Tag Archive: tracking

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.

Leg Propulsion For Fishing Kayaks

Using your legs for propelling any human powered vehicle offers the advantage of relying on a bigger, more powerful set of muscles than our arms. Our legs are also good in balancing, if given a chance to perform this job.

Currently, three manufacturers offer pedal drives for fishing kayaks.
Two of these devices feature rotary paddles and propellers, which makes more sense than the third one that features push pedals and wings flapping from side to side as a propeller.
In any case, pedal drives do not provide a suitable answer for touring and fishing kayaks, since operating involves a variety of problems starting from reduced stability and control over the kayak, reduced maneuverability and the loss of the ability to travel in shallow water, to more important, ergonomic problems that include increased discomfort and back pain.
More about pedal drives for fishing kayaks

So far, no one has ever seen a reason to outfit their W kayak with a pedal drive, for pretty obvious reasons. However, should anyone be interested to tinker with such project, the following pedal drive setup seems applicable to W kayaks,

rotary pedal drive for fishing kayak

jb_on_canoe

More ideas, information and opinions about this pedal drive setup can be found in the comments section of the article about pedal drives recommended in the previous paragraph.

Here is another direction that seems applicable to W kayaks:

It seems like there used to be such a commercial product on the market several years ago, but we were unable to trace it. More information about it would be appreciated.
This particular setup is based on a crank shaft being used for pedaling and activating both paddle wheels at the same time. Therefore, the operator has to steer by means of a hand activated rudder (or paddle), which is a problem similar to the one facing kayak anglers attempting to operate a commercial fishing kayak pedal drive of the above mentioned types.
The rotation of the paddle wheels on the boat’s sides somehow compensates the operator for the initial loss of stability resulting from raising their feet in the air. In this regard, this seemingly clumsy setup is not as bad as the pedal drives featuring in fishing kayaks.
As far as shallow water mobility is concerned , this setup seems to be less inadequate than the above mentioned kayak pedal drives, and it looks like removing entangled seaweed from its blades is not complicated as it is with those kayak pedal drives.
Obviously, the paddle wheels add unwanted weight to the boat, and the recumbent position is not ideal for pedaling, as explained in the article mentioned in the first section.
In Fishability terms, the paddle wheels are similar to outriggers, in the sense that they can easily snag your fishing lines.

Having said that, if the reader feels like trying to implement such concept in their canoe, kayak or W kayak, they may want to consider separating the rotation of the two paddle wheels, namely have each leg rotate the paddle wheel on its own side – independently from what the other leg is doing. Such version would solve the steering problem created by relying on one’s legs for propulsion rather than on a paddle, eliminate the need to operate a unwanted rudder, and add both to the tracking and steering capabilities of the boat.

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 >>

Front Motor and Front Steering In Motorized Fishing Kayaks

When rigging your W fishing kayak with an electric trolling motor, you face the choice of attaching the motor in the front of the kayak, in the rear, or on the side – next to you.
Each of these locations offers certain advantages, and presents disadvantages as well.

The motor’s location can affect safety, stability, speed, steering, tracking, entry and exit, reentering, as well as fishability, since the location of the motor and steering handle could limit your range of motion when casting baits and lures, reeling in the fish, and landing them. This is why you’d better study whatever information is available on these subjects, and see what configuration best fits your personal transportation and fishing requirements.

Front Motor and Steering

Having the motor in the front can produce a fun, ‘scooter’ feel, as you can see in this video of Dan Carroll’s motorized W300 – one of the first projects in this field:

More info about this W300 kayak outfitted with with an electric trolling motor >

Having the electric motor in the front can produce a ‘chopper’ motorcycle effect as well, as Richard Dion’s motorized W500 has:

fishing kayak, New Hampshire

 Electric_trolling_motor_mounted_on_fishing_kayak_NH_02

This ‘road bike’ look and feel is partly due to the lowered seat and generous cushioning.
See more about this motorized offshore fishing kayak >

It’s possible to install the motor in the front and steer by means other than a handle.
In any case, attaching the motor in the front of the kayak can create a safety issue when navigating in shallow water, as the motor won’t bounce up if it hits bottom, or a submerged obstacle. In such case, the motor could be damaged, as well as its mount, and even the kayak itself.
As far as steering is concerned, the driver being located away from the motor limits their effective range of turning. This is not necessarily a problem, unless you want to make sharp turns, or in case you need to navigate through fasts streams and turbulent waters.

More info about motorizing your fishing kayak >