Monday, May 31, 2010

Rockpool Alaw Bach TCC Kayak

Once again sorry for not having any images.

I recently had a chance to paddle the Rockpool Alaw Bach TCC kayak that is made here in the US. It is being manufactured by Eddyline in Carbonlite material. I have almost no experience with the Carbonlite material so I will not get into much detail on Carbonlite.

First off I will start with saying the kayaks are beautiful. Great lines and the Carbonlite finish is smooth and flawless. The interior looked liked the kayaks are put together with care and for a little flare there are sea star shapes pressed into the bulkheads.

I am roughly 5'9 and 195 pounds, I thought the kayak had a great fit. It is a bit more narrow than my NDK Explorer and has more of a snug fit and a slight different knee orientation than I get in my NDK Explorer. I worried at first that I would not be comfortable sitting in the kayak for a long time, but after a decent paddle I did not notice any discomfort. Make sure you check the seat if you are going to take on for a demo. The seat has thumb screws forward and aft of the seat. The seat is designed to slide forward and back. Once I found the right place for the seat I was comfy and ready to get on the water.

My first paddle was short. I basically got off work and ran to the water to hopped in. I played around in flat water with different stokes, braces and some rolls. Overall I found the kayak very maneuverable and stable on edge. Moving forward through the water is nice and easy. When brought up to speed it cruises at a good clip. The Alwa Bach TCC tracked nice and straight. When using draw strokes the kayak responds quickly and smoothly. It also seemed to be a good rolling kayak. The back deck was nice and low so you can really lay back on the deck. I was a bit interested in how easy I would exit the kayak if I needed to. The cockpit is long and narrow with very little room between the thigh braces. But I found with a bit of a wiggle a came out clean and in control of the kayak. Cowboy/Cowgirl rescues were not a problem.

Day two I took the kayak out in a windy and choppy condition. With a nice strong breeze and a decent tidal exchange the water was nice and choppy off the points of the island. I headed out to an area where the sea was mildly confused with wave refracting off the rocky shore into on coming waves. The Alaw Bach TCC was solid. I felt very stable heading downwind. The kayak was nice and easy to turn around in the chop to head back into the waves. It was pretty fun crashing through the waves. I had the most fun paddling along the shore with waves rushing up along he rocks and simply drawing up and down the waves as I paddled the shoreline. The Alaw Bach TCC really handled well and responds so nice to the hanging draw.

After messing around the shoreline I set up to try and catch a few wind waves to see how the kayak would handle when catching a small wave. It was a different experience than my NDK Explorer but after a few rounds I started to trust what I was feeling. The one thing I noticed is how straight the kayak would travel on plane. It really seemed to resit broaching.

When I headed out in the wind I was prepared to the kayak to be a weather cocking machine. But to my surprise it held course without issue. With the up swept bow I just assumed I was going to have to fight it the whole time or use the skeg. I ended up not doing either.

All hatches were super dry. They were easy to put on and just a bit of a struggle to get off. Which is fine with me. But I was happy to see how dry the hatches were after playing in the waves and playing upside down.

So what do I think about the Rockpool Alaw Bach TCC??? I have to say I was sad to give it back and I think that I may end up with another kayak soon.

How do I feel about Carbonlite??? Well like I said I really do not know that much about it. But it seemed really durable and I did not notice any more flex in the full when loading it than I do with some of the glass kayaks I own. The finish is far better than that of standard plastics and it is more ridged. I think I would prefer to have a fiberglass model. But if you look at what they are trying to do with the design, then Carbonlite makes sense.

The idea is to produce an amazing hull that is a performer. But do that at a cost that is reasonable. There are a lot of great kayaks out there from NDK, Valley, P&H, TideRace etc... But you will easily spend 3500 bucks or more. The Alaw Bach TCC is retailing at 2999. For those really looking to get a great kayak that is truly a performance machine at a great price, then check out the Alaw Bach TCC.

I will get some link up soon....

Jason Gunter
Discovery Sea Kayaks

Emotion Kayaks

The long weekend was full of clouds and rain here on the island. So the weekend is was not as busy as we would have hoped it to be.

I hosted a Emotion Kayak Demo Day on Saturday and it was rainy and windy. Not many people showed up. But those that did come by had a blast messing about with these fun recreational class kayaks.

If you are not familiar with Emotion Kayaks and you are looking for a recreational flat water style kayak, you should check them out. I took all the demo models out for a little paddle and it was really fun. If you are looking for a "sea" kayak then this is not the brand for you. But if you live on a protected bay, lake or slow moving river, then you would have a blast.

So the update for the shop on demos. We have select models available for demos. All you have to do is give us a call and set up a time and we can get get you on the water for a test paddle.

In stock in the shop I have the Glide, Advant-Edge and the Spitfire. I also have the Temptation, Grand Slam, Tandemonium and the award winning Comet.

So if you think you are in the market for a fun and stale recreational kayak, give me a call (360.378.2559) or drop by the shop.

Sorry I do not have photos. My digital cam has been missing since I moved but it has been relocated and I will start adding images to upcoming post.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kayaks I Like to Paddle

There are lots of kayaks out there and they come in different designs. But we all end up setting on designs and kayaks we are most comfortable with. Not all people like the same kayaks as I do and that is why they come in different designs. But I thought I would give everyone a bit of info on the kayaks that I like to be in.

First my two primary kayaks are a Nigel Dennis Explorer and a Nigel Dennis Romany HV. So my might start to see I am a pretty solid NDK fan but there a few other kayak out there that I love to paddle as well.

Why I do I like the NDK kayaks so much? First off my two NDK's are several years old and are built pretty much like tanks, which is the way I like. I know that they can be a bit heavier than other kayaks out there, but I am not to worried about how hard it is to get on and off my car. I am more worried about running a tiderace with rock all over and not destroying my kayak. My NDK's have taken a beaten and just keep on going. That is not to say that I have not had to patch a whole or add some gel here and there. They have their wounds, but they were earned honestly.

I decided on the NDK as my primary kayak years ago. I had the chance to paddle one for a summer and after being in various conditions with the kayak. In the end it was a solid performer that I felt at home in. The round hatches can be a bit of a pain to pack but that is a minimal issue for the great performance I get from these kayaks.

Now that said here are a few other kayaks I like. I own a P&H Capella 167. I really love playing around in this kayak. It feel a lot different than the NDK Romany to me. It is nimble and still can hold a good pace. It does great with dynamic water conditions and really is an overall sweet kayak. The lay up is a bit light for my taste but the design is pretty awesome.

Tiderace Kayaks are another group of kayaks I like. I have had the chance to play around in the Xcite but not the Xplore. The Xcite is a fun kayak. The overall construction seems to be great. The color schemes are very catchy and fresh. I am sure the Xplore is a great kayak as well. The one thing that holds me off on these two kayaks are their cost. They just seem to be a bit more than other high end kayaks out there and I am not sure they warrant the extra cost. But if you have the cash and don't mind shelling it out, it is a fun kayak.

Another option that I hope to be checking out soon is the Rockpool ALAW Back TCC. Rockpool is another UK company that produces an amazing design but the cost for a fiberglass kayak is just to expensive. But Eddyline kayaks is producing the kayak in their Carbonlite material. Now that it is being produced in the states the price drops. Though the material is different than fiberglass, I am very excited to check out the kayak. The kayak is designed for dynamic water conditions and the TCC material is suppose to be very durable. So this could turn out to be a fun kayak to play around rocks with. I will let you know after I demo the kayak.

Last but not least is Valley Canoe Products. Valley makes a full line of kayaks from hard chine to round chine kayaks. Valley pretty much makes all nice kayaks. From construction to performance they really have a good line of kayaks. Of course I am partial the round chined kayaks (Aquanaut and Avocet). But I would check out Valley if you haven't yet.

That is a nice list of kayaks that I really enjoy. There are tons of others and I am sure that some out there have different taste than I do. If you would like to share your favorite sea kayak, please leave a comment on your favorite kayak and why...


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sea Kayak Safety Full Circle

Now that I have reached a good place in my post about safety. I wanted to bring things full circle and kind of give a thought process to safety. I hope the reading has not been to bland, but I feel this is a topic that really is good for anyone who is on the water, cold or warm waters.

After you have reached the point of purchasing a kayak and all the extra gear needed to be safe. It is time to practice. I cannot emphasize how important it is to practice with all of you equipment. This will allow you see what works and what might need to be modified or replaced. It is better to find flaws and weakness when you are practicing and not depending on the gear for your life.

Practice with partners you plan to paddle with. This will develop you kayak relationship with you partners. In the process you will learn each others strengths and weaknesses. This is invaluable information when faced with real world emergencies. Work with each other on scenarios that will help develop better techniques and do not hesitate to focus on areas of your weakness.

Take a rescue and paddle strokes class. For some it is nice to take a class that focuses on certain aspects of kayaking. Some may even want to get certifications to go along with all their hard work. You can readily find classes offered by the British Canoe Union (BCU) and the American Canoe Association (ACA). Approach your local paddle shops, as they most likely offer lessons that may not have certifications at the end. But none the less they still offer quality kayak lessons. When you go for lessons it is best to listen to the instructors on the flow of education. Many people stop in my shop and all they want to learn is to roll a kayak. Like most things in life, we must first crawl before we walk. So be patient and let your skills develop.

OK, lets say that you have taken some classes and practice wit you kayak partners, now what? Well depending on the region you are kayaking, make sure all of your gear is sufficient for the area you are in. From here we need to develop a plan. Even if you are heading out for a few hours, a full day or a week. It is best to create a plan and leave message of your plan with someone back on land.

Planning: I always create my paddle plan based on my traveling desires. I ask my self where do I want to go and for how long. Being in Washington State, the tides have a broad range so that is where I start. I check the tides and then refer to a current table. After the tides and currents are worked out I check the Marine Forecast. When listening to the forecast I am generally interested in what the have been doing, what they are currently doing and what they might be doing later. After all of this basic information is collect I look at my desired travel area and see if it is still a logical place to go for the paddle.

Gear Check: Once my plan is in place I make sure I have all the gear I need for the paddle. I start with the basics. First I check my standard gear, which you can learn more about by reading my post "So Whats In Your Kayak". Then depending on the type of trip I am going on, a day trip vs a camping trip. I will add the gear necessary, such as tent and sleeping bag etc.

Now if am equipped with my Chart in hand, travel plans and all gear to be safe and have fun. I know this sounds like a lot of things to do just to head out for a paddle. But I assure you that if you do your planning ahead of time before getting on the water. You will save your self much needed time if something goes wrong out there.

Being out in nature has its inherent risk. But being prepared and practiced will help mitigate issues that arise when you are far from help and you depend on yourself and your partner for survival.

A bit of personal advice:

Never become complacent about the areas you travel. Even if you have traveled there a 100 times or you have years of experience. Always take the proper steps to ensure safety while traveling on the water.

Know your limits and your partners limits.

I could go on and on with advice but I will stop here. My over all goal here is to set a bit of a tone about safety as the sea kayak season is kicking off for the summer here in the Pacific Northwest.

Please feel free to write questions and comments. I always try to address any questions.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Should I Wear A Drysuit?

So I have been focusing some of the past few post on safety issues and equipment. There always is some interest in should I wear a drysuit, westsuit or dry top and dry pants. I am going to give my opinion on the topic and you can take from it what you wish. But please be clear that the information here represents my opinion only.

As always, it really depends on the region you are paddling. I paddle the Pacific Northwest most of the time, so my experience padding cold water is a reflection of my what I say here.

To be upfront, I paddle a Kokatat Gore-tex drysuit. I wanted to get that out in the open first. Before I started paddling in a drysuit I either wore a wetsuit or just clothes I did not mind getting wet.

When I got into sea kayaking and wanted to learn skills that require capsizing and being out of my kayak, I wore a wetsuit. For my daily pursuits I generally work some quick dry pants and polypro. Working rescue skills in the cold water was doable, but not much fun when in my wetsuit. Being wet and cold really start to set in after a good amount of practice.

Wearing no immersion garments in my daily pursuits now seems a bit careless after my years on the water. I would not recommend heading out on the water, in regions where cold water is an issue, without some sort of immersion protection.

Eventually a reached a point where I decided to try out a drysuit. Man did things start to change. When I wanted to go out and practice rescues there was far less hesitation is getting on the water. My drysuit seemed to afford me more time and comfort in the cold water. This enabled me to hone my skill more. I also could push the limit more in my practice as the psychological barrier of the cold water seemed to fade. My skills started to increase at a more rapid rate. I attribute this partly to the addition of the drysuit to my kayaking closet.

So what do I do now on a daily basis? Most of the time you will find me in my drysuit. When I am leading trips I almost always wear my drysuit. Even if the weather is warm. It is easy to cool off with a simple roll. But if I am out leading a day trip and its a scorcher out, which is may be 85F here, I will wear a shorty dry top by NRS and dry pants. My wetsuit days are in the past.

When I am asked should I buy a drysuit, here is what I say. First I ask what is your budget. If it is unlimited or your not concerned with price then I say get a drysuit. If you are a bit on the budget shopping side, I say get a good farmer john wetsuit and a nice drytop.

The wetsuit, dry top combo works well. The dry top will keep you dry while bracing and rolling and if you come out of you kayak, the neoprene wetsuit will aid in keeping you warm.

So you might want to know why I did not mention the dry top, dry pant combo. I usually do not mention the combo because I feel if you are going to spend that much money, you should just get a drysuit.

If you have a big budget and want the flexibility. Then get a drysuit and buy the dry pant, dry top combo as well.

My end advice is: If you are going to paddle cold waters and want to be safe. Then paddle in a drysuit. If a drysuit is out of your budget, get the wetsuit, dry top combo. Just as on land heading out for a hike you always hear, Cotton Kills. Well take some good advice. Not wearing the proper clothing in cold water paddling regions can kill as well.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 3, 2010

So Whats In Your Kayak?

I have noticed over the years that people seem to head out kayaking for the day with little to no spare gear. Being a guide for so many years around the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest I have developed a system of always having gear in my kayak. Depending on where you live, this may seem a bit over kill.

Here is a list of things in my kayak by hatch:

Day Hatch
  • First Aid Kit: I always have a basic first aid kit that I can access while on the water.
  • Emergency Signal Devices: I have a few different types I like to have on board. I have signaling smoke, signaling flares, strobe, chem lights and a spare whistle.
  • Warm Items: Spare gloves and beanie
  • Documentation Materials: I like to keep a paper and pen/pencil along with tide data in a water proof case.
  • Water Bottle and Snacks: I like to keep a water bottle for drinking and a extra for emergencies. For snacks I like to have Swedish Fish, Snickers, fruit and trail mix or granola bars. I know some of you think having Snickers is not good, but they really hit the spot when I am about to crash.

Forward Hatch
  • Dry Bag with Spare Clothes: I generally have spare socks, gloves, beanies, fleece top and bottoms. I will admit I have a few extra clothes than what you might need if you are just looking after yourself. But even so I try to take in mind my paddle partners in case of emergencies.
  • First Aid Kit: I keep a larger kit in the forward hatch than I do in my day hatch. This may be unnecessary for those not leading kayak tours.
  • Emergency Blanket: Super light weight, but hold in a lot of heat.

Stern Hatch
  • Shelter: I keep a tarp structure in the rear hatch for emergencies or for simple comfort when the rain is heavy.
  • Food: Besides the snacks I have in the day hatch I pack my lunch in the stern in a dry bag.

Roaming Gear

I have some gear that lives in the day hatch sometimes, on the front deck sometimes and on me sometimes. It depends on the condition and situation of the moment.
  • VHF Radio: I generally keep my VHF (ICom M72) in my day hatch. When I am in need of updated weather info or other info I attach the VHF to the lines forward of my cockpit. In rare occasions I will have the VHF attached to my PFD.
  • Signaling Devices: The signaling devices I have in my day hatch will on occasion be attached to me on my PFD.

  • Knife: I carry my knife in a pocket of my PFD. I have it attached to a lanyard that is equipped with a quick clip release.
  • Hand Held Compass: I keep my hand held compass in my PFD.
  • Sun Care: Sun block and lip protection live in my PFD.
  • Whistle: I have a whistle attached to my PFD all the time.
I wear a tow belt that is separate of my PFD and not attached to the kayak. I prefer the North Water Sea Tec.

Nautical Chart: Generally I have my chart in a water proof case attached to the deck lines just forward of the cockpit.

It is important to be familiar with all of your gear and where it is located. Practice sitting in your kayak on land and retrieving and replacing gear to your Day Hatch. When you are out for a paddle with friends and the water is a bit choppy, practice the exercise again. Be careful to attach gear removed from the hatch to deck lines so waves don't claim them.

If I notice any items I have missed I will update promptly. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

April Fun (Kayaking, Tall Ships and More)

April is over and man what an April. I was luck enough to get on the water to guide some trips. We ended up having a pretty good month as far as tours go. The weather could have been a little better, but you deal with what you get. I hope that May will start to mellow out and the winds start to fade.

But all in all there was lots of fun to be had. We had one multi day tour out in April and it was a blast. The first two days of the journey were rainy. But the last day was calm seas and sunshine. The beauty of the San Juan's stepped out from behind the clouds and graced our last day with sun and red checks. It was a larger than average tour so I had two co-leaders long with me, Shawn and Richard. It was so much fun to be out with other guides, as we usually operate alone.

Early morning view from my tent. Rain all night and rain for breakfast.

A few days after the tour, back on San Juan, two tall ships came to port. The Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain were open to donation to hop aboard and check them out. It was fun to check out the tall ship style. Though they are not old originals, they are still beautiful.

Hawaiian Chieftain up front and Lady Washington in the back.

To end the talk of April I will part with what everyone hopes to find at the end of a Rainbow.