Spend enough time traversing big fetches of water and, sooner or later, you will have to negotiate a healthy breeze. Kayak anglers are sensitive to both the winds velocity and direction, never taking a gusting breeze for granted. The first strong cold fronts of the year start calling on the Lone Star in October and the pace between fronts shortens with each passing month. Kayakers need to keep a close eye on weather forecasts. Wind can make paddling a challenge but there are ways to harness it and use it to your advantage. Outfitting your hull with a small sail allows you to hijack the wind and lessen your load as you travel from Point A to Point B.
It is hard for me to pass a kayak on a roof rack without doing a bit of spying. I am always quick to observe how others rig their hulls. This old dog is quick to pick up new tricks but I have yet to see a hull in a car-top carrier with a sail lashed down beside it.
Kayaks equipped with sails are relatively scarce but the concept is sound. Kayak hulls are lighter than fiberglass sailboats and a gentle wind is all that is needed to push the craft along briskly. Regardless, whether you use the sail to get to your favorite honey hole or back to your launching spot, it can cut your workload in half. If the fish have lockjaw, stow your rod and have a little wind-driven fun.
Who knows more about kayak sailing than Hobie, the inventor of the Hobie Cat? The ultrafast catamarans are synonymous with recreational sailing around the world. When Hobie expanded their recreational boating line to include kayaks, sails were wisely included as one of their propulsion options. Hobies popular Mirage Drive gets the lions share of the press, allowing kayakers to peddle their hulls instead of paddling them, but Hobie also offers a sail kit that can easily be added to their hulls.
Hobies sail kit weighs a modest 4-pounds and the multi-sectional mast stretches a tad beyond 10-feet. Once assembled, the mast slips into a receptacle that is molded into the cockpit of every Hobie kayak. The brightly colored sails offer 20.25 square feet of coverage, allowing you to zip along on even the lightest breeze.
Should you not own a Hobie hull and want to get blown away, you may want to consider an aftermarket sail made by WindPaddle Sails. Unlike conventional sails, which rely on masts, the WindPaddle sail resembles a rib-less umbrella, made entirely of fabric. You harness the sail to your hull and control it with hand lines. You can fine-tune your direction with your rudder or paddle. The dome-shaped sails come in several different sizes; the larger the diameter, the more wind you can capture and the faster you can go.
Hobie sail kit Photo: Hobie Kayaks
Sails arent perfect as they create clutter and restrict movement inside your cockpit. Traditional sails arent something you set up and take down while you are on the water but the WindPaddle is different. A cleverly designed plastic hoop is sewn into the sail which helps keep it open to catch passing breezes. Using twisting motion with your wrists, the hoop curls down into three smaller concentric circles. Once the WindPaddle has been "folded" down, an elastic strap is slipped around the sail keeping the whole assembly compressed. The coiled sail packs down into a 14-inch diameter platter, about an inch thick. Best of all, you can deploy or take down your sail while you are on the water; simply pull off the elastic strap and the sail springs into shape. WindPaddle Sails cautions kayakers to practice setting up and taking down their sails before you get on the water.
Sailing is a lot of fun and a sail converts a serious fishing hull into a water toy in minutes. Lets say you really wanted to spend some time on Galveston Bay over the weekend but a mutinous west wind muddied your favorite shoreline. Rather than sulk about the house doing honey dos, head to the bay and log some time sailing your plastic hull.
From a fishermans perspective, sails can add versatility. Trolling immediately comes to mind, be it in fresh or saltwater. Trolling while paddling is a popular option but you are lucky to exceed 3 mph if your power plant has double blades. Wind-driven boats, on the other hand, can easily eclipse 10 mph, making a kayak a viable trolling platform for kingfish and other fish that prefer artificial baits that dash rather than dawdle.
Sails easily extend a kayakers normal range but make sure you dont go too far that you cant paddle yourself back, especially into a headwind. With a little practice, you can learn to tack and zigzag your way back into an oncoming wind. These skills are best developed when the fish arent biting.
Best of all, kayak sails are affordable to the weekend angler. Prices range, depending on the manufacturer from $129.00 to $349.00.
Consider adding a sail to your kayak as a fun and versatile power option. You will find that sailing is a breeze.