Some questions about tandem kayaks

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Gordon Gilzean
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Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Thu Nov 28, 2019 1:44 am

Hi everyone I have a few questions I'd like to ask you all about tandem kayaks as I've not had the chance to paddle one or know anyone who has own to try it out, long story short I have been kayaking for a while now joined a club and have been on lots of trips in conditions upto force 4 and 20 plus miles in a days paddle and I am absolutely loving my new hobby, the problem is my fiancée isn't a very confident paddler and doesn't feel safe in a boat herself in anything other than flat calm conditions on inland waters so taking her out on the sea on club trips isn't really safe and she would only feel uncomfortable doing it, she enjoys short paddles on flat water but feels she is missing out on seeing some of the places I have got to see by doing the bigger trips, what I'd like to know is if I have decent kayak control and the sea was to get a bit rough, say force 3 - 4 would it be possible for me to take full control of the kayak with my fiancée up front without her having to do anything, ie could I perform a high brace on my own and keep the two of us upright and worse case roll the two of us back up from a capsize by myself? and also is it much harder to paddle if she needs a break and I have to paddle the two of us a decent distance to keep up with the group? Thank you for reading and all advice in advance

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by twopigs » Thu Nov 28, 2019 9:22 am

Deep questions about your relationship ......

I would say everything is possible - but your other half needs to be able to trust you to judge the conditions as suitable for her to enjoy herself and to look after her. Yes you could roll back up without help from her - but will she react in a co-operative manner? It won't be helpful if she bails while you are rolling.

I know you'll say "Of course it will work" but I'd suggest taking a small step back and paddling tandem in her comfort zone and then slowly expanding that zone ..... perhaps even taking her on trips with coaches and guides to help build that confidence.

And remember - the group should stay together and paddle at the pace of the slowest member - and if that is you with your other half having a rest - so be it ......

Good luck
Canoeing - bigger boat, broken paddle, more skill!

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Thu Nov 28, 2019 10:40 am

Thanks very much that's reassuring to know it can work, I definitely would be paddling tandem in the calmer stuff for a few trips first to get both of us used to the kayak and slowly progress into more conditions as she feels safer, she says she trusts me in a kayak as she's came down to watch at rivers and surfing but that could very easily change if she is in the boat lol that's true I hadn't thought that but it's true the group does slow down to the slowest paddler I suppose it's just no one wants to be that paddler that holds people back, it would be great if there was somewhere to hire them out for the day

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by DaveB » Thu Nov 28, 2019 11:06 am

A roll could/might work with only you rolling but the chance of your fiancee having the confidnece to stay calm and let you do the roll in "real" conditions is very small unless she and you have practiced tihs first in benign conditions. Just doing "the calmer stuff for a few trips" is unlikely to make you a roll-proficient pair. Practice rolling and deep wtaer re-entry in easy conditions beofore taking your fiancee out in difficult water.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by DaveB » Thu Nov 28, 2019 11:08 am

CHeck out your local clubs to see if they have double sea boats in their fleets.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Jim » Thu Nov 28, 2019 11:56 am

Without knowing how strong and confident a kayaker you are, it is impossible to say exactly for you and your fiancee, but in general terms, yes all you are asking about is feasible, other people do them. (but not me, I've been in tandem river kayaks but not for many years).

I used to paddle with a friend who would bring relative beginners on trips in a tandem, I never saw him need to roll it but having rolled tandem river kayaks I reckon if you teach your fiancee to tuck up forwards and keep her head down on the deck, a strong roller will have no problems rolling a double on their own, with the other person still in it. It often works better than both trying to roll because you never end up rolling on opposite sides and just lifting the boat off the water to the amusement of anyone watching! Tandem sea kayak may not roll as easily as tandem river kayak though, so try before committing to that!
Now I think about it I once paddled a tandem river kayak with that friend and blew his mind with respect to where we could get to on a rapid in it, certainly places he had never even thought to attempt to get to on his own.

As for the group moving at the pace of the slowest paddler, my friend's tandem was not actually a sea kayak but a plastic touring tandem kayak (Prijon excursion or expedition or something?) which is much shorter and inherently slower than a tandem sea kayak, nevertheless even with a relatively inexperienced paddler up front, it would easily out-pace solo sea kayaks, so if you do go for a double it will most likely be you doing the slowing down to the pace of the slowest member of the group!

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by PeterG » Thu Nov 28, 2019 5:02 pm

We have a double Triton, very stable -hard to imagine a capsize even when surfing-, very fast even with one person doing most of the work, easily outstrips all the others if we both work together and it is too easy to be tempted by the speed!

Easy to right with one person stabilising while the other slips in and then using the paddle for stability for the second person to slip in. Also relatively easy to roll, the front person can either keep themselves tucked hard against the deck or assist at the very end with paddle or just moving their head. Our automatic rolls are on opposite sides, I'm usually at the back and initiate a roll on my offside, my wife finishes off. Our protocol is for her to wait tucked forward until she feels which side we are coming up on, just in case I revert to my favourite side.

However, we generally paddle our own single boats....

Transport and carrying, ours is a 2 piece so not really a problem, just bolt it together at the waters edge, but we have used a one piece, very long and heavy off the water. It can be hard to maintain a straight course in windy rough conditions even with the rudder. Tight turns are better with the rudder up and plenty of edge -just decide ahead if you are edging in or out! and who will be ready with a brace if you over-cook it.

The front seat can be wet and intimidating in a bumpy sea or if surfing. On a standing wave the front person can be half submerged. It feels just great at the back! You wonder what the complaints are about.

We have also borrowed a Rainbow Atlantis when abroad, this was much better than the hire single plastic boats on offer as we could keep up with local paddlers in their own composite boats, also perfect for photos, nature watching.

As someone said, check out your local clubs they have probably got one you could try. Our club has a plastic double, doesn't get much use, but is good for a nervous beginner or those recovering from injury to still enjoy a day out.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by pugwash » Thu Nov 28, 2019 5:38 pm

I understand doubles are called divorce boats n the US, just saying...

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Jim » Thu Nov 28, 2019 6:25 pm

pugwash wrote:
Thu Nov 28, 2019 5:38 pm
I understand doubles are called divorce boats n the US, just saying...
That's in racing doubles!

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:47 pm

I really appreciate all your help here i think the tandem could be a good option for us, I'll still have my own boat aswell for other trips, I can testify to the divorce boat lol we first got a tandem inflatable which was great fun just a nightmare in wind but very safe and stable, at the beginning though there was a lot of blaming and name calling lol we got through that though and it became a lot smoother

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Take it easy.....

Post by nickcrowhurst » Fri Nov 29, 2019 6:00 pm

Gordon, I have considerable reservations about your plan. My experience of sixty years of observing similar situations in sea kayaking, white-water kayaking, mountaineering and rock-climbing is that when you think of a planned outing with a nervous beginner, you should halve the planned severity, commitment and length of time.
If you give a beginner a fright then the effects are likely to be long-lasting and a problem in any future relationship. I am concerned at your mention of " a lot of blaming and name calling." All those pursuits I have mentioned can rapidly turn from a pleasant day out to a terrifying nightmare for someone lacking in experience, skills and maturity.
I believe a tandem kayak is a great solution for you both, but I recommend that your trips are very conservative in time and mileage, and are on very sheltered waters. There are wonderful trips to be had in estuaries and lakes without going anywhere that a roll could conceivably be required. The thought of expecting your partner to deal with an unexpected roll in a tandem has me shaking my head.
Over the past 56 years I have gently introduced my wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to these wonderful pursuits, and, with my wife, have written and published the sea kayaking guide to 16 sea trips in part of the the Gulf of Mexico. I thus have a basis for my opinions.
We have used a Wilderness Systems Northstar tandem, which has a lot of rocker and a rudder, both important when one paddler is stronger and more experienced. It also has a huge amount of space for camping gear and water. We later used a Current Designs Double Vision for day trips when not camping. The Northstar is so stable that, on one trip in the Gulf, an island where we were headed had not appeared on the horizon as expected. I stood up in the cockpit saw the island, took a hand bearing, sat down, and continued paddling. That's the sort of kayak you need.
I have seen relationships fall apart in these circumstances: for examples, a Japanese couple in the Alps, a Slovenian couple in the Julian Alps, and an English couple rock-climbing. It's usually women who suffer from the machismo of a partner.
I regard sea kayaking to be the most committing of the outdoor pursuits I have enjoyed. We all have a great responsibility to cherish the enthusiasm of those with little experience, so I suggest an extended period of gentle paddles in beautiful surroundings with a fine picnic (prepared by you!) on a beach or an island.
Nick.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Gordon Gilzean » Fri Nov 29, 2019 9:22 pm

Hi Nick thanks for that detailed reply and I do take your experience into consideration and can definitely get what your saying, when I was referring to blaming and name calling I was really just having a laugh we weren't having a domestic in the inflatable kayak lol just a bit of going all over the place untill we had a better understanding but that was both our first time ever on the water and before joining a kayak club, the last trip we went on was in separate boats on loch lomond on a calm day and just as you suggested we had lunch on an island and the trip was only about 2 - 3 miles, if we do get a tandem I would only go on calm waters and easy trips untill she gets more comfortable and work up slowly so we can go on further trips together and if conditions do arise she isn't as scared as she would be know, I wouldnt dream of pushing her comfort zone too much as putting her off the sport is the last thing I'd want to do, Its just for future knowledge I wanted to know that it is possible for me to control the boat alone if she doesn't know what to do when conditions pick up and keep us both safe as if she was in her own boat she wouldn't want to go out in those situations and if they did occur would panic and possibly end up in the water, your definitely right, we have had great days out on sheltered waters and luckily we are only a half hours drive from loch lomond, she is comfortable doing these kind of paddles in her own boat though but the tandem would ideally be to let her experience the different kind of trips like paddling over open crossings in a safer manner which she is missing out on just now, all in good time though

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by eskapist » Fri Nov 29, 2019 9:28 pm

Although I have no experience of paddling a tandem kayak yet,( it's still being built ), my wife and I have been canoeing and riding a tandem bike for many years, and since the very first outing on either we've never had any disagreement nor problems. I think that this is because each has absolute trust in the other and we are very similar in size, proportion, weight, reactions, and we both have very good balance and timing and so we coordinate well. I think that for successful and peaceful tandem activity, things have to move at the pace of, and within the capabilities of, the least experienced/capable crew member. Good luck with your tandem paddling 👍

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by nickcrowhurst » Fri Nov 29, 2019 9:38 pm

Gordon, that's good. Get a stable tandem with a rudder and you will be able to paddle it even if your partner stops paddling. Plenty of rocker gives manoeuvrability, and the rudder deals with tracking. For day paddles you don't want a big load carrier, as that would stick out of the water too far when unloaded, and be badly affected by the wind. I sit in the rear seat and exactly mimic the paddle strokes of my wife in the front. I aim for my paddle blades to hit the water at the precise same moment as hers. That way there is no clashing of paddles, no argument, and it's aesthetically pleasing. The lady in the front dictates the paddling speed and cadence, and I do the steering.
Enjoy!
Nick

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Mac50L » Sat Nov 30, 2019 1:09 am

My double did a 38 day trip round Vanua Levu, Fiji a few months after I finished it as the organiser wanted a double in the group for support if it was needed. The first trip, 4 days, straight after building it (no pretesting) was with someone I'd not paddled with before.

Rocker and stability - it is a long narrow-ish hull with virtually no rocker.

Incident (soon after I'd built it) - a group of us crossed the Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand, and stopped for a cuppa. A front came through and all that could be seen was white water and strong gusts. Part way across back to our start we stopped at an island for a few minutes and then regrouped. I had a couple of singles to be with us and they took off trying to beat the cross-strait ferry into port. We were now on our own, group-wise and when the really strong gusts came though I'd tell my teenage front paddler to simply crouch/bend down and wait and also what I'd do too. Once a gust had passed, we'd carry on paddling with wind and sea on the beam.

Behind us in another group was a friend with the mother of my paddler in a double. That double was beamy and with a lot of rocker. They got hit by a gust and steep sea and got flipped over. In exactly the same wind and seas, my narrow non-rockered double simply carried on.

My friend built my design when he got home.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by nickcrowhurst » Sat Nov 30, 2019 8:26 am

Mac, yes, of course an open water crossing of several miles during the passage of a front when "all that could be seen was white water and strong gusts" demands a different design of tandem and a different level of skill to those required for a picnic trip on Loch Lomond on a quiet day.
I presume that was the point you were making.
Nick.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Mac50L » Sat Nov 30, 2019 10:00 am

nickcrowhurst wrote:
Sat Nov 30, 2019 8:26 am
Mac, yes, of course an open water crossing of several miles during the passage of a front when "all that could be seen was white water and strong gusts" demands a different design of tandem and a different level of skill to those required for a picnic trip on Loch Lomond on a quiet day.
I presume that was the point you were making.
Nick.
Not really. If it can handle the rough water easily it will certainly handle a picnic trip. And yes, plenty of picnic trips besides multiday trips. Basically if beamy with a lot of rocker it can get blown over. If narrow (not too narrow) and little rocker it will be "lying a-hull" easily and be easy to handle in all conditions. The required skill level needed was very low because the kayak looked after the paddlers.

It is taken as standard that a rudder will be fitted as they are to most kayaks in this country. Incidentally it was the first kayak to have a 90 degree retrieval, daggerboard rudder fitted. The designer of that rudder didn't get his in the water for a month or so after I'd done my first trip with mine. Two manufacturers were making that design for a decade before KajakSport "patented" it. A decade later SeaLect "patented" it. I suspect neither patent would "hold water".
https://canterburyseakayak.wordpress.co ... rd-rudder/
https://canterburyseakayak.wordpress.com/rudder-types/

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by nickcrowhurst » Sat Nov 30, 2019 11:20 am

Mac, in my experience a tandem kayak with rocker is useful when the stern paddler is the only paddler, perhaps when the less experienced paddler in the front seat is exhausted, frightened or sea-sick. In a tandem with rocker the solo stern paddler can more easily turn up-wind with the rudder retracted if necessary, particularly if the bow paddler can be encouraged to hold the paddle blade still and steady in the water on the down-wind side of the bow in line with the keel to act as a "bow skeg" while the stern paddler does sweep strokes. Being unable to turn upwind is, of course, very dangerous.
I've taken the liberty of adding a photo from your website of your Encore tandem. It looks a beautiful area to paddle.

Image

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Mac50L » Sat Nov 30, 2019 8:31 pm

Yes, the turning. There is one design in NZ which is not easy to turn and doesn't have rocker. The problem is the flattish bottom, no grip on the water, the Southern Light. It was originally designed for a Tasman Sea crossing, Tasmania (Australia) to New Zealand.

The Encore being plywood and a minimum deadrise of 10 degrees, more at the ends, never had a lack of grip problem.

The other design with a lot of rocker and beamier was also originally a plywood and kit design, the Seabear II. They had a reputation in some rental areas as the first to capsize in bad conditions.

As for the picture, a lot of deck cargo, partly due to carrying for the rest of the group. That white bit on the hull towards the stern is reflection off the water - if anyone wondered.

The area being paddled in the picture is the Abel Tasman National Park, golden yellow beaches, bush (forest) down to the water, reasonably sheltered, very friendly seals. The youngsters often clamber on board so if a single kayak, be ready to brace. The island is Adele Island named after D'Urville's wife and he was the first European to map it. The north end of the park is Murderers Bay that Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer had trouble in. After the finding of gold it had the name changed to Golden Bay. Better naming for tourism?

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by EK Sydney » Mon Dec 02, 2019 6:29 am

We introduce new paddlers to the ocean on stable double surfskis.

They sit in the back seat, get to see when we paddle (especially downwind), and when we don't, they get to see big moving water up close without getting intimidated, and when they get their timing right the thing rocks along at 15kmh+. I've never had a more effective craft for starting people in ocean paddling, fast, unbelievably stable, well set up for a good forward paddling stroke, and easily adapted to different leg lengths etc, they don't have to keep in time, in fact if they want a rest they can stop without the speed being too badly affected.

It's not a sea kayak, but doesn't carry the anxiety a lot of new paddlers have about being trapped inside a cockpit either, it's really easy to remount and a bloody lot of fun.

The paddlers in the video are a woman (in the back with Rob) on her first ever ocean paddle, and a bloke who does a lot of marathon paddling who had only ever been outside once before. Wind is about 20-25kn, with a nice sea running, and it was 18km into, across, and then downwind.

Getting a new paddler conditioned to the ocean in a ski like this makes them a lot more confident when they hop into a sea kayak. Just a different perspective from our part of the world!


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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Mac50L » Mon Dec 02, 2019 8:00 pm

So we are again talking little or no rocker, narrow (low beam) and rudders. The rudder can designed to work from the front or back cockpit or even both (with control agreement :-). Both the surf ski and the Encore are long enough to allow out of sync paddling.

Anything can handle calm conditions, it is the less than ideal conditions where a good design wins.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by EK Sydney » Mon Dec 02, 2019 10:15 pm

Not at all. Heaps of rocker, in fact the latest and greatest ocean racing skis have a lot of rocker, as do the best fast touring sea kayaks. Modern designers have recognised that rocker and buoyancy are your best friends when things get really big and bad.

I think the old ideas that X+Y=Z in kayak design are dead and buried, proven many times over by recent designs that break all the old rules, but perform brilliantly in big water.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Mac50L » Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:35 am

EK Sydney wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 10:15 pm
Not at all. Heaps of rocker, in fact the latest and greatest ocean racing skis have a lot of rocker,
Can you quote designs?
as do the best fast touring sea kayaks.
Such as? As soon as a lot of rocker is added we start limiting the weight range. The Sea Bear I is a classic. Lots of rocker and a dog of a boat with a light paddler and no cargo.
Modern designers have recognised that rocker and buoyancy are your best friends when things get really big and bad.
Who?
I think the old ideas that X+Y=Z in kayak design are dead and buried, proven many times over by recent designs that break all the old rules, but perform brilliantly in big water.
Such as?

I've paddled a number of rockered sea kayaks and watched others paddle them too. They and I have had problems in wind. As previously mentioned, a double, the Sea Bear II with lots of rocker and buoyancy and it was always the first to capsize when low rocker kayaks carried on.

The Barracuda Beachcomber has a lot of rocker and needs a lot of weight when windy. Their latest design Barracuda Interface, has a lot less rocker.

A lot of rocker just doesn't work unless the kayak is suited to the paddler as far as weight goes. The less rocker the wider the range of paddler weight.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by EK Sydney » Tue Dec 03, 2019 1:49 am

Take a look at the Rockpool Taran, the Tiderace Pace 17, the Audax, the new Epic V10 and V12, any of the top Fenn and Carbonology surfskis, they all feature a lot of rocker, a lot of volume, all designed by different people, all of whom have arrived at the same conclusions. Granted the boats mentioned are for paddlers 75kg+, but the lower volume kayaks, designed for paddlers in the 55-80kg range (Tarantella, Pace 17S, Audax Azure, Fenn Spark) are also rockered for the same reason. These boats are a million miles from the Barracuda Beachcomber or the old Sea Bears. If this is your sample set for passing judgement on rockered designs then you're dead right, if we were still in 1995.

If you consider the Taran as an example of rule breaking, it has no V in the hull whatsoever, features a massive flat planing section, has huge rocker, is ever so slightly fish form, has a really low volume stern, a high windage bow, yet when it came along it very quickly became the best big water, fast, open water sea kayak there ever was.

Dogma like 'this boat is X therefore it will do Y' is no longer any reliable gauge on performance. I see it trotted out by sea kayakers in particular who are dead set in their ways, who haven't tried the new boats, but are very willing to offer judgement based on outdated ideas about kayak design.

A case in point the V8 double that you were convinced was rocker-less has heaps of rocker. The modern doubles that don't are a handful in the rough stuff because they don't shape into the waves as well.

I reckon if you actually paddled them you'd work that out real fast.

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Jim » Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:00 pm

OK calm down guys!
Compared to conventional 'British/Greenland' style sea kayaks the likes of the Taran may not appear to have a lot of rocker, but compared to racing style kayaks, they really do.

What many people miss is that you don't need, or necessarily want, a symmetric rocker profile - the Taran has very little rocker forward, it is almost all aft. I would say most people notice that the bow of the Taran extends much deeper than their conventional sea kayak, and maybe even notice that the stern goes all the way to the waterline too, but never spot that actual draft in the stern is almost nothing.

The rocker is not just about turning, it affects the way the water flows up from under the boat, the attitude of the boat in the water, and in the case of a flattish bottomed boat, the extent to which the boat can start to plane.

It is not just sea kayak designers, and again people are likely to pick up on the Taran when I mention the WWR boat design has generally moved to higher volume, flatter bottoms and lots of stern rocker. Watch the top guys at speed and they do lift the bow clear on every power stroke allowing the boat to come onto a part plane and to be steered precisely during the early part of the stroke, as the stroke peters out the bow drops back in and slices it's path accurately until the next catch. John did use his WWR experience when describing to Mike what he wanted from the Taran, people see the above water shape of the bow and make sweeping statements about how it looks like a WWR boat, without even beginning to understand how many features from modern WWRs have been used to get the design to what it is. No WWR has as flat a bottom section as the Taran, John and Mike took that concept and increased it to allow John to rest (and pee) on open crossings. The Taran steers very easily with its rudder, but if you break it, it also steers very well because of the combination of deep bow and rockered stern. It is too heavy to lift the bow on the catch like a WWR, but the stern rocker does lighten the bow and that whole bow shape enables the boat to cut into waves before rising gently unlike a conventional flared bow which rises quickly and often violently.

Surf skis have similar design features, no doubt arrived at from different origins.

Other fast sea kayaks also have similar features, designers may have come up with them from completely independent directions, or they might all be looking at what works for each other and then experimenting to improve further

That's not to say that the rocker of the Sea Bear was not the cause of it's problems, there are as I've eluded many different ways to distribute rocker, and that does sound like a pretty extreme example, just that a boat doesn't need to look like a banana to have a lot of rocker!

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Re: Some questions about tandem kayaks

Post by Ken_T » Tue Dec 03, 2019 1:51 pm

Hi Gordon,
About 15 years ago I bought a tandem (Rainbow Atlantis) to get my wife out sea kayaking as she was a bit nervous. I can control the boat in even fairly large conditions with a non-paddling person in the front (I have had to on a few occasions when someone has become sea sick & swapped place with my wife. I have transported people several miles to a safe landing with them vomiting over the side the whole way). I started in fairly benign conditions & worked up (once took too big a step, which put Pen back a bit, but did mean she did her 4 star to improve her skills). She now paddles mainly solo, but we are taking a 3 month sabatical next year to paddle an Aluet tandem around Scotland.
Ken

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