Guide To Kayak Sails
Adding a sail to your kayak could let you transform your vessel into a more advanced one with power from an additional source. But is there any point to having a sail on your yak?
We’ve looked into the advantages and disadvantages you might get from adding a kayak sail kit to your vessel. We’ll explain what the different types are and how you might be able to use one with your own yak.
Top Sail Kits - At a Glance
(Note that these links will take you over to the kayaks on Amazon)
Why Use A Sail On My Kayak?
One of the main benefits of using a sail on your kayak is the added speed you can gain. A sail can help you utilize the power of the wind, meaning you can travel faster while using less energy through paddling.
This can be useful if you want to cover long distances, as it should help you tire less quickly and cover a greater distance in a shorter time compared to paddling alone. A sail can also give you the time to take a break from paddling, for example, to eat lunch or grab a drink.
Not only that, it can add a bit more fun and interest to your kayak and your paddling trip, giving you another element to boost your enjoyment compared to simply paddling.
The bigger your sail, the more you’ll be able to harness the wind’s power but the more likely it can be to tip you over, if your sail is not in the right position.
Having a sail attached to a sit-inside yak could also affect your ability to roll, meaning you may need to detach the mast first or simply perform a wet exit before securing your sail and getting back in.
Fishing can be a lot of fun from a sailing kayak, as you can let the wind power you across the water to your favorite fishing spot without needing to use all your energy paddling. Plus it can allow you to free up your hands for fishing while still moving.
This can also be ideal for trolling, as it can be a quieter (as well as more economical) method of moving over the water with minimal disruption to the fish.
Best Time To Use A Sail
Kayak sails can come in handy during long paddling trips and can be ideal for sea kayaks or touring kayaks where you might be on a multi-day trip.
They can be ideal for open water kayaking or canoeing where you have a bit of a breeze or light winds that can help power you over the water.
Video: Sea Kayak Sailing
A sail may not be a good idea in narrow rivers or where you have overhanging trees or branches, as the added height of your sail could become stuck or damaged as you sail underneath them.
Choosing The Right Type Of Sail
Circle Shaped Sails
Circle shaped sails are just as the name would suggest; where the shape of the sail is circular and more similar in style to a parasail than what you might consider a traditional sailboat sail.
For beginners, circle shaped sails can be ideal for kayaks, as they can be easy to use and control and most feature a window so you can see where you’re going. These sails can be great for learning basic sailing techniques and learning how sails work before you start thinking about using more complicated sails.
Most circle shaped sails can be attached to the bow of most kayaks and canoes and can often be controlled easily by hand. Because of their shape and position on the boat, they are usually best used in downwind sailing conditions, as the wind can push you along.
V Shaped Sails
V shaped sails are, again, as they sound, with the majority of the sail’s area towards the top of the sail. This leaves minimal area at the lower end so it may not get in the way as much as other types of sails. However, some may still have clear window panels so you can see in front of you.
Because of their design, these types of sails may be able to catch more wind because of their higher height but their generally smaller surface area could mean you sacrifice speed. They also might be better suited to sailing downwind, as they don’t tend to be able to easily change direction.
V shaped sails can be ideal for kayak sailors who have had a little experience with kayak sails already but can also be suitable for beginners. However, because of their top heavy design, they may not be suitable for small or lightweight vessels, especially in strong winds.
L Shaped Sails
L shaped sails can be ideal for experienced kayak sailors but are not recommended for complete beginners. They are more traditional in style and often similar in shape to the sails you might find on sailing yachts.
However, these types of sails can be more difficult to use, as they may require more sailing skills than a circle sail, for example. With an L shaped sail you can usually control the direction of travel by moving the sail.
These types of sails will usually have a mast and can often have a boom (the horizontal pole that swings out from the mast and holds the base of the sail down). This can allow you to sail no matter what direction the wind is blowing, rather than being limited to downwind sailing.
Kayak Sailing Tips
Points Of Sail
You may have heard about the points of sail before. The points of sail are the general guidelines on how to sail according to the direction of the wind and the position of your boat. They are followed by all types of sailing vessels.
- Close Hauled: When you’re sailing as close to the wind as is possible, with the wind coming at a narrow angle towards you. You cannot sail directly upwind.
- Close Reach: Often the fastest point of sail, when the wind is coming towards you at a greater angle than close hauled.
- Beam Reach: The wind is coming at a 90 degree angle, hitting your vessel on the side.
- Running: At this point the wind is directly behind you and you would need your sail at a right angle to your boat to catch the wind from behind.
Staying safe on the water should be your number one priority. While sails can add a fun element to your kayak you should also be aware of the risks.
The weather can be an important thing to consider before you head out. Just like with paddling, you don’t want to be heading out in any storms. But no matter what the weather, always make sure you have suitable safety gear, including wearing a PFD.
Having a sail attached could impact your vessel’s stability in very strong winds, so you should be comfortable with controlling your sail and your boat before you head out. Waves on open water could also impact your stability, but you should know yourself what your limits are.
It can also be a good idea to practice using your sail before you head out on the water, so you know you can deploy it or stow it quickly if you need to. And more importantly, make sure you don’t use a sail that’s beyond your skill level. Practice on a beginner’s sail before you progress to more complicated ones.
5 Best Kayak Sails And Kits
1: WindPaddle Scout Sail
The WindPaddle Scout Sail is a circle shaped sail that’s designed for use in winds of between 4 and 18 knots. It’s aimed at beginners, being easy to use and can be controlled with one steering line so you can also easily hold onto your paddle.
The circle design of this sail means it can be good for heading downwind, as it should pull you along quite quickly if your vessel is between 8 and 15 feet long. The sail features a handy window in the center so you can see where you’re going when you’re on the water.
It mounts directly to the bow of your vessel and has mounting clips that can attach to bungees, handles, D-rings and lots of other points on your boat. It can also be deployed quickly while on the water and can be folded up when not in use.
2: Harmony Upwind Kayak Sail and Canoe Sail Kit
The Harmony Upwind Kayak and Canoe Sail Kit is designed for both kayaks and canoes. With a sail area of 40 square feet, this sail should be ideal for larger kayaks and canoes, as it should be able to capture more of the wind’s power compared to a smaller sail.
It’s an L shaped sail, similar to the sails you might see on traditional sailboats or sailing yachts. This means it has a boom to allow you to control the position of the sail, which could come in handy if you’re sailing upwind. Its telescoping mast means it can be folded down for easier storage or transportation.
Harmony Upwind Kayak Sail And Canoe Sail System
This kit also comes complete with outriggers which can add extra stability to your craft and the sail can be mounted to the bow of your boat with one screw. It could be an ideal sail for more experienced kayak sailors.
3: Advanced Elements Rapid Up Sail
This Advanced Elements Rapid Up Sail is a circle shape sail with a V shaped element that can be ideal for a range of kayaks as well as canoes. Its oval shape gives it a V shape effect when deployed.
Because of its shape it’s designed to work better with the narrow shape of kayak decks and could be useful on inflatable yaks as well as hard shell vessels.
It features a clear window in the center and two smaller window sections on each side to give you better visibility. The sail is designed to be used when paddling downwind, so that the wind can push against it and give you a helping hand and a faster speed.
However, it’s not intended to be used in upwind conditions. Like its name would suggest, this sail is designed to be deployed quickly through the use of the spring frame.
It can be attached to many types of kayaks and canoes and comes with adjustable attachments for different types of vessels. It’s also designed to be easy to use and could be ideal if you’re new to kayak sailing.
The sail will fold down flat and can be stored on your deck, so that it can be within easy reach if you want to pop it up.
4: WindPaddle 47" Adventure Sail
This WindPaddle Adventure Sail is designed for larger kayaks and canoes, ranging from around 14 to 18 feet in length, so could be ideal for many touring kayaks as well as canoes. It is designed for wind speeds of between 5 and 30 knots but may be better suited to downwind sailing.
The circle shape sail features a window in the center for added visibility in front of you. It can be used by beginners and more experienced kayakers as well as canoeists, but it’s aimed more towards experienced sea kayakers.
The WindPaddle sail can be attached to the bow of most kayaks and canoes, with clips that can be secured to a seat or bungee cords. It also features a single control line to make it easier to use while holding your paddle.
5: Hobie Kayak Sail Kit
The Hobie Kayak Sail Kit is designed specifically for the Mirage and Pro Angler range of Hobie kayaks, including tandems, as these kayaks will often have the designated mounting point in which to install the mast. However, it does not work with inflatable yaks.
The pedal drive fins on the Mirage kayaks can also help to create stability and resistance in the water while you’re sailing. The kayak sail kit has a two piece mast but without a boom and it can be folded up with not in use, using the furling hook.
The direction of the sail can be controlled with one hand, while you steer with the other. It also features a clear window at the lower end of the sail to improve your visibility while you’re on the water. It can be rolled up and folded down for easier transportation and comes with a handy storage bag.
What About Kayak Sail... DIY?
Making your own sail could have its advantages. For example, you could set your own budget and make whatever type of sail you want, in whatever color you want, so have the added benefit of personalization.
It can also give you the chance to create a custom sail for your craft, so you can get the ideal size of sail to best suit the type and size of your vessel.
However, adding a homemade sail to your kayak could pose certain risks as well. For example, it may not be as easily stowed or released in an emergency, or it could be too heavy or large for your vessel. Certain methods may not always be suitable for strong winds and could cause you to end up overboard.
How To Build A Kayak Sail
What You Need:
Step 1: Cut your nylon
For a V shape sail, cut your nylon accordingly but with a flat bottom instead of a point. Width at the top should be 53 inches. Width at the bottom should be 14 inches and the length of your nylon should be 63 inches.
Cut out two small squares on either side. This is where you will be clamping your ropes to.
Step 2: Create holes for pipes
Using your sewing thread and your PVC pipes, fold over your nylon at either side so that it folds over your PVC pipes. After sewing along the edges your pipes should fit into the space you’ve created within the folded fabric.
There should be two gaps on either side where you cut out the squares, so you should be able to see the pipes at these points.
Step 3: Put in your pipes
With your dowel rods, put one inside each of the PVC pipes. This will provide additional strength.
Then you can put a PVC pipe inside the edge seam of the fabric where you have just sewn. So you should have two PVC pipes inside the edges of either side of your nylon fabric. Your sail should start to look a bit more like a sail now.
Step 4: Attach the tee pieces
Now you can attach the tee pieces to the lower ends of your PVC pipes, at the narrow end of your sail.
Step 5: Thread webbing
With a piece of nylon webbing or similar fabric, thread it through the hose pipe so that you have sufficient amount on either side of the hose pipe. This is what you will be using to attach it to your boat, so 3 or 4 feet could be adequate.
Step 6: Thread the hose pipe
Thread your piece of hose pipe through both the tee pieces to link them together. You can also sew on a piece of rope or nylon webbing to the bottom of your sail and tie it to the hose pipe. This can prevent the sail riding up the pipes at the sides.
Step 7: Pool noodle goes on
Cut your pool noodle along its length so you can open it up. Then place this around the hose pipe and tee pieces. You can then secure this with duct tape or similar.
Step 8: Attach to kayak
Depending on your vessel you may already have somewhere that you can attach the webbing. You can possibly unscrew pad eyes to secure the webbing underneath this. Or you may prefer to securely tie it to something already on your deck.
Step 9: Attach your ropes
Put your hose clamps around each of the PVC pipes at the gap that you created in the sail earlier. Then secure your bungee cord. It should be long enough to stretch down and attach to a point on the bow of your craft. Make sure it’s tight but is still able to let the sail lay flat.
Next attach your control lines. These should be long enough for you to reach and use while you’re seated in your vessel. Once you’ve secured both the bungee and the control lines you can tighten the hose clamps and you’re good to go.
Video: Use An Umbrella?!
Hopefully you now know a little bit more about kayak sailing and perhaps you’ve been inspired to either buy or make your own sail. Adding a sail to your kayak can definitely add a lot of fun and speed to your paddling trip and can be useful, especially if you’re fishing.
As much fun as it can be, it’s also important to consider your safety on the water. It’s a good idea not to sail if the weather is bad, as a sudden gust could catch you and your sail by surprise.
If you’ve found this interesting and you want your fellow paddlers to get involved, share this with them. And don’t forget to leave us a comment to tell about your kayak sailing expeditions.