By Rob Lyon
May 1, 2004
Upside:Compact, affordable, no drilling or gluing, and safe and easy to use
Rating:^^^^^ (5 out of 5 peaks)
Ideal User: Good for beginners and advanced paddlers looking for a sail
Kayak sailing is like beer. You can use it as a refreshing tool on the journey of life or you can make a thing of it--for kayakers, the choice is
either a down wind spinnaker to bag a tasty tail wind while touring, or a full blown rig that you can sail in circles.
Personally, I prefer a sailboat for sailing and a kayak for paddling, but when I'm touring for several days, weeks or months at a pop, I want a no
fuss sail along with me to take advantage of the old north wind, and a compact spinnaker is the ticket for this.
Kayaks can be fun to sail, especially Sit on Top (SOT), or Open Kayaks (as I prefer to call them), because they shed water like a duck. Take a spill and
you're not much worse off than a board sailor...flip her over, jump back on and you're good to go. And because the average open kayak is a
stable platform, flipping is improbable in the first place. I rarely if ever need to brace when I'm sailing, partly because of the greater
stability of the open kayak and partly, I think, because I'm more fully aligned with my boat with this style of sail, and can react instinctively
to maintain balance with the control in my hands. With leads running directly to your paddle, sailing is an integrated, pro-active sport, like wind
surfing or board sailing.
As an ocean kayak enthusiast, I used a Primex sail rig on my circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in the early nineties, as well as subsequent
open kayak expeditions along the BC and Southeast Alaskan coast (see: wetdawg.com: 'Chaos on the Open Ocean').
Winds from 5 to 15 knots (and stronger with experience) are fair game for the rig, and because you control the sail with your paddle, you can
spill wind instantly, even brace if need be. A reliable spinnaker sail that doesn't turn a kayak into a sailboat is a valuable adjunct to
paddling when kayak touring, and the Primex sail is simply the best I've found...especially for the open kayak.
Here's how it works: Insert the poles into the sleeves of the sail and seat the pole ends in the holster. Snap the buckle and snug up the straps.
Tie the leads to the rings at the top of the masts. That takes care of the sail.
Now mount the UDM (universal deck mount) at a convenient spot on the foredeck. This will usually be a matter of clipping on to the four eyelets
channeling your deck bunjis. Snug up tight.
Snap the big male buckle at bottom of sail rig to big female buckle on deck mount. Measure out the leads from the sail to your paddle
(trial and error), and secure them to the paddle clips (Velcro web straps). Attach paddle clips to sail near blades, inside paddle rings.
That's it. It'll take a little practice to handle the rig, but you'll catch right on.
The options you have to mount a sail to your kayak is another determining factor in choice of a sail. 'Free standing' sails need to be placed
close enough to the paddler to reach easily. For SOT kayaks in particular, where there is no covering deck, sail mounting is problematic. The
closest spot to stick a sail on a SOT is usually well ahead of the foot wells...way too far forward to reach from the cockpit seat, making a
free stand sail difficult (and dangerous) to reach to set up or take down while underway.
Take down, especially, is a concern in strong, gusty
winds. With a Primex, the mount is flexible, allowing the sail to drop right in your lap for easy handling (furling, unfurling and securing)
and no dicey, frog-hopping around onboard is necessary.
Weighing in at about 2lbs and breaking down to a small package for traveling, the rig can go anywhere without a fuss. Components are first class:
high grade accessory cord leads, masts built by Glasform here in the States, quality clips, buckles and webbing, and a 70 denier, ripstop nylon sail.
No drilling or hard mounting is necessary with a Primex (another beauty of the design)--the universal deck mount clip is adjustable for different
lengths and clips securely onto eyelets or deck lines on your boat (and if you don't have any, they are easy to install). I have yet to find a
boat I couldn't easily rig this thing up to and if you've got more than one boat, you can easily swap it around.
I typically mount a sail well forward of the foot wells, sometimes on the bow hatch cover. That way the sail drops ergonomically into my lap
when laid down, and is right at hand when ready to deploy, or take down. One of the primary concerns about kayak sailing is control of your sail.
I want control right in my hands to spill air instantly and to reach out left or right with the paddle to efficiently gather wind from a given
direction. Not only can you can sail straight down wind, but off to the side by forty-five degrees or so.
Canoeists paddling in tandem will also appreciate the ability to sail. While the lead paddler manages the sail, the stern paddler steers.
A spot to mount the UDM at the bow of the canoe is all that's required and can be easily adapted with a half a dozen pan head screws and washers.
In conclusion, the Primex Kayak Sail is a safe, ergonomic and genuinely effective kayak sail. If you like kayak touring, or canoe trekking,
and want to add a little wind power to your paddle power, this is a good choice.
Reviewed & Written by Rob Lyon
For more info or pics, contact Rob at www.lyonexpeditions.com