Thursday, April 7, 2016

My First Falcon Paddle Sail

The new Falcon Sail on Ibi as we relax a few minutes in 
a quiet cove out of the wind.

Since moving to the Great American Desert (Zebulon Pike’s words, not mine.), I’ve really missed sailing.  That should be obvious since my personal slogan has always been, “The only thing better than sailing is breathing, but neither’s of much use without the other.”  So, having watched the Falcon Sail site videos for quite some time, I’ve hoped that putting the appropriate sail on the canoe might offer a solution.  With the rig installed, today would offer the opportunity for a first paddle-sail with the new Falcon rig.

The question I often see stems from people’s concerns over how long it takes to get the rig on and off the canoe, so I timed them.  The very first time I took the rig off the canoe, as I got ready to slide the canoe on the pickup, took 60 seconds from the time I walked into the garage until I laid the rig in the back of the truck.  When I got to the ramp, getting the rig back on the canoe and rigging the stay, shrouds, and sheet took a bit longer: 2 ½ minutes.   Once you’ve installed the rig, the understanding of what everything is and where it goes makes handling rigging really simple, and the time needed to rig or derig the boat is so insignificant that it fails to be an issue.

The paddle up the lake was almost dead into the wind, which was fine on the starboard bow, but much too close for sailing.  Just above the buffalo bluffs to port, I had a brief chance to see a bald eagle in the top of a cedar before it took flight.  The wind was supposed to be light today, so I started to get concerned about my first sail when whitecaps began building and rolling down the lake.  I called Jean at home, and she checked the weather page.  The wind was now gusting over 20.  Against the wind, I was paddling 2.5 to 2.9 with a bent-shaft Bending Branches paddle.  This alone was a big improvement for me.  I had spent the last couple weeks watching MicroTom’s videos in his WaterTribe 2016 Ultimate Florida Challenge and tried to pick up a couple hints about improving paddling efficiency.  They seemed to be working.  I’ll put a link at the end.

Once I was up beyond the Big Bend, I switched to a two-blade Bending Branches paddle for faster bracing, if needed, and popped the sail.  Falling off on a port broad reach, the sail immediately added a big boost to the ride.  Without paddling, I was sailing 3.8 to a bit over 4.  An occasional half-hearted paddle stroke held it over 4.  I practiced some with bracing and balancing to meet the force of gusts in the sail.  Gusts would put the bow up on a boiling bow wave.  It was exciting, but the wind would then soften and the ride would slow.  The nicest thing about the experience was that the rig was self-tending.  I didn’t have to do much of anything in return for the ride, which is a big improvement over my WindPaddle, which I find I have to fiddle with way too much to keep it drawing.

After getting back to the ramp, and with the wind now even a bit stronger, I decided to duck into a quiet cove for a picture, and then turn and try sailing back upwind.  The sail was trimmed all the way in.  With the sail’s deep draft, close hauled would be impossible, but the draft is needed for other points of sail.  I suspect it also helps maintain drive in a chop.  Watching for the sail to draw, I realized I could hold a close reach.  I would manage 1.9 paddling without the sail, but setting the sail on the same heading would then give me 3.9 mph.  I was paddling, but lightly, and with the pull of the sail, found the strokes very light for going to weather.  There is leeway without a board, of course, but the leeway was much less than I expected, and I was clearly making steady headway upwind.  Keep in mind that this was all under first-trial conditions.  I’m sure that I can do better with practice, and then I’ll try to put some real numbers on the points of sail and leeway.  In all, the Falcon Sail is great and does all the builder claims it will.  Best of all, it was a blast.

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