Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Real Treat

By all accounts, Greg Stamer and Freya Hoffmeister did a stellar job of instruction at this years KLN retreat. I'll do a little bit of a retreat round up with added photos later. But the above photo is of the amazing Freya in her Qaanaaq Greenland style kayak. I was only committed to attending this years retreat by Thursday, as some work I was waiting on was re-scheduled once again. The good side, was that I was able to load up the truck and head for the retreat weekend. I was obviously unable to pre-register for clinics, but still managed to see and learn quite a bit. Greg's talk and Freya's slide show from Greenland was very informative. And once back in town, they both gave some private lessons at the pool that many of us attended last night. It was all well worth watching.

Over the weekend, I did have one experience I wanted to mention...During one of their breaks from teaching clinics, Freya kindly agreed to allow me to try out her Rockpool Alaw Bach. It is the first time that one of the Rockpool kayaks had ever made it to this part of North America. For quite some time I had wondered when I would ever get a chance to paddle one of these kayaks. I was starting to think it wouldn't be until the next time I was in the UK. The Alaw Bach had always impressed me, it was on my very short list of kayaks that interested me. Given my 190+ pounds, I am supposed to be on the heavy side for this kayak. To bad, because it does have a beautiful look, and is a kayak made for rougher conditions and playing tight to the shore...something I love to do. The other big question was about whether I would even fit inside the cockpit. I know of others that do not weigh as much as me, but are of different builds, that have felt uncomfortable with this lower volume Rockpool. So it was a delight that I did not even have to adjust the footplate...(as Freya and I must have a similar leg length). I waded out from shore with the kayak by my side and easily scrambled in. What a nice feeling, it fit like a glove...not tight, but just right. Foot plate, seat pan, back band, and the overhanging thigh braces(which I am so used to in my Seaward kayak) fit perfect. That just made my day...

I must note that I was only on flat-water, with only a slight breeze...defiantly not the conditions that the kayak was designed for. But my biggest aim was to see if I even fit the boat, as well as it's maneuverability with my type of handling. So first off was to take it straight out with a proper forward stroke. I did not feel the kayak to be very fast, but it also did not feel as "grabby" as I have felt in something like an Explorer (a great NDK boat, that for some reason, just doesn't feel right to my body). I could not tell of the Rockpool's tracking, as there was not real winds, but it felt perfectly fine to me....I did feel it lay itself down into the water as I picked up speed.

Edging?, wow, easy....but the thing I was more excited about was how well it handled when I leaned way over to each side to spin the boat around. I have a 19 foot kayak at present, so I've come to rely heavily on leaning to turn kayaks around. This Alaw Bach was just a joy to edge and lean in exaggerated ways....wonderfully playful and responsive. Bow rudder and hanging draw stokes a joy.

As for rolling, laying on the back deck and closing my eyes as I rested my head was to nice...falling asleep was possible, but not advised at this time seeing as time was limited as Freya would want her boat back. High bracing was great. Both lay back and c to c rolls on both sides were easy. Not enough time for a re-entry and roll, but seeing as I found it fine to wiggle into from the back deck, all while first entering the cockpit on water with no support,...I don't feel it would be difficult. On heading back to shore, I did pull myself up on the back deck and paddle the rest of that way home. Good move as when borrowing someone else's boat, it's nice giving it back without a scratch. It was kind of Freya to lend me the kayak.

I was in the kayak for only 20 to 30 minutes.....hmmm...felt shorter than that...but I'm impressed so far. This kayak is not meant to just sit straight up in. Hopefully, one of these days, I'll get a chance to try it on the open ocean. Would I like to own one of these boats?...well yes, but with Canadian customs and shipping fees from the UK, not likely. Let's hope some day that we'll get a few Rockpool distributors in this part of the world.

Also a thanks to Douglas Wilcox who has a wonderful review of this kayak....I had been looking for any word about this boat since I first saw them in photographs and videos, but Douglas's review is great and helped in giving me a head's up in what to look for in the boat's characteristics. Also, Derrick Mayoleth will be receiving one soon...and writes daily on his blog about all things look for what he has to say about the Rockpool Alaw Bach in the future.


Blogger Michael said...

Interesting to read your comments, Jamie. I assume this boat was one of their three piece traveling boats... I suppose the thing to do is to travel to England, pick up a Bach and then paddle in Scotland... visiting the shore-side pubs etc... I'm sure we could get a group trip organized with much trouble!

6:19 p.m.  
Blogger Alison Dyer said...

Jamie - wish I'd tried out the rockpool - never seem to have enough time to try all the boats that are at the retreat but it really is one of the best opportunities.

11:20 p.m.  
Blogger Douglas Wilcox said...

Could I come too please? I haven't even started on the shoreside distilleries yet!


7:29 p.m.  

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