Kayak Sailing is FUN !!!

Sail vs. non-sail... which one looks like a "cool cruiser" ;)
Sail vs. non-sail… which one looks like a “cool cruiser” ?¬† ūüėČ

Now¬† be honest! Have you ever fantasized, in a following wind, under a heavy load , somehow .. harnessing that wonderful wind to help you get along….? Now don’t lie! I suspect EVERY sea kayaker has in one point or another thought like this. ūüėÄ

Springtime 2015 I found myself trying out something completely new. GnarlyDog¬† convinced me to give kayak sailing a try. Uptil now I’d only tried using windpaddle sail briefly, but did not like the concept at all as it is strictly downwind sailing and while it does not require a rudder equipped kayak, it works better with one… And I’m not going to install a rudder on my kayaks. End of discussion! Also it ties ones hands to operating the sail…

First time kayak sailor getting the hang of it! :D Lake Vanaja, Finland
First time kayak sailor getting the hang of it! After about 45 minutes ūüėÄ Lake Vanaja, Finland

Gnarly suggested  SeaDog Sails, whom I contacted and some weeks later I received my first SeaDog Sail ! Its been fun ever since! It was early may 2015 when I was able to go out and start learning to use the sail.

About the sail, it is surprisingly smart set up. Contrary to common beliefs it DOES not require a rudder for installation! A skeg would be nice to have but basicly one can sail decently without a skeg installed, however here one will need to use corrective strokes or a paddle rudder quite often. That said I will be retrofitting a skeg in all of my kayaks!

Vortex and Whisper with Instaled with SeaDog Sails
Vortex and Whisper installed with SeaDog Sails. Sails are “up”

The sail basicly operates as follows: When you want to sail. You release it from “Stowed on deck” configuration, pop¬† the mast into its “mast up” configuration, cleat the up haul line and “Voila” ready to sail! If the going gets rough or you need to go into the wind, then you reverse the previously described operation and your kayak is back in its “pure kayak – mast down” mode. Quite simple! With a little practice each operation takes¬† no-more than 5-7 seconds to perform.

High wind testing and learning. This was Markos (orange kayak) second time out kayak sailing!!! No he didn't swim
High wind testing and learning. This was Markos (orange kayak) second time out kayak sailing!!! No he didn’t swim

While under sail, one can still use the paddle for correcting strokes, stern rudder or bracing… or not! So the sail does not tie the hands while sailing. Only during mast uphaul or downhaul, and tweaking the sail angle with the cam-cleat,¬† ones’ hands will be doing other than paddling. This last feature is one of my favourites!

Peacefully coasting along autumn 2015, Lake saimaa, Finland
Peacefully ghosting along autumn 2015, Lake saimaa, Finland

Another misconception is that this sail is purely for downwind sailing. Not true!¬† Depending on the sail set up,¬† kayak configuration and your sailing skills one can sail beam reach and perhaps even close reach. My rough best estimate has been to sail maybe 25 degrees into the wind, on a sharply chined kayak and quite a bit of edging…

However there are some little requirements or rather common sense suggestions before one should start installing a sail on ones kayak!

  1. One should be a confident and able kayaker. Minimum requirement (in my mind ) for kayak sailing is that one should be able to do self rescues, braces + some kind of eskimo roll. I haven’t had to do a single roll or self rescue under sail, but the fact that I know I can perform these gives me all the more confidence to handle the kayak under sail… me hopes ! ūüėČ
  2. Some understanding about the concept of sailing comes handy.. though starting with light winds and¬† an instructor close-by one can be self taught quite quickly to kayak sail! I’ve had two “experimental students” to test this claim and both are still alive and breathing and in friendly terms with me.. ūüėČ
Punching thru.. Lake Vanaja, Finland
Punching thru.. Lake Vanaja, Finland

While kayak sailing isn’t for the first or second time, “beginner” kayaker it does open a whole new world for the more experienced confident kayaker- A world of fun if nothing else!

At the writing of this I have logged some 360 kms with sail, of which approximately half have been under touring/expedition conditions. Most if not every km has been either fun or educational and thus very interesting! Introducing the sailing concept into kayaking also opens the world of sailing and wind in a new way to the kayaker.

I will not dwell into sail installation in this post, that will come later. However there are a couple of excellent blogs that covers sail installation: Douglas Wilcox’s site and¬† GnarlyDog News

Contrary to common beliefs.. A kayak sail will not make the kayak go faster! Well THAT fast.¬† Usually the defining factor is the maximum hull speed. But it does help make the kayak go at hull speed with minimal paddling! Going above hull speed will require high winds and following seas.. and that while is FUN as anything, it does add certain risks. I’ve usually been able to clock 9-11 km/h in winds of¬† approx 10m/s. This wind speed I have found to be the maximum safe wind speed. Any higher than 10 m/s one needs to be on ones toes, alert, awake and accept the fact of a cold bath.¬† I think the strongest winds I’ve encountered and still stay upright was in the 14 m/s range. The highest speeds that my GPS have logged momentarily under sail, high winds+following waves have been 16.4km/h and 17 km/h. This was with the Guillemot Expedition Single without any load.

Coasting along in a light to moderate breeze. Lake Saimaa, Finland
Coasting along in a light to moderate breeze. SeaDog Commander installed on the Guillemot Expedition Single Lake Vanaja, Finland

Under full expedition load I have been able to coast along at 6-7.5 km/h in a run or a broad reach, using the paddle as a rudder only. With light assisting strokes I have been moving about 8-9.5km/h.

The newest SeaDog sail , the Commander is my favorite, the added reefing points add more versatility to the sail. The sail is more efficient sailing into the wind than the previous models. The older Code Zero Black Diamond maybe easier to handle for a beginner than the Commander,  but the commander has the reefing option so this changes the balance quite nicely.  I have ordered the sail with the lower panel with Clearview panel, giving me some forward visibility, which can be useful in narrow (and congested) waterways.

Clear skies and Fairwinds, Lake Saimaa, Finland
Clear skies and almost no wind.. SeaDog Commander installed on the Guillemot “SnG”, Night Heron kayak Lake Saimaa, Finland

All of the SeaDog sails I have used thus far have excellent work quality!

Autumn sailing in Lake Saimaa
Autumn sailing in Lake Saimaa

Here’s a couple of my favorite sailing videos that I’ve found online – from downunder. Courtesy of GnarlyDog The first one shows how the sail works.

And some just sailing that brings a smile on your face..

New Kayak: Skim Kayaks Beaufort

The Beaufort makes for a very nicely shaped overall balanced looking kayak
The Beaufort is a very nicely shaped overall balanced looking kayak

So… Long story short. I was helping a friend pick a kayak for his upcoming expedition along the Finnish coast summer 2016. He got his kayak.. and so did I! I really had no real need for a new kayak.. seriously! ūüėČ But it is a NICE kayak!¬† So what the hell, there went my retirement emergency funds! My fleet had space for a shortish sea kayak that had a very nice speed-to-agility ratio…

A view form the side
Side view

Skim kayaks is a Finnish base company that has several seakayak  models to offer.  The Beaufort doesnt have very much visibility on the web, probably due to the smallish manufacturing numbers..? Who knows? A couple German paddlers, Eike Köhler and his friend Basti have used the Beaufort on long sea expeditions; Gothenburg to Helsinki and more recently a trip along the Norwegian Coast. So the Beaufort cannot be all that bad?

The Beaufort has some rocker. just enuff to be reasonably agile, while edging, yet tracks straight
The Beaufort has some rocker. just enuff to be reasonably agile, while edging, yet tracks straight

At the writing of this, I have logged less that 50 kms with it, so I will not dwell too much about how it goes on the water, suffice to say; If I’m confident that enough to paddle the finnish coast in one, it can’t be bad? For now I will do a short review on the initial impressions.

Deck layout on the Beaufort is very functional. large oval deck hatches. Extra bonuses are the paddle attachement and the towline cam-cleat.
Deck layout on the Beaufort is very functional. large oval deck hatches. Extra bonuses are the paddle attachment and the towline cam-cleat.

These are the spec’s , as copied off the manufacturers website:

"Length: 513 cm
Width: 53.1 cm
Hullshape: Shallow/medium V, Strong chines
Cockpit depth front: (inner) 32 cm
Seat depth: 20,5 cm
Volume:
Forward: 88 liters
Cockpit: 147 liters
Day hatch aft: 71 liters
Day hatch bow: 5.2 liters
Aft: 47 liters
Total: 358,2 liters
Optimal paddler weight: 70-100 kilos
Material:
TR: glass fiber/diolen/polyester
RH: Hull: vacuum infused Kevlar, directional glass and Carbon sandwich/vinylester Deck: Kelar reinforced glass/vinylester
CL: hull: infused carbon fiber sandwich/ vinylester, deck: vacuum infused carbon fiber sandwich/vinylester
Hatches: 44/26 cm
Dayhatch aft: 20 cm
Dayhatch bow: 15 cm
Manufactured in: Finland"

We ordered our kayaks thru North-West Import, located in Espoo, Finland. The service was top-notch. The icing on the cake was that we were able request certain modifications made for our kayaks! This was something new and pretty darn cool to boot!¬† I requested that my Rockhopper version would have a Kevlar rubstrip installed along the keel. This is serviced offered at an extra fee of 150‚ā¨. Also I really liked the KajakSport Flexjoint-footpads on the footrests.¬† I Don’t recall how much they cost.. but they are quite nice! Time will tell how long lasting they will be. Initially I thought these were .. umm yuppy posh extra luxury items that no real seakayaker would use !… but after trying them out.. oh well, I guess I’m getting old or sumthing.

underneath. A layer of extra carbon to give the kevlar some Oomph! Nice Kajaksport footrests- WITH the REALLY nice Flex-Joint pads.
underneath. A layer of extra carbon to give the kevlar some Oomph! Nice Kajaksport footrests- WITH the REALLY nice Flex-Joint pads.

Being a short Hobbit sized paddler I wanted the forward bulkhead moved back some –¬† to minimize extra space in the cockpit and maximize “dry space” up front.

The aft edge of the seat had slots for straps incase I want to have my thermos strapped down.
The aft edge of the seat has slots for straps in case …I want to have my thermos/whatever strapped down.

Normally the cockpit aft bulkhead is installed slanted and right up-to the lip of the cockpit. This is to facilitate easyish emptying of kayak in case of wet exit, rescue situations. Personally I prefer to have some extra space behind the seat for an anorak, waterbag, thermos etc. So I requested that the aft bulkhead was to be installed vertical and approx. 40mm more aft of its standard located.

Since it is my intention to use a sail on the Beaufort whenever possible, my last request was to add an reinforcing layer of Fiberglass under the deck for about 350mm just forward of the fore-hatch.

Initially my intention was to buy the “Traditional” layup version but I envisioned that I may wander off to more rockier waters in the future, so I ordered the Kevlar re-inforced “Rockhopper”¬† (RH) version.

Finishing quality was good-to-excellent. It is comparable with more expensive british made kayaks. finishing of the interior was smooth and clean. The only minor flaw that I found was a tiny blob of dried adhesive along the cockpit rim, under the lip. A small annoyance that would probably caused the spray deck edge to wear thru on the long run. However a couple gentle swipes on the offending blob with 320 grit sandpaper smoothed things out.

All hatch lips were installed smoothly flush to the deck. Kayaksport hard rings with the soft/hard variety of hatch lids. No fault there! All installations were neat and clean.

Among the immediately visible peculiarities on the Beaufort are: The reverse slanted stern, a largish semi-circle groove along the center-line of the deck, a paddle attachment, and the cam-cleat attachment point for possible tow-line.

A standard kajaSport skeg.
A standard KajakSport skeg.

My immediate guess for the reasoning of the stern shape would be to increase waterline length and thus possibly increase speed?  I cannot say whether this actually works but for a kayak thats overall length is a modest 513 cms , she does paddle very easily  at a rates 7.5-8.5 km/h even with a load  of 20 kgs! So there might be something to it? I will get back to this later when I have more experience on the matter.

The kajaksport KS-selfrescue grips for paddle, test fitting for my spare GP paddle. It fits!
The kajaksport KS-selfrescue grips for paddle, test fitting for my spare GP paddle. It fits!

The paddle “park” , or attachment point (not sure what its called?) was another quirky looking standard option. At first I was going to go without it, but then I decided it may be useful on extra uber long crossings. If need be I could use it to make an out-rigger, for a lunch break or sumthing. Not sure if the manufacturer had that in mind when designing it or how they feel about my idea of its possible use.. but thats what I thought.

One possible way of having the rescue towline installed on the aft deck/towline cam-cleat. hitch thingy.
One possible way of having the rescue towline installed on the aft deck/towline cam-cleat. hitch thingy.

Being a short hobbit sized paddler I quickly found that having a belt towline on while paddling got to be a little stuffy. There really isnt much space between the lower edge of my PFD and the spray skirt. Wearing a belt pack-towline would very quickly wear a hole thru my neoprene spray skirt.. which is a no-no to my budget. The installed cam-cleat with re-inforcing bar on the aft deck were features that I’m hoping would ease matters a tad.

The final immediately visible oddity on the Beaufort is the  half-circle groove along the center of the deck running front-to-back.

Testing out a possible location for a deck compass. The odd looking "groove" on the deck serves to make the hull more rigid, but also gives a possibilty to install a compass or stow a water bottle to offer a low profile.
Testing out a possible location for a deck compass. The odd looking “groove” on the deck serves to make the hull more rigid, but also gives a possibilty to install a compass or stow a water bottle to offer a low profile.

The grooves purpose is to make the deck more rigid. as an extra bonus it offers a nice spot to stow stuff like water bottle, water pump etc. Also it makes the installation of a compass and kayak sail slightly more challenging, but more about those at a later post.

my 204 cm spare GP paddle fits just on the fore deck! I might have to come up with a different design for my sparepaddle...
my 204 cm spare GP paddle fits just on the fore deck! I might have to come up with a different design for my spare paddle, when used in conjunction with a sail.

SO initial impression on the Beaufort is that it is a very well made kayak, that has several promising features that I eagerly await to test out properly on a long, very loooong trip! Sofar, Very good!

More to follow…

First Outing with the Beaufort