped lake, which didn't give the wind much 'fetch' to effect the water. (Fetch is defined as The distance over which the wind can blow unobstructed by land before reaching the observer.) The longer the fetch, the bigger the wind, as well as the bigger the effects of those winds on the water. I decided to again play with the wind to study how my boat reacts, I cut across the wind, so it came to my left (or port) side, at about a 45º angle. Sure enough my kayak acted as I expected. It wanted to turn into the wind, or weathercock to the left. I corrected this first by putting a bit of edge into my boat, I leaned to the left, which 'unlocked the bow' and induced a slight turn keeping me on course. But I wanted to experiment with other ways to do this. My next method was to add a bit of a sweep on the end of my forward stroke on my left side. This worked as well, and as I expected. The next method I tried was to slide the paddle shaft in my hands just slightly to the left, and continue with a forward stroke. I moved the paddle about 3 inches off center, this provided stronger force on the left side than the right, which added just a bit of turn. This method is simple and effective. It doesn't require any particular skill or balance. Yet I rarely see people employ it. If you paddle all day in a wind pushing your kayak in a particular direction it is highly effective.

I turned my kayak 90º to the left, thereby putting the wind on my right side at a 45º angle, and tried all three of these fixes for a wind creating a weathercock. I was pleased to see that all of them worked as expected, and I was comfortable doing all three on both sides.

It's important to understand that the weathercock was happening, because the bow of my kayak was locked into the water with it's deep V shape. The stern doesn't lock in quite as much, and so the wind is able to push the stern, when the stern is pushed, it swings the nose into the wind.

I rounded a small island, paddling through the lee of the island where the land blocked the wind, I circled to the windy side, and noticed that leaves had collected in a small recirculating section of water near the other end of the island. I knew I could stop there with no fear of being blown out of the spot. When leaves, or kelp, or foam collect in an area, this is a spot that is protected from wind and current. A good spot to rest or observe. I chose to observe. I pulled into the spot, and with one quick reverse stroke, stopped my forward momentum. I sat and watched the water, and the way the wind was effecting it. I realized I was just a few feet from a very noticeable wind line. I knew that if I was just a few feet to the right I would feel the effects of the wind. So I did a sculling draw, and when I hit the wind line I felt the immediate push of the wind, now behind me. I quickly unfeathered my paddle, and continued on, This time with the following sea. I noticed, this time to my surprise that the wind and water behind me made my kayak want to Lee cock. Lee cocking is the reverse of weather cocking. Instead of my kayak turning into the wind, it wanted to push the rear out to the side, forcing the kayak flat to the wind. Because, again, the stern isn't as locked to the water as the bow. The simple fix for this is to lower my rudder - or a skeg if you have one. I chose not to do this, for two reasons, first, I wanted the experience of paddling in the following sea without it. I wanted to be forced to make the corrections with my paddle and body. This practice will make me a stronger paddler. The second, I had failed to remove the little bungee that locks the rudder in place, making it almost impossible to lower the rudder. I could have reached back, and unlocked it with the tip of my paddle were I in dire straights, but as I said I chose to paddle with it up anyway. Add this to the list of reasons why people prefer a skeg over a rudder! I continued back to my put in, this time aided by the wind, it was a very short trip. I toyed with doing a couple of rolls, but decided against it for various reasons. perhaps next time.

In the video, watch the tops of the trees in the back of parking lot. the constant moving grass, and the branches near the car. Then You will see me shifting the paddle first left, then right. to maintain a course.

NOTE: I just noticed that I never attached the video for this post, so I am updating it here. I was thinking that it was interesting the posts that get the most comments, and the most video views are edging and wind related. I think I am recognizing a trend. Do you - Yes, I am talking to YOU! - think this is an area of general confusion, or concern? What are your thoughts?

wind 2 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.