Tag Archive: sit-on-top kayak

Effective Kayak Steering Without A Rudder

-“Steering a kayak with a rudder?!?”
If you told an Inuit that you need a rudder to steer your kayak, they’d be very surprised, since aboriginal kayaks did not feature such accessories.
Rudders were introduced to modern kayaks by designers and manufacturers who feared their clients wouldn’t be able to go where they needed, because their kayaks don’t track well, especially in strong wind.
This is not a mere matter of convenience, but of safety as well: A kayak that doesn’t track well isn’t safe, since it’s hard to paddle, and might prevent its user from getting back to shore.
Why are conventional modern kayaks, and especially fishing kayaks so hard paddle effectively without a rudder? The answer is simple: These SOT, sit-in, and ‘hybrid’ kayaks are ‘barges”, namely too wide and slow to go in a straight line, and they don’t react well to wind. They are designed to offer stability, within the limited capabilities of the mono-hull design, and the only way this is possible is by making the kayak too wide to track effectively, or be paddled efficiently.

The problem of tracking in strong wind and other adverse conditions is solved perfectly in the W kayak design, due to the combination of two factors:

  1. The two thin, parallel hulls make the W kayak track well to begin with, and –
  2. The paddler can relocate at will fore and aft, along the longitudinal seat named saddle. By doing so, they change the location of the vessel’s center of gravity, and can make it point at will either into the wind, or outward

Here is how this tracking and steering by relocation is done:

More info on rudders in fishing kayaks >>

More info on fishing kayaks’ steering and tracking in strong wind >>

Thoughts About The Future Of Kayak Fishing

Conceptually, kayak fishing is a great idea, but in reality, this relatively new sport is facing serious hurdles that impede its growth. These are technical problems related to performance and user-experience, and they can be solved only by a major shift from traditional designs such as sit-in kayak, sit-on-top kayak, and hybrid kayak (a small, flat canoe), to W kayaks – a patented twin hulled design.

From a new article about kayak fishing:

“Kayak fishing ceased to be a novelty, and it’s safe to say there’s hardly anyone in America who fishes that hasn’t been exposed to the notion of fishing out of kayaks, one way or another.
Still, for the huge majority of American anglers, the notion of fishing from a kayak is by far more appalling than appealing, and those who fish from shore and from all other watercraft outnumber kayak anglers by a thousand to one ratio -“

The numbers presented in this article are interesting, especially in view of the fact that kayak fishing is at least a decade old, in its modern form, which is heavily promoted by the kayak industry.

The article presents the major, unsolved problems that have dogged kayak fishing as a recreational activity and sport since its inception. These problems both limit the number of people who join the sport, as well as cause many participants to drop out of it. The problems are, in order of importance: Unacceptably poor ergonomics, lack of adequate stability, poor tracking, limited range of travel, limited storage space, restricted mobility.

More interesting are the conclusions, which stem from comparing the effect these problems have on the sport to the performance of the W kayak class relatively to the other common kayaks used for fishing:

“Does kayak fishing have a long term future?
We think it does, but only as a sensible sport and outdoor activity that would attract many more anglers, and not as the kind of unrewarding experience it currently is, which repels new participants while expelling existing ones.
The only venue is through an increase in use of W fishing kayaks rather than SOT, sit-in and hybrid kayaks. This is because W kayaks offer the solutions to all the problems discussed in this article, and some others, and these are the problems that make kayak fishing that marginal activity it has been so far in the much broader world of fishing.
Simply, as soon as realize that they can fish out of a watercraft that’s as small, nimble and lightweight as a regular kayak (not even a huge ‘barge’ fishing kayak..), and yet is as stable, dry and comfortable as a regular motorboat, and even has a similar travel range as a motorboat – they would adopt kayak fishing in growing numbers, and stick with the sport. The watercraft that combines the advantages of kayaks and motorboats, while offering better mobility than both, is the W kayak.”

So basically, the article presents an optimistic view for the future, when many anglers who are displeased both with other kayaks and small motorboats would benefit from the advantages offered by W kayaks – both human powered and motorized.

The Fishing Kayak Rudder – How Bad Is It, Really?

It’s really bad!

Rudders have become a necessity in modern SOT, sit-in, and hybrid fishing kayaks, simply because most of these kayaks have become so wide and hard to paddle (I.E. ‘barges’) that they lost the ability to track properly, which is and essential requirement from any boat.

Kayak manufacturers have constantly increased the width of the fishing kayaks they offer, as a response to the demand for more stability. But this change comes at a price of a decrease in speed, control, and tracking capability that’s often coupled with lackluster performance in maneuverability.

In comparison, no W-kayak paddler or angler has ever felt the need for a rudder for paddling. This is a particularly interesting fact, considering the W-kayak is shorter than most kayaks out there, and considering the fact it’s used for a multitude of applications in a wide range of aquatic environments, including long trips in the ocean, big lakes and wide rivers, where a kayak is required to perform well in tracking terms.

What’s wrong with rudders?

Well, to begin with, they cost extra money, and better rudders are very expensive.

More importantly, they slow down your kayak by 10% in average, according to serious speed research performed on kayaks in tow-tanks.

And most importantly, rudders are  often cumbersome and difficult to handle. Handling them requires your attention and the use of one of your hands, or of both your feet, and that’s when there are other things you’d like to do when you’re in your kayak, such as paddling or fishing, rather than steering.

On top of these issues, and that’s really too bad for paddlers and fishermen who go in shallow water, rudders tend to get stuck in the bottom, bump into rocks or branches down there, and get entangled in sea weed, so they limit your range of paddling and fishing in areas that are considered promising for both these activities.

Besides, like any mechanical device, rudder systems can break, and their cables can get jammed or torn.  If such a problem occurs, it can become anywhere between unpleasant and hazardous, especially if you find yourself far from shore, and if weather is getting nasty, the wind is picking up, it’s getting dark, the tide is getting strong etc.  -Sounds too scary? Remember rule number one in kayaking is ‘Stuff Happens’… and it can happen to you!

In sum, rudders are yet another necessary evil imposed on the sit-in, hybrid and SOT kayak anglers, while W-kayakers and kayak anglers should be thankful they need neither purchase nor use such awkward devices.

More about kayak speed >>

Pedaling a Fishing Kayak – How Does It Feel?

Some anglers are asking themselves questions such as which fishing kayak to choose, and whether the much hyped pedal drives available on the market are any good for their purpose.
The subject is broad, and already discussed in depth and detail in the article about fishing kayaks’ pedal drives that we’ve already mentioned here, on Micronautical.
This time, we’d like to add a few words about what it feels like to pedal a fishing kayak –

Pedal propulsion for small watercraft has been in use since the 19th century, and it’s still commonly found in small recreational boats, often in a combination of rotating pedals with paddle wheel type propellers. Other types of pedal driven propulsion systems for small craft include rotating propellers, hydraulic pumps, sideways moving flaps, add-on systems, and more. Interestingly, the world speed record for a human powered watercraft is held by a catamaran equipped with a rotational air propeller.
Currently, there are three kayak manufacturers offering pedal driven kayaks. Two of them offer kayaks featuring a combination of rotational pedals with a rotational propeller, and one manufacturer offers a drive featuring push pedals combined with flaps moving from side to side, in a back and forth motion. The latter will be simply called ‘flaps’ in this article.
All three kayak pedal drives are fixed, which means they provide propulsion without steering, and therefore, the kayak operator is required to track and turn using a hand activated rudder.
All three pedal drive systems feature pedals located in proximity to each other, along the kayak’s center line, and at a higher point than the kayak seat. In order to activate the pedals in all three, kayakers have to relocate their feet away from the low footrests situated on both sides of the hull.

Part 1. Pedaling Kayaks’ Ergonomics –

-How Does It Feel To Operate a Pedal Driven Kayak?

The first and main argument in favor of pedaling kayaks instead of paddling them, is that our legs are far more powerful than our arms are, and therefore it makes more sense to use our legs for difficult tasks such as propulsion, rather than using our arms.

While being generally true, this argument is not necessarily applicable to the propulsion of kayaks. This is because although our legs have the biggest and most powerful muscles in our body, and are best fit for hard, long lasting efforts, using them for propelling any vehicle must be done under certain conditions, which are dictated by our own built, and ability to endure certain types of effort –

Before everything, and after all – we’re talking about human powered propulsion, and viewing it through a narrow prism of horsepower (or lack thereof, actually) is reductive ad absurdum.
Which is why this article rightfully asks the question ‘how does it feel to pedal a fishing kayak’, and provides a good answer as well.
Speed is the most overrated attribute when fishing kayaks are concerned, and pedal driven kayaks aren’t even fast, being mostly wide and heavy sit-on-top and hybrid ‘barge’ kayaks.

How Does Fishing Kayak Design Address Pain?

It’s a painful question for many kayak anglers!
Sit-in, SOT and hybrid fishing kayaks are sometimes designed with an intention to alleviate the pain felt by anglers who use them, especially back pain, or at least this is what their manufacturers proclaim.
In reality, there’s very little that can be done to take care of this critical problem, and nothing to solve it at its root, which is the way kayaks are in the first place, and the way we are: People who no longer sit on the floor with our legs stretched in front of us, as we used to sit long ago, before chairs, stools, and other elevated seats were introduced to our life.
We are members of modern societies, and as such, we sit on elevated seats, and we’ve lost the ability to sit comfortably with our legs stretched in front of us, which is what traditional kayaks as well as hybrid fishing kayaks force us to do.
More foam in the seat’s backrest doesn’t solve anything, really, and elevating the seat doesn’t solve any problem either, because those kayaks aren’t stable enough to sustain a decrease in their users’ stability as a result of their center of gravity going up. The result is that people who sit on higher seats attached to those mon-hull fishing kayaks (sit-in, SOT and hybrid) feel less stable, and increase the pressure of their legs on the footrests and backrest between which they are trapped. The result: more back pain.

Here’s a quote from an article about kayaking back pain:
“Pain is usually initiated by stimulation of the peripheral nervous system, that is the nerves in various parts of our body. These nerves are connected through the spinal nerve to our brain, where we become aware of the pain.

The Nerves Involved In Kayak Back Pain, Leg Pain, Etc.

The sciatic nerve is a large nerve fiber that begins in the lower back and runs through the buttock and down the lower limb. It is the longest and widest single nerve in the human body. The sciatic nerve supplies nearly the whole of the skin of the leg, the muscles of the back of the thigh, and those of the leg and foot. It is derived from spinal nerves L4 (in Lumbar vertebra # 4) through S3 (in Sacral vertebra #3) in the lower part of our spine.

Meaning of Back Pain When You’re Kayaking, or Kayak Fishing

Any unpleasant sensation you feel in your body while kayaking or fishing from your kayak, is a sign that something is wrong, so you need to pay attention to it, and do something about it:
Your legs getting numb means you should change positions, stretch, get up, and get things in order.
Pain in your legs, or your lower back means something is seriously wrong, and you’re either risking physical damage, or actually causing it just by being seated in the L position, whether you’re paddling, resting, or fishing…”

Interestingly, the pain created in your back gets exacerbated the more your legs push on the footrests. This unwanted process is increased when you’re seated in a pedal driven fishing kayak, and your legs constantly and energetically push the pedals, for a long time. Since your legs are required to perform this task from the center of the deck, and your feet lose the little stabilizing effect they have when the rest in the footrests located on the sides, the instability you feel increases even more, and so is the pressure…