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:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beaver Lake - Umbrella Sailing Late Summer 2009

Over the past several years, I have tended to visit Beaver Lake in the early summer, a time when waterfowl have been in the nesting season. Today, I went out to this waterway located just outside of Humboldt for a late summer cruise. I arrived at the lake about 8:00 a.m. with a temperature in the low 60s, clear skies, and a light wind blowing down the lake. As usual, I was alone on the lake with no sight of anyone else during my time there.
With the agreeable wind, I decided to do a little umbrella sailing as a change of pace. I have a large golf umbrella that has a sail area nearly that of my Spirit sail. I just slipped the rolled up umbrella under one of the bungee cords on the bow of the kayak for quick access. As I set out for the island located to the north, across from the launching ramp, I found that the wind was just right for sailing.
After reaching the island, I paddled around to the eastern side of the island and sailed downwind to the western end of the lake. From there, I was able to alternate paddling with sailing as I moved up to the northern shore. Paddling into the wind, I returned along the northern side to the center of the lake and explored an opening into the marshes.
I was then able to sail nearly all the way back, past the island, to the launching point. My cruise this morning was about two hours.
Using the umbrella sail is probably easier and more functional than my Spirit sail. Since my kayak has a rudder, I can hang onto the umbrella and steer with my feet. Hanging onto the umbrella provides a better feel for the direction and velocity of the wind. Shifting the umbrella makes it possible to find the optimum aspect of the sail for the conditions; I found that I was able to sail nearly on a broad reach with the umbrella. In other words, if the wind is out of the east, I can sail about 80 degrees off the wind and still make headway. The rudder and shape of the kayak gives it “bite” and prevents undue slippage off the wind.
The umbrella is also easy to stow and access. I just rolled it up and inserted it under the bow bungee cords. It is a simple matter to get it out and open. Also, I think that the umbrella provides a more stable sailing rig than the Spirit sail. Moving the umbrella slightly allows more or less wind to be captured. If there should be an unexpected gust, spilling the wind is not difficult. Also, if the situation should require release of the sail completely, it is a simple matter of just letting go of the handle and retrieving the umbrella.
While hanging on to the umbrella is more tiring than just letting a fixed sail move the boat, it is also possible to rest the umbrella on the hull of the kayak or to shift hands. I guess that sailing for a long distance would be easier with a fixed sail. Most of my sailing, though, is for short distances and for some novelty in the paddling experience. For sailing back down the wind for 15 or 20 minutes or for just messing around in the kayak, the umbrella is a good choice. For a long haul with the wind blowing from a consistent direction, perhaps the fixed sail is better.
For further description of umbrella sailing, see the appropriate menu link on the right side of the blog. There are also four earlier narratives describing Beaver Lake under the area waterways link on the right.

No comments: