Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 105 Oru (Oragami Kayak)

It suffices to say that up here in Wisconsin we lived through one of the roughest winters in recent memory. So it was with much anticipation that I waited for the local lakes to finally thaw so I could get the Oru out on the water. Ironically it was on my very first outing that a twist of fate allowed me to benefit from the boat’s most notable feature. I was about a mile up the Eau Claire River having been forced into the main channel due to my favorite backwater short cuts still being iced over. I had just rounded the top of a mid-channel island to turn around and right there stuck upside down on a sand bar was a Wenonah canoe. The canoe was a bit beat up after apparently being stuck on/in the frozen river all winter. But, after a brief inspection, I figured with a little TLC (and a lot of glass and resin) this canoe could be nice to have, so I decided to take it home. At first I was kicking myself for not bringing a rope that I could use to tow it, but then it occurred to me that I could just fold up the Oru put it in the bottom of the canoe and use the kayak paddle to paddle the canoe home. It worked like a charm and all I could do was smile at the fortuitous chance of being there with a folding kayak. 

At twelve feet long and twenty five inches wide, the Oru tends toward the “Recreational” kayak genera of kayaks and its speed and basic handling reflect that (ie… deep seat, roomy, stable, easy to turn, not exactly a race horse). One notable difference is that impressed me is, unlike so many “Rec” boats, the Oru does not have an oversized cockpit opening. Instead the cockpit is sized like many sea kayaks and can be fitted with a ‘normal’ (Snap Dragon –large-) spray skirt. This normal sized cockpit combined with a not-too-deep deck allows for good body contact. It’s that body contact that allows a paddler to edge and roll the Oru effectively putting its overall handling more toward that of a touring kayak.
Of course there are always tradeoffs when you design a boat that can be stored in the trunk of your car. This is engineering not magic after all. And the Oru has a couple quirky things that at first I was a bit skeptical about. The first is the unusual foot brace which consists of a flat bar that is held in place by two straps anchored on the sides of the kayak. While the foot brace allows you to push firmly, it can “swing” up and down on the straps. At first I found it a little distracting but quickly came to enjoy the ability to change my foot and leg posture in the kayak while still maintaining contact on the foot brace. The second quirky thing that is a byproduct of the Oru’s foldability is the neoprene end caps that pull over the bow and stern of the boat and a few flat washered anchors that protrude through the hull. I feared these would create a bunch of drag and slow the boat down. Really though once you’re on the water you forget they’re even there.

So as far as paddling goes I feel the Oru fits in the “recreational” end of the spectrum in line with boats like the Necky Manitou 12 or Current Designs Kestrel 12.  As far as the Oru’s packability, I have to say it is by far the easiest kayak to set up and take down that I have ever seen. While other manufacturers SAY their boats can be assembled in twenty or even ten minutes, it’s actually true with the Oru. My first go at setting up the boat, with the Oru rep standing by offering pointers, was 15 minutes. The second try, even after not doing it for a while, was 11 minutes. This last time only 9 minutes and I know with practice I could do it even faster. I wager that when you compare the time it takes to load and unload a hard shell kayak on top of your car, overall it takes less time to get an Oru from storage to the water and back again.

Oru Review
Manufacturer = Oru Kayak
Brand = Oru
Model = Oru
Type = Packable Recreational
Material = Plastic
Length = 12'-0"
Width = 25"
Weight = 26 lbs.

Location = Eau Claire River - Schofield WI -
Time = 5:00 PM
Distance = aprox 3 miles
Duration = 1:00
Avg. Speed = N/A
Conditions = Cloudy and chilly with snow on the ground

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 104 - Mayan Seas - Point Bennett - Duane Strosaker Design

It’s been so long since I posted on this blog that I’d almost forgotten how. In fact, August 4th 2009 was the last post of the 100 Boats challenge which was actually the 103rd day in a row that I’d test paddled boats that year. The months/year following the 100 Boats challenge brought huge changes in my life with a move home back in Wisconsin. Before getting settled in to life back home, however, I got involved with an adventure that took me on a 5000+ mile loop around the eastern US by kayak. (The Ikkuma 17 by Seda if you’re wondering).

This week an interesting series of events brought me to San Diego. Then, yesterday, with an impromptu trip to Tijuana Mexico to retrieve a kayak for a friend, I ended up with a brand new boat to try out. Seems how I was going to be on the water with Aqua Adventures Wednesday Morning Paddle” I figured I’d dust off the keyboard and post another review.

Designed by Southern California paddler Duane Strosaker, the Point Bennett is now being manufactured in fiberglass by Mayan Seas (and with Duane’s permission comes with a drop skeg). After paddling with Duane for years with numerous long distance crossings to the Channel Islands, I am quite familiar with the Point Bennett, especially by seeing it from the outside. This morning was the first time I paddled one for more than a few minutes at a kayak club picnic.

The Point Bennett was designed by Duane to fit Duane. Thankfully I am about the same height and build (5’-10” 165lbs.) and the boat fits me like a glove. Folks that range much bigger than that may feel a bit cramped in the low decked cockpit. I’d like to see Mayan develop a “high volume” version to fit larger paddlers.

In the four foot swell and off shore wind we experienced this morning the boat handled like a dream. The Point Bennett has little trouble holding a line in a crossing wind. In fact, the way Duane builds them without a skeg, all he has to do to correct for weather cocking is weight the stern with a small bag full of water. Those of us who appreciate modern technology can also appreciate the fact that the Mayan Seas version of the Point Bennett comes with a drop skeg. I learned quickly this morning that it takes VERY little skeg to fine tune the boat and keep it in line.

With a request from Duane to keep it off the rocks I ran a very conservative line along the jetty today still enjoying a little help by catching a few rides on the incoming swell. I only wish I had time to take it out for a long paddle on open water where it truly excels.

The Point Bennett was designed and refined by a man that has spent more time on the water than anybody I know. It’s a fun boat to paddle and can take an able paddler as far as they choose to go.

Point Bennett Review
Manufacturer = Mayan Seas
Brand = Mayan Seas
Model = Point Bennett
Type = Sea Kayak
Material = Fiberglass
Length = 17'-6"
Width = 21.25"
Weight = 52.9 lbs.

Location = Mission Bay - Ocean Beach Pier with the Wednesday Morning Group
Time = 7:00 AM
Distance = aprox 3 miles
Duration = 1:20
Avg. Speed = N/A
Conditions = Partly cloudy and a bit chilly by San Deigo standards

Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 103 - Epic 'V10 Sport' - HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!

This was the last boat I paddled way back in April before I started the 100 Boats Challenge. On that day it was already the 100th day I'd paddled in the year, today was the 206th. I was tempted to take the V10 out on the ocean to try to catch some swell but instead I opted for my workout run around Fiesta Island inside Mission Bay. It had been a long time since I timed myself around the island so I wanted to see how things would go. Ultimately I didn't even get close to my best time on the seven mile loop. After picking up a gob of sea grass on the boat's rudder and stopping to clear it, I ran into a friend on the back side of the island and stopped again to chat for a couple minutes. Both stops, and so much time away from the surf ski, slowed me quite a bit but it was still a fun run.

This Sport model is similar wider than the other V10's in Epic's line up which allows folks that are new to surf skis (me included) to feel more stable and confidant than they would in a super narrow racing ski. This boat isn't near as fast as it's narrower siblings but it's fast enough for me to enjoy a nice workout on the bay once and a while. As today's experience showed, weed cutter in front of the rudder would be a nice feature.

V10 Sport Review

Manufacturer = Epic
Brand = Epic
Model = V10 Sport
Type = Surf Ski
Material = Fiberglass
Length = 20'-0"
Width = 19"
Weight = 37 lbs.

Location = Mission Bay - Fiesta Island Loop
Time = 6:00 AM
Distance = aprox 7 miles
Duration = 1:20
Avg. Speed = N/A
Conditions = Partly cloudy and pleasant

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 102 - Necky 'Looksha 12 Si'

About 32 people joined us on the bay tonight for our Thursday Evening Paddle. With that number of people I thought we'd be moving at a slow pace but the group moved along nicely enabling us to sneak up behind Sea World to catch the end (and behind the stage view) of their "Circ de la Mar" show. From there we continued on around Vacation Island then back to our docks at Aqua Adventures.

I'm still working my way through all the boats on our dock so tonight I chose the Looksha 12 Si from Necky to take along for the tour. It's a relatively wide and short day touring boat which, not unexpectedly, provided a comfortable and stable ride with easy maneuverability. The kayak also tracked well enough and I had no problem keeping up with the group. This is a confidence inspiring kayak that would fit anybody my size (5'-10" 160#) or smaller. If you're looking for a boat that will enable you to cruise comfortably and see the sights on relatively placid water this would be a good pick. But if you have any aspirations of advancing your skills and taking on more challenging conditions you may consider something else.

Looksha 12 Si Review

Manufacturer = Johnson Outdoors
Brand = Necky
Model = Looksha 12 Si
Type = Day Touring
Material = Plastic
Length = 12'-1"
Width = 25"
Weight = 49 lbs.

Location = Aqua Adventures "Thursday Evening Paddle"
Time = 6:00 PM
Distance = aprox 5 miles
Duration = 2:00
Avg. Speed = N/A
Conditions = Partly cloudy and pleasant

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 101 - SKUK 'Romany S' fiberglass

The 100 consecutive days has ended, in fact yesterday was the first day since March 29th (and the 7th day in 2009) that I didn't paddle anything at all. Add it all up and I've already paddled over 203 days this year alone. There are still a bunch of boats in the Aqua Adventures' fleet that I want to paddle, so if I'm going to paddle more boats, I see no reason to stop blogging at 100. The difference from the 100 days challenge is that I'm now paddling whatever I feel like paddling whenever I feel like paddling it. However, when the opportunity to paddle something new comes my way I figure I'll give it a try and post my experiences.

This morning (my arms rested from the one day off from paddling) I joined the "Wednesday Morning Group" which featured Neil sporting a new hat (inside joke). The boat of the day was the Romany S in fiberglass known around here as the "John Deer" boat, mainly because of the fact that it's green with yellow trim and more because we put John Deer logos on it. This boat is a treat to paddle, very responsive, comfortable (as long as you stay off the but chomper seat back) and quick enough to keep up with the group this morning. I wouldn't pick this boat for long crossings or if I was the type that focused on lots of long distance paddling. But as a day paddling or weekend camping boat, the Romany is hard to beat. The 'S' model is a bit roomier than the regular Romany which makes it a bit looser than I prefer but I still feel solid in this boat. Anybody a few inches and pounds bigger than my 5'-10" 160# will fit this boat like a glove.

Romany S Review

Manufacturer = SKUK (formerly NDK)
Model = Romany S
Type = Touring
Material = Fiberglass
Length =16' 0"
Width = 22"

Location = Mission Bay - Wednesday Morning Paddle
Time = 7:00 AM
Distance = Aprox. 4 miles
Duration = 1:30
Avg. Speed = N/A
Conditions = Warm, calm, partly cloudy

Saturday, July 25, 2009

*Day 100 - Necky 'Manitou Sport'

The surf is big in Southern California right now. That's why, despite the fact that I didn't get to bed till nearly midnight last night, I got up at 4:30 this morning in order to get out on the waves before work. Paul and I took advantage of the low tide this morning and headed down to Sunset Cliffs at a break called "Garbage". It was running pretty well and we enjoyed some screaming fast rides on waves that were well overhead. The size of the waves, and tremendous power they seemed to carry, left me feeling a little humbled. Consequently, I didn't feel quite confidant enough to do many cutbacks or moves instead I pretty much dropped in and ran for my life toward the shoulder before getting caught in the massive chundering pile closing in behind me.

I knew I'd need speed to play on waves this big so I brought my Mega Airforce along with me this morning. Seems how it's my favorite surf boat and tales of surfing big waves are very exciting, it would make sense to review my Mega for the 100th day of the 100 days challenge. However, folks that have been keeping track will know that I already reported on the Airforce a few weeks back. So when a great group of friends stopped by today to congratulate me on the completion of the 100 boats challenge (complete with a creatively decorated giant cookie) it was, in fact, a bit of a pre-celebration because I still needed to get in another boat for an hour to make it official. I told everyone that I figured I'd go out after work in a nice graceful touring boat like the Romany S or the like. However, after a long, hot, busy work day, when I realized that we had six people signed up for a fireworks tour launching at 8:30, I didn't have the energy to fuss with a special boat so I once again drew from the bag-o-boats and came out with the spunky little 'Manitou Sport'.

This was the first I'd ever been in this 10'-11" recreational kayak and I didn't know if it would be able to keep up with the three tandems full of clients that I launched for the tour, but I was in charge so they could only go as fast as me anyway. Ultimately speed wasn't an issue as we ended up with the typical mysterious couple that couldn't seem to make an 18' touring tandem move above a coasting speed. So it was at that leisured pace that we cruised the bay up behind Sea World to watch their nightly fireworks show. Not surprisingly the Sport turned on a dime but I was pleased to discover that for such a short boat it tracks quite well. In addition, unlike so many recreational boats, the Manitou Sport has a cockpit opening that allows for some knee to deck connection which makes the boat feel more stable and puts the paddler more in control.

Manitou Sport Review

Manufacturer = Johnson Outdoors
Brand = Necky
Model = Manitou Sport
Type = Recreational
Material = Plastic
Length = 10'-11"
Width = 26.5"
Weight = 44 lbs.

Location = Mission Bay - Fireworks Tour
Time = 8:30 PM
Distance = About 4.5 miles
Duration = 2:00
Avg. Speed = N/A
Conditions = Calm, clear, and warm

Friday, July 24, 2009

*Day 99 - "Vic's" SUP Board

Forgive me for not having the proper name and specs for this SUP board. All I've ever known it as is Vic's board. It belongs to one of our SUP coaches who stores it here on our dock. I've never taken the time to acquaint myself with exactly what brand it is and since arriving on a plane at 9:30 last night I haven't had time to check into it.

It was 9:30 PM when our plane landed after flying in from the east coast. By the time we got picked up and I made it down to the Aqua Adventure's dock it was nearly 11:00. Even with the help of time zones I was cutting it close to get my hour of paddling in to make it on the 99th consecutive day. I had paddled a Malibu II SOT that we still had a the North Carolina beach house in the morning mostly so I could experience the novelty of paddling both Atlantic and Pacific waters in the same day. But in order to make it count I needed to paddle something else. Whenever I don't want to have to fuss with much gear, and when I want to stay dry, I go with a standup board. So with that in mind I grabbed our friend's standup board and headed out for a quick hour long tour of the bay.

The board was plenty stable and I set a nice easy pace as I visited the Barefoot Bar dock then went across to the Mission Bay Yacht club where I watched the crew there clean up after a wedding reception. From there I stopped to let the Bahia Bell paddle wheeler pass by on it's way back into Santa Barbara cove before I headed back to our dock.

Vic's SUP Board Review

Manufacturer= x
Brand (shaper) = x
Model = x
Type = SUP
Material = x
Length = x
Width = x
Thickness = x
Weight = x lbs.

Location = Mission Bay - Barefoot bar to Yacht Club and back
Time = 10:45 PM
Distance = About 3 miles
Duration = 1:00
Avg. Speed = N/A
Conditions = Flat calm and warm