Sunday, November 25, 2012

A new kayak

I recently bought a kayak after not doing any active kayaking for seven years. The main reason I quit sea kayaking back then was a back injury (a badly herniated disc between L4 and L5), which did limit me for some time and still makes it impossible to run frequently on harder surfaces. Additionally, with two small kids under two years old at the time, I didn't have the time for it.

Nowadays my back is a lot better and while my family still mostly takes precedence over my own selfish pursuits, I do have a little more time available. During the fall, the idea of to do some kayaking again matured, and I started to search the internet to see if anything interesting had developed during the time I hadn't followed sea kayaking very closely.

I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted. A composite kayak was no longer my first choice, since I would like to do some more kayaking in the stony waters of Osthrobotnia in Wester Finland. Check out the picture below to see why a composite kayak is not the first choice in that area (that kayak is the one I previously had). Some more googling showed that the best choice of material for my intended use still seemed to be Prijon's HTP plastic, which is a lot stiffer and durable than other plastic alternatives and in a totally different league than composite materials. The only downside of this material is the weight, which means that a kayaking weighing 25 kg in fiberglass would weight about 28 kg in HTP. Checking out the Prijon models two or three alternatives were found, and when a used Prijon Kodiak became available locally the choice became quite easy.

The Prijon Kodiak is a high volume expedition kayak and has been used for some serious expeditions in difficult conditions. As such, it has an unnecessary high load capacity for me. Being used to bikepacking and having the gear and knowledge to be totally self sufficient for a week of bikepacking with less than 15 kg of gear and food, the Kodiak's 50 kg of loading capacity, excluding myself, certainly is more than enough. The main disadvantage of this is that it floats unnecessary high in the water, making it less stable and more sensitive to wind. With my height (192 cm) and shoe size 46 I don't fit into much smaller kayaks, though. The Prijon Marlin HTP version could have been an option, but it is no longer made and would probably be hard to find used. The Prijon Yukon, also no longer made, would probably be easier to find used and is probably the most versatile kayak available. I don't think it would have been fast enough for me, though. The other Prijon models are not big enough for me.

While waiting for the winter to arrive, it occurred to me that there was no reason not to go out and test the kayak. Today I had some time for that and paddling around Kuusisto seemed like a good option. I started in a grey November drizzle, but soon the cloud cover became less uniform. The air temperature was 4C and the water temperature was probably close to that. Hence the water was cold enough that a drysuit was the only reasonable clothing to have, since in case of an (unlikely) capsize the situation would otherwise quickly become very dangerous.

The kayak certainly felt stable enough, despite some very contradictory information on internet. It is hard to say anything about the speed, but the Prijon Kodiak is supposed to be pretty fast.

There was no wind and the light and everything felt very Novemberish, though not in the worst possible sense.

Returning for the camera, which I had on a paddle float.

After almost three hours I closed in on the island that I was to spend a small coffee break on.

Since I bought this kayak for shorter or longer tours, and not for exercise, the coffee was more than just coffee, it also had a symbolic significance.
After the short break, I continued and had about one hour of paddling left.

Sunset in less than one hour.
After four hours of actual paddling and around 25 km I was back where I started. Despite doing only very sporadic paddling for seven years, paddling felt great and completely natural.

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