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2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:31 pm
I'm going to buy a sea kayak this year to supplement my whitewater kayak and canoe fleet. I've done a bit of research and thought I'd decided on a composite NS Atlantic, but....then plastic started creeping into my mind. Obviously there's a significant price difference and that matters but I have put aside the money for the composite so that's not the driving factor. It's durability that's the driving factor. Let me explain....

I live in Aberdeen but I'm from Newfoundland (NL) and may well return there this year. That's a rocky, rocky place. I intend to paddle on large lochs/lakes and the sea but every landing (certainly in NL) is going to be on cobbles if I'm lucky and worse if I'm not. I don't want a flexy, oilcany thing but I gather improvements have been made. I also understand that the plastic sea kayaks of my youth, which were largely for complete novices with huge primary stability and not much else still exist but so do 'proper' boats. I'll be doing some multi-day but not muti-week trips.

Also worth mentioning that if I relocate back to Canada this year, this thing it going to go in a shipping container with all my other worldly goods and cross the Atlantic as I have (perhaps unfounded) fears of opening the container in Canada to find £k GBP of mangled Kevlar.

For plastics, I'm thinking:
  • NS Atlantic RM
    P&H Scorpio(MKII)
    Prijon SkegYak (seems interesting....)
Anyone have direct comparisons between the above boats or any experience with a Prijon SkegYak (hard to get data on those)?

Also, if you think that I'm overly concerned about the durability of the composite, say so.

Happy New Year

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:40 pm
by Jim
I think you are being overly concerned about composite construction.

Just because the beach is made up of stones/cobbles/rocks doesn't mean you are going to break your boat every time you get in or out, unless of course your egress technique is to paddle fast at the beach to try and get your boat as far out of the water as possibe? You may find you often set out with wet feet from wading into ankle deep water to try and get in afloat (I find placing the cockpit next to a rock you can put your hand on for support whilst climbing in and out works for me). With a whitewater background you are probably reasonably proficient at climbing in and out from steep banks/large rocks, no reason you can't do that with a sea kayak too, if you can find a suitable feature that you can float alongside. Obviously if you expect to always be launching and landing in rough conditions where these techniques aeren't possible you may have a little more to worry about.

Composite boats can be quite tough, even when the gel coat chips the actually laminate often remains intact, and when it does finally split, repair is relatively simple.

I made a slight error of judgement on Christmas eve in my WWR (lightly constructed race boat). I was on the river Ewe and knew the rapid under the bridge at the takeout is tidal, but I'd forgotten to check the tides (got up late, running out of time) and gets much harder at lower water levels when more rocks are uncovered. Being on my own, I park at the take out, walk upstream for 15-20 minutes unti lthe river flattens off, and then paddle up to the loch (about 20 minutes) before turning round and paddling back to the car, including the rapids, at race speed (another 20 minutes). I had seen the water level was low and the final rapid didn't appear feasible on the right due to some ledges being uncovered but it looked like there was a narrow slot on the left that was deep enough all the way down to the sea. I decided not to run it and started walking. By the time I had walked and paddled to start my descent, I had decided that I hadn't seen the river (which I don't know very well) so low before, and that the tide was probably coming back in - after all I was going to arrive an hour after I'd left. I was still going to stop above the bridge. The descent went fairly well except I tapped the tail running one of the rapids/weirs above the bridge (long skinny boats often smack the last foot of the stern on pourovers that shorter boats glide smoothly over) and as I got to my finish point I changed my mind and steered for the left of the final rapid. I didn't quite get far enough left- that channel down the first steep bit was closer to the bank than I thought, there was an obvious rock sticking up that I slid to the right of, which I should have been left of (after looking again afterwards), which meant I slid over a couple of smooth barely covered boulders before dropping into the channel (another tail tap). Once in the channel I thought I needed to turn 70 degrees left as I got to the bridge, in fact the water coming down the left channel (spilling off the first ledge) made the turn for me, and then some - I quickly realised I had turned more than 90 degrees in a confined channel, in a boat with limited manouevrability (edge steering like a sea kayak) still travelling close to race pace. I edged hard and put in a couple of big left sweeps but it was too little too late, I just kept the speed up as the bow crashed into the left rock wall and the stern slid downstream past it tipping me. Fearful that the boat would not fit sideways in the channel I must have started ejecting before I realised it was still moving and tried to roll because I was half out of the seat and failed. As I swam up next to the boat, we dropped down the final ramp into the final stopper and I briefly lost contact with the boat before swimming back to it, and to the shore, where I ended up agaisnt a cliff perched on a rock, first curling and then see-sawing the boat to get it nearly empty before climbing back in to find a better place to egress. What had actually happened was that low tide was within 5 minutes of when I actually ran the rapid, at it's most difficult! Oops!
At this point I knew I would have some repairs to do, but walked up and over the bridge to the car, changed, had an initial look over the boat and was surprised how little damage I found. There was a 2-3" 'scrape' on the bow where it hit the wall - right through the outer layer of carbon/kevlar, but this is a relatively highimpact area that had been repaired before, and it did not look as though the filler underneath where I had reshaped it previously was damaged enough to leak. At the stern there were about 3 splits from the tail taps, the longest about 4 or 5" long - these are again common damages for these kind of boats and were actually splits in a repair I did in Switzerland last year. I ran my hand over the hull around the cockpit area, there were some scrapes, but I couldn't feel any obvious splits. In fact a few days later (after I had repaired the ends) I noticed the split from inside the boat just in front of the seat - it had barely been weeping and I had been training at Grandtully in high water so was expecting a bit of seepage through my spray deck and cag anyway. Really nothing serious and again very easy to repair on the inside, and I just filled the scrapes on the outside including the one that corresponded to the split. Today it was perfectly dry again, apart from one wet foot print from me getting in!
Bearing in mind the boat is much more lightly constructed than any sea kayak, and the speed I ran over the boulders and then hit the wall at, I would have expected to need much more extensive repairs, I still think I was lucky it did fit down the channel sideways because that would have broken it in half I'm sure, but even so don't understimate the resilience of a composite boat.
Finally, I rememered as I was carrying my boat back to the car that I have rock guards in the car to use when training on rocky rivers but had forgotten to fit them (simple carbon/kevlar shoe that is moulded over the bow and stern that you can tape in place for training and remove for racing) - if I'd had them on, the bow and stern impacts would have probably only damaged them and not the boat. Most people don't use them on sea kayaks (I have one for the bow of my Taran) but a lot of people do fit a sacrificial strip of glass or kevlar tape as a keel strip, or use keeleasy for the same job - again something like that would normally take the damage rather than the boat.

I like composite boats and may be slightly biased.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:40 pm
by andynormancx
Plastic sea boats are definitely more rigid than they used to be. And there are plenty of plastic boats that have similar/same designs as composite boats.

However, they do still feel very different to composite boats. If you jump out of a plastic one and into a composite one (even of exactly the same design) you can immediately feel the different in stiffness and weight.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:54 pm
by Chris Bolton
If it's likely you'll be going back to Canada soon, I'd buy a second hand (used) composite boat, paddle it in the UK and sell it when you leave; you'll lose little if anything when you sell. Then use your experience with that boat to decide what to buy in Canada.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:40 pm
Good responses here and I thank you for your input. Regarding selling the boat and replacing it in Canada, it's a sensible idea except that there's greater choice here in the UK than there is in my part of the country. Were I moving to British Columbia, it'd be another matter.

You're talking me back into the composite....

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:35 pm
by charleston14
Glass is class but plastic is fantastic.

I don’t worry about dings in a plastic sea kayak, or dropping it off my roof rack, or scapey beach launches, general clumsiness, accidentally reversing onto it, rescue practice etc etc.

Bottom line for me is I just wanted to have fun, I think with a composite boat I’d enjoy the crisper responses of a glass hull but probably fret more about scuffs dings and what have you.

I’m probably not good enough to really benefit that much from a glass boat anyway.

As for stiffness, you can get quality plastic sea kayaks, triple layer etc etc, that are not too floppy, and even the floppy single layer ones are still stiffer than skin on frame sea kayaks.. just depends what you like I guess.

In my club the plastic valley etain is quite popular.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:27 pm
by foxtrot
As a solo paddler I endorse Charleston 4's advice. I, too, simply want to paddle and have fun, I made the decision to have a plastic Atlantic because it would take a lot of punishment - it has. However, I do not have the worry of repairs or of being ever so precious about launching, landing or exploring interesting but ever so rocky shorelines.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:26 pm
by Chris Bolton
OK, accepting that you want a boat you can take back to Canada, this is my take on plastic v composite - tending to composite but trying to be balanced.

Are you likely to have to carry it to and from the water on your own? An unloaded composite sea kayak is about the limit of what I feel I can carry without risking injury (but I might be bit older than you) - plastic kayaks are significantly heavier.

Plastic is much better at resisting impacts, but it actually wears faster than composite. You mention cobbles on the beaches; if you mean smooth rounded stones say 10cm across, a composite boat slides over them easily - yes, it scratches the gelcoat, but it doesn't do any real damage. A friend of mine has paddled the same composite kayak most weekends for 3 or 4 years and will seal launch down cobbles without batting an eyelid. Sharp, jagged rocks are a different matter, but they'll gouge plastic as well. I know people who do worry about scratching their composite boats, but I think it's more because they want them to look nice and hold their resale value than because they will become unserviceable. I buy a boat I like the design of and keep it 20 years, and most of my paddling is done with camping kit in the boat (so even if you get out in deep water you still have to drag it onto the beach), so I just accept it will get scratches and may need a keel strip after 10 years.

If you have the skills, composite boats are very repairable by yourself; plastic boats are not, particularly in the field. If there's a shortage of boats to buy in Newfoundland, is there also a shortage of places to repair them?

Will you be able to store it under cover? While UV affects polythene and composites, I think polythene is more vulnerable.

I don't know much about packing shipping containers, but I do have a very lightweight open canoe that was made in N America and shipped over. My guess is that most items will be crated, so provided the boat is crated, or there are good struts to keep adjacent crates off it, it should be fine. But a composite boat would suffer more if it was crushed; when we took our composite kayaks on the ferry to the Hebrides, fully loaded, the ferry loadmaster asked if it was OK to stack them on top of each other - no way!

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:29 am
by mcgruff
What about an Epic V6 surfski? I've started getting interested in open cockpits on the grounds that being able to instantly leap on/off the boat should be a big help with handling - and dings - at the water's edge.

The V6 is a hybrid design rather than a highly-specialised surfski and has a storage capacity of almost 175l. On paper, it looks like it's fast & fun when empty; an expedition boat when full.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:03 am
I don’t think I’m going to do anything as radical as get a sit on top, though I bet they’re quick.

Doesn’t seem the a SkegYak is easily procured here in the UK until May, which is later than I hoped. I think the blow-moulded Prijon might be interesting.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:48 pm
by swagstaff
Sea Kayak Oban have secondhand Northshore Ocean 17.6 for £1250 and Tiderace Xplore for £1100 and brand new atlantic composite for £2290 and in kevlar for £2650. In january and February they often deliver to perth area.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:47 pm
Plastic or composite?
I have purchased plastic seakayak only once and swapped for composite version in less than one year. Difference in performance was too big, I couldn’t get used to it.
Some composite seakayaks are quite fragile however well built composite boat should be able to take some serious beating without sustaining much damage.
Personally I’m using composite seakayaks same way I would use plastic.

Here is short video from paddling between sharp Jersey granite rocks.

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 4:33 pm
Thanks to everyone for the replies. That last video from MYSSAK just about convinced me. I think I'll sleep on it and then pull the trigger on a composite boat tomorrow. Always the chance I wake up in cold sweats as I dream of it getting obliterated on the rocks!

Re: 2019 Plastic Kayak Options or just go composite?

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:03 pm
To close out, I bought a NS Atlantic in Kevlar. Thanks for all the advice. I felt better informed in making the purchase.