Sunday, 15 April 2012

Beating The No Boat Blues

Low Cost Ocean Kayak

Ok well, I finally did it! Faced with a sailing famine and no prospect of sailing until I have identified and renovated a low cost cruiser, I bit the bullet this weekend and, on the advice of friends, found a cheap second-hand two-seater, sit-on-top kayak – an ‘Ocean Kayak’ Malibu 2XL (scroll down for link). She’s the largest in this particular manufacturer’s range and carries the name XL because of the added buoyancy in the stern - probably a good idea, given that I’m not exactly a small guy.I also looked at an Intex Inflatable Kayak that I could have bought new for the same price. It was a close call between the two, the Intex could have fitted in a bag in the boot of my car and later could also have been stowed on the boat.The Ocean Kayak though, was here in someone's back yard and ready to use. I would have had to order and wait delivery of the Intex.

The Kayak came with seat, paddles and wheels for towing from car to water and she seems ideal for short cruises in relatively sheltered water -should be good as a fishing platform too.

Daytime temperature was only eight degrees C here in Jersey today, but the sun was shining and there was a neap tide (currents not so strong) so it seemed like a good day for a trial sail off the shallow and sheltered east coast of the Island.

The experience was great fun and we discovered that with two paddlers, it is possible to attain and maintain a reasonable speed through the water. It can be hard work against the wind though. I took up the rear berth and Susan, being much much lighter than me, settled in the bows with our on-eyed dog (Jack) and paddled from there.

Initially, I was pleased to be wearing a wet suit, partly because the water at this time of year is distinctly chilly, and partly because for much of the time, I was under a constant deluge of water, a by-product of Susan’s somewhat personalised paddling technique. Later on, after an hour or so paddling, I was happy to take it off.

If I were writing this for a commercial publication, I’d be quoting weights and comparing prices and handling characteristics. This isn’t a commercial site but suffice it to say that the Kayak did pretty much what I expected, it was easier to handle that I thought it would be – and here is the real bonus – it was remarkably stable. There was never any question of rolling or falling out.

Another unexpected bonus was that we discovered that you can ‘sail’ a kayak. Well that might be a bit of an exaggeration but on our way home, with the wind on our backs, Susan opened an umbrella. We stopped paddling and my handheld GPS recorded 5 knots over the ground for a good couple of miles, our efforts were restricted to simply sticking a paddle in the water now and again to maintain direction. Now that’s the sort of kayaking that I like. Question is, has anyone ever thought of adding some kind of temporary keel and a sail? Maybe this summer isn’t going to be so bad after all.