Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cowboy Scramble up the Maelstrom Vital 166 - Find its sweet spot!

Does a boat have a sweet spot? I think so. Especially when you are doing the cowboy scramble.

Ok, I'm in the water in a nice warm Canadian lake in July in my cute new Maelstrom Vital 166 that I bought in May without really testing if I could get back into it unassisted. I just assumed I could. "Of course I can, I can do it in my Boreal Baffin in 5 seconds." I count. It's a game in warm flatwater when I'm doing it for fun and rescue practice.

In the first pic above, look how far the nose is sticking out of the water. This boat has one very upturned kayak nose!

 The Malestrom Vital 166 is 21 inches at the beam and is 16 feet 6 inches long. The beam is the widest measurement across the kayak. That has to be at the cockpit. It's where we sit. Makes sense, especially after the Christmas holidays, we need to fit in there. Everything gets skinnier from there. Yes, after Christmas we work to get rid of what we gained, and from the cockpit, everything gets narrower. So when you think beam, think widest part. In a sea kayak, it's somewhere around the cockpit, the middle. On us, let's hope our middle is not our widest part!

The wider the kayak, the more stable it can feel. And, at 21 inches at the beam, the Maelstrom Vital 166 is starting to get skinny and very responsive. Which is what I wanted, and it is designed to be that way. But getting back into it from the water as a 5'6", 125 pound vertical being hanging low in the water and trying to hoist yourself up onto a light, floating, horizontally oriented sea kayak is starting to feel a little different! Like tippy and I have to think about it. I'm not complaining. I'm going to figure it out.

Let's see. Each time I try to get up on the back deck of the Malestrom Vital 166, I pull the kayak on top of myself. A common problem with a lot of people who try this manoeuvre with their kayaks. And a problem I got past with the Boreal Baffin with the help of an instructor.

Now what did he tell me? "Try it farther back on the back deck, away from the cockpit, over the back hatch." Well, I was trying to come up over the back hatch of the Vital, but I needed to find its sweet spot a little further back. And once I found that sweet spot, I could cowboy scramble up it each time (in calm water). If you can't do it easily in calm, warm water on a nice sunny day . . . it could be stressful in other conditions. Practice is fun.

So here we go, grab a breath, pull yourself up and kick those legs at the same time to get horizontal with your boat.
If you make it up and over the back deck, it's the first moment of truth in the cowboy scramble. Getting up on your boat without tipping it over. Not cute, but this is a skinny boat to balance over. Now all you have to do is swing your leg over your boat and ride it like a horse. That's why they call it the cowboy scramble, right?

This is a nice moment. Up on your boat. Wow. I'm a pretty light, small paddler at 5 foot 6 inches and about 125 pounds sitting on the back deck of the Vital. Look how high the nose is!

Next is what I call the "grunt work". Pulling yourself up the back deck of the boat to the cockpit. Normally I would be low pulling myself up from the decklines, but I'm finding I get stuck on the fiberglass and don't slide easily along it like I normally do on my plastic Boreal Baffin. And those skinny edges of the Maelstrom Vital 166 on my thighs feel very hard. I'm thinking "Ouch". I'm also thinking, this is so much easier and more comfortable in my Boreal Baffin. But I like the Vital, so I'd better get used to it and make it quick.
When you make it to the cockpit and slide yourself in, it's a great feeling! And before I do, I can't help but take a moment to claim victory with my beloved GP (Greenland paddle) and do some nice torso rotations and stretch out a bit.
Now it's time to play and do it all over again!

Happy cowboy scrambling and figuring out your boat!
The BaffinPaddler

And you can watch someone else do it in another boat on YouTube who will make it look easy, but nothing beats practice. It's all about you and the boat you are paddling!

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