I’ve been waiting for the right kind of wind to have a proper go at WindPaddling my MRS Nomad. Sunday was not that day with SW gusts up to 25mph. Yesterday was more like it: direct from the west at 10-15 meant a chance to run down the full length of Loch Ossian with the wind erring towards the road for the walk back or if it all went wrong.
You forget that starting at the upwind end all is relatively smooth and calm, but soon the fetch kicks up and stays that way. Progress gets a bit lively so you need to be on top of things which includes stashing the paddle safely. I found tucking it across the boat under some red sidelines (left) worked well and are more often useful for manhandling the boat. Lunging after a lost paddle would be bad; so would letting go of the sail’s ‘reins’ and having the boat run over it. The sudden drag and deceleration might see the racing boat slew sideways and flip you out. And before you come up for air, your packraft is skimming across the loch like a crisp packet.
I don’t know if gusts vary in direction but you also need to constantly modulate the reins left to right to keep on course. It’s said downwind sails like the WindPaddle have a narrow windspeed window which tops out around 15mph. After that, they start fluttering left to right in an effort to shed the load, as mine did a couple of times. Going out in stronger winds may be too hard to handle or very exciting. As it is, the maximum hull speed of a packraft must be about half that and, just as a cyclist’s energy to overcome wind drag grows exponentially, so too you can only push a paddle boat so far. A packraft is about as hydrodynamic as a training shoe.
With the gloomy skies I was initially a bit nervous. Controlled by the wind and without a paddle in your hands felt disconcerting; a sunny tropical locale would have fixed that I’m sure. As usual with packboat sailing, it’s never just sit back and skim along like yachts seem to do; you have to keep correcting. At nearly 3m with the skeg fitted, the MRS is longish which must help keep it on line. And as mentioned before, with the WindPaddle you can steer at least 30° off the wind. According to the GPS, 9.3kph (5.8mph) was the peak speed, though most of the time I was zipping along at about 7.5kph. It felt faster as wavelettes broke to either side and occasionally over the bow. With the big Corry paddle, at maximum paddle exertion on flatwater I can hit 6kph for a couple of seconds. So once you relax, sailing can be a fast and energy-saving way of covering distance, and the WP stashed easily under the DeckPack.
I was expecting to walk back but gave paddling a go and stuck with it, hackling along at 2kph with rests every 10 minutes. Fifteen minutes sailing downwind = a 50-minute paddle back. I still think for the price, weight, bulk and ease of fitting and use, a WindPaddle is a worthwhile packboating accessory.
Packboat is my made-up word for easily portable boats that roll into a bag but deploy in minutes, in contrast with hardshell kayaks or canoes in aluminum, plastic, or composite. I’m here to suggest that if lugging a cumbersome hardshell on your overland rig isn’t for you, then a packboat weighing from 2 to 40 pounds and never bigger than a backpack might well be, while adding another great way to explore the outdoors…
We decided to lap the tip (left) of the Coigach peninsula. Doing it clockwise put us in the lee of the afternoon’s southwesterly once in Enard Bay and better still, we’d catch high tide at Achnahaird, enabling us to paddle up the creek to complete a near full loop back to the car via the freshwater lochs of Ra and Vatachan.
I remember being quite nervous the first time I did this way back in 2013 in my Amigo – in the other direction from Achnahaird. Looks like I’m not the only one – I blame the Pesda guidebook. It felt like a long old slog west then north between the Ristol islands – the tidal Ristol channel was dry. But by the time we’d passed the reefs of Reiff and reached the sparkling beach at Camas Ghlais (below) we were already more than halfway round.
Sitting on the beach, on warm days like this and always looking to refine my set-up to a razorbill’s edge, I sometimes think a sturdy football-sized net bag to take a beach stone would be handy to anchor the boat out in the shallows. This way it won’t beach itself, get hot and purge air which can make the kayak soggy once back in the cool water. It’s one slight drawback of running PRVs on all 3 air chambers. I could probably find some washed up net up among the flotsam and make one. Or I could Buy [a ball bag] Now on ebay for a £1.62. Leaving the sandy bay, I give the Seawave a quick top-up with the K-Pump anyway.
On the north side on the bay we nosed towards a slot cave, but white streaks running down from the ledges suggested nesting birds had hung out ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs. Either I’ve never noticed them before or there are lots more nesting birds around this year. It’s the end of May but there are still tiny snow patches on An Teallach and Beinn Dearg – maybe the season is late.
North of Camas the unrestrained swell was bouncing back off the low cliffs and small dazzling waves were breaking over semi-submerged rocks, making for a rough ride. But it’s all relative and showed what a sheltered life I lead, paddling mostly in and out of the protected Summer Isles.
We passed on sandless Faochag Bay and on turning the point of Rubha Coigach all was calm as the grand panorama of the Assynt peaks came into view (above). From the right: Quinaig; Canisp behind Suilven, Cul Mor, Stac Polly in front of Cul Beag, and the group around Ben Mor Coigach. It’s one good reason to do the paddle in this direction. There’s a bigger version of the Assynt panorama here taken on the road above Achnahaird. I really must work out how to do that panorama photo-stitch thing.
Coming down the Enard Bay side, we tried to explore some other caves with green moss streaked with guano, but got dive-bombed by angry shags.
Back out in the bay an unpredicted northwesterly picked up – time to launch that WindPaddle which has been sitting in my kit bag unused for a year or more. Initially, the breeze barely reaches 6mph – we could have paddled faster – but it sure was fun to kick back, look around and let the boat waft quietly along, free from the splish-splosh, splish-splosh rhythm. I wonder if self-driving cars will be the same.
It’s been a while since I’ve done this but the WindPaddle definitely felt better than my homemade efforts from years ago, as well as the knock-off WP I bought a year or two back. I tried a V-sail too but have never really got the hang of kayak sailing. It seems the sweet spot is hard to find: either the wind comes and goes and the sail flops, or it blowing so hard the sail can’t handle it and you’re clinging on. Still, I look forward to giving the WP a spin in slightly windier conditions. For the compact size and light weight I get the feeling it may be worth keeping.
The breeze picked up and we chugged along at a brisk stroll. But even then the WindPaddle feels satisfying to use. I think the key is the sprung tension of the composite batten (rim); it retains the circular shape of the bowl which means it’ll stay up as the wind drops and keep shape as it rises, then can be confidently scrunched down to a packable size without breaking. Doing that during a bit of a blow may be tricky, but it can easily be pulled back and tucked down unfurled over the legs (right). It’s only a downwindish sail but as with previous disc sails, I like the way you can steer intuitively by pulling one line back; a skeg must help but there’s no need for paddle-rudder assistance.
It was nice to look around in the quiet but I also missed that thrill of thrust when a sail catches and holds a good passing gust. Eventually we could stand the relaxed pace no more and the geef paddle-assisted us towards a stony beach at the mouth of the Allt Loch Ra creek. Squawking oystercatchers were guarding their nests. Left, by the bothy at Badentarbet last year; don’t stand on the eggs.
Refuelled, we paddled upstream for a bit then I tow-waded the boat, reminding me of the shallows of Shark Bay in 2006 – a good way to rest after what felt like days of headwinds. The short wade brought us to within a couple of minutes’ portage of Loch Ra just over the road. Now on fresh water, we dragged through the reeds before another short portage over into the adjacent Loch Vatachan. Picking a passing place close to the shore, the geef walked off to get the car while I rinsed off the seawater – another good reason to paddle this loop clockwise. It’s 15 miles and about 5 easy hours to loop the Coigach loop.
Adding a rudder to the Seawave inspired me to drag out my cheapo disc sail. I last tried it three years ago on the Amigo (below) when it worked OK, even without a rudder. But of course, a rudder is much better for keeping the boat on the wind while sitting back with the paddle on your lap and your hands on the sail lines.
Pulling the sail out the 3mm fibreglass rod or ‘batten’ broke. I bought some more which, if anything, felt more pliable than the original but before I took it out it was broken in two places. Long sections of fibreglass rod in greater diameters can’t be sent bent so incur much higher postage charges which made reviving my KnockOffPaddle uneconomical. Worse still, removing the splintered rod from the sail (before I decided to ditch it) filled my hands with glass splinters for days. Nasty stuff.
I looked again at the original WindPaddle whose prices have dropped in the UK. Their Adventure II model is up by 13cm to 119cm or 47″ in diametre, making a claimed area of 1.42m (as usual π x r2. doesn’t add up to ‘1.42’ but never mind). It folds down to 42cm or 16 inches and weighs just 400g. I asked about the cheaper Scout sail and why it’s rated at 4–15 knots when the new Adventure II is rated at 6–30kn. It’s not just the bigger area; the Adv II has a significantly stiffer composite batten to help hold its shape.
A problem with all sails is that they can start swinging from side to side in a recirculating frenzy before either settling down, collapsing or diving for the drink, possibly when the wind is more than they can handle. I recall with previous V and disc sails that lot of your time is spent managing that motion, rather than galloping across the waves like a flying fish, but the promise of achieving that is why I’m persevering.
When the £116 sail arrived, it certainly had a better quality feel than my smaller knock-off which went for under £20 on eBay. The sail fabric feels thicker and the key perimetre batten isn’t a regular GRP rod-like in a tent, but a flat flexible composite band about 8mm by 1mm. It takes significantly more effort to fold the Adventure II three times into its 16-inch hoop, but that should result in a more stable sail in action. Sea trials here.
Spring is here, time to sharpen our paddles! While you’re doing that, here’s a Seawave sailing vid with a sail kit (right) from kayaksailor.com. With the lee boards it all looks a bit complicated for me, but perhaps that explains how they manage without a rudder. Notice the hull folding up from 1:40. Don’t know if that’s down to the breakneck speed under sail, or he needs some uprated side chamber PRVs. For more sail posts, see the IK sailing category somewhere on the right.
Update 2019: I’ve not used my MYO rudder since I made it in 2016. Partly because I’ve only done day trips predicated on nice weather, but also it’s all just more faff and clutter, not least the lines and footboard. As explained earlier, for multi-day trips where you must deal with the winds you’re given, a rudder is a good idea. But even then, you only notice your relative lack of speed (due to sidewind paddling correction) alongside others. Alone, you’re as fast as you are [grasshopper]. Rudders are not primarily about steering or tracking as they are on powered boats; in a kayak they’re about enabling an efficient, balanced paddling effort on both arms by compensating for the boat’s deflection from side winds. In a way the simple stock skeg-shifter (left) will do as well with much less clutter and weight. Or, use the MYP rudder (below), but locked-out as a lifting skeg in place of the Gumotex skeg for shallows and beach parking. That is handy to avoid stressing the stock skeg, especially when the boat is loaded.
While waiting for rudder bits to turn up, we went out for an evening paddle round Eilean Mullagrach. It was pretty calm but at no point did I think, ‘Darn, I wish I had a rudder’. When it came to turning corners we just paddled hard or dragged a blade and round we came. But the Seawave rudder project carries on like a supertanker with a jammed… rudder, if for no other reason than it’s fun to experiment and a rudder can also work as an articulated skeg when locked out – something I may look into when it’s all done.
Ironing out the flaws with the prototype added up to attaching it more securely at the back and making the pedal board out of something more responsive and durable. By coincidence, all these components can be sawn from a single piece of 450 x 300 x 12mm LDPE chopping board (left) which costs from £8 on eBay in a range of colours. This is 50% thicker than the smaller board I used on the prototype plate so doesn’t need doubling up and gluing to make it rigid.
At the back I slimmed the rudder plate right down to a simple strip of 65mm x 450mm, glued a block on the end to better support the gudgeon swivel pivot sleeve and added the crucial second fixing under the portaging handle (above left). I also added a triangularish screw plate underneath (left, with red cord) so it all sits snug in the stern. With the hardware and saddle strap that now adds up to 306g (the rudder unit weighs 450g with its running lines). Even though it’s slimmer than the proto plate, it weighs about the same because it’s now 12 mil. But looks a whole lot neater.
The pedal board is from the same slab but uses stainless hinges, not zip ties. I’m reminded, you’re constantly making small adjustments as you paddle so pedals need to be as taut and responsive as possible. Once I’d trimmed the board and pedals a bit (left), with hinges it came in at 660g. The board and maybe the pedals could have been made from 8mm if there was some to spare – but an 8mm board wants to be ~450mm wide to sit snugly in the boat’s side channels. Like the rudder, the pedal board will be subject to strong forces in heavy seas so also needs to be solidly jammed in. Meanwhile, I noticed the floor-laminate prototype board (right) gained nearly 15% in weight after getting wet – a sign it won’t last long. Still, it made a good template.
I do wonder if something like the Grabner rudder pedal bar (left, similar to Gael’s old H2) would be much lighter, as solid and as effective as my board. It costs €70 plus €30 for a pair of Zoelzer pedals. I can’t really see how I could replicate that alloy footrest bar – out of copper tube filled with resin perhaps (like this motorbike rack)? It’s held securely in place without fittings by being jammed in the channel cavity between the floor and the sides (like my board), but a check with Gael advised me against it. As it happened, I’d pretty much decided the same mid-test run (below). A sliding ally bar plus seawater isn’t a great combination and might bend or break, or the pedals snap. I know the ally backrest bar on my Amigo wasn’t up to it and Gael’s backrest broke (though it was ancient). My plastic version may weigh double but should be solid. Interestingly, just as a bag of clam cleats turned up to make a quicker way of fine-tuning the rudder pedal lines from the cockpit, I see left that Grabner use them – a good sign.
The weather here’s about to crack and then we’re moving south, so in a rush I took the revised rudder plate out for a test with the creaky waterlogged pedal board. Heading towards Horse Island tidal passage, I didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blew: from the WNW at about 12mph.
Initially, the boat needed constant small corrections to maintain a course, and there was some stiction, hopefully down to the zip ties on the soggy pedal board. I tried a few tight turns and marvelled at the control and how sharply the boat swung round like a pedalo. The rudder plate is now as rock solid as anything fitted to an IK can be. Again, I consciously tried not to correct with my arms, just my feet, which were twitching regularly.
At Horse Island I was way too early to run the passage, but as it was probably my last paddle here till next year, I decided to head for Badentarbet. Turning north, closer into the wind the micro corrections were no longer needed and the boat ran as if on a skeg, but without arm corrections. I’m pretty sure paddling 20–30° off the wind would have required arm steering, but I just hacked away towards Rubha Dunan on the mainland as the wind increased. When I tried a bit of downwinding protracted rudder juggling was needed to keep the back-end in line.
I passed through a channel on the headland and the NW wind got steadily stronger so crossing the bay to the beach seemed to take ages of effort. By now the small corrections I’d been making were no longer necessary, perhaps something had bedded in, the knots had tightened up or like riding a bike I’d just got the knack of minimal rudder movement to keep the boat on track. But upwind paddling is comparatively easy so I tried across the wind, now running over 15mph, and a bit more downwinding which gave me that unsettling Ningaloo feeling. This must be the weak point of a buoyant, windprone IK (especially when unloaded), and maybe all kayaks and canoes too. The chop was only a foot high but were there a swell of a metre or more, the rudder would be briefly lifting and the stern sliding. I wonder if in such conditions a combination of rudder and skeg (which is always submerged) might be a way of limiting weathercocking? Or perhaps just more practice is required. There’s also another solution that might arrive here in time to try out.
As I neared the beach the wind was hard in my face but I realised I was actually on good form, unlike on the Tanera run with the prototype. So I hammered away with all I had until my strake hissed onto the sands. Paddling hard is all helped by my brilliant, bent-shaft Werner Camano paddle, no less than ten years old this summer. It still clips together with a satisfyingly ‘clunk’ and has very little play. If it ever got lost or abducted by aliens I’d buy another without hesitation.I was glad I’d got stuck into a longer test run than planned, and am now confident my MYO Seawave rudder is in the ballpark. Hopefully, the new pedal board will complete the job.
Total weight: 300g rudder plate + 450g rudder + 660g pedal board + ~100g rigging = 1.51kg (3.3lbs), or < 10% of the boat’s weight
For about £200 posted I could have installed a 2016 Seawave rudder kit, but from all the images I could find at the time it was unclear exactly how it secured at the back – there must be their version of an unseen triangular underplate, but even then it’s still a stressed-out single point attachment. My additional under-handle fixture eliminates pivoting.
And the plywood Gumotex footboard (right) appears to sit loose and seemingly will also pivot on that single strap. Production versions may differ and let’s not forget that adding all this complexity also adds a risk of breakage or damage. The simplest solution is usually the best, but the 160-g skeg will always be clipped in the boat as a back-up and a Seawave is controllable (if much slower) with no tracking aids at all. It’s worth remembering: a rudder isn’t about day-to-day tracking, it’s about maintaining a course when the boat gets pushed about in stronger winds. In such conditions a skeg is essential and a rudder is an improvement, as explained here.
On the beach, prior to lugging the boat over seaweed-clad boulders, it took only 30 seconds to unclip the rudder mechanism from the plate to pre-empt stumbling and damaging it. Since then I changed the rudder plate mounts with tool-free knobs and an eyelet (left). When rolling the boat up it was best to pivot the rudder plate around the drain hole 90° to pack better.
Within hours of finishing my prototype rudder I set about finishing it properly, and after a test run to Tanera, made further improvements, listed below, before trying it again. The whole set-up wants to be mountable/removable without any tools or knots to untie. I used mini karabiners to attach the various lines but realised snaplinks with a ring are better, as they’re permanently attached so won’t get lost. I recall the fine wire clips on my Incept rudder and after hours of webbery found out they’re called fishing snaps (right). Let me tell you, you can spend a lot of time online trying to figure out if size 00 is bigger than size 8 and still end up buying ones so small you need tweezers to open them. Moving on, some ringed karabiners (black, right) now do the job.
I only know two knots from my climbing days and still regularly use the Figure of Eight, (right and left) a quick way to put a loop on the end of a line that’s easy to undo. If you want to feed an Fo8 into a fixed ring (like the black krabs, above), just make a loose ‘8’ near the end of the line, then feed the loose end through your ring and follow it back in and around the Fo8 all the way out again. And add a lock knot for good measure.
Lines shouldn’t be knotted directly to a fixed object, especially if it’s pivoting, but on the rudder’s lifting pulley there’s no room to attached a krab or mini shackle. The lowering pivot has a hole and channel for a nipple (right). I suppose I could track down a short length of appropriate wire cable, but for the moment it’s a job for our good friends, the zip ties. Lovely family. I also moved the rudder lifting knob to the right side: forward to lift (slightly more effort); pulling back to drop seemed intuitive.
In this pre-optimised form I crossed the two miles to Tanera Mor with a light WSW wind at 2 o clock. First, like a bush pilot, I checked my flaps: up and down, left and right, then started the engine and pushed on the throttles. Very soon something was wrong. I was having to rudder hard left and the pedals were leaning way forward. I stopped to knot the lines to take up some slack, but still the boat was turning into the wind and the rudder was very slow to respond.
With a skeg it’s usually the bow that pushes round on a crosswind. Was the new rudder assembly making more windage to push the back around? More stopping to add knots to the pedal lines. I was also reminded that with a rudder you don’t just set it and paddle away, but are constantly making tiny corrections. You probably do the same with your arms and a skeg, but never notice until it gets obvious (the whole point of fitting a rudder). For this reason a rudder wants to be as smooth-running and taut as possible.
The forecast was cold and northerly, so, over-dressed in a cag and dry pants, all this foot and arm work took it out of me as I resolutely tried not to correct with my arms. It was a relief to arrive at Tanera’s 200-year-old pier. Mooring up, I noticed my rudder plate was dislodged (right), explaining why the pedal tension and tracking had gone awry. It was only when I got back that I noticed I’d fitted my nutted ‘underplate’ upside down and the nut had pulled out. Oh Brother What a Plonker. I locked down the plate with a zip tie and readjusted the pedal lines yet again.
It was also clear that my scrapheap pedal board was flawed. Heels resting on the board (left) put them two inches higher than normal – not good for paddling efficiency, comfort or pedal actuation; perhaps quite good for neglected muscles. That was easily fixed by turning the board around.
After an hour exploring this historic corner of the island (more here shortly) I headed back and immediately noticed a much more responsive rudder – now you’re talking! It was like driving with all the wheels done up tight. Lower heels gave a much better angle on the pedals and I noticed I was now operating the pedals with the outer edge of my feet, as I recall on the Incept. Line drag was minimal but now the wood laminate pedal board creaked and the zip tie hinges were a bit mushy too. I’d already ordered another slab of LDPE chopping board to make a pedal board out of something more water-resistant than compressed dust, as well as the extravagance of proper marine-grade hinges (well, that’s what it said on eBay). I tried a quick bit of disc sailing too but it wasn’t really windy enough – more on that later.
As I neared Badentarbet beach the g-friend happened to swing by and, showing her some moves, I was amazed how sharply the boat could turn at low speed in the shallows, almost like a handbrake turn. Of course that’s not a particularly useful attribute in a kayak unless a WWII mine bobs up in front of you, but it’s good to know it worked. I also got a chance to test my newly bootied Kokotat dry pants – they worked like they should, too.
Back at the house, I realised the pedal lines had been cut before considering the need to move the pedal board forward for tandem paddling. Luckily, more Dyneema turned up next day, so I re-used the former yellow cord for the rudder lifting lines and ditched the saggy red paracord. Much tauter action.
The wheeled cord locks turned up too (right). I had a suspicion they wouldn’t work for adjusting rudder lines and I was right. They need tension from the same direction while snugged up against the edge of a stuff sack or something. I tried doubling the lines with two pulling the same way but the red Dyneema is too thin, hard-surfaced and slippery to work with these locks.
I settled on a ‘truck tarp knot’ then got the idea that the locking guyline adjusters off my Vaude tent might do the job – and they glow in the dark too! My Odyssee has guylines to spare.
Speaking of tension, nursing the loose prototype rudder over to Tanera wore me out much more than it should have – or maybe I just wasn’t paddle fit, having not been out since Mull. I set about making small improvements, including adding two holes in the boat’s back deck triangle (as Gumotex do) to make a cleaner run line for the pivot lines. It’s no great pleasure stabbing a red-hot poker into your favourite IK, but a side benefit is the rich aroma of burning Nitrilon rubber, not some cheap plastic. I’ll track down some nice eyelets later.
Once I realised the rudder board had come undone because I’d mounted the nut plate wrong, it was clear the strap looped to the last deck line sleeves weren’t doing much. The main mount was through the drain hole, which relied on the large nut plate (left) below to stay in place, plus the saddle strap (left) limiting any yawing. The whole plate could be slimmed down to resemble Gumotex’s factory version.
So I think I’m going to follow up on my own speculation and either form a triangular nut-plate below the deck to help keep the rudder plate in line with the boat or I may make a new long thin plate (yellow, left) that reaches back past the kayak’s portage strap. With a slot to get round the handle, I’ll poke another hole in the deck and this way the plate will have two mounting points plus the saddle strap and will not deflect.
Rudder 1.1 While waiting for more chopping boards to turn up, I went out for another run with the Mk1.1 set-up. Much windier this time – 15 to 20mph from the SW. Normally I’d not go out in this, but the point of the rudder was to ease effort and improve control just before such conditions set in.
That was the theory – in practice I struggled to get out of Old Dornie harbour against the wind and soon had to put in to readjust the pedal lines. What now, ffs? The luminescent Vaude clamps were effective but not a 4-second job like they should be. They can go back on the tent – better line locking mechanism needed. If I’d looked back I’d have noticed the rudder plate had become dislodged yet again by the forces pushing the boat around. That explained why getting right out of the harbour was such a slog, let alone tackling the 15-knot headwind and lashing rain. Deceptively, there were few whitecaps out there, but a deep swell was rolling through, probably lifting the rudder out of the water. Who’d have thought it was midsummer’s day.
Turning back, I hoped I might get a bit of a run on the wind, but control was even worse – shades of Ningaloo but without the mangos and barramundi. Back at the pier, it was a relief to see it was only the rudder plate at fault, although I’d not have been surprised if it was just too windy for any sort of IK-ing today. While waiting for what-do-you-think-I-am-a-bloody-taxi-service? to turn up, I strolled along the exposed shore on the off-chance of finding some LDPE jetsam, but all was glistening seaweed and frayed rope.
Rudder 1.2 I’m running out of time with the luxury of having the sea at my doorstep. That evening it occurred to me the rudder plate was always deflecting clockwise because the lip of one glued-on reinforcement plate underneath stopped it turning the other way. I did what I’d considered initially and glued a thin strip of LDPE to act as an opposing locating edge so the plate sat more securely once saddle-strapped down to the boat’s triangular stern.
This surely should be enough to keep the plate in place, but while I was fiddling I made a template for the triangular nut plate which might further help locate the rudder plate (right). When more LDPE turns up I’ll cut one out and melt another M6 nut into it. if this doesn’t work a longer plate with another through-the-deck fixture below the portage handle (as visualised above in yellow) ought to fix this once and for all.
Other jobs: trimming off the board’s unneeded flab to make the current haxagonal shape, filing down the edge of the rudder body where the lifting line rubbed (right), and one more tweaking of the rudder pedal lines.
I headed to back to the harbour where it was still blowing about 15mph from the SW but within a minute suspected it was pivoting again, possibly from the pull when dropping the rudder. The added locating strip wasn’t enough. Who knows how Gumotex manage it but on this set-up the surefire solution is a second in-line fixing point (as above) and perhaps that triangular under-plate to stop the mount pivoting once and for all.
Partly, these issues are due to underestimating the forces that a combined 120kg of paddler in a 4.5m-long kayak moving at 4mph puts on a rudder and its mount. Add some wind, current and waves and how the small blade is fixed to a big boat becomes critical. Nearly there, brothers and one clear benefit: the ability to sit the kayak on the ground with no skeg stress. I can see me leaving the rudder on there full time and adding some sort of bombproof lock-out to make it the mythical articulated / lifting skeg.
Update 2019: I’ve not used my MYO rudder since I made it in 2016. Partly because I’ve only done day trips predicated on nice weather, but also it’s all just more faff and clutter, not least the lines and footboard. As explained earlier, for multi-day trips where you must deal with the winds you’re given, it’s a good idea. But even then, you only notice your relative lack of speed (due to sidewind correction) alongside others. Alone, you’re as fast as you are [grasshopper]. Rudders are not primarily about steering or tracking as they are on powered boats; in a kayak they’re about enabling a more efficient, balanced paddling effort on both arms by compensating for the boat’s deflection for side winds. In a way the simple stock skeg-shifter (right) will do as well with much less clutter and weight. Or, use the MYP rudder (below), but locked-out as a lifting skeg in place of the Gumotex skeg for shallows and beach parking. That is handy to avoid stressing the stock skeg, especially when the boat is loaded.
After writing this a few weeks back I decided to try and fit a rudder onto my Seawave. On that breezy Mull trip Gael, in the ruddered Incept K40 (right), seemed a little faster than me and the penny finally dropped as to why.
A rudder can compensate for winds pushing the boat off course while you power on as normal. Without one you’re pulling harm with just one arm in an effort to keep on course – that explained why I was a bit slower. Rudders have nothing to do with improving tracking which the Seawave does fine with the help of the skeg (though fitting a rudder means you won’t need a skeg). And unlike a ship, rudders have little use in ‘steering’ which a kayak does easily enough by dragging or drawing a paddle blade.
As mentioned elsewhere, another benefit of using a rudder instead of a skeg means that you can park the boat on flat ground without it pressing on the skeg – particularly useful when the boat is loaded and heavy (left). I’ve often thought about fitting a hinged skeg at the back of the boat to enable this. It’s a way of avoiding the complexity of a rudder but with the benefits of solid tracking which is useful at sea.
It helped that I found SoT rudders from Hong Kong on eBay for 20 quid. For that price it was worth experimenting, just like it was for a knock-off disc sail. Here in the UK a proper sea kayak rudder costs around £200 for a full kit with pedals. I also learned that Gumotex had introduced a Seawave rudder kit on their 2016 model as I was halfway through this project. I’m glad I spotted it as it gave me some good ideas, while the cost and certain features of the Gumotex rudder reassured me that my MYO was a better way to do it.
Does an IK need a rudder? Most of the time on calm day trips a skeged Seawave manages fine without a rudder. But on a longer multi-day trip, or a scheduled one like Mull, you have to deal with the weather you’re given, or sit it out. As it is, unlike hardshells, IKs are innately more windprone as they’re lighter and sit higher on the water.
I paddled with a ten-ton hardshell once in Australia with my old K40 (above). Where we could, we both had sails and the hardshell flew along (a rudder makes kayak sailing much easier). But me, I had to give up on day two; I couldn’t control my kayak in the 20-30-knot backwinds, and that was with a rudder. On another earlier paddle in Ozzie in my Sunny I remember pulling hard on one arm for hours and days to counteract the crosswinds. I ended up with arms like a fiddler crab. So with an IK the window of rudder usefulness – when winds are strong enough to require rudder correction, but before they’re too strong for all except short, white-knuckle crossings – is actually quite narrow. Say, between 10 and 20mph.
This’s why I’d sooner not spend £200 finding out if a rudder suits my sort of paddling. A rudder isn’t going to transform my Seawave and I may end up not using it much, as I’ve done with my disc sail (though having a rudder again may encourage me to give sailing another go). But a rudder will slightly extend my boat’s paddleability. When a brisk quarter wind blows from front or rear I’ll be able to set the rudder against it and power away with equal effort on both arms. Anatomical consequences? More Popeye, less Fiddler crab.
Gumotex’s old Helios ran a crude rudder using the stern seam flap to pivot the rudder with very basic stirrups. The sea-slick Seawave isn’t made like that so needs some sort of fitting. Bodging etiquette requires that costs, effort if not time taken must be a practical minimum – and all additions must be reversible with minimum alternations to the craft. What I’ve made here is only a prototype which I’m calling Mk1. As you’ll read, i found many ways to improve it.
The Chinese SoT item (left and right) has a 16″ blade, minimal blade breadth, can be quickly removed on the pivot pin, and can be both retracted completely from the water and dropped back in, using control lines. And better still, the retraction sweep comes right out and drops over the back of the deck, not sticking out vulnerably like the Incept rudder (above) or the Gumotex kit.
MYO While the rudder inched its way here from Hong Kong I came up with a rough idea to mount it on a chopped up kitchen chopping board held in place by straps or similar off the rearmost deck line sleeves, then cinched down with an extra D-ring glued under the stern – the only mod permanently added to the actual boat. On the end of the board some sort of gudgeon pivot swivel bracket device was needed – either a proper stainless steel bracket from SeaLect (left), or a block of whatever fixed to the board plus a ⅜” hole drilled through it to take the rudder pin. Rigidity, or minimal flex is important if the rudder is to feel responsive – another flaw I recall from the Incept. Mounting something rigidly on the end of an IK is tricky, but if my first ideas aren’t good enough, there’ll be other ways of doing it.
The way I chopped my 8mm board up and glued on the off-cuts for added stiffness produced about an inch of thickness at the back (right). And when the rudder turned up with a gudgeon pivot swivel sleeve, I decided it could be jammed into the back end of my board to provide a solid enough pivot.
This kitchen plastic is a dream to work with: it cuts easily, melts readily (no need for a drill) but is fairly light, stiff and rot proof. I mounted a clamp through the boat’s drain hole – copied from the Gumotex kit – and used an off-cut with a melted-in M6 nut (right) to grip the top plate under the deck. With a strap threaded through the rearmost deckline sleeves, this triangulated the mounting to reduce but not totally eliminate sideways pivoting. When it turns up a ‘saddle strap’ through the under-stern D-ring will hold the board down to reduce movement some more.
Control lines Having owned a ruddered IK helped with setting up the control lines. The pulley threading of the rudder lifting/dropping line pulley is fairly obvious – the goal is to create as little drag as possible and the many fixtures on the Seawave make this easy. I used bits of yellow fuel line (above right) to make runners for the line which is more or less a closed loop from the rudder sliding through a karabiner hooked to a deckline sleeve left of the cockpit and knotted up to a plastic knob (above left). Haul back to lift the rudder; pull forward to drop. The trick is the get the length right before cutting off the excess cord. I might have done better using zero-stretch Dyneema cord here rather than cheaper paracord, but that’s easily changed if need be.
One thing the rudder needed to improve the lifting line’s angle was a smooth shafted M5 bolt running through it as shown left. The holes are already there – maybe it’s supposed to be like that (no instructions with rudder, but you do get 4m of paracord). I originally used a zip tie (above right) until I realised it was squeezing the rudder plates together and cramping the swing of the blade. The bolt isn’t tightened and rolls as the red udder lifting cord passes under it.
The rudder pivot lines run smoothly through more fuel line slipped unobtrusively under the redundant splash deck tabs on the hull top (right and left).
At the foot end attaching pedals to my big footrest tube (right) wasn’t going to work. I thought about using a smaller bit of tube but then decided a plain board with pedals pivoting on it at floor level works best – as Gumotex below right.
I found a plank of laminate flooring in the barn, sawed it into the right shapes and attached the pedals to the plate with zip-tie hinges so the thing would pack flat when not in use but makes the pedals stand up which is handy. This floor laminate was what I found lying around wanting to get the job done, but another slab of kitchen chopping board will be a better long-term solution. At least I have a template just as long as the pedal board doesn’t dissolve at the first splash of seawater.
The pedal board is moveable front and back same as my foot tube was (for different length paddlers or two-up) but I need to find some way of fine-tuning the 2mm Dyneema rudder line lengths to match. Something more than a spring cinch lock like you get on a stuff sack that will actually lock the slippery Dyneema cord, but not need tension like the cam lock cleats I used on my V-Sail. I ordered the wheel locks on the right which should work.
The whole thing took a couple of days to work out using a jigsaw, a drill and a camping stove plus a skewer. If I had to do it all again and had all the bits and pieces at hand and a better idea of what I was doing (ie; this again but better) I reckon it would all take me 4–5 hours. Total weight added is 1.85kg, but I saved 450g by ditching my drainpipe footrest with a thinner version at a quarter of the weight.
The costs were: • Rudder £19 • Chopping board £2 • 5m of 2mm Dyneema and paracord £11 • Five mini karabiners £2 • Two cord locks £1.50 Other bits and pieces I already had or found lying around might add up to another tenner. Lessons learned: it pays to think it over: first ideas may give the impression of momentum coupled with intuitive brilliance, but are not always the best.
Unbranded windsail update 2016: the 3mm-thick glass fibre rod snapped. I bought another length for a tenner. It felt more flexible but within a couple of days that broke in two places too. If I run 3mm rod doubled up I presume the bending forces will be the same, but if I run thicker rod I presume it won’t fold down three times to thecompact 30cm diametre disc. Looking again at the original WindPaddle, it does seem much of the cost is explained by the ‘proprietary’ composite rod they use, and there seem few easily found online reports of breakages. Prices seem to have dropped quite a lot too (as they have for the ebay knock offs). Could it be you get what you pay for after all? It’s a lesson so often learned here at IK&P!
The other evening I hooked my old home-made disc sail onto the Grabner’s bow (left and above) and took it out on a loch to remind myself that it wasn’t really that good. As before, I found it difficult to get a good run before it flapped out or otherwise lost its drive. My Pacific Action V-sail will work better, but fitting that to the Amigo may require more D-rings. I like the compactness and simplicity of a disc sail, but it was suggested that dishing like a bowl was the key to holding the wind and maintaining steady progress, even if it may be less effective tacking across the wind.
Sounds plausible and WindPaddles are clearly made like that for a reason. Since then it occurred to me that’s why classic ‘descending’ parachutes (‘reverse’ sails) are bowls and not flatter discs which would shoot across the sky. Before I set about recutting my disc into a bowl shape I checked WP prices on ebay and spotted what looked like a knock-off: ‘Canoe sail kayak sail wind sail‘, now just £15 delivered. Cheaper than sewing and at 115cm deployed, it was midway in size between WP’s Adventure which at the time was selling for no less than £155 in the UK (now about half that). Someone assure me that a WindPaddle costs even a fiver to make in China, but see top of the page.
And better still, the no-name windbag folds down into three hoops of just over a foot in diameter (above left). Plus there’s an elastic hoop to keep it like that and a carry bag for the long walk back to the van. Out of that bag, the only changes I made were to replace the too-short control strings with my tape off the red sail which I find easier to handle. I reassigned a sling to hook the sail’s base to a floor D-ring back from the bow (above left). That was already fitted and was the only adaption I needed to mount the sail to the Grabner.
The day before, with the visiting Nimbus family we’d paddled round the Ristol isles. Over lunch on Ristol beach I took my new sail for a burn up. First time out, not bad at all. I got a steady run and up to 3.9 mph on a breeze of no more than 15 mph and with very little faffing. The prospects were good. More wind was needed.
Incidentally, on the beach I noticed how very, very much unlike a sea kayak the Amigo really is. Alongside my old Incept, let alone the lethal Scorchio HV (right), the red boat looked like one of those inflatable kayaks you read about, except it happened to be made from bomb-proof hypalon and pumped up like a basketball.
Earlier on, coming round the southwest corner of Eilean Mullagrach, (left), the swell bouncing off the cliffs and crashing over outer reefs looked intimidating. Though we all managed fine, it was everyone for themselves. With heads bent to the task, the comparative speeds of our four boats was clear to see. Way out ahead and longer than your average four-door car: the cheddar-coloured P&H cheese cutter. No far behind, 12-year-old Boy Nimbus darted along in his 12-foot Carolina (later I GPS’d him at 6mph, same as the P&H). Further back Mama Nimbus and little Nima in the K40, all hands on deck. And out back the Grabner hypalon clog – splish-splosh, splish-splosh Slap. Checking the GPS data the speeds weren’t so bad, it’s just that in the rough the hardshells cut through some 30% quicker.
A few days later the Solar was stacked on the Amigo (right) and I realised it was only a foot or so longer than the Gumotex. In that case the Grabner does pretty well for a 12-foot four-, 31-inch kayak that hauls two paddlers. Back to the sailing. Next day winds were forecast at over 25 mph (right) but as it was warm and only a 5-minute drive to a Loch Vatachan, it was worth a crack.
A short pre-paddle suggested my cheapo windsail would probably get ripped off and blown away, or else see me roll off the back of the kayak as it shot away from under me liked a snatched tablecloth. Upwind I couldn’t exceed 2 mph (left), but skimmed downwind at up to 5.5 mph providing I kept the stern right on the wind. And while I was out here, side-on to the one-foot fetch the Amigo felt secure, so not a completely wasted outing. I’d never set out to paddle in such conditions normally (actually I did once), let alone try sailing (actually I had once) so I called it off. Later, Ardmair weather station confirmed the wind had been howling at a steady 35 and gusting to nearly 50 mph.
We all ‘yaked over to Tanera Mor one afternoon; three IKs and two SinKs. I realised I’d never actually walked up to the 124-m summit of Tanera Mor for a look around. Up on top a string of islets lead to the twin humps of Priest Island, 4.5 miles in a straight line (right). It was a ten-mile round trip I’ve mentioned earlier but may be beyond reach this time round.
Paddling back from the island, Mama Nim found my old Incept had picked up another pin-prick hole in the side. Wtf is happening to the K40? It’s a lot better than the armchair -wide Sevy they were borrowing before, but three holes in four outings? And it gets worse. On leaving the island the wind dropped to nothing so sailing was off. Instead, we were plagued by sea midges which rise from their lairs as soon as the wind turns its back. Another day and a healthy northerly forecast at 10mph on the BBC which might mean 15 in real terms. I set off with Nimbus in his Scorpio ‘PK’ (plastic coffin) for a look at Tanera Beg’s arch he’d missed on previous visits. It’s a nice arch; we passed it a couple of weeks back, two-up in the Amigo.
Once clear of Old Dornie I threw the sail out and trotted along at 3.5 mph which won’t be giving me any nosebleeds but I suppose must be classified as progress. At least I found a good way of stashing the sail. Seeing as it’s right out on the bow, refolding it down to three hoops isn’t practical on the water without help or taking risks. But I could just pull it back and tuck the squidged sail under my feet and between my legs (above). Down here there’s little risk of it self-deploying and jumping overboard to become a most unwelcome sea anchor, but it can be thrown up in a jiffy to catch a breeze, just as with the PA.
Once we got to the two Taneras’ In-Between islands the wind remained but the waves were blocked so I threw out the air bag and trickled along again at about 3.5mph again. Then it occurred to me I could hold the sail leash in my teeth and paddle. That worked well too, getting on for 5 mph but without the paddling effort to make that speed unaided. Plus it felt better than having the sail hooked to my pfd and stopped me talking unnecessarily.
Once past the In Betweens we crossed over to the arch but found we were a metre short of water. Still, high or low water it’s a great mini-destination some three miles out of Old Dornie. The easy part was over; it was going to be a solid old hack back into the wind for Old Dornie. As we turned we were a little perturbed by what looked like the Stornoway ferry heading right at us. I’m sure it never came this far north, was the captain asleep at the wheel or taking a deeper channel on the spring tide?
At the last minute the CalMac turned away and a calamity was averted. A few minutes later its wake rolled in, breaking a couple of feet high just as we passed a reef. It looked like a good picture so I sent Nimbus back for a shot (above) but by then the best of the surf had passed. If that was the swell kicked up by the ferry from a mile away and before it hit full speed in the Minch then I’m glad we keep our distance.
Time to put the camera away and knuckle down for an hour’s bow slapping to Old Dornie. As I’ve observed before in such conditions, Nimbus in his SinK paddled like he was stroking his favourite cat, gliding through the waves in a seemingly relaxed procession. Me? I was loading 16 tons and what did I get? Slipping back further and deeper in bilge. Still, not alone for a change was less unnerving and I quite like a good work-out on familiar terrain. You dial in the effort you know you can sustain for the duration and progress at whatever speed that delivers. From the graph below that added up to about 2.5 with occasional surges to 3 mph when my technique briefly hit form. The P&H PK seemed to hold a steady 3+mph without trying.
The wind had failed to live up to the forecast promise of dropping around 6pm and out in the mid-channel a few white tops developed; for me a warning sign it’s approaching IK limits. I will speculate that I shipped less water than I would have in the Sunny which is a similar type of IK. Partly because of the Amigo’s upsweptbow that front or rear, doesn’t seem to be as much of a wind catcher as it looks. And perhaps too because the boat doesn’t bend with the swell.
In fact it was fun slapping the fat bow against the oncoming waves as I slowly hauled my way closer to Dornie. Old Man Nimbus can read wind speeds like a Tubu hunter reads the sands. He estimated it was blowing at 8m/sec which in English translates to 20mph. I’d have guessed a bit less, as with the spring tide at full flow against it, it didn’t seem too much in an IK (as long as land appeared close by). As we neared the harbour a couple of other SinKs slinked by, tucked right under the shore, out of the wind. Get out here you cowards!
No Name wind sail My conclusion of the no-name wind sail? It’s a WindPaddle at the right price. Easy to fit to my boat and doubtless many others, easy to temporarily stash on the move and probably easy to repair. And easy to steer too; pull left to go left, usually. With the window pane it’s much better than my home-made flat disc, plus it’s less bulky and complex than a V-sail, even if a V will give you nearly 90° reach either side of the wind.
Surprisingly I haven’t found the lack of a rudder an impediment with the Grabner. Though there’s a bit less directional control, at the typical sub-4 mph speeds you can drag a hand or a paddle blade to bring the nose around. And interestingly, providing you’re close to the wind and holding a steady course, the sail worked pretty well when paddling with the leash in my teeth like the 3.30 line up at Cheltenham. I can’t say I ever managed paddling with the Pacific Action on the Incept for long before it flapped out. Plus there’s plenty of scope for hooking up some self-jamming cleats (more here) like I ran on the Incept. Above all, the no-name air scoop is great value for money for the performance it delivers. For thirty quid it wouldn’t be worth making your own. Next job: see how the little Alpacka handles when yanked along by the wind sail.