Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Weight.

Paddling in tidal rapids is becoming a sport in its own right. I've been researching tidal race kayaking for a new section in describing well paddled tidal races from around the World. I've looked a little at boat design and its reassuring to find that boat manufacturers are producing sea kayaks designed specifically for this relatively new sport. One well known British manufacturer (not Rockpool) produces a boat which is "heavily rockered, with a flat midsection, the hull gives great manoeuvrability in big water, whilst well defined chines and buoyant ends provide solid stability and control on the wave." Well you can't argue with that and I think that's how I'd want my next sea kayaking "play boat". One slightly less well known North American manufacturer is also producing what it describes as a "British" style boat with a skeg with many of the attributes of the first boat mentioned. One important difference between the two stood out though. The British company is producing a boat which weighs 25 kg. The North American boat weighs in at just 15 kg!
I put this to the UK company as I thought that the 25kg weight mentioned on their web site must be a mistake. It just seems way too heavy to me and they replied "the boat features a heavier duty layup than found on our other boats (the core material is approx. 1mm thicker).We could, of course, have chosen to produce a lightweight boat, but the danger with this is that it will not have suitable stiffness and/or it's failure mode upon an impact will be critical. Our preference is to make the boat extremely rigid, to prevent flex in big conditions, with toughness that will give the boat longevity that light weight will not."
I don't think I can argue with that. Certainly my Rockpool Alaw Bach does flex a bit in the extreme conditions sometimes encountered in our Isle of Man tidal races. On the other hand one of the Rockpools I use is a 3 piece, and it has held together very well. Could this dichotomy of opinion reflect the differences in our tidal races. In North America, especially around Vancouver Island, tidal flows regularly reach double digits and need no weather to whip them up. The races in which the British boat is used are slower flowing, but when whipped up by the frequent gales become gnarly, less predictable and hostile perhaps requiring a firmer layup. At the end of the day I guess it boils down to personal preference. I'm happy with my Rockpool but if I were to consider purchasing a new boat, then I think a trip to Washington State may be in order!
The new tidal race section is still under construction but in the meantime you can read about the Surge Rapids and the Okisollo Waves.


gnarlydog said...

John, I also have noticed a difference in weight between (real) British style kayaks from GB and the ones from USA and Australia.
While weight is not an exact indication of sturdiness if all things are equal (same style of layup) a heavier kayak will be sturdier. Some eggshell local offerings hole extremely easy. Carbon/Kevlar might be stronger but only if used correctly.
I have reinforced every single non Brit kayak that I own except a standard lay-up Nordkapp LV.
Some reinforcements are just around the coaming, some are extensive hull reinforcements.
I don't do anything out of the ordinary with my kayaks (no rock landings) but use them in surf conditions or load them for trips.
You seem to like the Rockpool.
I don't know if we get rejects here in Australia but the few Rockpool GT I have seen (3) all displayed very poor workmanship and two had cracks from new!
One had a coaming that was simply not attached to the deck (9" long section) and one had all sorts of cracks in the seat, deck and foot brace after short usage. I was ready to get a GT but that put me off big time.

John said...
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Geoff said...

Rockpool does not sell rejects. I did have a problem with my GT but that was due to requesting a layup too light for the task it was given. Mike Webb of Rockpool has provided the very best of backup and the problem is being corrected. I have the utmost faith in Rockpool's quality. My Alaw Bach is a superb boat.


John said...

Sorry to hear about the Rockpools. I bought mine 2 and 4 years ago and I can't fault the quality of their construction or durability. Rockpool have increased their range and work force. I hope the quality has not dropped.