Speed or Efficiency over Water E-mail
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 09:11

When purchasing their first kayak many beginners often make the mistake of not understanding and how it relates to general fishing. What we most often hear is “I don’t care how long it takes me to get there as long as I don’t tip over”.  What happens is you may never get there and the performance of a kayak can also become a major factor. There’s more to speed then how fast you get somewhere. So let’s look at this important attribute. Generally, the longer and narrower a kayak the faster it is. There is a trade off with maneuverability. If a kayak is long it’s not going to turn as easily as a shorter kayak. If the majority of your fishing is close to shore or in small, protected areas, than sacrificing maneuverability for speed isn’t the way to go. However if you’re fishing a big reservoir, bay, sound or offshore the ability to cover distance may be very important. The faster kayaks used for fishing are generally known as touring style kayaks.

Speed is only important if you need it however it’s misunderstood. Beginners often say that Its fairly obvious which of these kayaks is faster they don’t need to be the fastest kayak out there and will gladly sacrifice speed for stability. What they don’t consider are the limiting factors involved in kayaking. A kayak is a non-motorized craft. You are the engine so you can’t think of it as a car or similar vehicle. A kayak has limitations as to how fast it can go. Part of it is its design and the rest is dependent upon its power source with that source being you. Some kayaks have a top speed of only a few miles per hour while there are others that are much faster. There are also a couple types of speed - top speed and cruising speed.   Top speed is how fast the kayak can travel when maximum effort is applied. It’s similar to the top speed of your vehicle.  It doesn’t serve much of a purpose, as you can’t drive that fast most of the time. Your body is the kayaks engine and you can’t paddle that hard for very long. Cruising speed is the important speed. It’s the speed at which you can comfortably propel the kayak. Cruising speed will vary because it depends upon your conditioning and your kayak. Your cruising speed will most likely increase as your conditioning improves with regular paddling, and as you become a better paddler. Then it’ll become a relative constant that’s affected by other factors like wind and current.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say the place you plan on fishing is 1 mile from where you’ve launched your kayak. Kayak ‘A’ is shorter and wider and kayak ‘B’ is longer and narrower. Kayak ‘A’ cruises at 2.5 mph and ‘B’ at 4 mph. So ‘A’ is going to take 24 minutes to cover the mile while ‘B’ is going to take 15 minutes. That’s a difference of 9 minutes. Should the distance turn out to be 2 miles then its 18 minutes. This is a simple example and doesn’t add other variables that will most likely exist like current, wind and waves/chop. All of these will affect the movement of the kayak over the water and its cruising speed. The less efficient hull of ‘A’ will be more greatly affected by these additional factors then the hull of ‘B’. This means the actual difference it takes each kayak to cover the mile could be considerably greater then the 9 minutes and would probably end up being closer to twice as long. The longer narrower kayak ‘B’ is going to handle these variables much better as its hull was designed to handle more varied conditions.

Speed is more than how fast a kayak can travel. It’s a function of efficiency over the water. The propulsion is limited by how much you can paddle and is dependent upon your physical ability and the amount of energy you have. Both of these are finite. I’ve found that many people who end up purchasing a less efficient, slower kayak end up getting a more efficient one if they are in a locale where these variables exist. That turns out to be a lot of places. So consider this when purchasing a kayak. Most kayaks that fish well have plenty of stability and keep in mind that you’ll adapt rapidly to the balance required to feel comfortable as it only takes a few days on the water to do so.

 

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