Night Heron question

I'm new to the forum. I'm thinking to build a Night Heron high deck. I live in Ventura County, Ca, which is north of Los Angeles. I live within an hour's drive of some great surfing spots. Typically the surfers go out in the early morning when the water's calm before the wind come up. Sometime in the mid morning, the winds start to blow out the waves and usually by noon it can get pretty windy and rough. (Our waters are famous for shipwrecks.) There is a steady current coming down the coastline, so I will always paddle up the coast into the wind and current at the start of my paddle.

There are two marinas I can easily paddle from as well as a number of places where I can do a beach launch into surf. I'm thinking my typical kayak trip would involve going out early in the morning for an hour or two and heading in if the wind and waves start to get blown out. My concern is this...when I tried out the Night Heron during CLC's recent visit to Newport Beach, I found that when I ventured out into a spot where the tide was running in and it was a little windy, the kayak wanted to track to one side or another. As I think all of this over, I'm a little worried I might have trouble paddling downwind in a current back to where I started.

Does anyone have experience with these conditions? I've seen one forum entry on "weathercocking" that suggests moving the seat or adding a skeg can help. The Night Heron seems like the perfect kayak for our conditions, but I haven't purchased the kit yet to there's still time to consider another kayak. 

Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks.

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RE: Night Heron question

I paddled the NH once and I loved it. For 20" beam its very solid feeling and nothing at all like my jittery multichined WR180. At anyrate, the NH is or was [not sure what Nick paddles these days] Nicks go-to kayak in challenging windswept seas with substantial swell. He enjoys spinning on wavetops and not having to dog a stubborn sea kayak around a dynamic wave environment.  The hull was designed so that a paddler could *technique* away weathercocking, etc that might arise.  Some paddlers have put in skegs but Nicks mindset if Im recalling right [and I believe I am] is that a little lean wouldve dispensed with any skeg needs , that or general technique.  Rest assured this craft was not designed by someone landlocked and protected water bound.   Ill put it this way - when the waves are kicking up high out in Rhode Island be it due to an approaching or past storm, he reaches for his Night Heron.  Its designed for that kind of wave and swell action.


Just remember, the loyal dog  kayak that tracks like a train and such is liability once the waves get big.



RE: Night Heron question

Thanks. The experience I had occurred in much quieter circumstances. I was simply trying to return to the beach and I came around a little bend by a sea wall. I think I got caught in a tidal flow running around the seawall faster than my kayak. The guy who paddled the NH before me said it happened to him, too. I found myself heading for the sea wall and I  tried leaning a bit and paddling hard away from the seawall without results, and had to drag my paddle to steer away from the seawall. I'm not sure I'm explaining it well, but it caught me off guard...I thought I could simply paddle hard on the side away from the seawall.

As I understand it, long straight kayaks without a lot of you say, big dogs...which I think are designed mostly for camping along rivers and streams, tend to not have this problem as much. Kayaks like the Night Heron have more rocker to better handle surf and waves, but then they're more prone to weathercocking (I wish there were a better term).

It's just got me wondering about paddling a few miles back to a marina in a following sea and wind, not necessarily in terrible weather but when I might be a bit tired...would I be fighting the kayak the whole way.  On the other hand, I loved paddling the Night Heron because it was very fast and responsive. I have a lot to learn about technique.

I'm trying to get all my dumb questions answered before I buy the kit. This whole thing got me wondering if I should plan to install a skeg or perhaps a rudder (which I hope is not necessary.)

I doubt I'll ever be as good a paddler as Nick Schade. 

Thanks again.


RE: Night Heron question

PS. I thought I could paddle hard on the side closest to the sea wall to steer away from it...I got that backwards.

RE: Night Heron question

Paddling around currents coming off points and walls and such can be a little disconcerting in that the output isnt the same as the input youve put in to the effort of steering and so on.  It is a strange feeling when it hits.

At worst, if you feel the NH is too loose, add a skeg and have your options open. Its an interesting and personal topic as some folks are purists and will paddle/lean etc and call it proper kahyaking. Still others drop a skeg and find relief in that.  Im of the latter school.

Honestly, you cant go wrong with this kayak and it is fast without the nutty initial stability even some wider kayaks have.


RE: Night Heron question

Thanks. I'm not a purist, although this is a zen quest. I think most kayak builders use there kayaks for several purposes, whereas I am likely to be paddling up and down the SoCal coast with the wind, waves and current either at my bow or at my stern. I don't know if I'll include any hatches in my kayak. If the kayak is prone to weathercocking...that's half my paddle, and the half when I'll be tired and the weather may be picking up.

Our coastline is mostly developed. There's not a lot to look at or's not like the Maine coastline. The water's not as cold as in New England, so I can get away with a spring suit. The good news is there are several wonderful point breaks that on bad days have well formed two to three foot long-board surfing waves and that on good days get up to five or six feet. I'm not sure I would paddle into those bigger waves because wiping out is routine. I've done a fair amount of body surfing over the years and it's a wonderful place to surf.

The question is, should I build something into the kayak? The problem is this is likely to be the only kayak ever I build and there's a bunch of things I simply don't know.

Rather than install one of those big adjustable skegs, I wonder about building a surfboard fin box into the bottom of the kayak. The surfboard fins come in all sizes and shapes, some in laminated balsa that slip into the box and are secured with an allen wrench. I'm not saying I'll do this, but it would be easy to build the fin box into the kayak. Without the fin, the box would be flush and wouldn't affect the kayak in the water. So, rather than have an adjustable skeg, I could try different size fins until I found one that seemed right, or just leave it empty.

I appreciate your input.

RE: Night Heron question

At the demo, did you see the Petrel.  It is build with a really nice retractable skeg.  I want to build a duplicate, including the skeg.  Don't forget when you are in tidal conditions, you are moving throught the water, but the water is moving also.  You may have experience rips and swirls.  It would be similiar to riding on a conveyor belt.

After paddling both the NH and the Petrel, I will do the Petrel because it is a little more lively than the NH.  I think the NH will track straighter.  Isn't it great that we have to make these decisions?  It is all part of the enjoyment and excitement of the build and use.

RE: Night Heron question

Funny you mention the Petrel. I've been looking at these different kayaks for months and I passed over it because I thought it was too small for me. However, I've been losing weight and realized this weekend that its a good size for me now. So the demo Petrel had a skeg...Gee. 

Getting in that little rip current was a lesson for me. I was trying to paddle away from the wall but the harder I paddled the faster I headed for the wall. I have a lot to learn.

I'm leaning towards the Petrel, and I think I'll plan to install the skeg or perhaps a surfboard fin. Thanks!

RE: Night Heron question

Dont overthink the skeg construction. I dont have one but it simply isnt THAT big of a  deal to install one. Its a very very minor fraction of the effort used to make the kayak in the first place. I was going to add something a little similar to my kayak in the way of a daggerboard box but in the end I ditched it as  the leeboard Harris has in the MKII sailrig is too efficient to bother changing.

I understand your wanting all your eggs in one kayak. My first kayak build was a multichined racing/touring hull craft called the West River 180.  Twelve, thirteen years later its doing fine and its a hell of a sailboat when equipped with the MKII sailrig.  Im going to build the Millcreek 13 for my daughter this winter. Te idea of her paddling a plastic boat is jarring after you build your own!



RE: Night Heron question

Having spent many hours in the Night Herons and Petrel, I can say that they are absolutely designed for the conditions you are describing. I often paddle out in the Chesapeake where confused waves are the norm. There is not much exposed sail area on the Night Heron for the wind to act on. After learning the boats characteristics, I notice no tendencies to weathercock at all. Flat water and a good stiff breeze will push even the lowest volume boat around. Which is atypical for the conditions you are describing.

Current is another story all together. A skeg in a cross current can get you into trouble, in a hurry. Not being able to retract it could result in a bad situation. It can also lessen your ability to control the boat in surfing conditions. If you were being dragged in a direction by the current, it will be the same or worse in any kayak. Being that the Night Heron is more manuverable, correction should be easier than if you were in stronger tracking boat.

The addition of a retractable skeg would seem to be the answer for you. There when you want or need it, gone if you don't. My $.02 on paddling the Night Herons, they will make you a better paddler. I learned techniques so that I could exploit all that they have to offer. I still have a long way to go, but I am working on it. No one kayak can do it all, but you as a paddler can learn to handle it all. Learning to read the water is another valuable skill for open water paddling. 

RE: Night Heron question

in my earlier post I should have said Retractable Skeg, in the demo Petrel that CLC brings to the demo.  A very inventive, cool, design.

RE: Night Heron question

I'd like to thank you all for your input. My preference it to have a clean and simple a kayak as possible. You've given me a lot to think about. Thanks again.

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