Geoff Murray, wilderness and landscape photographer from Tasmania, Australia, describes the art of kayak sailing.
by Geoff Murray
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Kayak sailing occurs around the world. In Tasmania, Australia, it is a tradition. Indeed on some paddles it would be impossible to keep up with other paddlers without a sail. Tasmanian paddler Geoff Murray describes how he has modified his Rockpool Alaw Bach to incorporate a sailing rig.
The sail consists of an aluminium mast and smaller diameter aluminium boom. The mast is attached to the kayak well forward using a dinghy tiller extension universal joint. The mast is raised by pulling on the cord that runs to the front of the bow, through a pulley and back to the mast a couple of feet up. It is held at a vertical angle by spectra cord stays to the rear of the mast. Because of the narrow bow of the Bach I had to use 5 stays, a little messy, but it works
A second cord runs to the middle of the boom to control the position of the sail. The cord runs through a shock cord keeper just to the rear of the forward hatch cover so that it runs to the boom at the right angle. The mast was supplied with a plastic fitting that was supposed to let the boom and sail rotate around the mast, but it wasn't successful. I did a bit of reading and found the idea of the "snotter" used on yachts. This just involved extending the boom a few inches with aluminium plate, drilling a hole in each end of the plate and fitting a short length of cord so that the boom can rotate freely around the mast. Works fine.
Once raised the whole unit is quite solid, and even coped with 3 attempted rolls when I couldn't locate the cleat to release the cord and collapse the mast, when practicing rolling. Nearly got the rolls but the sail creates a large amount of drag. Have practiced collapsing it upside down and rolling since, and it all works fine. As soon as the cord is released rolls are easy.
A lot of Tasmanian paddlers sail but they use a setup which involves fitting a mast step within arms reach of the paddler, and inserting the mast into the step when required. I rejected that idea because I felt that having the mast so far back would create uncontrollable weather cocking and also it restricts paddling severely. Rudder steers are almost impossible. My setup doesn't interfere with paddling at all.
I haven't sailed a lot as yet but when the wind hits 20-25 knots it can be quite exciting and fast! Steering by edging still works and generally I find the sail very good. Ideal conditions would be a tail wind blowing steadily at about 15-20 knots. Wind off to one side by up to 30 to 40 degrees still works ok, just a little less stable.
Geoff Murray is a landscape and wilderness photographer based in Tasmania, Australia. He also works at Norske-Skog paper mill near New Norfolk, in the Derwent Valley. Geoff lives with his wife along with two Husky-cross dogs, on a 10 acre bush block, 8 km South from New Norfolk. Tasmania has some of the finest untouched landscapes in the world. To view Geoff's perspective on this, as well as some of his stunning photographs from around the world visit his web site at www.geoffmurray.com .
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