Choosing a Sea Kayak

I have been sea kayaking for a couple years, and over that time I've developed some opinions about what I would like to have in a new one. My current kayak is a Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 15 that I am at least the third owner of. It is a good boat, but doesn't quite fit my ideal. The one I had previously, a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 was much closer, and sets the standard by which I'll judge all.

All sea kayaks are good boats. You have to find one built in a style you like, feels good in the conditions you will be paddling in, and fits you.

The number one priority is an adjustable skeg. The Cape Horn has a rudder, and I have yet to put it in the water. A skeg works as well with fewer parts and a cleaner looking boat. The only disadvantage is storage room taken up by the trunk in the aft compartment.

It should have recessed deck fittings, 3 bulkheads, day hatch and good size bow and stern hatches, perimeter deck lines, lots of bungie cords, at least 16' long, under 24" wide, good initial stability, great secondary stability, and a good physical fit.

Besides another Tempest 170, my list of potential boats includes:
Current Designs Sirocco

P&H Capella 166 RM

Necky Chatham 16


Agony of de Feet

Finding a well-fitting pair of shoes is always a problem for me. Being only 5'7" is one thing, but having only size 8 feet because if it is a nuisance. Sometimes, depending on the make, I may need a 7.5 or even a 7. Even with different shoes from the same manufacturer the size can vary. It can get very frustrating. I got lucky with the trail runners I bought on sale at Canadian Tire about at year ago. They fit, and were just what I needed to do my first Raid Avalon, even before I'd heard of it. They were too worn for this summer though, and the search was on again.

Trail runners didn't seem to be very popular in any of the stores, so this made the task even more difficult. After about a half-dozen stores I found something suitable, but not exactly what I was looking for, and at the top of my budget. There was only a week before the race, and I needed something ASAP to at least get in a bit of training, so the Nike TR9000's would have to do.

The next day I decided to go for a little 4 hour stroll over the railbed to break them in. I'd alternate between walking and running up towards the junction for 2 hours and then make my way back. Well, by the time I'd gone 1.5 hours I realized I'd gone 30 minutes too far. The shoes I went to break in were breaking up my feet. The return trip was a bit slower, so I was gone 3.5 hours in total by the time I struggled into the house. Everything hurt from the waste down.

In February I had walked for about 6 hours in heavy, uncomfortable winter boots, so my current state surprised me. It put doubts in my mind about being able to do the race at all if this was the shape I was in. This is a day later and things have improved a great deal. I went kayaking today to give the feet a break. Tuesday the most I will do with them is bicycle, but come Wednesday they will need to be ready for a little more training. The race starts on Saturday morning.


CRCA Level 1 Course

Modern sea kayaks are based on water craft that evolved in the north over thousands of years. While they come in several varieties, one built for touring can generally handle some fairly rough water. The weak point is usually the paddler. This is why is it a very good idea to take a kayaking course. In Canada, the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association (CRCA) has a tiered system rangeing from Flatwater to Level 4. This weekend I became Level 1 certified by the Newfoundland Kayak Company.

Friday evening I arrived at the Aquarena in St. John's. I was a few minutes late because I was over an hour late leaving Lewisporte. It seems like there are always things that come up to delay me when I have to travel anywhere. This meant I didn't have time to stop along the way, do the shopping I needed to do, or get more than a quick bite for supper.

Ian met me at the door. I knew him from when he led our group at the kayaking retreat a couple weeks previous. The class was forced to relocate, so he guided me through some twists and turns and eventually to where my 13 other classmate were. Justin had already gone over some things, and people were introducing themselves. I just got the tail end, so names are still fuzzy.

Following some general instruction on kayaking safety, coastal navigation, and so on, it was time to get changed and hit the pool. Once on the water, it looked like just about everyone else was as apprehensive about inverting their kayak as I was. We had to force the kayak upside down, pound on the hull 3 times to attract attention, wave our arms back and forth as long as we could, grab the pull strap on the spray skirt to release it, and then tumble foreward out of the kayak and come to the surface still holding the paddle and the kayak - no problem.

Actually, it wasn't that bad. I watched the instructors do it, and some of the other students, to program the moves into my brain. I took some deep breaths and threw myself to one side to force a normally stable kayak to roll over. I did each of the steps, and the next thing I knew my head was out of the water with kayak and paddle close at hand. Nothing to be scared of at all. For the rest of the night we performed various rescues as victim and saviour. At about 11:30 I was loading my kayak back on the car and heading to my brother-in-law's place for a few hours of sleep.

On a cool, windy, and rainy Saturday morning we met at Long Pond just north of the university. Here were were going to learn boat control. We paddled forward, stopped, paddled backwards, and then sideways. Next we turned and pivoted. In the afternoon we covered bracing - the art of righting yourself before you tip over. Some people didn't quite get the hang of it until they did go completely  over. That gave us opportunities to practice our resuces again. During the day we did some navigaton and planned our trip for Sunday, so the night session was cancelled. (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the big hockey game on that night...)

Sunday morning we all gathered at the Village Mall parking lot with plans to get underway for Cape Broyle by 0800. That meant another night with not enough sleep, but we needed an early start, if people like me could get away before supper. So, a convoy of kayak topped vehicles set forth down Highway 10. We stopped at a convenience store to grab some extra grub and change into our paddling gear, and then headed for the local beach to load up and do some paddling.