I’ve owned a Bahiya now for three seasons and paddled it extensively, particularly around my home area of Woods Hole, MA. Overall, it’s a great boat for certain conditions, and compromised in others. My solution is to relish it for long-distance paddles, and get an NDK Romany for surfing and general rough-water play.
First the likes: It’s an ideal boat for those forays from Woods Hole down the Elizabeth islands, which I tend to paddle solo, primarily for exercise. It has an effortless 4 knot cruise I can keep up for hours. The combination of its’ fine bow and narrow beam slices through water elegantly, leaving behind a cleaner and smaller wake than most other boats. It’s truly a pleasure to paddle as an exercise machine. Its’ deep-V holds course easily, and yet I can turn it 120 degrees just by edging. It’s a bit tricky because one needs to dip the outside coaming edge to get it to carve hard, and there isn’t much secondary stability left when it’s up on rail like that. It takes a bit of a knack to hold the edge because the heel angle is narrow, but works very well,. After a bit of practice a 180 degree outside-edge turn with a bow rudder is routinely feasible. Paddling forward edging control is ample for steering a straight line while concentrating on paddle power delivery.
Heading into chop it is elegant and effortless until the fine bow starts to submerge, and water comes up on deck, usually somewhere near the front hatch. The high area just in front of the paddler keeps it from reaching the cockpit, but water on deck slows down progress appreciably. This happens sooner than with many other boats, again, because of the fine ends.
Paddling downwind the Bahiya is a lot of fun in smaller waves, picking up and surfing on small stuff. I can consistently pick up smaller swells than most boats and surf them further. On a favorite afternoon run in Vineyard sound heading from Cuttyhunk back to Woods Hole with a tailing 15 kt seabreeze , I’ve been able to average well over 5 knots, with the GPS frequently registering low 8’s on long surfing runs. It’s a great craft for downwind surfing on smallish waves.
And now we come to the downsides. While surfing on bigger waves, when a wave is speared, the boat keeps going – down into the water. It simply likes to pearl. I’ve dug the bow in all the way to the cockpit many times in 3’+ waves, and find it pretty hard to bring the boat back up to the surface. A capsize is pretty likely to follow when it does that.
When surfing bigger stuff, it’s important to keep the bow and stern vertical sections from burying, as it’s hard to retain control with the bow buried in the trough and the stern lifting to the wave. Sometimes the boat will accelerate and free its ends, but a strong bow rudder to slow down and pop the stern back up over the wave crest is a surer way to regain control. Also, when accelerating to outrun a wave the hard chines make the transition from outside to inside edge carving somewhat unpredictable. Setting up a surfing run and trying to carve down the waveface on the inside edge leads to a surprise (or worse) when the boat decides to carve on the outside edge instead . It’s a good way to learn to rely on your bracing. It’s just not an Aries, made to be stable at high speed on large swell.
The Bahiya just hates confused seas, clapotis and in general wavy areas near rocks or breakwaters. Somehow its’ primary stability just disappears in those conditions, and it has pitched me off a couple of times.
I’ve paddled the boat loaded with three nights worth of camping stuff, food and water, and it’s performed well. It even gets a bit more stable when loaded. I don’t think it could carry a week’s worth of water, but it should be fine for a weeks’ outing if a water resupply is available enroute.
In summary, I love this boat for distance paddling and weekend camping trips but use my Romany to play in big surf and tideraces.