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Kayak Sailing

 Kayak sailing - downwind sailing
In May 2000 I purchased a semi-inexpensive Sevylor kayak (it cost $69 from REI). Although cheap it has worked very well as a way to get out on the water. It only weighs 20 pounds and fits easily into a small bag. Because it is so small it has been easy to take on trips and airplanes.

 Kayak sailing
The reason I am putting this page together is to show the sail that I designed for the kayak. The sail is made out of light weight ripstop nylon (the same material that is used for spinakers). The mast is the oars. A light rope is attached to the end of the sail and about halfway up the mast.

 Kayak sailing
I plan to perfect the keel so that it will be posssible to tack into the wind. Right now I have mainly used it for downwind sailing. I have used it to sail many miles. Some of the locations i have tested the sail at are Montery Bay (near Santa Cruz), Lake Tahoe (DL Bliss State Park to Vikingslholm and back), Donner Lake (length of the lake), and Lake Sonoma.

If you want to discuss kayak sailing or want more specifics on my design, e-mail me at
 Paddling along, sail lowered

Here is my response to an email, questioning me about the sail:

>1. Details on the material that you used for the sail,

It is 1.5 oz ripstop nylon that I bought from a sail store. I think .75 oz would also work well. I found a good source on the net that sells .75 seconds. They are at:

>2. How you attached the sail to the mast (oar),

Just with a loop of string. The loop is tied slightly smaller than the sail, so it does not slip down the oar. The oars are tapered at the ends, so it works well.

>3. How you mounted the oar in the bottom of the boat and is the sheet >midway up the mast serving as a single stay, and if so how are you >preventing the mast from tipping toward the leeward side of the boat

I used a piece of plastic from Tap Plastics. I cut a slot which fits the oar. The ends of the plastic are bent so that it fits snuggly under the sides of the kayak. There are no supports for the mast. I just hold one foot against it in the boat and use the rope as a handle when the wind gets strong. Like I said, it is a pretty simple operation. If the wind gets really strong I just reach up and hold the mast with my hand. I have been in conditions where i could barely hold it with my hand even. That is the most fun... Then the boat rocks back and forth, skimming the waves.

>4. Did you use a boom or was the sail loose-footed,

I sewed battons into the bottom of the sail. That helps to keep it open.

>5. What did you use for battens (it looks like you have some battens in the >pictures

I used a really lightweight batton from the place I bought the material. I modeled the placement after a sail on my real sailboat. I used heavier battons for the "boom".

>6. Have you made any progress on developing a keel to allow the boat to >sail windward?

I tried making some side boards out of plastic that I could hang over the side. But it did not work too well, and I have not experimented with it much more. Rowing into the wind is good exercise, and if I really want to tack, I can use my real sailboat. In the future I guess it might be nice to be able to sail into the wind with the kayak.

Copyright © 2000 John M. Thompson, all rights reserved.
Last updated: 02/27/2002