Submitted: 07-30-2007 by Peter Vandivier
I still have an Aerius II which I bought in 1985-86 after leaving the Marines. Having been a Marine reconnaissance diver I always wanted the kayak used by the famous British SAS.
I don't use the Klepper much anymore because of family life, but since I've seen so many people asking about sailing the Klepper, and so few who seem to have sailed the Aerius II with full upwind sailing rig (main sail and jib) I though I'd add my comments.
Learning to upwind sail the Klepper was a feat to say the least. But when I got the handle of it (after many calls to Dieter Klepper) I found it to be a hoot. The Klepper will indeed tack through the wind as long as there is sufficient weight in the bow and you don't turn too rapidly. Changing tack by turning away from the wind (can't remember the term for this at the moment) in a stiff wind will almost certainly result in capsizing unless you're experienced.
I have always wanted to sail the Klepper for 2-3 days down the Potomac River to the Chesapeake, but realized I would need to be able to drop sails while in the water. So I built a board with a number of cleats to attach to the cockpit rim just south of midships to which I can attach the various lines and sheets. This works but I've not tried it in a stiff wind or choppy seas. I sit just aft of the board, usually on the rim of the cockpit so I can hike out and reach the tiller. Sitting so far back virtually requires ballast in the bow. I have found that you can't solo sail the Klepper in wind without sitting on the rim. I've thought about building some sort of seat on both sides of the rim to make it more comfortable for longer journeys (such as when I eventually do go on my River adventure).
Capsizing in deep water can be somewhat disconcerting at first, but I found that it's not as catastrophic as you might think -- you will however need to have a method of removing water, sometimes while hanging onto the side of the boat. I used a plastic milk jug cut into a scoop.
As for speed, I know that while on the tack I'm not supposed to be moving that fast, but in a good wind it sure feels like I'm moving at a good clip. And like they say, the look on the faces of the less adventurous boaters as they wonder what the heck I'm riding is priceless!!
As others have noted, the one downside to the Klepper sailing experience is the time it takes to rig the full S4 sailing rig with lee boards etc. And having added a cockpit board and the various extra rigging required to sail and drop sails from the aft position, it takes even longer -- possibly an hour on top of the 15-20 minutes it takes to put the basic kayak together.
I've been looking into buying the Balogh Batwing for my river adventure. If anyone has experience sailing both the Klepper S4 rig and the Balogh, I'd be interested in knowing your views -- especially whether the Balogh is a faster rig. I'm not interested in the AMA rig -- reverting to my Marine psychology-- that's for woosies.