Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kayak Sailing on the Maury River - September 2008

A developing low pressure system off the Carolina coast and a high pressure system in the Ohio Valley produced a windy day here in the Shenandoah Valley, with sustained winds in the teens gusting over 20-mph. I took advantage of this opportunity to sail my 14' Heritage Sea Dart on the Maury River near Buena Vista, Virginia.

Read more about this location here. I chose this location today due to its proximity to my home and the river's north-south orientation - the better to funnel the north wind. I found, however, that the winds were more variable than I wanted, constantly shifting one direction and then the other, which I suppose is to be expected in a meandering river valley. I was able to adjust to the variable winds fairly easily, though, and managed to sail up and down the river for about an hour. As I've mention in my other postings about kayak sailing, I've been testing different rigging systems for the sail on my boats. With this boat, I've been using chains and bungees to hold the mast platform to my deck. It works pretty well, and prevents the sail from blowing over, but it's quite cumbersome, as you can see in the picture. My 14' boat also does not have a rudder, necessitating the use of the paddle for steering, as well as paddling and bracing.

After watching the sail respond to the wind, I've hit upon another, less cumbersome, idea for securing the mast without drilling into the hull. I plan to explore this new idea in later blogs. As it stands now, the mast is just a little too far forward on the hull to reach without scooting forward - it would be much easier if the mast were within arm's reach. Scooting forward to attach the sail in a stiff wind can be tricky, and if you're not quick with the paddle, can result in a flip if you're caught off-guard. The same is true for trying to get the sail off the mast in the wind. Without a rudder on this boat, it can be all too easy for the boat to rotate sideways to the wind, increasing your chances for the wind to catch the sail and overturn the boat. While this is probably rare, it did happen to me once off the coast of South Carolina in a strong wind and following seas.

This part of the Maury River is actually a small reservoir backed up behind an old dam. It provides the paddler with about a mile of flatwater behind the dam before reaching the first set of rapids. At this time of the year, the river contains quite a lot of algae and other aquatic plants (see my first picture). While this is not a problem for the paddler, it would not be pleasant for tubers, and it would likely foul boat propellers. This material will likely die off as water temperatures decrease this fall and overnight temperatures begin to drop below freezing.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

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