I was now heading for the cliffs fast and frantically tried to depower my sail.
I had been sailing in following seas with increasingly stronger winds and having a ball.
My kayak was humming along and surfing from wave to wave; it was one of the most exciting days of a month long trip in the Swedish East coast archipelago.
I was in a borrowed kayak and loaded with a lot of gear and food, my kayak was tracking pretty straight.
borrowed kayaks set up with Flat Earth sails and KariTec hardware
I let go of my main sheet, the rope that holds the boom in position and with the wind from behind the sail swung to the front.
I felt relief as my kayak slowed down and I was travelling now at a much lower speed thinking I had avoided ending up against the cliffs.
I then let go of my up haul (the rope that holds the mast upright) and nothing happened. I tried to lower my sail altogether and stow it back on deck but that just would not happen;
the wind kept on pushing my bow downwind and the kayak would not broach on the waves coming from behind! I continued to head to the cliffs…
not actual footage of event
Desperately I pulled the main sheet again hoping to bring my sail around but the wind was too strong and the boom was just stuck in a forward position.
I was not happy, actually a bit panicky to tell the truth; I have never experienced that before.
On my sails when the conditions become unmanageable I just simply let my uphaul rope out from the cleat, the kayak broaches pushed by the wave from behind and the sail falls into the water.
The forward momentum brings the sail close to the cockpit where I can collect it and secure it on deck: I have done it hundreds of times.
With the sail set up with the boom above the side stays, the boom could swing all the way around instead of stopping on the stays at about 90 degrees with the kayak.
Once the boom is in the forward position I could not bring it back to me as the wind was exerting too much pressure on the sail; the mast stood up proud and solid.
Eventually, with monumental effort, great acceleration and strong sweep strokes I managed to bring my kayak around enough to let the sail fall into the water.
I caught up with my paddling partner who was new to sailing; she was having the same problem as me and I helped her out of danger of the cliffs.
It was an experience that I did not predict and did not want to repeat. However a few days later the same thing happened but this time I was in open waters and I had time to get myself sorted.
Things I learned from this experience:
- I prefer the predictability of my sail set ups: if the wind is too strong I can just drop my sail anytime
- While theoretically the full swing boom should make things easier in high winds it did not for me as I could no longer lower the sail.
I paid close attention to some sail set ups in my paddling circles and noticed somebody with an additional rope coming from the mast back to his cockpit.
He had boom-above-3 stays set up and explained to me that the additional rope was to bring his mast down when sailing down wind.
It made sense to me: he must have similar problems than me although he usually does not sail in stiff breezes.
sail set up with additional down haul rope
One question remains: to bring down the sail in a downwind situation he must use two hands to pull the rope back in?
That reminds me of V sails where one must actively pull the sail down instead of letting it just fall down on its own.
It was one of the reasons that I opted out from those sails: I wanted a more efficient way of handling dicey situations.
I understand that my system of two side/back stays has a few problems:
- there is more pressure from the mast onto the deck of the kayak; decks need to be very stiff or reinforced internally
- the boom can not swing all the way around for de-powering in case of a stiff breeze, but as I found out that might not be a good thing?
- there is less pressure on the mast as the stays anchor higher up. I wonder how many mast would I have broken by now if I used the other system ( I do hear of people braking masts in higher winds)
- sail mounted lower therefore less healing (force of wind trying to tip me over),
- two less ropes to deal with on deck. On the 3 stays set up more ropes add to more chances of entanglement if tipped over and trying to roll back up? I know that occasionally I have to wiggle my paddle out of a loose stays before I scull my kayak if tipped over.
While there is an increased risk with ropes on deck I am used to them now and deal with them. However I rather not add any more than I have to.
These are my findings on sailing with both systems: 2 side/back stays and 3 stays.
I know that there is a strong following with the 3 stays set ups but I also hear that that is not recommended for winds that I usually enjoy sailing in.
I wanted to share my experience of sailing sea kayaks for ten years, the last 4 with Flat Earth.