It is a little odd, the number of different boats I have paddled in the past few weeks. It is mostly due to a student who was putting a lot of thought into the boat he wanted to buy. Really a lot of thought. Because of that I was making as many boats as possible available for him to paddle, and the by-product of that was I got to paddle them all as well. I really enjoyed the time I spent with the Valley Etain. Last week I paddled - but didn't review - the perception Essence in airelite. Really nice boat, and I got a photo of myself that I like, it now adorns my facebook page header. He paddled my Delta and a couple of other Delta's I have access to. This past weekend he drove down to Charleston to look at boats, and though he invited me, I couldn't make it.
He came home with one of these:
And he was nice enough to let me paddle it. I want to start with the things I didn't like. I felt like I was sitting very high in the water. This seems like a little thing I would probably get used to. At the back of the seat there was a small bump that was hitting me in a way that would be trouble if I was paddling for several hours. Despite the fact that this was the HV (High Volume, my friend is much taller than I am) it fit me pretty well, but when I edged the kayak my knees were hitting unpadded fiberglass. The hatches covers were basic rubber, that would concern me over the course of years I would expect to own a boat of this nature. It had four hatches. A bow and stern of course, a front day hatch which is becoming standard - this one was quite nice, and large, yet also up and out of the way inside the cockpit!) but it had a day hatch behind the cockpit. Of course bulkheaded. For the life of me I don't understand this! It is so hard to get things into the small hatch opening.... I just don't get it. These aft day hatches are becoming very popular, yet you can't really access them while paddling, they make the largest compartment in the boat harder to pack, the openings are so small you can't put anything of size into them. Someone explain this to me.
Okay, that's what I didn't like. You want to know what I liked? Everything else.
This was a gorgeous kayak. Beautifully made with amazing attention to detail. The finish was superb and on the inside the construction was solid, with no bare edges, or odd leftovers. Getting into the boat was easy - despite my short legs, and its high deck I had no problem getting in or out - though I am pretty flexible. The seat - with the exception of the piece in the back - was comfortable and held me snug, with out being obtrusive. Loved the hip pads on the sides, I will be adding something like this to my boat. It has a nice low back deck, and I am sure rolling it is a breeze.
It literally Sparkles
Performance wise, its rounded chines move onto edge easily, but it does take a little work to hold an edge. It tracks beautifully without the skeg down, and with just a little edge it turns well for a boat of its length, almost 18 feet long. I felt at home in this boat much faster than I did in the Valley Etain. With a little effort I got the boat moving and then was amazed at how fast it felt.
This is truly one of the most enjoyable paddling experiences I have ever had, and that is a bold statement. I have paddled a lot of boats. So could this replace my trusted and loved Delta?
In a word, no. Here is why. Despite its longer length, and HV name, it can't handle as much gear as my Delta. It would be hard to fit a months worth of food/fuel/gear inside her. She weighs right around 10 pounds heavier - we could have a long debate about strength/rigidity between the two very different boats - but here is the deal killer for me. If I had an extra $4000 lying about I would do it in a second. The cetus is almost double the price of my Delta. So, one of the nicest boats I have paddled, but way out of my price range. But this is a four star boat, and It was a joy to paddle.
Oddly, as we were packing up our boats to call it a day, something you don't normally see pulled up.
That is a hand made, skin on frame boat. The gentleman that built it didn't even build it from a kit. I think from what he said, he has two others and is working on a third. Total cost? Under $100 in materials. Quite the contrast, we had nearly $6000 in boats next to this one. Proving again it isn't the cost of the boat the determines its value. It is how much fun you have in it!