Rockhopper 340 update

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Douglas Wilcox
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Rockhopper 340 update

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Aug 31, 2004 1:28 pm

I recently bought a Rockhopper and have now spent 2 weeks using it every day on a very rocky part of the Solway coast. I have written a full review for October Paddles magazine. The boat I tested was mine and not a "freeby". I paid £586 +£30 delivery which was a special price for the first 50 ordered. Current price is £699 + del.

Here is an introduction and a a few extracts with full comparitive tables which will not appear in the Paddles review:

Since this is a unique product, designed for a “new niche” in the market, I thought that readers would be interested in a comparison with other paddle craft representative of several existing designs. During the test I was able to compare it with: P&H Quest, an expedition sea kayak, P&H Capella RM, a recreational sea kayak; Perception Carolina (without rudder), a day tourer; Perception Scooter, a recreational sit on top, Dagger Redline, a traditional soft railed river boat and Pyranha I3 223, a modern hard railed river boat.

This test was carried out over two weeks on the Solway coast of SW Scotland during which there were spring tides (nearly 9 metres) and winds from Force 0 to Force 5 which were on, cross and offshore. Water conditions varied from rough, with long frequency swells or wind blown chop, to calm. The Solway coastline varies from sandy beaches, steep at high tide with dumping shore-break and gently shelving at low tide, rocky reefs and headlands with reef breaks and overfalls and finally, at certain stages of tide, rapidly flowing tidal channels (16km/hr) with standing waves not unlike a large river.

A number of other kayakers on holiday “volunteered” their services (and their boats) in exchange for a shot in this exciting looking new kayak. Testers included myself, a grade 3 WW paddler with some sea paddling experience, an expert WW paddler with 27 years experience just returned from the Grand Canyon, a lady recreational sea paddler, a 24 year old female sea paddler, an experienced male Canadian canoeist who regularly paddles Grade 3 WW, a mature male beginner and a 14 year old male “rapid learner”.

It was tested on reefs:
Image[/url]

inlets and caves:
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and overfalls:
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In the comparitive tables, we ranked each boat for each performace criteria on the days tested using a scale from 5 best to 1 worst. If a boat was completley hopeless it got 0. Some we did not test in a particular situation: N/A,

(These are our results so no whinging "I can paddle my I3 backwards all day faster than a Quest with an outboard!" I can't, so there!)

Image

Image

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"With the skeg up, the boat was fantastically manoeuvrable in amongst the skerries, tight channels and caves. It was great fun to use a wave surge and weave a way through rocks into a lagoon..."

"The Rockhopper opens up areas of the coast for close exploration that are simply not accessible using river boats and fragile GRP sea kayaks."

"...the Rockhopper proved to be surprisingly easy to roll..."

"Its speed and ease of paddling make it ideally suited to day trips."

Conclusion.

"Would I recommend this boat? Well I think this boat ROCKS! I have already bought a second!"

Full review in Paddles. There are some criticisms which mainly related to early production problems which have been sorted to my full satisfaction and to the seat comfort for some paddlers.

Please note, no children or animals were harmed during this test but I broke a paddle, suffered from extreme barnacle elbow (as did my helmet but not thankfully my head) and had one swim (which I recovered from myself thanks to a waterbuster pump). There is a lesson for rockhopping: take a spare paddle, pump, helmet, ?elbow pads, waterproof VHF etc.

Douglas :o)

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Rock on

Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 31, 2004 2:40 pm

What a very thorough and helpful review.

Only question - who makes them and who sells them?

Guest

Post by Guest » Tue Aug 31, 2004 2:45 pm


RichardCree

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Post by RichardCree » Tue Aug 31, 2004 3:37 pm

Hi Douglas i also bought one (as you probably know) how about a rockhoppin trip, i know of one more in Glasgow who would love to come.
i managed to get mine photographed for a local paper paddling down the high street in Lochwinnoch.

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Rock on

Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 31, 2004 4:16 pm

30-day, money-back, no-questions-asked guarantee.

Tempting.

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Douglas Wilcox
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Rock hopper 30 day trial

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Aug 31, 2004 4:35 pm

Jonathan, that's what persuaded me, even before I had heard about anyone's experience paddling it!

I have no regrets whatever, not only has it unique abilities for its intended role, rockhopping, it must be the most versatile, user friendly, general purpose, recreational kayak on the planet! Even my wife was persuaded to take it out into a short wavelength half metre swell.

Image

Go for it rockhopping is great fun and the RH340 sure beats river boats on the sea.

Douglas

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Post by meatballs » Tue Aug 31, 2004 6:57 pm

How did you rate the Comfort? Space inside the cockpit area? I find the i:3 very comfortable with the padded thighbraces/seat/thighpads/adjustableband, whearas in a carolina you only have a seat? Obviously a bit more room to stretch though! :)

And also how did you rate the dryness in waves? (it says see text?) Is that how much water splashed over you? Or how much water the boat let in?

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rockhopper

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Aug 31, 2004 7:39 pm

"Settling into the boat the first thing the river paddler will notice is the very roomy foot space and the easily adjustable bulkhead footrest. Larger paddlers may find a problem with the seat; its forward lip has a hard edge that presses into the back of the thighs and the (non-adjustable seat) feels a bit far back. Smaller paddlers found it very comfortable, on a par with the best in the “test fleet”. With my large diameter (muscular, really!) legs I found a very comfortable bracing position under the cockpit coaming, which I padded with my own 1 mm self-adhesive neoprene sheet. Younger paddlers, with thinner legs, found the rubber thigh grips, which adjust fore and aft, comfortable for bracing but too soft for rolling without the thigh slipping past. All users found the backrest very comfortable and supportive. I have added some hip pads carved from my own mini-cell foam to give a more positive fit for control in rough water."

I once took my I3 (which I spent ages carpet surfing and fitting out) on a tour with friends down the Spey, it wasn't very comfortable. My friend's Carolina was surprisingly comfortable despite being very simple. The Quest is extemely comfortable and nothing adjusts apart from the footpegs.

"In small waves and larger swells the flared topsides kept the Rockhopper paddler very dry. However, in short wind blown chop, against the tide, it tended to slam and bury the bow creating a lot of spray and a wet paddler. "

The hull did not leak.

Douglas :o)

Gary bb

Post by Gary bb » Tue Aug 31, 2004 9:09 pm

Are they still available at the cheaper price?
I might have missed it but I can`t find the weight of it anywhere.
One final question,how does it compare with the Riot Stealth,which untill I found out about the 340 I was going to buy!
Cheers.

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Post by Steve B » Tue Aug 31, 2004 9:56 pm

Douglas, how would you rate the Rockhopper for a mainly inland-oriented club which could do occasional sea trips? Mostly pottering about along the coast, but also for shortish crossings such as N Devon to Lundy?
Steve Balcombe

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Rockhopper questions

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Aug 31, 2004 11:01 pm

Gary>
Are they still available at the cheaper price?

I do not think so, I understand production can hardly keep up with supply. I have ordered another one but no sign yet.

I might have missed it but I can`t find the weight of it anywhere.

We weighed them with some good scales: Rockhopper 24kg cf Carolina 25.5kg. About standard for a big poly boat. The Capella was lighter but is made of a less dense trilaminate polythene and it does not like barnacles.

One final question,how does it compare with the Riot Stealth,which untill I found out about the 340 I was going to buy!

I do not know, but I emailed my pal with the Carolina as he paddled both before settling on the Carolina. He thought the Carolina out performed it in most respects particularly in rougher water. Stealth is lower volume with low volume bow and stern so did not take waves as well as the Carolina. The retractable skeg option hangs off the tail like a non turning rudder. Looks fragile but my friend tried a stealth without skeg so cannot comment on function.

Steve B>how would you rate the Rockhopper for a mainly inland-oriented club which could do occasional sea trips?

"My biggest surprise about this boat was its recreational suitability, albeit it would be an expensive purchase for just recreational use. The skeg and its primary stability make it easily the best boat of the types tested here for beginners’ first days. It also gives intermediates great confidence to tackle rougher conditions. My wife has been paddling a Quest for a year but has ventured into much rougher conditions, and enjoyed it, in a Rockhopper. Its speed and ease of paddling make it ideally suited to day trips. The rear compartment makes short overnight trips possible, perhaps in company with sea kayaks. Finally, the only thing better for mucking about near the beach, is a sit on top."

"Judging by the interest from other beach users while on holiday, I think it should also be available from retailers that sell recreational kayaks and sit on tops. At least, the BLUEsky label should have a phone number! Clubs hire and instructional centres should also take a look at the Rockhopper."

It would also be ideal for grade 1/2 touring rivers such as the Spey.


Steve B>Mostly pottering about along the coast, but also for shortish crossings such as N Devon to Lundy?

Lundy shortish? The longest distance I did in the Rockhopper on open water in one sitting was 20 km it was hard keeping up with a sea kayak. I wish I had taken the Quest but it handled the conditions fine. Until the accessory fixed skegs (see below) are available, I would not want to commit myself to open water if force 5 plus winds are expected as it starts to weathercock at about 18 to 20 knots (my old windsurfing anenometer is not metric) even with full skeg.

"Directional stability with the skeg up is poor but it is a joy to paddle in a straight line with the skeg down, even in winds up to Force 4. Unlike a sea kayak, the skeg is best left fully down all the time, (except in shallow water or when requiring maximum manoeuvrability). The boat begins to weathercock (spin into the wind) in Force 5 winds, requiring correction strokes on the windward side or edging. Twin, bolt on “thruster” skegs will be supplied for these conditions but were not available for the test. The boat handled very well in beam seas and allowed photography in conditions that were impossible from a Quest. The sea kayaks were faster; paddling at maximum speed, the Rockhopper took 17 minutes to cover the same distance as the Quest covered in 12 minutes using identical sea paddles. Round trips of up to 10 km, even in winds, were easily achieved but beyond this I was looking for my Quest."

Douglas :o)

gary bb

Post by gary bb » Tue Aug 31, 2004 11:17 pm

Douglas,thanks for the quick reply.
Looks like my mind`s made up.Funny you should mention sit on tops,as thats what i`m moving up from.Still going to keep them though.

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Post by Steve B » Wed Sep 01, 2004 1:02 am

That sounds like a qualified yes.

The problem is, historically we're a firmly inland recreational group, with club and personal equipment to suit. But we're close to the N Devon coast with its surf (already do that of course) and a fabulous coastline. There is some interest in doing some more adventurous sea paddling than we could realistically take on in short boats, but a fleet of sea kayaks is a very expensive proposition and probably wouldn't get enough use to justify the cost.

Lundy is the 'must do' trip around here. When I said shortish I meant compared with what a seasoned sea kayaker in a 5m+ boat might take on. It would involve an overnight on Lundy so we'd have loads of time.

Just an idea at the moment, and in any case not my idea, but I wonder whether the Rockhopper could make it more likely to happen.
Steve Balcombe

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Douglas Wilcox
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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Wed Sep 01, 2004 7:20 am

Hi Steve, I think you might find exploring that wonderful Devon coastline might become more "must do" than you think. The rockhopper would be ideal for this, particulary for river paddlers who are more used to getting close to rocks and are more manouver orientated than traditional sea paddlers. My 20km trip in the tidal Solway is probably equivalent to a one way trip to Lundy in settled weather. I found it hard going as I was the one Rockhopper in company with a Quest and a Nordkapp neither of which made any allowance! However, I recently paddled a poly avocet in company with Kevin Mansell in his Nordkapp, that was hard work too, so a poly sea kayak may be no better in such company. On the other hand, If you were all in the same boat....


The Rockhopper has easily enough space for a lightweight overnight camp.

Your club choice is really between Rockhoppers and poly Capellas/Avocets. Having recently paddled all three, I would go for the Rockhopper every time. The poly sea kayaks are not verry manouverable and their trilaminate plastic is not as tough as the Rockhopper's high density polythene. The Rockhopper will feel much less alien to a river paddler. 8 committed river paddlers have had a go in my Rockhopper, all wanted another shot, only two, Mike and Peter (who is just back from the Grand Canyon, I wonder if he was on the same trip as Jim?), wanted another go in my Quest!


Lastly the Rockhopper is £699, the poly Capella is £999: substantially cheaper and very much more versatile.

Decisions decisions, why don't your club rent Bluesky's demo fleet?

Douglas :o)

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Re: rockhopper

Post by Jim » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:09 am

Douglas Wilcox wrote: Peter (who is just back from the Grand Canyon, I wonder if he was on the same trip as Jim?)
Kayaking contingent included a Jim, a Gwyn, 2 Tims, 2 Chris', a Jason, a Graham and a Jo, plus 2 safety boaters - Phil and Hilde. So I think the answer would be no, not on the same trip as me! As he's just back I presume he also wasn't on Andy Watt's trip last October, which included (and I'll forget some) another Andy (Jackson), Robin Cole, Dave Manby, Bridget Thomas, a Fran, a Beth, a Mike, a Pedro, a Bronwyn, but as far as I recall no Peter. It must be a more popular trip than people imagine :D I can fully understand why!

Been following the rockhopper threads with interest - probably not for me (I tend to rivers or week long sea expeditions) but look very useful for something I have messed around at occasionally in the past. Still not convinced about Steve B's Lundy trip, the distance isn't that great compared to what a decent sea paddler will do in a day, but it's all open crossing and you won't find that many even very experienced paddlers going that far on an open crossing (although if you are going 10 miles offshore you are just as committed as doing 20 so why stop?).

JIM

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Rockhopper

Post by IainS » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:17 pm

Really pleased to read such favourable reviews on the Rockhopper. I recently bought two 'seconds' on Ebay for £199 each. So maybe worthwhile keeping your eye on ebay in case any more come up?

Can't wait to get them home to my parent's house on Skye and start re-aquainting myself with the island's coastline.

Iain

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Post by Steve B » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:34 pm

Thanks for all the advice Douglas. I'll make sure it's passed on to the others involved, but I certainly think it looks like a good idea.
Steve Balcombe

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Post by Mark R » Thu Sep 02, 2004 6:29 pm

We have a couple of Rockhoppers which have seen some action already.

I concur with all Douglas says, but to clarify three things...

> RH is almost unpaddleable in a straight line with the skeg up.
> Overnight trips? It'd have to be really lightweight, there isn't much space in the back.
> I personally dread the idea of a Lundy crossing in an RH. I found I can just about keep up with the sea kayaks in mine...but the idea of testing this theory on a committing cross-tide open crossing doesn't appeal. I've never done the Lundy crossing, maybe it's actually a doddle...but I'm fairly sure I'll be using my sea kayak when I do take it on. Otherwise, RH would be great for Devon's marvellous coast.
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Post by Steve B » Thu Sep 02, 2004 7:29 pm

Dread huh? That's quite strong. Is that because you'd prefer to have an easier time of it in a 50% faster boat, or do you actually think it wouldn't be advisable?
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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Thu Sep 02, 2004 7:51 pm

Richard C> i also bought one (as you probably know)

Richard I hope you are not selling the Bahiya for the Rockhopper, I was oly joking when I suggested you sell your skeg as well as your pump (see http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... php?t=4255 )
Let's go Rockhopping!

Jim> re Grand Canyon trip. As he's just back I presume he also wasn't on Andy Watt's trip last October,

I think this was the trip that Peter L and Mark S were on. Peter L had a fantastic time but I understand Mark hurt his back near the beginning.

IainS> recently bought two 'seconds' on Ebay for £199 each..... Skye and start re-aquainting myself with the island's coastline.

Iain I do not regret paying the full into price, though I have heard the "seconds" were just the first batch out the mould and had pretty minor defects, you have got a real bargain there and Skye! what a coastline to explore.

Mark> Overnight trips? It'd have to be really lightweight, there isn't much space in the back.

I have done one summer overnight in 2 Rockhoppers. we shared a small "festival" tent, had two 1/2 karrimats, spare shirts/shorts 1 Buffalo jacket each, 2 small sleeping bags, 1 stove,1 pan, 1 frying pan, bacon rolls for tea porridge for breakfast. It all fitted nae bother! Those who helped carry my Quest on our Uist portages know I do not normally travel that light.

From the full Paddles article: "The rear compartment makes short overnight trips possible, perhaps in company with sea kayaks."

Mark> I personally dread the idea of a Lundy crossing in an RH.

So do I. My 20 km (tidal) trip hugged the coast and the furthest I have been from the mainland is 2.5km. My reply was addressed to SteveB but as many less experienced paddlers will have read it, let me emphasise. The Rockhopper is ideal for close coastal exploration (even of open amd exposed coasts), particularly when the total distance is about 10km. If you want to do long open crossings do so in a Nordkapp, Quest or even better one of these.

Douglas:o)

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Post by Mark R » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:24 pm

Steve B wrote:Dread huh? That's quite strong.
I'd dread it in the same way I'd dread running grade 5+ in my playboat, or playing polo in my sea kayak. It isn't what the boat is designed to do.
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Post by Jim » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:31 pm

Steve B wrote:Dread huh? That's quite strong. Is that because you'd prefer to have an easier time of it in a 50% faster boat, or do you actually think it wouldn't be advisable?
It's now many years since I considered this trip (because I'm not in the SW anymore). You have 2 basic options if I've remembered rightly:

A) 20 mile crossing from somewhere (Woolacombe?) going with an ebb tide. OK you could start at slack and finish on slack but you really need to do the trip whilst the tide is with you.

B) 10 mile crossing from somewhere else (SW geography feeling really rusty), going cross tide. Could use some ebb and some flood to give you an S-track, aim to sprint the majority during slack water.

The issues:
> 10 mile open crossing is always serious. You need to be carrying enough gear to contact the rescue services and stay alive until they arrive if things go horribly wrong. 20 mile is actually no more serious in that respect.
> Bristol channel has second largest tidal range in the world, 13m or more at Bristol, still significant and still giving rise to fast tide streams way down at lundy. If you slow down and miss your tide window, you could get really stuck.
> Tracking may be good with the skeg down, but you are going to paddling it in a straight line (hopefully) for over 3 hours - every little swing and correction takes energy you wouldn't have expended in a sea kayak (well you might have in mine).
> Data given is great for playing in waves and chop, how does it handle 5 miles out to sea when a force 5 has appeared that wasn't on the forecast? Does the bow bury into waves, or bob over? do you get soaking wet from spray, does it yaw and roll all over the place that no-one really noticed when they were playing? How does the windage compare with a sea kayak, does it carry enough momentum to keep moving in strong gusts?

You would need to try it and see, all I know is that I've missed the tide on a 3 mile crossing (in the Bristol channel) in sea kayaks and almost been screwed, I've been out in weather in my sea kayak that I would be very unhappy in in any other boat (my river boat would have ridden the waves, but I would have been moving in the opposite direction to my paddling), and I've also done a 10 mile open crossing with a large group of sea kayaks where we did miss our tidal lift, we were too late to round the next headland before the race built up, but did cruise in quite easily although late and make camp where we could. Sub5rider will recall that one!

I haven't tried a rockhopper yet so won't advise either way, on paper despite the excellent reviews and performance I would not use one for the Lundy crossing myself, but testing the boat might change that opinion.

JIM

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Post by Mark R » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:33 pm

Jim wrote:10 mile crossing from somewhere else
ROTFLMAO.

Don't give Jim the map.
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Post by Jim » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:35 pm

guidebook wrote:
Steve B wrote:Dread huh? That's quite strong.
I'd dread it in the same way I'd dread running grade 5+ in my playboat, or playing polo in my sea kayak. It isn't what the boat is designed to do.
What does this + mean? I run grade 5 in my playboat (OK one drop wonders not continuous), how does the + make that much difference :)

JIM

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Post by Jim » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:37 pm

guidebook wrote:
Jim wrote:10 mile crossing from somewhere else
ROTFLMAO.

Don't give Jim the map.
I take it having the map would have produced somewhat different distances?
Don't seem to have anything for the SW at home :D

EDIT: Actually, it doesn't look that far out on Multimap, 'Somewhere else' can be renamed Hartland Point from this point forth, if it wishes :D

JIM

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Post by Mark R » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:44 pm

Jim wrote:how does the + make that much difference
Erm, it means I'll be on the bank portaging, playboat or not.
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