Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kayak Sailing on Mill Creek Lake - September 2008

The weather served up a 10-mph north wind today, and that was enough of an incentive to get me away from the computer screen and on my 17' Heritage kayak for an afternoon of paddling and sailing on Mill Creek Lake, one of the larger fishing lakes in the region. See my other postings about this lake for more pictures and a detailed description.

I've been itching to try out the rigging system on my kayak, and a 10-mph wind is just enough to fill the sail and pull the boat along the water. On days like this, I tend to paddle into the wind to one side of the lake, then put up the sail and run downwind to the other side. Do this three or four times, and you get a good mix of exercise by paddling upwind and the joy of pure sailing downwind.

One or two higher gusts demonstrated that my rigging system is vulnerable to rotation, and this is the last thing you want to happen in a stiff wind. As I've discovered in the open ocean off the coast of South Carolina in my 14' Heritage Sea Dart, the boat can nearly tip over (and did so to me once) when the wind is over 20-mph and your sail mast rotates too far to the left or the right. Mounting the mast platform to the hull directly would alleviate this problem, as the mast locks into the platform to prevent rotation, but I've been hesitant to drill into the hull (click here for detailed pictures of the mounting system). The main difference between my 14' kayak and the 17' kayak is that the 17-footer has a foot-operated rudder. This means you don't have to use the paddle to both steer and brace, if the need arises. The rudder should make a huge difference in controllability in a strong wind. View a short 15-second clip of sailing this afternoon in a light wind:

The beauty of this sail is that it gets better as the wind speed increases. Below 10-mph, there simply isn't enough wind to fill the sail very well, and it's easy to paddle hard enough to negate the effect of the sail. However, in a 15-20 mph wind and above, the sail lifts the boat and pulls it across the water with authority.

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