Iki Wa’a only boat on the Thames

As we are staring down the barrel of a second lock down it seamed logically to take Iki Wa’a out regardless of the weather.

With a forecast of wind in the high teens, gusting forty and rain it was hardly ideal conditions.

I headed for the Themes at Pangbourne. Mindful of the forecast I rapidly cobbled together a single outrigger, not for stability more to help with self rescue if required.

Iki Wa’a and single outrigger

I launched from a field I remembered from a family holiday in 1978.

A grim looking day

I headed up stream, which was also down wind. Within moments I had to deal with a lock. The river was in full flood so getting ashore was fine but with no to hand holes it would be harder in summer. With the rig and outrigger the portage was a pain especially with steps to deal with.

Back on the river time to raise sail. Down at water level the wind on the tree lined river was fine despite looking fierce in the tree canopy. With a following wind Iki Wa’a scooted along, the river was flowing against us so speed over the ground was probably not that impressive.

It took a bit of fiddling to get the outrigger to look sensible and forward enough for padding so I didn’t tangle the bracing lines.

Despite big gusts and frequent gybes Iki Wa’a was very well behaved and the outrigger seamed unnecessary. I then pulled the outrigger in so it lay alongside the hull. I figured if I went over I could pull the outrigger out to self rescue. Sailing wise this configuration worked well and it would be possible to rig an outrigger each side this way.

A little more sailing and still feeling very stable I removed the outrigger and let it tow behind me. I kept the aka (the beam) in position as I figured this could be used to help self rescue either with the outrigger or my paddle float.

More sailing, I hadn’t paddled other than at the very start to correct steering at this point. After about one and a half hours sail I spotted a beach, cow watering hole, so landed for lunch. This was the first landing spot I had seen since launching either due to physical difficulty or PRIVATE NO MOORING signs.

After lunch with a deadline looming and unsure of how quickly I could get back I retraced my route.

The wind was fiercely on the nose but with the flow progress was swift. The portage was a bit easier without the outrigger but still a tad back breaking.

My return took about a third of the time as the outward leg.

With the quick return there was time for a quick pint, overlooking the river now bathed in sunshine.

The view from the Swan Inn

As I enjoyed a pint in the pub, last for who knows how long, I reflected on the trip


With this size sail, despite big gusts and wind bouncing off trees, Iki Wa’a is supremely stable. However I wouldn’t want more sail area and self rescue techniques must be practiced.

The rig is relatively simple and certainly easy to use.

Food for thought

For river work, with locks, the speed over the ground does not justify the additional complexity. If an adequate sail area could be achieved a wrap around the mast sail would be good. I think I will use lockdown to build a Ljungström rig which is a rig I have always wanted to try.

Iki Wa’a was always about being stealthy and to some degree, especially with locks, this has been lost

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