Sunday, May 30, 2010

MEC Paddlefest Ottawa, Ontario, May, 2010, Riot Aura Test Paddle

Perfect weather and a huge turnout at MEC Paddlefest 2010 in Mooney's Bay.

I decided to hang out for a while in the RIOT Aura 18. (You can get them at Ottawa Paddleshack)

As usual, I show up somewhere, and right away one thing will catch my eye and keep it.

The RIOT Aura was right there. It is a good looking, sleek, fast 18 foot boat (I think it has lots of rocker, the manufacturer says moderate) that is too big in the cockpit for me and a real bitch to turn. I hear some people love them. Anyway, you can't really test much or take too many chances with what you do in the murky and questionable waters of Mooney's Bay, so I didn't do much with this kayak except enjoy its speed, and curse it whenever I needed to turn it.

I was there to test touring paddles. I love my skinny stick (Greenland paddle), except when I want to get somewhere moderately fast and keep up with others!

I finally caught up with Peter Whaley, founder of Pure Canadian Adventures and the Current Designs rep. He's from Nova Scotia! Hey! Aren't you pretty far from home? I just assumed our Current Designs rep would be somewhere nearby like Toronto.

I missed him last year at the first National Sea Kayak Symposium (NaSKS) in Palmer Rapids, Ontario. And I really missed him and wished he was there when I took a look at the Current Designs Suka sitting there. I wanted to test paddle it, but he was away. I probably should have snuck it down to the water and hopped in. I wonder who would have noticed? There were only a few hundred people at the event that weekend.

And then this year, at the Ottawa MEC Paddlefest, Peter was there with all the Current Designs boats except the Suka! How does this boat keep eluding me? Anyway, I'll keep trying until I can finally get in it and take it for a spin. I have no clue why the Suka has stayed on my mind but I'd like to find out. Maybe it's the path to get there that is more important.

I'm campaigning for Ottawa to get a wider variety of sea kayaks/touring kayaks for us paddlers to test and play with. It seems we have to work way too hard and travel way too far to get into all these great boats that we mostly only see on the manufacturer's Web sites. Most stores, of course, only want to carry the boats that most commonly sell or suit most people. But if the choices are limited, how do you know what you're really missing? How can you move up your paddle skills without a choice of more performant boats to test and learn with? Ever been in a boat that when you say, "Edge and turn", it says "Huh? What? Is that what you really want. Ask again way harder and maybe I'll budge!"

I own a Boreal Baffin and more recently purchased a fantastic Maelstrom Vital 166. But I still want to test paddle the Suka and find out how we can get some Romany boats around here. So anyone with a Suka, let me know. And if anyone starts stocking Romany boats around here, call me!

Peter had two really cute Huskies in his truck. Such neat dogs, especially when their eyes are two different colours. I asked what their names were twice and still can't remember (should I really be admitting this?). I think they're worth remembering so I'll ask again and if he'll send me a cool pic of them, I'll post it too.

Happy paddling!
The Baffin Paddler

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Maelström Kayaks, Vital 166 - SOLD!

Yes, it got me! I got it!

I'll be posting more about Maelströmkayak and following reviews and comments of other Maelström paddlers.

We are the new kids on the block as these boats are fresh on the market.

I bought my Maelström Vital 166 at Ottawa Paddle Shack in May 2010. We need more choices of higher end models around here.

When will we see the Romany sea kayaks in our stores? I love the Romany S but can't find any around here in the National Capital Region of Canada (Ottawa/Ontario, Gatineau/Quebec) Cross fingers. Let's be greedy.

2012 update: Good news: Looks like Maelströmkayak will have some new kayak models coming out in 2012, the Forvag and the Flod. I can't wait to see what new features and design changes they've got!

Sad news: Kayak designers and manufacturer, Boreal Design in Quebec, Canada declared bankruptcy in 2012. Boreal Design was manufacturing Maelströmkayak design models the Vaag 174 and the Vital 166.  After the bankruptcy, Boreal Design was sold to another kayak manufacturer, along with Maelströmkayak's rights to their Vaag and Vital kayak models. Causing much confusion for consumers, and causing much surprise, shock, and dismay for me. Now these kayak models (the Vaag and Vital) are being produced by another manufacturer and are no longer manufactured in Quebec, or in Canada.

According to the president of Maelströmkayak, he will continue to do business to design and produce top quality, high performance kayaks with new Maelströmkayak designs, the Forvag and Flod. It will be an interesting story to follow. Especially for me. I own an original Maelstrom Vital 166, which I purchased the first year they came out.

Happy paddes!
The BaffinPaddler

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Maelström Kayaks

No, that's not me paddling the Vital. I wish I was that good! It's one of the Maelstrom guys.

Well, the Maelström kayaks have finally trickled into the Ottawa, Ontario area. I think there are probably only two of them around here for now and they are pretty sweet looking demo kayaks at Paddle Shack in Ottawa's trendy Westboro neighborhood. One of each, a red and white Vaag 174 and a blue and white Vital 166. (Update to this post: My paddle partner and I bought both of them after the first test paddle on the Ottawa River.)

They are play boats designed for the high-end paddler. If you aren't a high-end paddler, buying a kayak that is will help you get there. You'll have to learn how to really paddle and will have way more fun in the water!

I sat in the Vital today, on the showroom floor with foams underneath. The weather around here is emulating winter! I hope it's just a bad dream with the hail, rain, then snow and sleet (yes in that order), and cold high winds this weekend. No one seems to be on the water testing new boats.

I noticed a few things I probably won't like about the Vital on the water right off the bat, things another paddler mentioned to me already, but I will have to try it on the water before I decide.

Super low coaming. How will you ever get your neo skirt on that . . . fast?! And in rough water?! Do I have to buy a special skirt?! That's what I didn't like about Valley boats and some Impex boats. Boreal seems to understand this. Their boats have ample room in the coaming for getting your skirt on quick. Boreal is manufacturing Maelstrom kayaks. Maybe they should talk? Or they know something I don't and need to find out?

The day hatch behind you is smack in the middle of the boat. It is stiff and impossible to remove it yourself if you turn around and try to wretch it off, and I'm uber flexible! But I figured out another, smarter, much easier way. Sit facing forward, put both arms behind you, with your first two fingers under the notch of the day hatch, gently push up and snap it off. A breeze. To pop it back on . . . you'll have to figure that one out yourself! And I'll have to test that myself on the water.

The Vital has another handy little hatch right in front of you, perfect for a cell phone, GPS, and energy bar.

In the cockpit, Maelstrom boats don't have backbands, and I don't know if I'm going to like where the foam pad hits me in the small of my back once I hit the water. I can't lay back flat on the back deck without scooting my seat forward a bit as the seat is right against the back coaming. I might have to fiddle with the back pad or make some adjustments, but the foam seat itself is very comfortable, and I'm guessing insulating if you paddle in cold water. Metal and plastic seats can be cold.

CKayaker has a review and photos of the Maelstrom Vaag. I'll follow up with these kayaks and add links to other paddler reviews.

Bottom line is, I still want to get out on the water and play with this kayak. It looks like a fast ton of fun!

(Guess what! I test paddled the Vital in May and bought it: See my post: Maelstrom Kayaks, Vital 166. Sold!

To find all my other posts and reviews on Maelstrom kayaks, about the chines, performance in wind and waves, rolling, what instructors and paddlers think about the boats, etc, just use the Search this Blog box in the top right corner and type in: Maelstrom or Vital. And if you have comments or reviews on the Maelstrom kayaks, send me a comment, a review, or a pic of yours. I'm collecting news and reviews of Maelstrom kayaks.

2012 Update: Maelstromkayak and Boreal Design are no longer manufacturing and distributing the Vital 166 or Vaag 174 sea kayaks. Boreal Design declared bankruptcy in 2012. The company was sold to another manufacturer along with the Vital and Vaag designs, which are no longer manufactured in Quebec or in Canada. Maelstromkayak has two new high-performance kayak models with new design features: the Forvag and Flod.

The BaffinPaddler in the Maelstrom Vital 166

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Paddle Photogs

Paddle photogs are the people that make me want to paddle. They take pics of places and things from a perspective that I can't see myself. They are the ones that give me that "paddle stress" to get out there and discover something new.

The neat thing about water, the thing I keep forgetting, is that the same water can look and feel so different depending on the time of day and season, the weather and water conditions, what's up with you, who you are paddling with (or not), what's happening on or near it, and what type of equipment you are paddling with.

There's nothing like being the BaffinPaddler and having so many places to paddle on my list but no paddle plans at all this season. I usually spend my winter planning at least two trips to someplace new with good paddling opportunities and other things I like to do.

I'm just sitting in this paddle vortex (no, not rapids), what I call "paddle stress", wondering what will push me to where I'm going next. The weather and water around here are just perfect too. Yet I'm spending all my time on things with wheels, like bikes, rollerblades and cars.

I really hate indecision. I'd rather know where I'm going, have a good map and compass to get there along with a good weather report and a kickass lunch packed!

Some paddle decisions to come soon.