Naive newbie questions ; getting started^

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Andy Harpur
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Naive newbie questions ; getting started^

Post by Andy Harpur » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:50 pm

OK, another "fallen mountaineer" here looking for a new direction in the outdoors and new adventures.
I bought an open canoe last year and have had a few fun trips with some wild camping using that which has kept the family amused, but I really like the idea of sea kayaking (not with the family). Douglas' pages have filled me with inspiration while looking at them on and off for the last year or so. I'll add that I'm booked in for a demo day at Paddle Sport in July.

Time to take the plunge, or at least another step forward. I have loads of basic questions on getting started and though I have used the "search" option, a FAQ page in the Almanac for newbies would be really useful here.... ;o)

1) Suppose I have a buget of £1K for a canoe. I'm 6 foot 4 with a 35 inch inside leg and weigh ~190lbs. What would be a good option for a kayak for me ? No previous experience in a kayaks of any type. So far I've been browsing at the following, in some order of preferance, but have not tried any of them :-
  • a) Valley Aquanaut HV polyethelene
    b) Dagger Exodus X
    c) P&H Capella RM 166
Am I looking along the right lines here ? or jumping in at the deep end ? I want something that is reasonably stable enough for me to be able to stop and take snaps in, will carry kit for the odd Scottish expedition futher down the learning curve but it will probably be used mostly for day trips on the Welsh coast (I live in the Midlands). Getting something that I fit in is, I suppose, the biggest concern

3) Does a beginner need a rudder ? Is it a real advantage ?

2) Roughly, how much should I budget for other gear to get reasonably well kitted out ? eg. Do people normally make do for a while with a Silva Expedition 4 or is it better to splash out from the onset and get something designed for the job like a 58 or a 70UN ? Can I make do for a season with a (climbers) gore-tex jacket or should I go the whole hog and get a touring cag ?

Sorry if these questions seem a little naive, I guess I'm looking for some overall advice on what (plastic) kayak to get and how much I should budget for everything all in. I'm the kind of person that will spend money on good kit if I know it's going to last, rather than going in at the cheaper end only to find that I end up spending more in upgrading further down the line.

... I'm sure I'll have loads more questions if this thread gets moving....

Cheers,
Andy
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Owen
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Re: Naive newbie questions ; getting started.

Post by Owen » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:43 pm

Newdaze wrote:OK, another "fallen mountaineer" here looking for a new direction in the outdoors and new adventures.
I bought an open canoe last year and have had a few fun trips with some wild camping using that which has kept the family amused, but I really like the idea of sea kayaking (not with the family). Douglas' pages have filled me with inspiration while looking at them on and off for the last year or so. I'll add that I'm booked in for a demo day at Paddle Sport in July.

Time to take the plunge, or at least another step forward. I have loads of basic questions on getting started and though I have used the "search" option, a FAQ page in the Almanac for newbies would be really useful here.... ;o)

1) Suppose I have a buget of £1K for a canoe. I'm 6 foot 4 with a 35 inch inside leg and weigh ~190lbs. What would be a good option for a kayak for me ? No previous experience in a kayaks of any type. So far I've been browsing at the following, in some order of preferance, but have not tried any of them :-
  • a) Valley Aquanaut HV polyethelene
    b) Dagger Exodus X
    c) P&H Capella RM 166


Valley Avocet, Knoydart have a few left for £875 ish. The Aquanaut and Capella are fine; not tried the Dagger so can't say.

Am I looking along the right lines here ? or jumping in at the deep end ? I want something that is reasonably stable enough for me to be able to stop and take snaps in, will carry kit for the odd Scottish expedition futher down the learning curve but it will probably be used mostly for day trips on the Welsh coast (I live in the Midlands). Getting something that I fit in is, I suppose, the biggest concern

3) Does a beginner need a rudder ? Is it a real advantage ?

No.

2) Roughly, how much should I budget (how longs a piece of string) for other gear to get reasonably well kitted out ? eg. Do people normally make do for a while with a Silva Expedition 4 or is it better to splash out from the onset and get something designed for the job like a 58 or a 70UN ? Can I make do for a season with a (climbers) gore-tex jacket or should I go the whole hog and get a touring cag ?

You can get by with a climbing cag but it wont keep out the water if you go in so wear a wetsuit underneath. No need for a deck compass a silva will do.

Sorry if these questions seem a little naive, I guess I'm looking for some overall advice on what (plastic) kayak to get and how much I should budget for everything all in. I'm the kind of person that will spend money on good kit if I know it's going to last, rather than going in at the cheaper end only to find that I end up spending more in upgrading further down the line.

To start with spend your money on good instruction, a better investment than all the fancy swag in the shops.

... I'm sure I'll have loads more questions if this thread gets moving....

That's ok.

Cheers,
Andy

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Simon Willis
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Post by Simon Willis » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:57 pm

Hello Andy

... and welcome - there are plenty of us mountaineers turned sea kayakers here. My wife and I picked up paddles for the first time in Autumn 2003 and now use them roughly every other weekend, so I consider myself a newbie at this sport. We kept a photo log.

Hopefully, you'll receive lots of advice from far more experienced paddlers than me, but I can clearly remember what it felt like less than three years ago, so here's my two-penneth.

Boat - I imagine everyone will tell you to try loads before you buy as that's the right answer. Some retailers will arrange demos, others may even loan you a boat for a weekend. If you've an active club near you, then you may be able to try boats through them. I bought the Capella RM I used on a Glenmore Lodge course at a discount price - they may still do that deal - and was very happy with the result.

I'd advise booking 2-3 days with an instructor or a good centre who can offer you a range of boats, making it clear you want to try several, then you can be taken safely into conditions which may stretch you now but which you'll soon manage fine. I'd highly recommend Gordon Brown of Skyak, who has a wide range of boats,and whose advice I'd rate far higher than my own! I wrote about our first session with him. You can even talk rudders....

And frankly, I'd take it from there. You can try paddling in your Goretex jacket or the kit they provide. You should get one-to-one advice on the relative merits of kayaking in a wetsuit/top/cag combo; cag/sallopettes combo; Reed gear; drysuit....

Like you, I'd prefer to spend money on kit which will last. I'd consider 2-3 days, with someone who could help me answer those questions for myself, a good investment.
S

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Post by john campbell » Tue Jun 13, 2006 5:29 pm

Hi Andy
With you size I would also consider the Prijon Kodiak at approx £850 with rudder, I have one and love it. It is also considerably bigger and has more volume than either the capella and the aquanaut which I doubt you would fit comfortably.

John

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applejack
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newbie

Post by applejack » Tue Jun 13, 2006 6:36 pm

Why a 'fallen mountaineer' ? A lot of people do both adventure sports although there do seem to be a lot of ex climber sea kayakers...dunno why.
Last tuesday I was paddling off the Lleyn Peninsular this tuesday I was doing an excellent mountaineering route on Tryfan....'Crevasse Rib' a vastly under-rated 500' severe if anyone's interested.
A would second the Prijon for a beginner. I was lucky to start with a Yukon...just about the the most stable boat in the universe, bombproof and with a rudder.
I'm looking to change soon but might go for another Prijon...a Sea Yak or a Touryak as I like their stability,toughness and carrying capacity.

If you want to sit back and admire the views ,takes photographs etc. You don't want to be tipping in every five minutes as is the case with some of the sleek glass boats.
You can get a lot of second hand kit on ebay and Decathlon sell very cheap kayaking stuff.

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MikeB
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Post by MikeB » Tue Jun 13, 2006 8:17 pm

Try, try, try and try before you buy anything. But you might find the Valley and P&H boats you mentioned too small. Also consider second hand f/glass - you'll fit in a Quest I suspect.

Rudders. Now there's a thing - as with all things, there are pros and cons. Follow the coaching advice, and talk it thro with the coach. Also worth getting involved with a local club and the BCU / SCA / WCA can point you in the right direction - links in the Almanac - also some club links.

As to clothing, I have to say I think it's well worth getting decent kit at the start - especially things like cags. Sometimes there are bargains to be found on eBay of course!

Enjoy - Mike

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Andy Harpur
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Post by Andy Harpur » Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:20 am

Thanks for the replies guys.

Simon, Your photo log makes me very envious. I just want to get out there.... right now !

John, I had looked at Prijon kayaks on the Avoncraft website and I guess it was the lack of a day hatch that turned me off. I'd like somewhere to stash my cameras and not have to rely on a drybag lashed to the deck... but maybe I'll give one a try.

Applejack, Why a 'fallen mountaineer' ? It was a bit tongue in cheek. The mountains and climbing run through my blood. Too much of something isn't always a good thing. Maybe it's an age thing but I've spent too much time being "concerned" (not neccessarily for myself) on cliff/ice faces. I fancy some adventures that, from the outside, seem a little more relaxing.

I just sent an enquirey to Plas Menai regarding their introductory weekend couses, so I guess the ball's in motion...
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Post by gizmo » Wed Jun 14, 2006 12:06 pm

Newdaze - If you do go on the Introductory course at Plas Menai this should give you an opportunity to try out a few boats. They have a variety of boats, NDK Romanys e.t.c. They have also added a few Rockpools to their fleet.
Paul

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Simon Willis
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Post by Simon Willis » Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:07 pm

Hello again Andy

Glad you enjoyed the pictures. I was inspired by Douglas' pictures, and continue to be.

One more thought occured to me when I was re-reading some of this thread. We were very pleased with our poly Capella RMs. "Plastic" boats were less likely to get damaged when stored in a club boat house and less likely to hole when learning, especially landing.

However, after less than one-and-a-half years paddling we were keen to get composite boats. We'd tried a few and found a significant difference in performance. I bought Douglas' old Quest in May '05 and earlier this year Liz bought a lovely new Knordcapp LV.

My point is this - give some thought as to whether the poly boat is the right long term option for you. Some people love them, others have more than one kayak and use the poly boats rock hopping. But I'm told it's not uncommon to want to "up-grade" in under two years.

Enjoy the course, and I hope it'll help you answer the questions for yourself.

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Newbie advice

Post by adrian j pullin » Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:47 pm

Hi

The one thing I would add to all above is join a club. Or at least find other sea paddlers near you to go out with.

Enjoy.

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Post by GeoffBowles » Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:59 pm

I went through a similar process at the beginning of the year. I haven't used Plas Menai, but can certainly recommend the intro course at Plas y Brenin
I live some way from the sea so, opting for a boat that would be good for river touring as well as sea kayaking, I bought a plastic Necky Manitou 14 from my most local shop - Whitewater canoes at Shepperton. I already had a buoyancy aid, so the boat, a spraydeck, some roof rack straps and a beautiful Robson Master paddle set me back about 700 quid after discount. I've been very happy with my choice of boat and paddle. The only real limitation I can think of is the limited storage space for longer expeditions. Since then, I've bought a Northwind deck-top bag and a paddling top. (also a paddle float, towline and flare - yet to be used). As I haven't yet fallen out of the boat, my usual kayaking garb is tracksters or shorts, thermal top, sports sandals, the paddling top and - very important - a Tilley hat. When I started, a buffalo shirt worked well enough on rivers or reasonably calm salt water, but a day of paddling in choppy conditions in Poole harbour convinced me of the need for the paddling top!

My boat doesn't have a rudder, but a retractable skeg, which I rarely use - occasionally, a touch of skeg makes paddling easier in a crosswind

I must admit that one of the things that I enjoy about kayaking is that it's just for me. I'm enjoying the process of building my skills and experience in a new and challenging environment, and will probably keep some sort of logbook, but I have no intention of collecting awards or coaching qualifications. As a mountaineer of a certain age, I've accumulated the usual ML/SPA qualifications along the way and I do enjoy taking less experienced parties out, as well as doing it with peers or solo, but it's refreshing just to get in the boat and paddle!

I haven't found to paddle with yet, so I''ll be interested to see any recommendations for active clubs...

Geoff

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Post by TimParish » Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:06 am

We too went through a similar process in March. We have done two courses at Plas Menai and can thoroughly recommend them, although the learning curve can be steep. We managed to try out several different boats, including a day in Plas Menai's new Alaw, and both my wife and I ended up ordering Rockpools. Our limited experience of plastic boats wasn't brilliant and we were both drawn to shiny fibreglass (okay, we may be sad, but each to his own!). Having said that a lot of people have mentioned the Wilderness Systems boats as being of very good quality, and very close to your price band, Brookbank stock them I believe.

The best thing we did do was to take advice from people on this site and try as many boats as possible before plunging in, I tried several boats but only felt really comfortable in one for a whole day, so that's what I ordered. Getting you're own cag and PFD also made a difference as we gained confidence from having well fitting dry gear.

We're both hooked and planning our first trip off the West Coast of Scotland later this year. Good luck and enjoy!
Timbo

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Post by muzz » Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:37 pm

Hi Newdaze, I just started out paddling last September. The first thing I did was join a club.Whether doing 'star' training or just paddling along chatting on a club trip, you learn a lot from thos who have been there and done it.

I decided to buy a very stable plastic touring boat, the Perception Carolina, it has no skeg and I have fitted a rudder to it follwing advice from several club members. It really makes a difference in following winds.
I even ended up buying a river/play boat too, just for training and practicing.

I now want to see how my paddling develops before I commit to a larger, thinner, glassier boat.

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Post by muzz » Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:39 pm

muzz wrote: Perception Carolina.
Oops it's the Perception Contour, bloody hell I don't even know what boat I own !! -- - Another tankard of ale wench _**_*__

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Andy Harpur
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Post by Andy Harpur » Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:27 pm

Everyones comments weren't in vain.... ;o) I've just booked myself onto the weekend introductory course at Plas Menai to take place in two weeks time. I'm hoping to get down to Joel Watersports early next week to take a look at a Prijon Kodiak. I downloaded the 2006 brochure from http://www.prijon.com. This years model contains the day hatch which was previously missing. There were some good write ups here too. It looks a nice craft. I'll try out a few though, as people have suggested.
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steve-m
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Take your pick under £500

Post by steve-m » Fri Jun 16, 2006 9:00 pm

Here at the Shrewsbury club a number of us have bought sea boats, all secondhand and all under £500. An old Eurokayaks sea kayak, a plastic P&H Capella, a Prijon sea yak and a Prijon Kodiak. All have their plus and minus points but all seem easy going very user friendly sea boats and have served us well for various trips, Mull, Staffa, Iona, Treshnish, Garvellachs, Arisaig, Anglesey, Llyn Peninsular and Isle of Wight.
For sea use the Prijon boats definately need a rudder, if you have the sea and or wind coming from behind you at an angle in a Prijon boat you will be battling hard without a rudder. The Prijon rudders on the Seayak and the Kodiak have proved to be very good bits of kit and work very well.

I have had elbow problems with paddling and bought a long 220cm Lendal Archipelago paddle on cranked shafts. Excellent piece of kit. It makes me move my body to paddle and allows me to adopt a paddle action that enables me to make steady progress all day with no arm problems. I would definately advise getting a good sea paddle if you are going to be paddling for many hour at a time.
Steve-M Shropshire

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Andy Harpur
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Post by Andy Harpur » Mon Jul 03, 2006 4:12 pm

Well, I got back from the introductory course at Plas Menai last night after a great weekend in the Sun. I even managed, supprisingly, not to capsize until when actually instucted do so as guinea pig for some rescue practise. I posted some (not particularly brill) pics here if anyone is interested. The only negative point was that I did feel a bit out of my depth when conditions got a bit choppy on the final leg of our journey yesterday, though I guess that just comes down to lack of experience.

Next stop a demo day and then think about a final decision....
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sandpiper
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Another climber wot paddles!

Post by sandpiper » Mon Jul 03, 2006 4:27 pm

Hi Andy!
As a relative beginner to sea kayaking I still find plenty of times when I wish I was nice and safe on some solo climb rather than battling wind and waves! Both sports are equally adventurous - and equally addictive!

I have an NDK Explorer which I really like, its supposed to be a bit tippy but am used to it. It has a retractable skeg, until 4 months ago thats all I had used. Then in March we went to New Zealand for three months, we paddled quite a bit on South Island and all the hire kayaks have rudders. After the initial awkwardness they proved very useful, so much so that my girlfriend is now looking for a boat with a rudder.

As well as joining a club you could also look at the various symposia that are held around the UK. I went to the North Uist one and one in North Wales, both were fabulous. I met lots of really nice people who gave me loads of advice, I also got to try out several different boats. They are good craic.

hth

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Post by Kayaks'N'Beer » Mon Jul 03, 2006 6:18 pm

I Paddled plywood boats with rudders all my life and went out for the first time last year, round Arran in an island expedition. Now I'm a total skeg convert and, after a while with the skeg, I find myself needing it less and less. I can't speak for everyone but personally it feels like I'm more in tune with the boat and it's a much more 'in control kind of feel'

I took a Point 65 x-ray out last year on a demo and they have a really cool rudder system called Seal Line. It's basically footpegs, like in a non-rudder boat, with toe controls for the rudder. Allows for a much better brace and use of the legs when paddling. If you can get a boat with one of those + a skeg you can spend a couple of years deciding which you prefer. The point 65 had a pants deck shape for bracing IMO but I daresay plenty others would like it.

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