Archive for the ‘Kayaks’ Category

I love history, and I find comfort in nature.  That is why I backpack, camp, hike, kayak, and rock climb.  This blog is usually about kayaking.  And more and more people are asking and writing about kayaks from Greenland.

Most common misconceptions…

  • I thought all Greenland kayaks were the same.
  • Greenland style is the best type of kayak

I think these misconceptions come from romantic ideas about the history, use, or design of the qajaq.

The qajaq (kayak) in Greenland is a weapon, it’s main purpose was to safely assist the hunter in the easiest possible route to the largest amount of meat in the least amount of time.  Today, with the advent of motorized boats, snowmobiles, and guns,  the new purpose of the qajaq is to make money off of tourists while keeping true to what it means to be a native Greenlander.

I have learned how to throw a traditional style harpoon from my kayak.  And doing so has helped me to better explore the mysteries of traditional hunting  (I will expand on this in a future post).  The kayak (and canoe) is a water craft that has been refined over generations to be a silent stalker of food.  And being in one does provide a paddler with an unparalleled intimacy with the water.  The boat and the paddle technology is very advanced and well thought out  (I will expand on the paddle in a future post).

All Greenland kayaks are not the same.

EAST: The East Greenland coastline is at times hemmed in by a lot of ice.  This makes the seas frequently calm.  To efficiently hunt on calm seas men made their boats with as low of a profile as possible.  The low deck profile (deck is almost level from bow to stern) has  strong sloped sides converging on a narrow almost flat bottom and has a minimal rocker.  These features combined makes it track well; there by, the design made it easier to closely approach and kill aquatic mammals. But this design does not excel in rough water.  The low bow allows a lot of water to come up on the deck and the straight keel along the bow gives it a tendency to spear into waves unlike the style of kayaks paddled on the west side of Greenland.  The features of the low deck and minimal rocker makes this design loved by modern paddlers who like to roll.  It is a style that makes it easy to explore the degrees of wetness and relax on the edge of the water.

Pictured above look at how close the deck (front and back) is to the water.  Below is a picture of me practicing a balance brace in an East Greenland style qajaq)

WEST: With the wind and current on the west of  Greenland, the coastline rarely experiences a calm day from Baffin Bay to Davis Strait. Consequently, speed and being safe in rough water was needed in the kayak to quickly harpoon dinner, and this is evident in the boat design.  West Greenland qajaqs are  characterized by a high front deck and flat low stern deck with up sweeping ends, hard chines, and a pronounced “v” bottom.  With the heavily rockered bow and stern this style of kayak will effortlessly aid the paddler to edge the bow into the wind.  This is an asset when it comes to stalking prey in rough water.  It puts the hunter down wind and makes him less visible to their prey.  For modern paddlers the heavily rockered style and low volume makes it well suited design for playing in waves and carving in surf.  If there is too much rocker the design may not be efficient for modern paddlers needs during extended expeditions / trips .  This is dependent on the paddler’s weight and the amount of gear loaded in the kayak. Curiously, the hard chine  that helps to carve in waves  and into the wind also aids the paddler to effectively edge the  sea kayak, by shifting in their seat to the left or right, thereby experiencing  minor to no weathercocking problems.

Pictured above is a NDK Greenlander Pro.  Pictured below, Sean is sitting in a CLC Shearwater 17 West Greenland inspired style kayak

Then there is the additional variables to design.  Hunters always modify their kit according to what they perceive as what is innovative.  And that is why the picture below has so many variations of traditional qajaqs from Greenland to Alaska.

A Greenland kayak is simply a kayak made to fit the water conditions, to fit the body of the paddler, and satisfy the needs of the person in Greenland.

Greenland style is not necessarily the best type nor the only type of kayak

What?  Yes you read it correctly… The best type of kayak is the one that fits the water, fits the body, and fits the purpose of why the paddler is on the water.      – Jeff

PS.   Check out the Crowhurst’s website CNC Kayaks on some plans and advice on building your own kayak.  Nick and Christopher are enthusiastic and passionate about Greenland design and philosophy.   cnckayaks.com

Sunday was one of those days that most Florida residents would say “it is a bad day to go on the water”  because…

  • we had 15 knot winds out of the west
  • seas 2 to 4 feet, with a mild chop
  • water temperature 62’F
  • overcast with light rain
  • air temperature in the low 70’s but w/ wind felt like low 60’s
  • 9:18am low tide
  • 3:31pm high tide

…even Sean was not up to the idea of paddling Sunday.  But I wanted to play with that NDK Greenlander Pro.  I took Russell’s kayak out on the water to see if his modifications to the cockpit would hinder my comfort.  The factory did not install the foot pegs.  Instead of foot pegs the bulkhead was moved in closer and padded with thick water repellent foam.  The boat also has the NDK high performance seat.  Russell also removed a part of the back band support to make it easier to assemble the kayak (it is a two piece kayak).  So, to give me a little support I placed my first aid kit behind the seat and placed my sleeping pad on top of it.

I was on the water for about five hours sprinting and edging all over the inter-coastal waterway.  I have been feeling a little rusty with my edging and the days weather was a great way to erase my rust.  Also as of late, I have just focused on endurance.  Slow and steady is good but I wanted to develop and challenge my muscles by maintaining a higher than normal speed.

Russell had the bulkhead moved closer and with the added padding on the bulkhead made for a fun experience.  I could shifting my weight and position my foot anywhere and remain in contact with the boat.  My feet were very happy with the lack of foot pegs.  I did several 20 to 30 minute sprints in an attempt to maintain a speed of 5.5 too 6 miles per hour.  I found it easy to maintain that speed.  Moreover, there was no discomfort pressing into the foam with my feet.  Foot pegs sometimes cause discomfort on the ball of my foot during dynamic movements.  And my body felt great and flowed unrestricted with in the cockpit.

I knew that nearby was a kayak trail hidden in a cluster of mangroves.  So I took the opportunity to explore my ability of boat control.  Mangrove tunnels are the Florida equivalent to a slalom course.  Granted a paddler may end up with more than a two-second time penalty for touching a mangrove pole.  The trees could actually take your paddle, that is why some people use a canoe paddle within mangroves.  Beyond that, the hard chine of that NDK boat carved the water like it was soft butter.

The water was low and slow as I paddled in the mangroves.  I even took a moment to pose for a picture.  It was a challenge to tie my camera to a tree limb and paddled backwards before the camera’s timer went off.  But most notably it was very quiet.  No sounds from birds, insects, crabs, water, or even the wind.  This was unsettling in a way for in the inter coastal water way the wind howled and the water spat.

Inside the dense mangroves I did come across several birds.   I only got a picture of one.  And it was statue like.  I took a few pictures then paddled out into the wind.

From there I paddled to an island to stretch my legs and put on a shell.  The wind was 90′ to my port side. With a little edging I paddled this sea kayak with no weathercocking.  I did not even need the skeg.  For a West Greenland design the chine of the kayak makes it a rock solid expedition kayak.

I got to the island in record time.  But before I got out of the kayak I discovered a horseshoe.  I have seen several horseshoe crabs but never a horseshoe!  How it got there is anyone’s guess.  I thought it was a lucky omen for the Steelers.  But I guess the team played like they were soaking their heals in saltwater.  Rust. Rust. Rust.

Never the less, it was a great day to be on the water.  And the Steelers will shine next year – Jeff

This past weekend I visited Sweetwater Kayaks and played with five kayaks.  I want to thank Russell for letting me play with each boat.  Most retailers are quick to sell products.  And Russell is very accommodating.

I am 175 lb,  5′ 11″ tall, 30″ waist with a 32″ in-seem, my arms are 6′ 1″ long with a size 9.5 shoe.  The day I paddled the wind was gusting between 15 to 20 miles per hour with a slow incoming tide.  I chose to paddle in a triangular route to test these kayaks over a one mile course.  I focused on paddling with out the skeg forward and backward on this triangular course and used bow draws, stern draws, and low braces to test the turning capabilities.  I added no extra gear into the kayaks.  And used a Scottish made 215cm Lendel Paddle with Archipelago blades.

  • Greenlander Pro, NDK
    • fish form, rock solid with no weather cocking, lot of knee room – I would need to add knee and under thy padding, comfortable seat and back strap, little rocker, slow to turn up wind with a low brace, moderate turning up wind with a bow rudder.  With a little edging this is a sea kayak with no weathercocking
  • Anas Acuta, Valley Sea Kayaks
    • Swede form, moderate weather cocking, snug knee room – no extra padding is needed, I would want a different seat, I liked the back strap, rocker, easy to turn up wind with a low brace,
  • Nordkapp LV, Valley Sea Kayaks
    • Swede form, slight weather cocking, moderate knee room – it would need some padding under my thys.  It has a comfortable seat and back strap, rocker, easy to turn up wind with a low brace,
  • Cetus LV, P&H Sea Kayaks
    • Swede form, slippery lots of weather cocking, knee room is perfect like wearing a pair of pants – no additional padding is necessary, comfortable seat and back strap, rocker, easy to turn up wind with a low brace, I had some problems getting the skeg to fully deploy,
  • Scorpio LV, P&H Sea Kayaks
    • Swede form, slippery lots of weather cocking, knee room is perfect like wearing a pair of pants, comfortable seat and back strap, rocker, easy to turn up wind with a low brace,

I have ruled out the Nordkapp LV because of the higher volume deck. The Nordkapp LV deck just looks odd when I sat in its cockpit.  I already own a plastic Chatham 17 by Necky Kayaks; thus, I am ruling out the Scorpio.  Currently I am looking for a little more play in my future kayak.  So the Greenlander Pro is dropping to the number three position.  However, if I was doing a major expedition I would most definitely want the rock solid paddling experience of the Greenlander Pro.  So, that leaves the brand new Cetus LV competing with the tried, true, classic Anas Acuta.

My next demo will be to load the Cetus LV, Anas Acuta, and Greenlander Pro with a weeks worth of gear.  I will be doing this sometime in January.  It will be interesting to see how they handle with gear.  I also plan on putting them through the ringer with Greenland rolls and braces.

Your ideas are always appreciated – Jeff

Update: January 24, 2011 “Test Paddling NDK Greenlander Pro

I had a great time at the Chesapeak Light Craft: Florida Demo Saturday.

clc-night-heron-jeff-april-4-2009Out of the available kayaks, my favorite all purpose kayak is the Night Heron Stitch & Glue. I was able to turn it 190′ with no effort using a bow-rudder. I felt stable in it and it is fast!

relaxing

relaxing

I would still like to play in the CLC Petrel, CLC Greenland Night Heron, and the CLC Aleutesque.

I think I may enjoy the CLC Matunuk Surf Kayak. I really need to demo one in a three foot surf.

—Jeff