Balancing the Leeboards

leeboard balance

Having a balanced life is a key to happiness. Having a balanced rig is a key to happy sailing.

Sailing a properly balanced rig is a wonderful experience. Holding a course becomes easy, steering is predictable, controlled and requires little effort.

So, what is a balanced rig?

Balance is the relationship between the center of effort in the sail and the center of lateral resistance in the keel, centerboard, or in this case leeboards.

If you are not familiar with these terms, the center of effort is a site on the sail that represents the center of the total sail area. It is the spot that the sail pulls from when it is full of wind. The center of lateral resistance is the center of the leeboard surface area that is underwater. Since the leeboards are pivoted fore and aft, the center of lateral resistance can be moved fore and aft.

This is where balancing comes in.

Balancing the leeboards basically involves setting the angle of the leeboards so that the center of resistance lines up with the sails center of effort.

If the leeboards are too far forward, the center of effort of the sail will be behind the leeboard’s center of resistance, causing the stern of the vessel to slide down wind. The result is that the boat will want to turn into the wind.  A sailor at the helm refers to this unbalance as “weather helm”.   On the other hand, If the leeboards are too far back, the center of effort of the sail will be forward of the leeboard’s center of resistance, causing the bow of the boat to be pulled downwind.   A vessel having this downwind unbalance is said to have “lee helm”.

A properly balanced rig will allow a non heeling craft to sail in a straight line with minimal input from the helmsman.

A certain amount of steering can also be accomplished by changing the leeboard’s position.  To steer upwind, the leeboard is moved forward.   To steer down wind, the leeboard is moved aft.  This is especially useful if a craft does not have a rudder or skeg. Leeboard steering is most effective when sailing on a beam reach (90 degrees to the wind) or on any reach closer to the wind, and least effective on reaches off the wind. When running directly down wind, leeboard steering will not work at all.

On the Kayaksailor, the balanced position occurs on most hulls when the leeboards are pivoted back about 25 degrees from vertical.

So, the next time you are out on the water, play with the leeboard position and try using the boards to help you steer.

Most of all, find time to kayak-sail more often.   Remember, balance is the key!

David Drabkin

Illustration by Dan Drabkin http://www.dandrabkin.com/

D-Ring Patches

D-rings patches are a convenient way to add mounting points to your inflatable or skin-on-frame craft.   These patches are strong, easy to apply, and are commonly used by whitewater rafting outfitters to attach a variety of gear to their boats.   They are purchased from outfitting retailers like NRS in the U.S. as well as from fabric boat manufacturers such as AIRE and Pakboats.

We recently purchased and installed some on our Pakboats XT-15 folding kayaks.  These patches are typically glued to the outside of the hull, but can also be attached to the inside surface of many skin-on-frame boats.

Our initial intention was to glue the patches to the outside of the hull, but after a lengthy discussion with Alv Elvestad, the owner of Pakboats, we were encouraged to glue them to the inside of the hull and have the D-ring extend through the skin to the outside.  He said it would create a nice clean look with only the D-ring seen from the outside.  Since this procedure involves making an incision in the skin, I admit, I was a bit concerned.   He assured us that the area would remain strong and watertight.

We started by marking the area on the outside of the hull, where the D-ring would be located.   We chose an area underneath the under-the-hull strap  and not too far from the deck.

Next, we measured the width of the D-ring and marked this distance on the hull.

Then came the fun part.  With a pocket knife, we made an opening in the skin and tested the size by pushing the D-ring through.

With a marking pen, we drew a circle on the inside of the skin slightly larger than the patch.  This circle is used as guide for applying the adhesive.

Both the patch and the skin should be cleaned with some alcohol.

Next, we applied the vinyl adhesive that came with the Pakboat’s repair kit, to both the patch and the skin and let it dry to the touch.

We pushed the patch onto the skin making sure to squeeze out any trapped air bubbles.

After allowing the adhesive to cure, we skinned the hull.  For a final touch, some Aquaseal polyurethane sealant was applied to the outside of the skin where it meets the D-ring webbing.

Here are some photos of the finished product.  It was easy, straight forward and took about 30 min. to complete.

Silver Hull

Black Hull

Fair winds and happy sailing!


On Sunday we paddle-sailed nine miles down wind on the Columbia from Viento State Park to Hood River.  Here is a short video.  We are both using  a  Pakboats XT-15 with a reefed 1.4.    Lots of super fun swell rides!  I need to work on some sort of helmet camera mount, so I can paddle into the swells and film at the same time.  Enjoy the ride.

Fun in Portland

Beach scene at Sellwood Park.

The Next Adventure Demo day in Portland was lots of fun.  One of the things that we really like about the Kayaksailor is that it seems to be a magnet for cool people.  If you are in Portland, stop by the shop and see the rigs.

Chuck White with a seaplane in the background.

Proper Sail Trim

Wool telltales

Proper sail trim is an important part of sailing. It allows your sail to work efficiently, so you can make the most of the wind.  Pulling in the mainsheet or “Sheeting in” too much will stall the sail, causing it to loose power. This leads to slower boat speed and increased heeling.   On the other hand, not sheeting in enough will allow too much wind to spill from the sail also resulting in slower boat speeds.    So, How do you know if a sail is sheeted in properly?

For “soft” sails, or sails that don’t have full length battens, the basic procedure is relatively simple.  Hold your boat on course, then sheet in the sail in until the leading edge of the sail, called the “luff”, stops fluttering or “luffing”.

With fully battened sails that don’t flutter, like the one supplied with the Kayaksailor, determining proper sail trim can be a bit tricky. An experienced sailor can trim the sail until it “feels” right. But even they can have difficulty when the wind is light or shifty. This is why we now include a set of telltales with each rig. These are the small lengths of red and green wool yarn attached to the sail.

By learning how to read the telltales and adjusting the mainsheet accordingly, it’s easy to find  proper sail trim.   You can’t actually see the wind, so the telltales allow you to see the effect of the wind as it moves around the sail.  The wind should flow smoothly on both sides of the sail.   So, if the sail is trimmed properly, the telltales should also flow smoothly on both sides of the sail.

If your sail is sheeted in too much, the downwind or “leeward” telltale will move erratically, while the upwind one or “windward” one will flow smoothly.

If your sail is not sheeted in enough, the windward telltale will move erratically while the leeward one will flow smoothly.

It’s basically a matter of sheeting in or out until both telltales are streaming equally.

The telltales should be placed on the sail near the area of deepest draft.  For our own sails, we chose an open area between the battens and above the reef points so we can see them when the sail is reefed.  Some people put theirs facing forward, claiming they don’t get snagged by the batten stitching  and fly better.

Be sure not to get too caught up staring at the telltales too much.  They can be a bit hypnotizing.   Plus, there is all that beautiful scenery out there to enjoy.

Here is a link to a nice website from WB Sails, describing the use of telltales. Check out the cool animation they came up with for showing windward and leeward side bubbles. http://www.wb-sails.fi/news/95_11_Tellingtales/Tellingtales.html

Next Adventure is sponsoring a Kayaksailor demo at Sellwood River Front Park this Thursday the 29th of July from 3-7pm.
Bring your boat or try one of theirs. We’ll be on hand to showcase the Kayaksailor and share paddle sailing tips and tricks. RSVP is encouraged but not required. Call the paddle sports center at 503.445.9435. See you there!

Patti and I recently returned home from a trip to coastal British Columbia.

Enjoying the ride

Let me just say that this is a beautiful part of the world, snow -capped mountain peaks, terrific wind and endless opportunities to paddle-sail. We brought our Necky Eskia and our new Pakboat XT-15 along for the ride. After crossing the border, we headed north toward Squamish, a town situated at the end of scenic Howe Sound.

Porteau Cove

It’s a windy place in the summer and a popular destination for windsurfers, kite- boarders and sailboat cruisers looking for excitement. We found it similar to our home town of Hood River in this respect.

What a beautiful place

The paddle-sailing in Howe sound was wonderful. Glacial runoff gives the water a blue-green tint. It kind of reminded me of the water color in the Florida Keys after a strong wind has stirred up the coral sediments. The tide and the wind were in the same direction causing us to paddle sail close hauled much of the time but the scenery is breath-taking and the broad reaches home were a blast. After a fun-filled day on the water, we spent the night camped in Porteau Cove Provincial Park.

Moon light on the sound

The next day we packed up and headed down to Vancouver to meet with Mark Hall, the mastermind designer and positive energy source behind Delta kayaks.

Mark in his sweet Delta 15.5

Mark, who had met me at a trade show, was eager to put the Kayaksailor on one of his boats and get out on the water. He introduced us to beautiful Pitt lake where we rigged up a Delta 15.5 with a 1.4m2 sail for sea trials. The wind was light ,but strong enough for us to get a feel for the boat-sail combination. The 15.5 is a light weight, solid craft capable of handling big water and enough gear for a two week excursion, yet nimble enough to be playful. We were impressed with its finish, secure fit and confidence inspiring stability. All of these attributes suited the Kayaksailor beautifully.

The sails lit up like stained glass as we sailed into the evening, tacking and jibing around the lake, taking in the peaceful beauty of the place. A fun time was had by all. I have to say that hanging out with Mark and his family was a very special experience. Their hospitality, kind nature and love of life made us feel great.

Cruising on Pitt Lake

In the morning, we drove up to Horseshoe Bay

On the Ferry

in West Vancouver to catch a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Here is some advice, if you are ever thinking about taking one of these ferries in the summer months, make sure you make reservations. We learned this lesson the hard way and got stuck at the ferry dock all day, waiting for a slot to open.  Although, I must say that we did meet some cool people while we were waiting. The ferry ride was a pleasant one and only took about an hour and a half to make the crossing.


Heading up the Chase

We popped up our tent in a nice campground along the bank of the Chase River, just south of Nanaimo. Before too long the boats were sliding into the water. The mouth of the Chase is a pretty tidal estuary blanketed by marsh grasses and home to a variety of shore birds. Since the conditions were flat

calm, we left our sails in the truck and paddled out into the bay. Here is a bit more advice, if you have a sail, take it with you! The Kayaksailor slogan could be like the American Express card’s “Don’t leave home without it”.   When we got out into the middle of the bay, the wind started to build. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was just perfect for sailing. If our legs weren’t confined to our cockpits, we could have kicked ourselves. Oh well, lesson learned.

We worked our way out of the breeze and headed up the protected Chase. One of the highlights was seeing a traditional style native war canoe paddled by about eight or ten people. They must have been training for a race because this boat was going fast, and I mean fast! I had no idea boats like this could move at such a speed. They even made a tight 180 degree turn in front of us with two of the front paddlers using their blades as bow rudders. It was pretty cool to watch. I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo.

Sealegs action

The next day we drove about twenty minutes south to the town of Ladysmith. Our intention was to visit with Bud Bell, owner operator of Sealegs Kayaking and take him sailing. He and his wife Sheryll run a top-notch kayak center and have a beautiful place right on the waterfront. Just as we arrived, he got swamped by a


crowd of eager paddlers, so we weren’t able to take him for a sail. We did however, get a chance to show him the rig, pop it up and down a couple of times and go for a quick sail ourselves. The sail attracted quite a bit of attention, even a seal popped his head out of the water to take a look. It is a wonderful spot to paddle-sail and well worth the visit.

Victoria harbor

Unfortunately, we had to rush out of there to have enough time to catch the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington. This time we made reservations in advance! After a pleasant drive of about an hour to Victoria, we cleared customs and boarded the ferry. It was impressive the way

the captain was able to pivot this large vessel around in the tight harbor unassisted. Victoria is a cool looking little city from the water and I wish we had more time to visit.

The wind was blowing around 20 knots when we cleared the harbor entrance.  Some beautiful sailing vessels were heading in with shortened sail. In the distance we could see fog rolling in and within about twenty minutes we were in the thick of it.   It’s crazy how fast a fog can move in.  The Captain slowed our vessel down a bit and periodically blew the horn. Brrrrrrrrrh……………….Brrrrrrrrrh……. sounded the ship into the mist.  I definitely wouldn’t want to be in a sailboat anywhere near this ferry with such limited visibility. It didn’t last long though, and before we knew it we were happily pulling into the port of Port Angeles.

Just outside of the ferry dock is a nice shop called Sound Bikes and Kayaks. We met owner Vicki Adams and her crew, then showed them our sail. They are super cool people and take excellent care of all their customers. During our brief but very pleasant visit, we tentatively set up a Kayaksailor demo day in September. I’m sure it will be a fun time. I will make a blog post with t he exact date as soon as we come up with one.

Here is a gallery for you to enjoy.

Thanks for viewing!