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post #1 of Old 09-09-2009 Thread Starter
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Building/modifying sailing kayak?


I used to have a small sloop I loved to death, but have since parted ways with. Since then I have been crewing on other peoples boats and kayaking. I'm just not ready to keep a "real" boat right now, from a financial or time perspective, but the idea of something I could cartop got me into kayaking, and now I just love it for it's own virtues, but I miss my channel islands, and I'm tired of hitching rides on crowded cattle boats to get over there. This winter my big project is going to be building a wooden ocean kayak from a kit by clc.

My end goal is to create a sailing kayak I can use to cross to the California Channel Islands and go play in the sea caves and rock gardens on the islands. This poses a number of interesting challenges. The crossing to Anacapa is only 12 miles, and I can use that as a jumping off point to some of the other islands, but realistically, I'm looking at 20+ miles of kayak sailing to get to where I'm going in most cases. Winds in the region move from < 5kts to > 20kts as the day progresses, almost daily, so the ability to reef or at least drop sail if need be is a must. The winds are coming straight from the islands I am aiming for, so pointing is a must.

The kayaks themselves are nigh unto bulletproof and handle themselves amazingly well. I know people who "simply" paddle out to the islands, but, while I do aspire to do that once or twice, it would be nice to be able to simply and elegantly make a swift passage under sail in a beautiful wooden boat. This also means I can spend my weekend on the island paddling around a little, instead of just getting there, passing out, and then paddling back.

There are a number of existing options on the table. Most of them involve small sails which can not point. Some, such as's rig, appear neat, but certainly don't carry a lot of sail. the klepper rigs seem like a real sloop rig, and might be a good starting point as well (Klepper USA - Folding Kayaks )

The company that makes the kayak I will be building also makes a sailing "trimaran" kit ( Kayak & Canoe Sailing Rig: Ultra-Light, Easy to Assemble and Launch! ) with 55sq/ft of sail, and still in a form I can cartop with the kayak. This looks to me like a good start, but the unstayed mast and very forward leeboards don't speak well to it's pointing ability. Both of those should be easy enough to modify, but I would like to swap the rig out for something I could reef if need be. Making this move implies adding a boom, and hence, I'm thinking I might be able to get better sail shape, and increase my pointing ability drastically in the bargain.

Finally, while the kayak is balanced well enough that there is no need of a rudder while paddling, regardless of how well balanced I can make the rig, there will still be significant force exerted on the rudder, so I'll need to either make a much larger rudder than is standard for any kayak for good sailing, or, perhaps, mount twin rudders on the amas, and leave the kayak as unmolested as possible.

Ideally, the ama "catamaran" rig would be something I could anchor, and then detach my kayak from, just outside the breakers, to allow me to go play in the rock gardens and sea caves, and then come out and hook up to again. Right now the rig requires beaching to undo, which isn't that big of a delema, but if I could manage to get the lee boards onto the amas, and somehow mount either a pair of sails on the amas themselves, or the sail on the crossbar such that the kayak was free to enter and exit with minimal gymnastics, that would be incredible.

I've had great luck talking to kayak builders about such an endeavor, but I thought it would be a good idea to talk to some sailors as well and see what input you might have on such an endeavor, and what pitfalls I should look out for before I begin?

Thank you very much for your help, and I look forward to seeing you on the water =)

-- James
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