Sunday, June 4, 2017

Venture Capella 173 - First impressions overnighter

Long-term readers might remember my frustrations with the Zegul Arrow Play kayak, which I returned to the shop, Melontapiste, last August. A little over a week ago the replacement kayak, a Venture Capella 173, arrived. I first took it out briefly just to check that everything was in order, i.e. that there were no leaks etc, but the first real test was an overnighter this weekend. I got O-P to join me. He wanted to do a slightly longer route, which suited me fine. We met at the paddling club and drove 45 minutes to Granvik, were we packed the kayaks.

Good amount of cargo space. My Scott MV HDPE would have been almost full with this amount.

We started paddling at 16:00.

We had a fairly good speed the first two hours, around 7.5 km/h in 5-6 m/s head wind.

Incidentally, O-P also has a Zegul Arrow Play, the LV version. It was bought about the same time as mine and has had at least as much problems. He has reinforced it and patched it up, since the quality was as poor as with mine.

A short break after two hours at Gulskär.

At this time of the year you have to be really careful with the birds. We scared away a common eider, but leaved soon enough that no harm should have been made.

Sea mayweed.

On the move again.

A nice place a bit west of Gullkrona.

After Stenskär we turned eastwards and finally got tail wind.

A section with nice small islands.

After Kongungskär we encounter something rather peculiar. Visually we identified some islands with some certainty, but the compass course didn't match at all. Since judging distance is sometimes quite hard at sea and since you are always told that the compass doesn't lie, we continued on the correct compass course for a while. Things didn't add up though, and after a while we skipped the compass and went right to Järvskär. The whole incident is still a mystery. According to the sea chart, the course would be around 40 degrees, but the compass showed it to be almost straight to the north. The magnetic declination at that spot is currently around 7 degrees easterly, which far from explains it. Nor is there any magnetic disturbances there according to the sea chart.

Approaching Järvskär.

We arrived at Långören west of Norrlandet at 21:30 and 33.5 km. Since the excellent tent place just a short bit to the south, Mellanlandet, isn't really open for tents according to the national park rules, I wanted to check out this place.

Some impressions after 33,5 km and about five hours in the kayak: It feels strange to have lots of space inside the kayak. Is this how it always feels for normal sized paddlers? The seat is possible a bit too wide and I might pad it out a little, but I'll have to try it in rougher water first. I immediately removed the padding on the seat, to get less friction against it when involving the legs in the forward paddling. The seat position is good and there is plenty of  room for my long legs. It felt like I found a position good for both forward paddling and taking support from the kayak, like hanging on the knee when edging it. Surprisingly, the kayak turns very well when put on edge. Width-wise there is almost too much room. When taking support against the (rather small) knee braces, there is 2-3 cm room on each side to the kayak sides. It also feels like the kayak width slightly interferes with planting the paddle blade in forward paddling. The speed of the kayak is decent. Normal cruising speed of around 7-7.5 km/h is effortless and with a little more leg and hip work 8.5 km/h is quite easy, but after that the resistance starts to grow rapidly. The sprint speed is around 10.5 km/h using a lot of power. The kayak seems to weather cock quite a bit, though I think a had too much weight in the front. Also having the foam roll pieces far on the back deck probably created unnecessarily much wind surface. The skeg does counter the weather cocking completely when engaged, though.

When we arrived I was quite cold, probably mostly due to low energy levels. I had eaten only one müsli bar since lunch and at this point the Finnish summer was something of a disappointment with around 10C in the air. The earlier plans for an evening swim were quickly dismissed in favor of dry and warm clothes. We quickly put up our tents and then proceeded to dinner.

Having plenty of space in the kayak I could again bring the pizza oven. After several pizzas I had refilled my energy depots.

The sunset wasn't particularly spectacular due to the clouds, but at some point there was a little color in the sky.

At this time of the year it doesn't get dark. The golden band near the horizon just moved eastwards until sunrise.

We got up a little after seven in the morning. It had been a little warm in the tent for a while, but then some clouds came in the way of the sun.

 A little morning stroll before breakfast.


Viola tricolor.

More sea mayweed.

The west point of Långören and Långörs kläppen.

Mellanlandet. The slick rock is really much smoother and more even on Mellanlandet in the picture.

View towards east with the higher Norrlandet in the background. There is now a new summer cottage on Norrlandet, so it's no longer an option for a tent spot, but the island isn't really optimal for it anyway.

Someone has written something in runes on the rock. I couldn't get it to make any sense using the Scandinavian older futhark, but I didn't give it much time.

Morning coffee.

Packed and ready to go.

Leaving at nine in the morning.

O-P thinks it looks a little less dense to the right.

Despite the sea chart saying otherwise, I don't think we can get through here.

The last section.

We paddled 13 km back to the car and I was home in time for lunch with the family. Thanks to O-P for the company.

Some more Venture Capella 173 impressions: The kayak is very maneuverable when put on edge and all the usual steering techniques are available and work well. The stability is excellent also on edge and it seems to remain very unaffected by waves. It will be interesting to take it out in rougher see. I expect it to do very well in such conditions. The back deck is higher than on the rather low Scott MV HDPE, so rolling isn't as easy, but there is still no problem rolling it. A rodeo self rescue is a piece of cake due to the large cockpit opening. Unladen it sits quite high in the water even with me in it, so I would say this is clearly a touring kayak. There should be no problem getting  gear and food in it for a week or two.

The Venture Capella 173 is a very decent kayak that still (or yet) doesn't wake the same feelings as the Arrow Play. The Arrow Play would still have been my first choice if the quality only would have been acceptable. The Capella does however seem promising and I'm still looking forward to getting more miles in more demanding conditions with it. Once I've done that I'll be back with more information.

Update a week later: A morning paddle with the kayak empty gave some more information. I paddled about 13 km around an island in weak wind (3 m/s) and small waves with an average speed of 8.4 km/h. This does make the kayak clearly faster than the Arrow Play. I didn't push very hard, but used good technique involving my legs. I'm starting to believe that the more roomy cockpit indeed allows better technique using the legs more efficiently.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Seabird Scott MV HDPE midterm review.

I wrote about my initial impressions of the Seabird Scott MV HDPE kayak last August. Since then I've used only this kayak, on evening paddles, overnighters and a few weekend trips. Now that my new number one kayak has arrived, making this my number two kayak,  it's time to expand upon those initial impressions.

The Seabird Scott MV HDPE is a sandwich polyethylene (PE) version of the composite Scott series, which is a nice line of playful British style sea kayaks for a good price. It is just big enough (the plastic version is a little longer than the composite one) for me. Despite my size, 192 cm and 100 kg, I like smaller kayaks, which in practice means mid sized, since I can't get into anything smaller. It's not really a lack of flexibility, but rather too long legs. The cockpit is 2 cm longer than that of the composite Scott MV, which is enough for me to fit in adequately, even though it is lower. Lengthwise there is more room inside in the PE version and the seat also is more comfortable. The entire kayak is lower, also in the cockpit, but I don't like a high "knees up" position anyway. I previously used to have a paddle float under my knees, which was really comfortable, but this kayak is a little low for that. The knee braces are a tad aggressive and big and would need some modifications. Not having a paddle float under my knees turned out to be a good thing, since it enabled better leg work with straightening the leg more during the power phase. Though I've always been plenty of spare power, I think this has still given me more.

There is the usual place for a Silva (nowadays Garmin) 70P compass, which is one of the first things to mount on a new kayak.

The hatches are Seabird's own production and seem good enough. With the exception of the front day hatch, the hatches have been perfectly tight during rolls, waves and rescues. There's a large oval hatch in the back (without it I couldn't bring my pizza oven) and a smaller round hatch in the front. The hatches are soft, which means that they might come loose in rescues if e.g. a knee pushes them in. This had happened twice during rescue trainings.

The front day hatch is probably not even designed to be totally waterproof, though. It leaks water during rescue trainings.

The rear day hatch is unnecessarily small. There is plenty of space inside, but it all has to fit through a 15 cm opening. No deal breaker, but poor design in my opinion.

The hatches were not tethered from the start, but that doesn't take many minutes to fix.

The seat was mounted in the same way as on the Arrow Play, i.e in practice hanging from the extended cockpit coaming, a construction that definitely does not work for someone my weight. The seat moves too much. I solved it the same way as in the Arrow Play, by putting a rubber mat under the seat. The seat rests mostly on the rubber mat, the friction of which keeps it from moving sideways. This could probably be further improved by applying some urethan like foam between the mat and the seat.

The rigging is good, better than on the composite Scott versions. With deck balls on a few places the deck lines will be further improved. I do think the rig line is too thin, though, since it has popped out from the fittings twice.

The first impressions video below is still valid.

The Scott MV HDPE has continued to feel like a very maneouverable kayak that is easy to roll. The stability, both primary and secondary, is good and I've even learned to stand up in it. The course stability is poor without the skeg down and demands concentration and technique to keep it on track. With the skeg down it tracks well, though. It works well in strong wind and waves. Below is a little video from a surf session.

The speed is ok. Normal cruising speed feels easy, and it is only above 8 km/h that the resistance starts to grow rapidly. During short sprints I've had it up to 10.5 km/h, which does need quite a lot of power.

For touring there could be more room. It definitely has a less cargo space than the Arrow Play HV, and there's definitely not space for the pizza oven during a week long unsupported trip. A clear drawback of a low and mid sized manouverable kayak.

All in all, this is a fun and agile British style kayak for a very good price. It is stable enough for guiding and the HDPE material is stiff enough and should be almost bomb proof. Compared to other PE British style kayaks I've tried, lije the Nordkap and Capella, this is a much more lively and fun boat. In Finland it is sold by at least