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.
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.
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.
Windy but warm and dry thanks for asking – a good afternoon to take the IK out sailing. I’ve not done that since Ningaloo last September (left) when I was blown away so to speak, but not in a good way. Even before then I can’t say I’d got the hang of the Pacific Action V-sail which should add up to either hurtling from crest to crest with all hands on deck – or kicking back and getting a free ride while looking around at 3mph. Both are good fun but neither scenario seems to last more than a minute for me.
Remounting the V-sail to the K40 was easy. I clipped the front ‘sail-hoisting’ bungie about 8 inches further forward, right out on the boat’s nose using a loop of string and tape (right) as opposed to using the boat’s lift handle-ring. Fixed here it ought to help keep the sail up when pulled down low to one side by increasing the angle and distance from the sail’s feet. It’s an idea we came up with in Australia in an effort to make the K40 controllable in the strong winds.
Winds today (left, from 3pm) weren’t quite as strong as WA but were getting there. And anyway, I was out on small lochs with no rudder-lifting ocean swell to deal with – another reason we thought the K40 got squirrely in strong winds out in WA. The K40s large draught but low weight acted like a sail of it’s own, weathercocking the boat. To reacquaint myself, I first took a spin on the smaller Loch Raa. I’m never really sure what I’m doing so just try various angles and approaches until the kayak catches the wind. I’m told that sailing directly downwind with the sail fully upright is less efficient (or is that with regular, fixed-mast sails?). With the PA you can get a good speed for a while, but soon the sail starts rocking violently from side to side as it sheds the excess blast – my strong recollection from Ningaloo. I assume that’s just a sign of the sail exceeding it’s speed limit, though I think Jeff’s hardshell did it less.
Off the wind about 45° and up to 90- or even 100° (ie; slightly upwind) seems more stable but slower, with the sail cranked down low to one side. But even then a consistent speed or direction seems hard to maintain for long. Is it my poor technique, the design of the sail when applied to my IK, or just an aspect of gusting and shifting wind? As it was I felt the unloaded boat was rather light, though in Ozzie last September 20+ kilos of ballast didn’t help much either.
Big sailboats and windsurfers seem to manage OK, but it seems hard to get a smooth, steady run while sat back with the cleated-off sail doing the work. Usually I’m yanking hard on the rudder to get in line, or have handfuls of lines trying to trim the sail for best effect. The tiny ‘finger-and-thumb’ cleats are just too fiddly to use in a hurry or mild panic, and often require two hands to release the jam. I wonder if hand-sized cleats exist for the thin cord, or some better device all round? Something like a sliding tube you could grab, but with a release button, a bit like a mountaineering jumar (left).
Even then, on seeing the speed readings (above), it surprised me how fast I could hack into the wind at 2.5–3mph, admittedly with some effort (needed to keep the kayak pointed ahead). Coming back with the big sail I only got over 5mph a couple of times, and often moved barely more than upwind, although using much less energy of course.
After crisscrossing Loch Raa a few times (above right), I went around the corner onto Loch Osgaig. Out in the open and with the wind bouncing off nearby Stac mountain, there should be room enough to get some speed up, providing I could hold on.
I set off and sliced the waves as best I could and stuck at it until I got opposite the small plantation. Here I stowed the paddle securely, got blown round and unfurled the v-sail, ready to snatch it back down should it all be more than I could handle. In fact, there were only a couple of hairy moments As you can see from the speed graph (right), my paddle out was pretty steady and straight, but under sail, speeds and direction were all over the place. A couple of times either a gust or the optimal line saw the boat fly at along at over 5mph (left), but it never lasted.
It does make me wonder what the PA sail is good for on my K40. In winds of over 15mph it seems hard work to maintain. Is it an inherent flaw of a lose, articulated mast – and one whose feet are not pressing directly onto a solid hardshell hull (I use a plastic dinner plate to spread the load/reduce wear). The fact is, Jeff managed fine on Ningaloo (right), ripping along in a boat that was four times heavier than the Incept. And in Shark Bay a few years earlier in the same tandem tanker, he was towing me in my Gumboat.
A 10-15 mph breeze does often correspond to a nice steady sail, but that does seem a rather narrow margin of operation – something I recall someone else saying to me about V sails. I think it’s a combination of more practice required, hampered by the fact I’m in a light, buoyant, flaccid-chined IK. It makes me wonder if the WindPaddle is worth another look (it was and I did), though I’m fairly sure the PA V-sail is more versatile; I doubt you could ride at 90°+ to the wind with the deeply dished WindPaddle. Another good thing about the PA is that it’s out of the way when down but dead easy and fast to deploy or stash. Just throw it up and see if it takes to the wind. Out this time I also felt that the thigh straps were particularly useful when edging the boat against the gusts.