Parafoil or kite to use downwind only

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Parafoil or kite to use downwind only

Post by TedFromNoCA »

I'm considering a traction\power kite to use for downwind work when paddling in my area (see the attached map). I actually would rather have a sailboat, but that isn't an option these days. I might be doing this in a folder, perhaps depending on whether or not I'm forced to to sell my hardshell kayak to pay my bills.

There are 10-20 (or more) mph westerly winds in the afternoons much of the year, and I figure I can paddle west for a couple of hours early in the day and then set the kite for a faster return trip, or use the kite in the afternoon and paddle back in the early evening when the winds drop. (The wind tends to follow the water --see the attached map. The water can be rough, especially when an eddy current opposes wind-driven swells, but that's true whether I'm using a kite or not).

What do you think -- will it be worth the bother, the extra expense (even tho I plan to make the kite myself from reclaimed materials when [if ever] I get a working sewing machine), and the added danger of using the kite? Does anyone out there have plans for a homemade traction kite that they have used in similar conditions?

I'll probably just going to go ahead and try it when I get around to it, whatever anyone else says, but I'd like to get some other opinions first, and avoid doing something unusually stupid and dangerous if I can.
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Re: Parafoil or kite to use downwind only

Post by DLee »

Moderator this thread should probably be moved to sailing column.

Ted, see the arrow heading up the Napa river (the arrow pointing most northerly)? I used to live on that beach to the east for eight or nine years. Man I miss that spot. Sandy Beach, a little pocket of Solano County.

I know this water very well. I had an 11' pram with sail for many years and then upgraded to an 11' Boston Whaler that I could keep at the house or at the Vallejo boat launch up the river.

As you know and point out, the Carquinez Straight (which is that narrow waterway going beneath the bridge), can get extremely choppy especially with an opposing wind. Have you done a lot of kayaking out there?

Honestly, I would forego the kite idea for a good sail. Conveniently you posted this in the kayaksailer column. Kayaksailer is a company - KUVIA - up in WA that makes a very nice sail that could be perfect for this water. I would be concerned with anything larger than the Kayaksailer (KS) on these waters without some very good outriggers such as the Balogh BSD rig. I'm thinking of the water right off of Crockett (really from the entrance of the Napa river to just beyond the Sugar Plant). There is another sail called the Flat Earth sail from Australia which is a much simpler design that you might be able to sew yourself. There is a company here in the states that makes a sail almost identical to the Flat Earth but I can't remember what they are called.

I've been on that water under the bridge when it's been a chaotic potato patch of breaking moguls and wind. I completely swamped my whaler out there once, filled it to the gunnels... thank god it was a Whaler... I've also screamed across that water at full throttle in the middle of the night with a mirror reflection of the stars and moon. Man I miss that place. One time coming back from San Rafael it was a gorgeous day, picture perfect, but the water was so rough with an opposing wind I actually tied myself to the boat coming down San Pablo bay.

FYI the back side of Mare Island would be awesome in a kayak not to mention the Napa sloughs. I used to do a loop from my house up through the Napa sloughs, going in at Dutchman (if I remember correctly) and coming out under the HWY 37 bridge out by Sears Point then across the flats back home. That took two hours in the Whaler without fooling around too much. Some of the duck blinds out in the flats are great little hideaways for a nice stretch and a break. Hope I'm not preaching to the choir here... I just have a lot of great memories from that water, Sandy Beach, and Nantuckets.

Back to the point, a kite is not a terrible idea... but I've had my hands plenty full out there to the point where I think a good sail would be easier managed than a kite, especially a sail that you could drop quickly if need be. There is traffic out there. I guess it depends how good you are with the kite. And why limit yourself to downwind? A good sail will allow you to travel both ways in the neighborhood.

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