I consider myself a reasonably fair kayak/sufski racing competitor, at least in the local racing scene. I do quite a bit of speed and endurance training all year ‘round for a handful of races dispersed from early spring through late November. However, racing is not my only paddling love. Through the last two years, I’ve come to appreciate traditional Greenland-style paddling just as much as I do racing. Not being satisfied with the commercially available Greenland-style kayaks, and not ready to get into the SOF (skin on frame) qajaqs, I designed and built the Ernannaq Raven to suit the needs of a person wanting an elegant rolling boat with race-commanding speed potential (there’s that racer mentality).
After completing and splashing the newly designed and built Raven this past May, my rolling skills have improved greatly with the ease of the Raven’s rolling ability. Not to say she was perfect at birth, but throughout the summer she has been tweaked to near-perfection. The minimal modifications took their toll on my time on the water, but she has blossomed into a wonderful Greenland rolling boat with an amazing speed potential.
My roll repertoire has been limited to the information I have gleaned from instructional material and YouTube vids. I learned a lot in this way. Somewhat stumbling about, sporadically experimenting with a tidy selection rolls. Always finding my way back upright, but gracefully and smoothly? Not so much. I finally acceded to the fact that if I was to develop better, smoother rolling skills, I would need some real, one-on-one help. This is the point at which the Delmarva Paddler’s Retreat (DPR) entered my little world.
It was a furious week of finish work before leaving for Annapolis,Maryland, for Chesapeake Light Craft’s (CLC) spring Demo show. The Ernannaq prototype (now known as the Raven of the Ernannaq Series of Greenland-style boats) appeared as though she might be completed enough for a test paddle before leaving for the even, if everything went according to plan. I had just completed two coats of epoxy/graphite powder on the faired hull and deck, and the cockpit rim and bulkheads had been vacuum bagged and trimmed, ready for installation. As I calculated my time remaining, I’d have just enough to give her a test paddle on Thursday before loading her on the truck, then heading to Annapolis early Friday morning. Funny how the best laid plans develop flaws when rushed too much. The fly in the ointment was the unexpected Flue. It hit me hard on Tuesday evening. Wednesday I didn’t get out of bed. Sleeping was far more preferable than dealing with nausea and head aches. Thursday, work had to get done at the office and field. Still feeling very queasy after coming home, I started plowing through the chore of finish wet-sanding the Raven; the rim and bulkheads still required installation. Around 0100 hrs Friday morning, after much work and tension, the Raven was complete. And I was ravenous. A good sign.
Up at 0600 hours, the swaddled Raven loaded and secured, gear in the truck, we got on the road for the six hour journey to Annapolis at 1000 hrs. No time for a test paddle before the show!
I’ve been swooning over the speedy shapes of surfskis for the past year or so. Especially since I came in third place in the James River Challenge (06-11-2011) , behind two ‘skis while racing in the surfski class, paddling my ol’ Necky Looksha II. Figuring that eventually I’d find my butt in a ski relatively soon, I raised the Looksha’s seat by two inches. That was not too bad. Although it took me about five days during a two week period to become accustomed to the reduction of lateral stability in all the usual types of chop that Albemarle Sound whips up with 20 knots of wind. Yet, I figured that this was still too stable of a platform to compare to a ski’s stability, so I put in another inch of seat height. That did it! This thing became a horse of a different nature! In calm water, the stability was do-able. In two-to- three foot chop, it was very un-nerving. Rolling became very tricky. But, after about three weeks of two to three paddles each, I felt quite comfortable chasing the sailboats around the usual 11 mile course in the disturbed choppy conditions typical for around here. My roll technique improved as well, so the apprehension factor became a non-issue.
Update: Monday, 02-06-2012
I wrote this post about one week after taking delivery of my V12 Ultra. To be fair to the readers, I decided to wait to post the full article until I had some good, quality bucket time in this craft before spouting-off about how great my new boat is. I believe that after seven months of hard paddling the V12 Ultra in any local condition I could find, I now have a good handle on the handling characteristics of the ski (all my other boats have languished in the garage since purchasing the ski!). I’ve been paddling the ski three to five days per week, with paddles of at least 6 miles to over 25 miles. I’ve competed successfully in a good many races this past season as well, from races in lower VA to upper NJ. Though not yet snatching a coveted 1st place, I’ve been able to place 2nd or third in class every race so far. Not too bad for the first season on the V12. Please keep in mind my intent is not to be bragging here, merely trying to convey the extent of experiences and successes with the boat.
I love Surfski.info. There, I said it. I tell ya, these guys know how to have fun! No wishy-washy “let’s go look at birds and nature” stuff here. Nope. It’s “let’s see what kind of crazy waves we can catch… let’s see how fast we can go! Mate, you just broke my best record run, you bloke! Hey look, a big catamaran, let’s go catch it!” Gotta love it!
Here is a great vid with some great tunes and alot of insanely happy laughter. If this is not a big part of what paddling is all about, then what the heck am I doing here?!
This is titled “Midwinter Millers HD” from Rob Mousley. The featured “camera platform” is a Kayak Center Zeplin… yeah you guessed it, it’s a bigger ski for big guys, and/or the not-so super-elite paddlers. Rob’s report indicates that it is a great ski for the slop and one can truly hammer when the going gets nasty. You can tell Rob is having one hell of a bad time on the ski by his insane laughter, so it must be a terrible ski (if you don’t like paddling fast and having lots of fun).
If this vid doesn’t get your torso rotating, your legs a-pumpin’, and your head a-bobbin’ while viewing it in your easy-chair, then I guess you’re just, uh, DEAD!