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HomeNL-2019-02 Wind

Paddling in the Wind
February 2019
by Paul Woodcock

Natalie explained at he club meeting how she changed her route on the circumnavigation of Lake Charlotte because of the winds. We had paddled only a few yards into the headwinds before she decided she would change her plans. This is the best way to deal with the winds. On our wilderness trips we would camp on the lake shore the night before and paddle across early in the morning before the winds came up. We were stranded on an island for two days because of a storm and high winds. Sometimes you have no options but to paddle in strong winds like when you you are in the middle of a 10 mile lake and the winds come up. Then it is good to know some wind paddling techniques. It is best to have a little more weight in the front of the canoe to help you track straight but don't shift too much gear or you might swamp the canoe. Use whatever you can find to use as a wind break an island or a cove. Natalie decided to paddle Mac Bayou rather then the open lake. If you look to paddle to a distant point but are confronted with a side wind you should tack. Aim 45-degrees upwind of your destination and paddle. The wind will take you straight to your mark. You can quarter the waves, approaching them at a 30 to 45-degree angle but it takes a skilled paddler to accomplish this, as you can be on the verge of broaching to the wind. One mistake and you can capsize. You can run sideways to the waves in the trough between the waves. You end up bobbing like a cork. This is what I did on Lake Charlotte. I also used the Indian stroke. It is a J-stroke where you leave the paddle in the water on the return stroke. This works like an outrigger and gives you the feeling of more stability. You should know your boat - if you have a high bow you will not take in as much water than if you have a low bow. Dana Enos' solo boat had a low bow so he made a cover for the front of his boat. One lesson that was hard for me to learn was to just accept the fact that you are going to be going slower. If you fight the wind and paddle hard you might exhaust yourself. Paddling in the wind is not my idea of fun but mother nature rules. You need to have the skills and confidence to paddle what she offers.

For information on wind-cocking, see my February 2013 newsletter article here.

 The author, Paul Woodcock