Kayak Fishing | Speed and Stability of your kayak
When measuring the important qualities of a kayak, speed and stability rank at the top for the angler. The more stabile the kayak the slower the kayak paddles, unfortunately. The magic number is 28 inches in width. Most paddlers think a boat to feels stabile when it is 28” or wider. Conversely, most paddlers find boats 28” or less to feel fast.
(A more accurate description of kayak speed would be efficiency. The distance a kayak glides is the pertinent issue, granted some boats are actually faster. -But in paddle craft, the difference in 4.5 mph and 5.1 mph is negligible; however, if a boat glides 50 feet on a single stroke, and another glides 75 feet, this is very important.)
Wider boats have to plow and push more water. Many of the fishing kayaks are 30 inches wide. Primary stability refers to the stability of the boat sitting still. Equally important is secondary stability. Kayaks with high primary stability are typically straight sided, and usually flat on the bottom. They are 30” or more in width. The full width of the kayak is in the water at all times, creating more drag, but they also feel very stabile. This is typical of Ocean Kayak, Heritage, Emotion and Malibu. Boats with a “V” hull or a stepped shape (chines) will feel more stabile, when the kayak is leaned. This is because more of the width of the kayak is in the water for floatation. When they are level, the width of the kayak in the water is narrower, so there is less primary stability, and also less frontal drag. This type of hull is typical to the Wilderness Tarpon series. Many experienced paddlers will say that stability comes from your paddle, and that width is not important. However, newer kayakers would argue this point.
One of the “new” types of kayak fishing hulls is the pontoon hull. Power boaters call this a tunnel hull. Extra buoyancy is in exactly the right place that we need for stability, and the tunnel reduces the frontal friction. The tunnels lets through a large amount of water that would have to be “plowed” by a flat bottom boat. This makes what would be a slow hull more efficient and more stabile. This type of hull was made popular by Native Watercraft and has recently been copied by other manufactures.
Increasing length can increase the glide and efficiency of a kayak. In general, a 14 foot boat is going to glide better than the same kayak that is 12 feet long. It will track straighter too. But this assumes that the hulls are identical except for length, widths are the same, bow shape is the same, chines and pontoons in the same places. –But I’ve never seen this to be true. Kayak “Models” may come in several lengths, but they are usually different kayaks that are designed to do the same function. Cockpits are the same but under the water line they are different. So length comparisons are difficult, and in the case of the Heritage Redfish, and Ocean Kayak Predator, many anglers report the shorter boats having more speed. Go figure!
One trick to make your boat faster is to carry as little gear as possible. The heavier the kayak, the deeper it rides. This increases the amount of water to be plowed and pushed and creates drag. Minimize your gear, carry as little water as needed, and eliminate everything that is not a necessity. I use Gilligan theory-only prepare for a “Three Hour Tour” or maybe a six hour tour. And if you really want more speed, loose a few pounds off that waistline. Hey, kayak a little more and this will happen anyway!
There is a direct trade off between stability of a fishing kayak, and the efficiency of how the kayak paddles. Some of the innovative designs of the newer kayaks are giving a taste of better stability and “speed.”
This artice was originally published in Coastal Angler Magazine -Lakeland Edition Nov-2009