I made a Saturday morning trip up to CRCK to try out a few of their new kayaks. Specifically I was looking for a kayak that has a low back deck (for ease of layback rolling), could hold enough gear for multi-day trips (which doesn't rule out much of anything over 16'), and was fast but maneuverable. The perfect kayak, in other words.
There were three models on my list: North Shore Polar, Maelstrom Vital, and Rockpool Alaw Bach.
Things don't always turn out quite as one plans them. The Vital was not in the shop that day - a guide had taken it for a trip to Maine. So I tried the Vaag, just to get a feel for the handling of the Maelstrom kayaks. I've detailed that result in pallen's demo report - basically I was surprised as can be that even this great big (for me) boat was very easy to handle and turned outrageously quickly for a very long big kayak. It rolled well but I couldn't really put it through its paces because my knees didn't contact the thigh braces very well. It boded well for the Vital though (which I tried the next day... more on that later).
The Rockpool Alaw Bach is a thermoform plastic boat - a rigid and repairable plastic which performs and looks more like composite. The kayak is designed for rockplay and tide races - short (16'), rockered, nimble, very responsive. It has whitewater-like thigh braces which locked me into the boat very well. The foredeck is unusually high immediately in front of the cockpit which makes for an unusually comfortable sitting position. I paddled it forward to get a sense of its speed (average, much like other rockered play-type boats), then tried a balance brace. I was struck by the boat's unwillingness to tip over! It has a lot of buoyancy in that high foredeck. But once I forced it over on its side, I could balance on the surface effortlessly, no hands. Outstanding secondary stability! The kayak turns literally on a dime and responds to every movement of the body. In short, I was blown away by the Alaw Bach. I suspect that in surf and tideraces it would be outstanding.
I sat in the North Shore Atlantic but it was too big for me. I then paddled the Polar. It was an acceptable kayak but not very much different than my Avocet, and somewhat less comfy. It had a very low flat foredeck which seemed to me to be unlikely to fare well in heavy seas - but I can't say so with authority. Anyway, it didn't feel like the right boat for me so I stayed in it only a short time.
Then the fellow at CRCK who was helping me asked if I'd try the Cetus LV. He was too big for it, and not many people had paddled it. He asked for input. It had not been on my short list - but it should have been. I was quite surprised by the speed coupled with a small turning radius, stability on edge, and great ease of rolling. This is a real contender for an all-around boat, if it handles well in conditions.
So: Rockpool Alaw Bach for a fun playful boat, Cetus LV for all-around touring.
Next on my list: Pilgrim and Pilgrim Expedition (NDK designs), Maelstrom Vital. Reviews to come.
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