This blog is designed to highlight the paddling opportunities within South Dakota, mainly within a 50-mile radius of Sioux Falls. While Sioux Falls is far from the adventure of coastal regions, there is a certain satisfaction in utilizing the available waterways to observe weather, water conditions, and the landscape along the shoreline. In addition, there is a wealth of animal life on the waters of small South Dakota lakes, rivers, and creeks, including geese, ducks, pelicans, great blue heron, egrets, hawks, owls, perching birds, deer, raccoons, and beaver. Eagles, fox, and coyote are also sometimes spotted.

The sites described are places where I have kayaked over the past few years, mostly in South Dakota but sometimes including locations in Iowa and Minnesota. One of the best sources of information on the accessibility of small lakes is the South Dakota Atlas and Gazetteer, the large map book of South Dakota. Lakes with a public access are generally identified by a boat symbol marking the location of a launching site on public land.

You will notice the menu of paddling locations on the right side of the blog. Each of the postings is linked to one of the areas, and my intention is to provide a continuing review of the places where I paddle. Perhaps these narratives will help readers select waterways of interest to them. Please feel free to offer a comment regarding any of my postings; I would welcome the dialog.

I also maintain a companion blog that describes hiking opportunities within the Sioux Falls area. You can access that blog at:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Umbrella Sailing in Colorado

A few days ago I received the following message about using an umbrella sail with a kayak. Rod had read my posting on this blog about umbrella sailing on Lake Alvin near Sioux Falls and related his experiences in doing the same sort of thing on a lake in Colorado. As you can see in his photo, there is a marked contrast in landscape between the two locations. Also, it appears as though Rod was engaged in an early effort to sail without a rudder, and, as he says, that is a rather challenging task. Using a rudder provides some keel effect and allows the kayaker to hang onto the umbrella with both hands while steering with the foot-operated rudder.

I have been carrying my umbrella in the trunk of my car for months, and reading about Rod’s experiences gives me some motivation to get it out and do a little sailing before the winter sets in. I think that sailing on a small and sheltered body of water like Lake Alvin is best for me. There is a little sense of unease about sailing a kayak; a good gust of wind can be an unexpected challenge, and I like being in a position where I feel free to just let the umbrella fly and take up the paddle if necessary.

You can review my own adventures with umbrella sailing by clicking on that topic on the menu on the right hand side of this blog.

I appreciate Rod sharing this experience with us, and I also encourage any other kayakers to share some aspect of their slant on the hobby with the readers of this blog. Just contact me by e-mail, and we can work out a guest blog entry.


Hello Jay,

I was Googling "Umbrella Sailing" and came across your article. I live
out in the woods near Lake George, Colorado. I am relatively new to the
sport, having paddled for the first time last season. We live about 10
minutes from a large mountain reservoir, with several others within an 
hour's drive, so getting involved in some sort of water activity seemed 
almost mandatory, even though I've never been a "water person" in the 
past. I am also involved in Motorcycling (for 40 years) and SkiBiking.

I came across some mention of umbrella sailing on the web, and, suitably
impressed, I ordered in a "Gustbuster" to give it a try. I also have a
yakking buddy who did the same. What a kick! It adds a whole new 
dimension to the sport. On a typical day we can paddle around the coves 
in the AM and then hitch a downwind ride on the breeze for the trip back 
to shore as the wind picks up in the afternoon. It's amazing the power 
of that umbrella, I calculated that there is over 20 sq. ft. of sail area 
in a 62" canopy, pretty substantial. My friend lost his grip on the 
handle and it slipped into the water, it sunk like a stone, which I
found surprising. We now use leashes! I consider sailing fairly safe, if
the wind speed gets too strong, all you have to do is lift the canopy up
horizontal to spill it.

Rob Umbrella Sailing

I started out with a 12' rec boat, an Old Town Loon (my wife has a 10'
Loon). But, as I discovered, sailing without a rudder was quite a
challenge. In a mellow breeze, I would hold the umbrella with one hand
and rudder with the paddle with the other. As the velocity picked up, I
would have to hold the sail with both hands and the boat would just
gradually weathercock. Kind of a pain. So, I used that for an excuse to
buy a new boat, a 14' Dagger Specter w/ rudder. What a difference it 
makes to have a stick in the water! Now I have that little extra
something, otherwise known as directional control...

I am considering purchasing a Pacific Action ( kayak sailing rig for next season ($250). It has some advantages, although the umbrella works quite well. I love the strange looks you get
from other people!

By the way, how would you rate the tracking stability of your Dagger 13,
with the rudder up?

Rod Ratzlaff

1 comment:

bonnie said...

OMG, I'm completely cracking up that your friend bought a new boat so that he could sail with an umbrella.

Hang on. Maybe I misread that...

No! That's what he said!

Y'know, there's a kayak club in Hawaii that has a wonderful-sounding annual race called The Windbag Regatta. Can't remember the exact rules but I think you get to sail your kayak with anything but a store-bought sail.

Now that sounds like an event that might be ripe for popularizing...