Sunday, October 22, 2017

Skim Beaufort first impressions

Regular readers might remember me having difficulty finding a sea kayak that fits me. Now I have one.

The previous installment of these ponderings is from August. That ended up with me ordering a Skim Beaufort directly from the manufacturer in Kokkola. I talked with the Skim guys about some customizations, the most important of which was a longer cockpit opening, and a deal was made. Skim is no mass producer and therefore there are better possibilities to get the customizations done and I do think it was nice to work this out directly with the manufacturer. The kayak was ready in the beginning of October and I went to get it this weekend, when the kids had a two days fall break from school and we went to visit relatives in the Vasa area. I drove to Kokkola, had a chat and coffee with the Skim guys a and drove back to Vasa and put the kayak to water after having lunch with the family.

There is a 15 km paddle to my brother's cabin in the outer archipelago and the weather forecast from the morning promised excellent weather. A rainbow is nice and beautiful, but it is associated with rain and it didn't take long before a rain shower was upon me.

The kayak felt great from the start and the seating position felt very good, in fact very much like that of the Aquarius Sea Lion, which by far was the most comfortable of my previous kayaks. The Skim Beaufort is narrow enough (53 cm) that my knees are closed together (I don't like a wide frog position) and the foredeck is also of suitable height, giving me room for leg work while still being close enough that just tensioning the leg muscles locks me into place in the cockpit when needed. The kayak is narrow enough that planting the paddle close to the kayak goes naturally and the paddle doesn't hit the kayak, something which happened in the beginning with the 5 cm wider Capella 173.

It didn't take long to get the first scratch, but now it's done. And the Kvarken archipelago is just so stony that if you are not getting any scratches you are not going to the interesting places.

The fall is very nice in the archipelago.

An inofficial lane shows the nature of the place: Even small boats have to stay in a narrow lane.

The weather was not really was what forecasted.

Closing in. This far the Beaufort had shown itself to be exactly what I wanted. It is surprisingly fast for a boat that is only 513 cm long. A cruising speed of around 8.5 km/h shouldn't be a problem unless there is headwind. The primary stability is a bit on the lively side, at least compared to the massive primary stability of the Arrow Play, but the secondary stability is solid. It also has a good compromise between tracking and manouverability. A few waves from behind gave hope that it would do well in tail wind and surf conditions, but that is yet to be tested.

The family went to the island by boat and the 12-year old took a few pictures of me arriving. I actually think it is visible from the pictures that the boat is the right size for me, about the smallest boat I can fit in, which is what I want. Most people paddle too big boats, and move to smaller boats when/if they get more experienced.

The sunset wasn't particularly spectacular because of the clouds.

The Skim Beaufort doesn't have the usual Silva/Garmin 70P compass recess, so the best alternative is another Silva/Garmin compass, the 70 UNE, which comes with a light. Very nice.

The morning was better with less clouds.

I considered a patriotic blue and white color, in practice with the orange color replaced with the correct blue hue, but ultimately went with orange for photography reasons. Red or orange simple works better in most conditions, since it gives a better contrast to everything else. And from a safety perspective red and orange are also to be preferred. You can basically order just about any color combinations you want from Skim, and I've seen a few very nice ones. I still was a little boring and went for a white bottom, since you can get white gelcoat or topcoat more easily that anything else.

The cockpit is lengthened by 3 cm at the front, which is enough to fit my legs in, one at a time, after I'm seated. The cockpit rim is lengthened behind the knee brace wings, so they are also moved forwards and in a good position. I might consider making the wings a little smaller, to make it bit easier to get the legs past them, though it wasn't hard now either. There is plenty of space for my size 46 feet and there should be space for larger boots as well. The seating position is great and the back deck and rear part of the cockpit rim are low enough that rolling is easy. Even a hand roll should be doable. The back band is solid and just at the right (low) height.

By default the cockpit rear bulkhead is on level with the cockpit rim, to make it possible to empty the cockpit completely during rescues. I had it moved back 2 cm, to have just a little space there for e.g. a tarp or an inflatable paddle float. I don't think there will be any mentionable amounts of water there after a rescue this way either. By default the kayak comes with the KajakSport paddle outrigger system, which is what the recess behind the cockpit rim is for. It is probably a very good system if you use a paddle float self rescue. I prefer a rodeo rescue and in that case the paddle holders would just be in the way and therefore I opted not to have them mounted.

There is a big oval hatch also in the front, which I think is really nice. And the hatches are the KajakSport hard ones, the best ones available. The deck of the boat has a groove running along the boat, which is meant to stiffen the deck and thus allow less material and lighter weight. The compass is mounted in it, but I think I'll move a little rearwards, to be just in front of the hatch. It should be even better protected in rescue situations by the spare paddle in that position.

A pump fits well into the groove. And this kayak has a small waterproof hatch just in front of the cockpit as well, something I've come to appreciate a lot.

The day hatch behind the cockpit has a big enough opening and the rear hatch is also a big oval one. No problem fitting the pizza oven into this kayak. On paper there is about 210 l of dry hatch space, which is really quite a lot, especially considering the size of the kayak. And looking into the hatch space, there really seems to be a lot of space there. There should be no problem getting gear for longer trips to fit.

I guess I'll have to hop some rocks then.This is the more expensive and tougher Rock Hopper version with kevlar and carbon stuff. It is supposed to be very tough. On paper the weight is 23.8 kg, which actually is quite nice. Lifting it, I would place the weight somewhere around 24 kg. It is a little heavier than the Aquarius Sea Lion, and clearly lighter than the Capella 173 and Scott MV HDPE. The quality looks great, with the only not perfect spot being where the cockpit opening was extended, which is visible in this picture.

In the afternoon it was time to paddle back. There was now mostly no wind at all and I could confirm that the kayak indeed is fast and glides easily in the 8-8.5 km/h register.

A happy paddler.

On protected places there was even a little ice. Winter is (hopefully) coming.

That's it. So far everything is very good and I'm still quite excited by this. With the longer cockpit opening this is definitely an alternative worth checking out for taller paddlers.

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