donderdag 24 maart 2022


There are plenty of prejudices about sailing with a kayak. Most are very, very, very persistent. Especially among older canoeists. The cause is the first generation of sailing canoes from roughly the 1930s. Clumsy things that most resembled a classic sailboat, complete with gaff, jib and even leeboards. The sailing Klepper - a foldable canoe made of canvas - is still etched in the memory of many.
The idea that sailing a kayak is a bit crazy seems to be inherited. For example, I recently paddled right past an older acquaintance in a Canadian canoe. I was sailing on a razorsharp close reach right passed him thinkng he would be impressed. As I glided past him, I heard him say: 'Yeah, nice, such a sail. Downwind only I guess.' Holy crap! Recently, I had my sail kayak on display at my club when an older member spontaneously said, "Yeah, it looks like a yacht."
I feel less and less inclined to fight the prejudices. To seal this, I'll list a few more here. Then I'll call it a day.

•'If I want to sail, I'll buy a sailboat!'
The fun of paddle sailing is that you still need your paddle to steer, support and sometimes paddle along to go even faster. Paddle sailing is pure kayaking as you are used to, but with a completely different feeling and of course a lot of extra propulsion. With the sail you always have something fun to do, to catch up with that one wave and surf over and to rely on when you get tired. I think a normal sailboat is a lot more boring 

Flat Earth-zeil with me paddlesailing, Waddensea, the Netherlands

    'A kayak is not a sailboat.'
    A kayak is an excellent sailboat in spite of having to use a paddle frequently. Because of its gigantic length - compared to its narrow width - a kayak has the same drift as a dinghy with a daggerboard or leeboard. So little, just like other sailboats. Ever tried towing a kayak that's sideways? Almost impossible.
    A kayak with a deep V-shape is even better but a nearly flat bottom kayak will do almost just as fine. What certainly helps against drifting sideways is forward speed. As soon as you pck up wind and speed, the tracking will be a lot better.

    'You are bound to flip in a strong wind.'
    I won't say you can never flip. But it rarely happens. Paddle sails offer a little more stability, at least in big waves, thanks to the pressure in the sail and the simultaneous leaning of the paddle sailer. A Flat Earth sail from Australia is made for trips across the Tasmanian Sea and very forgiving. Due to the cut of the sail, excess wind quickly blows away along the top. A sail from Falcon Sails from America catches the wind better thanks to a clear aircraft profile and therefore producing a little more speed. The downside is that it's less forgiving, especially with very gusty beam winds. Then it is important not to pull the sail too tight. I have used both sails. The Flat Earth feels like an model T-Ford, the Falcon sails like a Maserati. 

A Falcon-sail.

•'It causes a lot of hassle on deck.'
A flat stowed kayaksail is no more cluttered than, for example, two spare paddles on deck. Or stuff on your deck in front of the cockpit. This prejudice is similar to 'I don't want a car because then you have to find a parking space' or 'I don't want a partner because then you have even more stuff in the house.'

•'The sail gets in the way when paddling.'
This would only be possible for upwind courses (tacking against the wind) when the sail is sheeted in, almost parallel to the keel line. And only if your forward strokes resembles a K1 kayaker: maximum shoulder rotation, paddle far forward and held high. At such an occasion you can simply paddle a little lower. Paddling with a good sail and a favorable wind puts less pressure on the paddle blade, arms and shoulders.

'You can't roll with a sail.'
If you can roll, you can do that with a sail. 

Here are two options: before initiating the roll, first remove the sheet line from its cleat. This will allow the sail to move freely under water like a weathervane. The other sheet - uphaul line - holds the mast, if you pull it loose, the complete rig will move with your roll offering no resistance (see video above). When you get fully upright again, the entire rig and sail lays flat on the water. The second option is to slowly rise to the surface with your paddle blade while sculling. When you reach the surface, flip back up like making a high support.

• 'It's down wind only.'
The most persistent prejudice, still stemmand from earlier times when canoe sails indeed could not go upwind. Such sails are still there, for example the forked sail (Pacific Action) and the windbag called Wind Paddle.

Forked sail Pacific Action

Pop-up sail 'Wind Paddle' 

These sails are only suitable for followig winds and very occasionally from the side. Nothing more. In my opinion there are three serious sails on the market for upwind sailing that are safe, manageable and create a real fusion between the kayak and the sail. And those are Falcon Sails, Flat Earth sails and Sea Dog sails (which are very similar to Flat Earth). The Falcon sail can reach up to 35 degrees off the wind, Flat Earth reaches a maximum of 40 degrees. I have no experience with the Sea Dog. All three are extremely refined in all their simplicity. And can do much more on large water and in strong winds. The Flat Earth sail in particular is very forgiving in high winds. With the Falcon sail you will feel a little more heeling force in strong wind gusts, like being in a tippy kayak. The advantage is that the Falcon sail is slightly faster, even more so in light winds. 

Falcon Sail with a classical airplane wing shape (only visible when seen from the front or rear).

Incidentally, when reaching very close to the wind, you have to paddle along. The aircraftwing profile of a good sail only works optimally if you add some extra speed. The wind then skims past the sail faster than the actual wind speed, as experienced by me and by the Scottish paddle sailor virtuoso Douglas Wilcox 

Douglas Wilcox, met Flat Earth-zeil


•'Nice toys.'
The most frequently heard prejudice. I lived and sailed for twelve years on a large historic motor freighter. Sometimes I came across kayakers and thought 'nice toys' too. When one of them pushed through the lock, I sometimes called out from my high wheelhouse: 'Go away, with your Tupperwear.' Only much later, after I had shaken off the leaden burden of a large ship, did I become a member of my kayak club Never Dry in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and a whole new world opened up for me. A kayak is a fascinating vessel, wobbly and at the same time more seaworthy than any inland vessel, and most appealing to a sense of freedom and simplicity through its speed, silence and easy transport by road. A sailing kayak has all that and more. It is not without reason that the first serious paddle sailors came from Australia. There, on the raging Tasmanian Sea, the first models of Flat Earth-like sails were tried out in the 1970s. Nowadays, a good sail is part of the standard safety equipment for sea trips in Australia. If you don't have a good sail, you can't come along. Definitely not a 'toy'. But quite 'nice'. 


woensdag 5 mei 2021

Kayak sailing so much fun!

If you are a decent kayak paddler, you can be an excellent paddlesailor in no time. That is, a kayak sailor without daggerboards, outriggers or even a rudder. A (sea)kayak doesn't need all that to stay on track.

Kayaksailors in its purest form can paddlesail any course, even upwind, except straight against the wind. Or yes, you can but than you must tack some 40 degrees off the wind and zigzag your way forward just like any sailingvessel. However, tacking up wind brings you to point B in about the same time your kayakbuddies will arrive there when just paddling straight into the wind. But kayaksailing upwind on a long track (without tacking) will defenitly push you more ahead comparing to your buddies with no sail. Though you still need to padde along a bit on that course.

This blog deals with all aspects of kayak sailing, made possible by only three serious kayak sails: Flat Earth Kayak Sails (FEKS), Falcon Kayak Sails and Sea Dog Sails (a clone of FEKS) from Australia. 
I have absolutely no commercial interest in them. I'm just a happy customer and admire all three types of sails. They are 100 percent made for kayaks on rough, open waters, as you will see in the many movieclips on this blog.
The first ten posts or so are in English, the rest in Dutch. If you hit the translation button on the right bar, you will understand most of it in spite of the bewildering grammar and linguistic lingo.

Have fun and please leave a message from whichever country you are as a support for my effort.

Thank you,
Berend Schilder,
the Netherlands

donderdag 8 april 2021

Some profound paddlesailing!

A mighty trip with four kayaks on Lake Erie in the USA, all equipped with a Falcon sail. Seen from the aft of Patrick Forresters kayak, the owner of Falcon Sails. It's not an easy trip. Another kayaker is fiddling with his sail, so the others have to stand by for a while. Fortunately, they all have a waterproof VHF. 

Then they all continue in a strong wind and quite some waves in an endless journey. This recording lasts more than half an hour and shows exactly what it is like to paddlesail on open waters. Most courses are on a beam wind, occasionally just downwind. At the end, Forrester deliberately jibes a few times by swinging his hips. A jibe is often inevitable if you want to steer with the wind in your back to the side where your sail is standing. If you do nothing, the wind will automatically creep up behind the sail while steering, causing the sail to turn over to the other side at once. With a hip swing you can provoke this a little earlier in a more controlled fashion. 

Watch this movie on your laptop on a big screen and enjoy.

zaterdag 3 april 2021

My homemade sail


Photo: Marianne R.

The first test of my new homemade sail. Saturday, April 3, 2021, on the IJsselmeer (the Netherlands), on the way from Makkum to Workum. Wind force a big 4, north-northwest. The sail worked fine. I was mainly using my paddleblade as a rudder and hitting the brakes to stay close to the group, barely paddling. My fellow kayakkers had to work a little harder but also had fun on the surf. Measurements taken by a fellow navigator showed us we achieved an average of 12 km/h on large sections. Some other day I will test my sail on an upwind course, hopefully as close as 35 degrees off the wind. 

It was a beautiful trip, despite the cold, with a sleeping bag that was too thin at the campsite. Further details about the sail are in the post below.

zondag 14 maart 2021

Showing off my DIY sail

Voila, my own homemade sail has just been finished. Based on a kind of Flat Earth Foot Loose. But more like Flat Earth's copy, the Sea Dog sail. Also a footloose, so without a flap under the boom and loosely fitted between the mast and the tip of the boom.

It was a tedious job putting it together, for which many thanks to my wife who really learned the sewing craft.The twin batten sail is not flat, but has a certain curvature. Maybe a little too much. For the connoisseurs:

Bottom panel: camber 10 cm, draft position 25% from the mast (panel 0.95 m long)

Second panel: camber 10 cm, draft position 25% (panel 0.90 m long))

Third panel: camber 5 cm, draft position 15 %

Fourth panel: no camber, no draft. 

I would give my next sail a little less camber. It feels as if the battens create enough camber already. Also I am not yet satisfied with the tension of the two battens. They are former sail battens from an old windsurf sail. These battens may not be rigid enough.

The first test on the Kralingse Plas in my hometown Rotterdam was very promising. But due to the trees and changing wind direction I could not really judge how close the sail could get upwind. I reached 35 degrees, sometimes 40 degrees, probably because of the constantly changing wind direction. The heeling force seemed to be between that of a Falcon sail and a Flat Earth sail. At Easter, the real test follows during a tour on the large open IJsselmeer. That's where the more consistent winds rule. 

See also my previous posts about <link> 'Tinkering with sails yourself.'   

vrijdag 6 november 2020

The final stand-alone mast system!

 Finally the one and only best way to lower your mast has been developed. By me 😀. It's an almost stand alone mast with no shrouds, except ofcourse one uphaul line. It all looks very neat, although the sail is on old stretched out Flat Earth-sail that can easily be replaced by a Falcon-sail or whatever. I normally use this Flat Earth for very strong winds because it has the least heeling force. Also the least propulsion but in stormy conditions that's just fine. 

Stand alone mast


This is how it looks in a basic drawing: 

This mast pivots in an inverted sort of skeg box that resembles a quarter pizza box. This so-called stand-alone mast has no stays, except for the forestay to raise and lower the mast. A small but strong Dyneema line around the mast, attached to very strong points on the deck, prevents the mast from dropping forward when heading downwind. This short line also keeps the mast in check when lowered.

The seams have not been sealed yet.

Below is the end result. A close up of the plastic covered Dyneema line that keeps the mast upright and prevents it from falling over. The plastic tube and line within keep the mast upright and give enough room to lower the mast. so that you can slide the mast in or completely out while sitting in the cockpit. Very handy to fix something to your sail while on the water. You just pull the mast out from underneath the tube and it can be reached anywhere. Then slide it back, it's done. 

- Lots of work to install
- Rolling can only be done by releasing the sheet from its cleat, not by releasing the forstay (the mast will not fall sideways). Sculling up slowly followed by a high brace is the only option, unless you can roll very well (even with a mast that is still upright and a sail trailing through the water).
- The pizzabox takes up some space in the front compartment. You can only slide long, narrow objects along it, Such as a bag of tent poles.

- It looks very neat!
- No dangling lines on deck or along the sides of the kayak when the mast is stowed away on deck, so less chance of snagging.
- When down, the mast with folded sail can easily be pushed forward beyond the cockpit. So even more free space to paddle. You can therefore also use a longer mast with a DIY sail. 
- If necessary, the lowered mast can be fully pulled towards you to repair something from the cockpit. Then stick it back underneath the plastic tube and raise the mast again. The three dubble weaving of the small line back and forth through the strong deckrings plus the installment of the plastic tube ensures that it will automatically form an arch. So the mast will always slide through without bumping onto the tube. 

The standard system
Of course there is also the standard system of Flat Earth, Falcon and Sea Dog with a flexible tiller foot on the deck and rigging with many stays. The disadvantage is the limp rigging that dangles along your boat when lowered. Or the rigging that gets in the way during rescue operations. All these lines are a messy sight as well.

The well known system of Flat Earth with the tiller mastbase and all shrouds. 

So for a long time I was looking for an even simpler system without sidestays or even backstays, with a so-called stand alone mast. 
First I devised a pipe through the deck and fixed it to the keel with a block of epoxy. I soon found out that it's almost impossible to position the mast with sail flapping around while sitting in the cockpit on some waves right above the pipe opening to let it slide in. I made a sort of gutter/ chute at the opening of the pipe to make sure the mast wouldn't pop out of the opening while pulling on the forstay, but alas, the mast just stood upright but wouldn't slide down the pipe most of the time. Instead it would fall sideways of forward within seconds. The next problem was lifting the whole darn thing upward in order to lower the mast.  Oh Lord, help me!

That's why I tore the whole thing out again and thought of a much better plan. I now have made a wooden type of skegbox in the shape of a quarter circle (think of a quarter pizzabox) with the opening facing up through the deck.

The quarter 'pizzabox' in progress. Made of steam bent plywood and laminated with polyester and expoxy. The opening will surface flush through the deck.

So in the deck there is a slot in which the mast can turn up and down. A single forestay is required to raise and lower the mast. And to keep the mast upright in the box while paddlesailing, especially on a down wind course.  

The hinge for the mast consists of a strong but thin Dynema line that runs through two flat D-ring mounted on the deck and runs forward around the mast to hold it up. This line prevents the mast from falling forward and also keeps the mast in place when lowered. A normal steel hinge with hard protruding parts is out of the question because rescuers doing an X rescue would scratch their own deck on such a chunk of steel. 

Placing the box is no sinecure. The bottom of the box is again cast in epoxy - just like the pipe - for which a container is first made of two plywood partitions that fit on the keel and a few inches upward against the sides of the kayak. This will act as a container to poor in the epoxy. Don't forget to apply some bubbling glue along the seams or duct tape, otherwise the epoxy will oose out. The box is then laminated to the slot in the deck. All in all, this cannot be done from the manhole. It's too far back to reach the whole work of art. That's why I cut out quite a bit of the deck with a grinder. Than I laminatd the box on the bottomside of the deckpiece and placed the entire construction back in place with the bottom part of the pizzabox sinking into the container filled with epoxy. 

This hole looks bigger the in reality because of the optical illusion caused by the camera lens. The old base of the pipe is still visible. I grinded and chiseled it out later on to make room for the pizzabox. 

Finally I closed the seams around the deckpiece with polyester and epoxy and sanded it flush. This can be done from the manhole. I didn't apply any topcoat. You never, ever get the colour right. Besides, all the seams were to be covered with keelstrip. ,This gives the whole construction a steardy 'designed' appearance. As if the kayak manufacturer built the boat this way.

My 'invention' isn't entirely new. In fact, this system is as old as Methuselah. Copied from the old Dutch tjalks and clippers that often had a stepped mast to the bottom, although with additional stays. When lowering, the bottom of the mast turned through the deck. This bottompart had a counterweight so that the skipper could lower and raise the mast with one fingertip. The slot through the deck was sealed with a cover plate wedged in place. In my case, I just leave the slot open. Less than half a liter of water goes into the pizzabox.

Of course, this system is impossible for the novice kayak sailor who buys a ready-made set and wants to sail immediately. Yet I firmly believe in the simplicity of an upside-down pizzabox. It saves a lot of junk on deck due to the lack of two sidestays and two backstays. It all looks a lot better. In the future, I hope a manufacturer can make a ready-to-use plastic pizzabox with a flanged rim that extends over the deck. This edge can be glued or bolted. A few wedges in the bottom of the boat will also hold the box down below. That saves a lot of work and you do not have to grind open part of the deck to access it. 

Perhaps this system is worth incorporating into a new kayak model with pre-molded inverted pizzabox in the foredeck. That would be the first kayak that is specially designed for kayak sailing. So not an ordinary kayak that will be tinkered with afterwards. 

A ready made version in plastic could look like this (below), with a flange that fits on any deck, bolted down with rubber kit in between as a sealant. It wouldbe a lot easier than a wooden box carefully laminated to the deck, like I did.

zaterdag 11 april 2020

Additional movieclips of paddle sailing

Every now and then I come across nice movieclips of paddle sailing. I collect them, below. The list will grow longer. Preferably open the links with the facebook option. Lots of fun! 

 Tangalooma to Shorncliff

Tangalooma to Shorncliff 2

Twee kajaks, twee zeiltjes (catamaran)