Monday, 20 October 2008

Test Paddle - Aquanaut & Nordkapp LV

I had the pleasure early Saturday morning of taking a fellow paddler, Matt Prenter from Hobart, Tasmania, out for a test paddle. Matt had been in contact with Geoff Murray down in Tassie through his club, & Geoff had offered him a crack in his Rockpool. While not the boat for him, Matt was still keen on the idea of a skeg boat, and got in contact last week to arrange a test paddle while up in Sydney on a short trip.
Sizing him up for our range, I figured either the Nordkapp LV or the Aquanaut would be best, so we met early Saturday morning for a sea trial. A highlight of the trip to collect him from his digs in King Cross was bearing witness to McLeay St at 6am - it's many years since I've staggered out of one of the bars in the Cross but I reckon I could have got a hangover from just watching the boozers chasing their pizza's home!
Conditions were pretty friendly for our paddle, but nonetheless the shape of the coast around Sydney's South Head always make for a variety of sea states, and provide a good environment for a paddler trying to assess the merits of any particular boat design.
Matt jumped in the Nordkapp LV - essentially a boat derived from the new Nordkapp design, but with much of the volume taken out, so it behaves like a standard Nordkapp with an expedition load. We headed out of the calm in Camp Cove, around the coast past the reef of South Head, then along the cliff lines under Sydney's infamous 'Gap'. The deep water & tall cliffs always produce some form of rebound & this allowed us to get into some bouncy water & test out the LV's stability. We then turned east & headed out into the nor’ easterly swell for couple of kilometres, before turning & running back with the sea to the safety of the harbour. Most of the bad press about rudderless kayaks centres on their inability to handle a following sea, so I always welcome the opportunity to get a paddler into a Valley & allow them to run with a sea. They quickly discover that the myths are just that, myths, & what follows is a pretty swift surf-laced run with these awesome designs carving along in the following conditions.
Back into Camp Cove we messed around with a few rolls & some instruction on handling a rudderless kayak, then swapped over. Now, I had figured that I would be too big for the Nordkapp LV, and was dreading squeezing myself into it even for a short test paddle. What a surprise I got when I slid in like a glove, and immediately felt the responsiveness of this extremely responsive & playful kayak. The LV has been universally well reviewed overseas, so I looked forward to giving it a good workout while Matt took my Aquanaut for a spin. I wasn't disappointed. While the initial stability is a little lighter than the Aquanaut, the secondary is rock solid, & allowed me to do things in the LV that I would struggle to do in my Aquanaut. It is also very, very quick. Riding a few small wind waves back from the centre of the heads I was clocking 15km/h without trying, and the boat loved the following chop (just like the Aquanaut). Back inside the harbour for a second time Matt & I rode the small wind waves without any effort at 11km/h plus, in a beaut run back to the beach.
In summary, we managed to get out in a couple of great boat designs, test them in the sea (which after all is where you would hope to be paddling your sea kayak), & had a good time into the bargain.
Matt decided the Aquanaut's more solid initial stability suited his paddling needs, & will soon be showing his shiny new Valley boat in the clear waters of his native Tassie.

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