Kayak Sailing Manual: Choosing and Navigating the Craft

Kayak Sailing is not all about adding a sheet to your watercraft! You must choose a craft that can tolerate airstream pressure. Plus, you should be at home with the terminology and jargon of this navigation technique. Sounds like too much stuff to handle? Let us help then…

Kayak Sailing Manual: Choosing and Navigating the Craft

Kayak Sailing Manual: Choosing and Navigating the CraftThe idea of combining a kayak with a sheet structure sounds pretty tempting. So, at Sailingyes, this time we’re going to review one of the newest ways of having fun, kayak sailing.

In this article, you’ll learn how to choose your vessel, navigate it with an extra structure on, and utilize the specific terms.

Things to Look for

  • Stability:

Canoes and small-sized boats tend to heel over at an angle on the water due to the airstream force. This condition will eventually lead to a flip-over condition. So, you must choose a stabile craft to avoid such a scenario.

One way to find out whether or not your watercraft is steady is to stand up inside of it. If you’re comfortable standing up, then, it’s probably steady enough to bare the airstream force too. If not, you’re better off without trying to undergo any seafaring attempts.

  • Pedal Drive or Propeller:

A pedal driver is an additional mechanism that only specific products/models own. It helps you generate power while there’s no sort of current on the water. Having such a mechanism is like adding a practical keel structure to it.

That’s why you must choose a vessel that has such a tool—or it offers the receptacle for future modifications. A propeller, on the other hand, is a comparable instrument that can act as the keel as well.

A keel is an essential tool to balance the above- and under-water forces. However, not having such a mechanism in a vessel won’t stop your seafaring journey—it’ll make a bit harder though.

Things-to-Look-for-on-a-Sailing-Kayak-Built-in Rudder

  • Built-in Rudder:

  • Some maneuvers (e.g. tacking) will require a change in the current path. That’s why having a built-in tiller is so important for this task. Not having such a steering tool adds to your responsibility, leaving you with one more task to handle—changing the route using the paddles.Models that come with such a device are painless to operate during the movement. So, if you haven’t bought yours yet, try to cherry-pick one with a rudder.


  • Mast Receptacle:

  • The mast or pole is the piece of gear that your mainsheet is going to be attached to. It’s a simple flagpole-like structure that holds on to the main and changes the overall function of the watercraft. But it must be placed in a receptacle; otherwise, you won’t get enough stability.The airstream is usually powerful enough to bend and even break a poorly attached mast. And that’s why you should try to get a vessel that already has a holder. In case you’re on a budget, build a receptacle yourself—but bear in mind that it’s not a DIY-friendly assignment.

Putting the Kayak Sheet Together

First, detach the mast and the main (if they are attached). Next, open the pole by its bungee cord and set it at the full length. Now, grab the mainline and threat it through the pad eye on the backend of your boat. If you don’t have such a pad, go through the rear handle. Finally, thread the mast through the sheet.

Now, you’re ready to fasten it. If your boat has a holder, just push the pole in and try to make sure it’s steady (move it with your hands and test the constancy). However, if it doesn’t contain any receptacle, join the pole to the vessel thoroughly and test the permanency several times before heading out on the water.

Expert advice: get a Clam or V Cleat. It’s very simple—but functional—equipment that will hold on to the main rope, not letting it change position until you adjust it.

  1. Starting position: A furled position is the best way of starting seafaring. That’s a route where your bow is facing 12 o’clock while the airstream is coming from the same spot. So, start paddling to put the vessel at such a point before moving to the next step.


  1. Unfurling the sail: When the backend of your watercraft was aimed at the current of air, it’s time to set the sheet. To do so, you should only pull the main rope and let it free. This will start the movement and you’ll need to balance the weight without delay.


  1. Angle the main: Having an unfurled sail will not necessarily give you a high speed as the current of air is almost straight. So, to make the most of airflow, you must angle the vessel, positioning it 45 degrees away from the airstream. This would give you the highest speed possible.


Kayak Sailing Terminology

Kayak Sailing Terminology

Tacking: coming about via a kayak is like doing so with a boat. It allows you to turn the craft around by turning across the airstream.

Jibing: A jibe in seafaring is a move that allows the vessel to turn from one side of the wind to the other while having the airstream behind it. However, it’s not considered a practical move as it can effortlessly cause a flip-over incident.

That’s because the main is under full power when you’re moving leeward, and a sudden change can force it to flick too hard, leading to capsize. So, try to avoid accidental jibes and keep the main steady while the airflow is aimed at the stern.

Close-hulled: when your bow is at an angle that is not directly into the wind, you’re in a close-hulled point. This is a point where you get a satisfying speed when pulling as tight as possible on the main.

Close Reach: it’s technically the practice of moving windward but at a shallow angle. You’re better off without a firm mainsheet in this situation.

Beam Reach: When the current of air is perpendicular to the vessel, you’re in the beam reach point. (the max speed is only available at this point).

Tell Tales: there are two streamers on either side of your sheet that is called Tell Tales. You can utilize them to say if the main is trimmed by the book or not. When they are both flying straight back, you’re all good to go.

Broad Reach: being downwind while the perpendicular airflow is passed, you’re in the broad reach point. Since your stern is pointed at the airflow, you better release a bit of the mainline to free the sail a bit. This way you can use it as a parachute—rather than a lifting force generator.

Running (with the airstream): when the airflow is unswervingly at your back, you’re in a position called running. In this situation, your sheet is more likely to change form and start flipping rapidly. So, be careful and hold on to the main steadily.

Reference (s):

Sailing Fundamentals

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