Friday 29 November 2013

Time for a new boat?

I have spent the past few years paddling a Valley Nordkapp.  It is a beautiful boat which has allowed me to undertake expeditions that most people only ever dream of doing.

From chasing small runners in the bay to sliding across the face of 6 meter waves 100 kms off the Australian coast, this has been my boat of choice.  Until recently, this boat was considered a fast touring boat, with a natural hull speed of around 7.5 to 8 km/hr on flat water.

The need for speed has seen new designs entering the sea kayaking market and now we are seeing a selection of boats that are incorporating aspects of ski designs with the traditional sea kayak, allowing for a more ergonomic and efficient paddling position.

The trouble I am having is that my paddling mates are making this transition which means that I am flogging myself to keep up with average paddling speeds over 9 and 10 km/hr.  Once you start pushing your boat past its natural hull speed you are expending a lot more effort for each minor increase in speed (law of diminishing returns!)

Whilst I love paddling a skeg boat, I am considering moving with the times and purchasing a boat with a rudder.  The main reason for this is when I am paddling an expedition laden skeg boat, the worse the sea state and longer the paddling leg, the more wear and tear on your body.  So for myself, I go with the rule of thumb now that up to 40 kms is fine in a skeg boat, but in excess of 40 kms I am starting to feel the effects of edging and correctional strokes and this could be counteracted by the use of a rudder which allows my energy to be concentrated on forward strokes.

The other consideration is space.  The Nordkapp has taught me the fine art of minimalist camping and creative packing.  Such fine lines and skeg box have to have some downside and packing volume is what you loose.  Having undertaken a 19 day remote expedition out of this boat I know it can be done, but the weight of that kit was too heavy for the Nordkapp to carry comfortably and had the boats sitting too low in the water, extending the water line of the boat and making it paddle like a barge.

So the current options in this part of the world seem to be Taran Rockpool and the Pace 17 Tiderace.  The Taran seems to have an edge on boat speed in rougher downwind conditions giving a more exciting ride, with the Pace 17 being a little bit more conservative and stable.

Whatever my final decision, I don't think I'll be looking for a new home for my Nordkapp!

Picture above was taken in 2010 on the first sea kayaking expedition to the Capricornia Cays, looking north from Lady Musgrave Island - we all paddled Valley Nordkapps given their expedition credentials.

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