By Craig Yandow
Did you just go close by kelp, a buoy or the breakwater? Upwind, has the helm feel changed, or the boat no longer able to point? Is the rudder fluttering? Sounds like it might be worth a peek in the kelp window.
Fortunately, most kelp is on the top couple inches of the keel. That is why you need the little window right in front of the keel. In that window, you can see whole leading edge. To tell the difference between kelp and grass and to see plastic bags, the window must be really clear
Jocylin’s de-kelping invention wipes kelp off the top 4” of keel, usually on the first try! And it’s easy to use! You go to the bow, toss it to the lee side, get its rope under the bow and move the knot aft to the shroud. Pull it up and the net wipes the keel clean.
If the kelp is too low for the de-kelper, use the stick. It’s square about 7′ 6″ long. You lay on the deck with the shroud either above or below your shoulder- depends on what feels good for you. Put the stick on the surface of the water next to the hull. The water will move it under the boat and up against the keel. Then pry the stick against the bottom and scrape the kelp down and off the keel. With a good stick and proper placement, one pass should do it.
Practice on your trailer. You need an assistant/spotter on the ground to act like water pressure and tell you how far up the keel the stick or de-kelper hits. This is also how you decide where the knot in the de-kelper goes. While you and your crew are practicing on the trailer, note where your hand has to go to get the stick as high up the keel as you can. It is out, away from the hull, rather than deeper into the water, as you might expect.
If you are going too slow for the de-kelper or stick to work, you have to back down. You can do that with the chute up. You let the pole to the head stay and over trim it as you pivot. Have someone hold the main out. The chute will end up plastered to the rig but does not get hurt. When you pivot back to down wind, pump the chute sheet to help it fill then work the pole back.
This whole drill should cost about 2 boat lengths when it is done right.
How about the rudder? First, lean way out and look at the bottom of the rudder. Then look down along the trailing edge. Often you can grab the kelp behind the boat and pull it off the rudder. If not, use the stick. The de-kelper or backing down won’t clear the rudder.
Today, I carry the stick but I seldom use it when we are moving fast out of respect for my keel’s leading edge. And besides, the de-kelper works better unless the kelp is low. It is easiest to use upwind because the heel keeps you dryer and reduces drag. Downwind, I usually pivot and sail backwards for a second or two if the kelp isn’t at the top.
The de-kelper is about 10 ft of rope with a fish landing net over a tile setter’s sponge ($2 at Home Depot) on the end. A spin guy puck will keep the rope from pulling out of the sponge. There is a knot about 6’ (locate while on trailer) from the 6″ X 6″ sponge. Use about 1” mesh net from a fishing tackle store ($10- $15).