After the deck line was completely installed, I wanted to test the comfort of using a canoe seat in a kayak, so on a beautiful November day in the Northland – we only get five beautiful sunny days in November on average – I took the kayak up to Two Island Lake, which is about 15 miles by road outside of Grand Marais. The lake was perfectly calm and clear and the sky blue and partly cloudy. There was a very light almost negligible breeze blowing. For this paddle, I spent an hour and a half on the water and paddled just under 3 miles (2.85 miles total.) The second day I went out was the next day in dreary weather and sustained 15 mph winds with higer gusts. This second day I took the kayak up to the far west end of Devil Track Lake.
The canoe seat I used was an old one that I used on a sliding bow seat that I removed. I cut it down so the top of the seat sat 1″ above the floor of the kayak. The seat actually felt wonderful. My butt stayed dry and my legs didn’t fall asleep, which usually happens to me in a kayak. I would have like to have slightly more support around the back of my butt and sides, but I still haven’t installed a back band, so that could account for some of the need for support. I need to add some foam to the sides of the seat and figure out a way to mount the seat into the kayak, but I don’t see myself going back to any other type of seat in the kayak. The cane seat is just too comfortable. (It’s the canoeist in me.)
I used my Aquabound Carbon Tripper for the test. This lightweight paddle is one of the best out there for the money. There is no blade flutter at any force and the narrow blade is easy on your shoulders. Because of an injury during climbing, this narrow blade is especially important to me, as wider blades tend to irritate my old injury. I use my paddle for standard low angle strokes and the length is 230 cm. I wish that I owned a high angle paddle in the 210 to 220 cm length to test that paddle with this kayak, but I haven’t gotten around to testing the new ones on the market to decide which one I want to buy.
The load was the kayak, which weighs in the mid 40 pound range, me at 185 pounds, wetsuit and life vest probably at 5 pounds, two paddles at around 4 pounds, camera gear at 2 pounds, rescue gear (rope, paddle float, pump) at 2.5 pounds, extra clothing at 2 pounds, and one quart of water at 2 pounds. This is around 250 pounds.
I ran a couple of test using my GPS track log and waypoints to measure distance. The waypoints didn’t save for whatever reasons, so to interpret the results I’ve had to rely on the track log which isn’t that great because it only marks a point at every .01 of a mile. The three tests that I ran were pretty simple. The first two I did measured the turning radius and the third measured glide.
The Turning Tests
For the turning test, I paddled straight ahead at 2.5 knots and initiated a turn using only a non-extended sweep stroke. I turned the kayak 180 degrees. The second turning test involved the same test, but I leaned the kayak to the point where it locks up nicely. I guess this point would be somewhere around 10 to 15 degrees of lean. This is a point that most beginners would feel comfortable with. The kayak actually can be turned much quicker with more drastic leans, but I didn’t run a test for this observation. NOTE: Remember that because my waypoints didn’t record, these tests are limited to the GPS’s track log intervals of .01 mile, so the actual numbers may differ slightly, but the chart to the right demonstrates the difference in turning ability based on the GPS track log.
The Glide Test
I’m not sure the value of this test, but I ran it anyway. I paddled to 3 knots held that speed and then stopped paddling and let the boat drop to 1 knot. It took around 158 feet to drop down to 1 knot of speed. There was a very very slight side wind during the test.
For this test without foot pegs and a back band, I cruised at a very laid back pace at 3.2 to 3.3 knots, and when I switched to a fast pace, my normal touring pace, I held at close to 4 knots. With a high angle stroke with my longer paddle, I think that 4 knots would be a good maintainable speed for the average high angle paddler.
In my initial test, I noticed gurgling as I paddled at a sprinting speed. Now that the boat has been sanded, the gurgling is gone! For top speed, I managed to run at about 5 knots to 5.2 knots, but the GPS did show 5.5 knots at one point (It’s a GPS and this could be due to any number of satellite issues.) At 5.5 knots, this would be nearing the maximum practical displacement hull speed for this kayak, which at 250 pounds of displacement would be 5.78 knots. Even so, at 5.5 knots, the kayak is running at a 1.427 speed/length ratio. If I managed to achieve that and the GPS was correct, I’m a pretty happy paddler.
Devil Track Lake Test of the Kayak
In order to test the kayak’s handling in wind and waves, the next day after the test described above the weather fortunately cooperated by providing me with sustained 15 mile per hour winds blowing almost directly across Devil Track Lake. So, I took my kayak to the western most put-in on the lake and was pleasantly surprised by waves up to a foot, sustained winds and higher gusts and bigger waves coming in sets of two every so often.
The kayak was beautiful. It is almost completely wind neutral in the winds that I had. It would very very slightly, but almost a negligible amount, weathercock. Even when running sideways to the seas and wind the boat showed no turning into or away from the wind. It has to be among the most neutral boats that I’ve paddled. Heading out from shore into the waves was a fun joy. The kayak accelerates so quickly and paddles so effortlessly into the waves and wind that I could hardly believe it. Once out further on the lake, I was experiencing stronger winds and higher waves and started to play around in the waves by turning sideways to them, paddling over them, running with them, and turning on them. Into the waves, my ride was extremely dry and the pounding was very minimal. When my bow cut lose in the air and came down into the trough of the next wave it felt gentle and not at all like my skin-on-frame which pounds like crazy. The whole time I was on the water, I didn’t get any spray in my face, which is something to say.
Paddling sideways to the waves was easy. The kayak seems to have a very slow roll into the waves which made it very confidence inspiring. I could see a beginner feeling very comfortable in waves in this kayak. I didn’t once feel like I needed to brace into the wave while running sideways – even on the slightly bigger waves.
Turning was easy on top of waves. I could get the boat to turn pretty quickly with a wave under me. Much faster than the flat water tests. With a little lean it was even better.
And finally, running with the seas was fantastic. This boat catches and holds a wave with very little work. I was having so much fun on Devil Track that I was disappointed that I had to quit as the wind changed to rain and then to sleet and slight hail and the sky darkened at around 4 in the afternoon. The wind was just picking up then also, so it would have made more for more fun. It gets dark here too early in the winter. So, I paddled out on the lake one last time, and came into shore extremely fast on some waves. So, fast that I landed at the wrong put in and had to carry my kayak on my shoulder where it balanced nicely about 50 yards to my car.
Thoughts For Improvements
I’m not completely happy with the deck of the kayak. In my original improved deck, it had slightly more volume in the cockpit area, and this might have been a good thing. A roomier cockpit would definitely appeal to some paddlers. Also, if I can change the shape of the sheerline on the plan view to narrow it slightly from the front of the cockpit forward without changing the performance at LWL then it would gain some more visual appeal for me. This may remove some of the extra buoyancy, but I can’t imagine by much. I suppose I’ll have to run some stability calculations before I do such a thing to the plans. The higher volume deck and the narrower sheer, I think would make this kayak even more visually stunning than it is. Perhaps just a little more volume in the deck would help. I suppose, I should just listen to the people other than myself that say it is a very beautifully shaped design. I’m probably my hardest critic.
After I finished with these two trips, the first thoughts I had was that this is one heck of a kayak, and is in my top five right now. Even near the top of that top five. During the first paddle, I noticed that I could just space off without feeling like I was working at all and look down into the water at the floor of the lake and the round rocks passing by, and I could just watch the clouds without having to concentrate on making the kayak work like I wanted it to work. And during the second paddle, I could just watch the waves and decide where I wanted to hit which ones instead of worrying about keeping the kayak up. This is a good thing, because the boat almost felt like an extension of my body and my paddling style. With a little more padding and cockpit outfitting, this kayak will be a dream to paddle. I’ve learned a lot on this kayak, and have ended up with an excellent design and a beautiful kayak that should bring Ilena and I many years of fun. I can’t imagine building a better boat.