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Submitted: 05-29-2007 by robertohess

I regularly paddle and freedive off the coast of Southern California and have used the 1.5 m PA sail on my Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro for the past year. I am completely hooked on the sail and use it on virtually every paddle. The main benefit to me is that the sail has easily doubled my range, and I now routinely paddle-sail between 10-20 miles with relatively little effort. That may not seem far to some of you, but try paddling a fully-loaded Scupper Pro for that distance. It can and has been done, I am sure, but it's like pulling a dead horse through deep snow. In any event, it's all relative. If you installed a PA sail on your narrow SINK and your normal paddling range was 20 miles, your range would very likely increase to 40 miles, and so on.
Here are some of things I really like about the sail:
  1. The PA sail is totally hands-free and allows me to paddle without obstruction while sailing. This is key because I am first and foremost a kayaker and, well, I like to paddle. If I wanted to sail only, I'd buy a sailboat.
  2. The PA sail works in a broad range of conditions, in winds from 5 mph all the way to 20+ mph. It can be sailed dead downwind, or it can -- contrary to what the other reviewer appears to believe (a common misconception) - be sailed on a beam reach (90 degrees to the wind). This means that unless I head upwind (which I try to avoid by starting out early in the morning), the wind is now my best friend. The more wind, the better. It's a totally new kayaking paradigm.
  3. The PA sail has flexible rigging allowing the sail to depower itself in strong winds or gusts. This makes for very stable paddle-sailing. I have not managed to capsize yet, and don't feel any more at risk of capsizing with the sail than without the sail. One reason may be that the added speed also adds stability to the boat. On a beam reach, the sail pulls the boat forward, lifting the bow over the swells. Even with a 12-15 knot breeze right on the beam I feel quite secure, sailing several miles offshore sometimes. In low winds, I sometimes sail while lying down facing aft with my feet on the rear hatch. I know it sounds a bit over the top, but on a Scupper Pro it's really quite comfortable and safe. It's a great way to take a break without stopping (conditions permitting).
  4. The PA is extremely light, easy to install and uninstall (I have done it on the water in 20 knots once), and does not get in the way of paddling when not in use. In fact, I sometimes wrap extra clothing inside the rolled-up sail that I would otherwise have to stow in the hatches.
  5. The PA sail can be raised and lowered instantaneously. This means I can convert from a pure paddlecraft into a paddle and/or sailing craft in just a matter of seconds. If the wind becomes too much (or dies), the sail can be rolled up and tied down just as quickly. Aside from being utterly safe, this design is also convenient and user-friendly. Like most kayakers, I am not fond of complicated rigging, lines, etc.
So what are the downsides, you are wondering? Frankly, I don't see any. Well, except maybe the "cheating factor." Hardcore sea kayakers may scoff at the idea of using a sail for the same reasons they abhor the idea of outriggers or motors, etc. In other words, the PA sail (or any kayak sail) could be viewed as a crutch of sorts. And perhaps it is. But if so, it's one heck of a fun and effective crutch. Imagine there was a crutch that enabled you to run twice as far with half the effort and double the fun. Would you still turn it down?
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