Sunday, January 13, 2013

BLOG 35. WindPaddle Sail Review

BLOG 35. Wind Paddle Sail Review
Cliff Jacobson
Cliff with WindPaddle sail: Kautikeino River, Norway. 14' pakboat

If you’ve ever attached a make-shift sail to a canoe, you know the problems.  Without a secure attachment to the rails, the sail may tear, the mast may break or the surging canoe may capsize. 

The common way of rigging a field sail on a canoe is to scroll a small tarp around two paddles.  The bow person anchors the paddles against his feet and takes firm hold of the shafts, closing or opening the scrolled sail as the wind demands.  The stern person rudders to hold the course.  This works marginally well as long as the wind is from behind and not too strong. Tacking is out-of-the-question—makeshift rigs go with the flow. 

Two summers ago, Alv Elvestad, owner of Pakboats (best folding canoes on the planet, in my opinion), invited me to join him on a canoe trip in Norway.  Our plan was to paddle (in solo canoes) three whitewater rivers in Norway and Finland.  There was plenty of open water along the route so Alv decided to bring some sails for the canoes.  I was skeptical because I’d sailed canoes alone when I was a kid, but this was with a dedicated lateen rig and secured lee-boards. I couldn’t imagine how one person could sail a solo canoe without a secure rudder and cleated lines.
Choose your color: red, yellow or blue!
When we finally encountered a long stretch of open water and a nice tail wind, Alv produced four “WindPaddle” sails, one for each of our solo canoes.  There are several models; ours was the “Adventure Sail”, designed for canoes and kayaks 14-18 feet long and winds of 5-30 knots. 

PaddleSails feature a tough, spring-like batten around the perimeter that holds them in shape. Coil the batten (the technique is easy but requires practice) and the full diameter of the sail (42 inches for the Adventure model) shrinks to 15 inches, or about the size and thickness of a large Frisbee. Pull the elastic release cord and the colorful nylon sail snaps into its full size and shape. 
Yes, you can tack with these sails!

Installing the PaddleSail on a canoe is easy.  Just snap the two security lines to the gunnels or a thwart ahead of the paddler. Place the continuous sheet line (cord) behind your neck—this may be the safest plan in high winds—or clip it to your seat. The unbreakable perimeter batten maintains the circular sail shape and allows the sail to be rotated for tacking. A large plastic window in the sail center provides a view of the road ahead. You sit (on the seat or floor) and hold your paddle (rudder) with both hands. The sail takes care of itself. If the wind force becomes more than you can handle, just lean forward and allow the sail to collapse and spill the wind—the sheet line slips easily off over your head.

Unlike most “instant” canoe and kayak sails, the WindPaddle sail opens instantly (like in two seconds!) from it’s coiled/compressed on-deck location, and it folds compactly for storage just as quickly. The center of force of the sail is low, about the same level as the paddler, which makes the sail extremely stable and the ride smooth and predictable.  A simple sail height adjustment, coupled with the continuous sheet line, allows the sail to be rotated.  This permits serious tacking.
In summary: The PaddleSail is the best touring canoe sail I’ve used on a canoe. It is lighter, faster into and out of action, and it provides better control than any makeshift or production “quickie” sail I’ve used. It takes up very little space in a pack. Most important, it is extremely safe in high winds.  On our Norway trip, we sailed our solo canoes down a curvy river for about four hours in variable winds of 5-15 miles per hour.  It was easy to tack around the curves and eddies.  We grew to love the PaddleSails and couldn’t say enough good things about them.

Specifications (Adventure Model):

Touring and Expedition boats 14’ – 18’
Target wind range – 5 – 30 knots (has seen 40+ knots!)
Target paddler – intermediate to expert
Off-wind sailing envelope - +180 degrees
Sail Data: Deployed diameter - 42" (106.7 cm.),  Coiled/folded diameter - 15" (38.1 cm.),  Sail area - 9.62 sq. ft. (0.8937 sq. m²)
Weight - 13 oz. (0.37 kg.)
$169.95 USD

Check out the PaddleSail at  It is made right here in the U.S.A.

Cliff Jacobson

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