We just had a typhoon come through Japan last Friday. It went through the middle of the island so by the time it made it to the deep north (jumping over a few tall mountains on the way) it lost quite a bit of steam. As far as tropical storms go, this was a drive-by shooting; it was over before it really got started.
And of course I took the kayak out to the lake, wanting to play in the wind and chop. The wind was gusting, not sustained. This meant smaller waves than expected with 45kmh wind gusts. Going with the wind was more an exercise in steering than paddling, going against quite an exercise, period. As long as the kayak was moving and leaned towards the wind (to offer less of a face to catch the wind) it was manageable. The moment I would stop paddling (the mini Sneakers bars on my dry bag kept calling me) the waves would turn the kayak at an angle to the wind, making it very unstable and moving it at a very good clip back.
It was quite a learning experience. It seems to me that the number one danger of getting caught in strong winds is to freak out. If you lose your cool and start paddling like mad to the point of exhaustion, your options just become close to nil. I would say that if caught in strong winds and being blown away from shore, the number one priority (even more important than to make it to shore) is to remain calm. You freak out, you tire yourself, you capsize, and you then have no control as to where you are being blown to. Also, it seems that if capsized and unable to reenter, the best option is to either grab the bow or the stern if you want to slow down being blown (keeps the kayak facing the wind), or the side of the kayak, if you indeed need to be blown in the direction of the winds.
And finally to the point of this post: it seemed that a drogue or sea anchor would have been such a nice thing to have. As stated, every time I stopped the kayak would turn 90-degrees to the wind, which was the least stable position to be in, not to mention all of the wasted energy needed to get the kayak back in track. I came with the impression that the drogue would had help stability, kept the kayak facing the wind, and allow me to take breaks in the more stable wind facing position, without losing as much ground. I’m even thinking that it would have improved my chances of reentry after a capsize, if such a thing would had even been possible under the nasty circumstances.
So my questions are:
- Have anybody here used a drogue? What are your impressions for this particular scenario?
How about for reentry through surf? I have seen conflicting opinions as to use a drogue to come through surf. Has anybody here practiced surf reentry with a drogue? What kind of waves would it be suitable for? How about swimming along the kayak while it was attached to a drogue? On some of our rocky shores (at times it seems the only kinds we have) you are better off wet exiting and bringing the kayak in by the hand.
Also read about deploying it from your stern while going down wind on big swells, in order to slow down the roller coaster ride down the faces of waves (thus making it less likely to get 90-degree turned and capsized, or even pitchpoled). Does anybody has any experiences with this?
And last but not least, what would be the proper dimensions for a drogue intended for a kayak? I’m going to build a square type drogue out of rip stop nylon fabric, reinforced with 1” webbing and 550 (parachute) cord. How big should the front square, rear (smaller) square, and distance between the two be? I already know that I need to put a swivel, flotation to keep it from sinking, weight to keep it open, maybe a length of shock (bungee) cord to absorb some of the stress, and the means (a line) to retrieve it. What else should I keep in mind?