As the journey is slowly nearing to its end it is time to write about the equipment we have used and what do we think about it.
TIDERACE XPLORE (Writen by Michal)
When we were getting ready for this journey I was told that circumnavigation of Britain will put a boat through the same stress as ten years of normal usage. Obviously we started to look for the best possible kayaks.
I made a list of what to look for on an expedition boat.
We knew it was going to take us four months to paddle around the British coast and we would spend long hours in the boat, often without breaks. We were looking for a really comfy kayaks but at the same we wanted to have a full control over them. Basically this one was all about cockpit.
We were not looking for a big kayaks. Ideally we wanted small kayaks with huge amount of space in the hatches.
For obvious reasons we wanted strongest and toughest kayaks.
British waters offer all conditions one can imagine so we were looking for boats which can handle everything.
Once we knew what we wanted we started to look for such kayaks. There was one little trouble, I have used Tiderace Xplore for almost two years prior this and it became my benchmark to which I tend to compare all boats I have tried.
And I have to say that most of the kayaks we have tried, could not match Tiderace’s cockpit. Often it was because of the seat and backrest shape regardless of how much padding there was. The main reason why we did not look twice on most of the other kayaks, was low foredeck and nonfunctional tight rests. Simply, there was no reason why I would chose such boat and have cramps in my legs from sitting as a frog, and there was no reason to have a best performing kayak if cockpit wouldn’t allow to use it fully.
There is not much to say about volume, numbers are clear. There are some bigger and wider boats than Xplore but hardly any of them have the same space in hatches.
In terms of strength I had no doubts about Tiderace kayaks. I used and abused my previous one a lot while playing between rocks and not always successfully and I have never managed to damage more than just the gelcoat.
In terms of performance, there is not much one wants from an expedition kayak, it just needs to go straight in any condition. Something what most of the seakayaks should do anyway, and Xplore is not an exception.
Now, being so close to the finishing line, in terms of kayak usage we have finished the first decade. And here is what we learn about them.
In terms of volume we could fit everything in what we wanted including two folding camping chairs. We actually fitted more than what was needed on such journey and left some behind at half way in.
As for comfort, no cramps in legs or feet, we could paddle up to 15 hours without getting out of them. The cockpit still allowed us to have control of the boat in any situation and as fast as needed when different leg position was taken.
The boat even when heavy loaded still seemed to be quite fast. There were no problems with stability in any conditions experienced.
The directional stability was great most of the time. If there is a side or tail wind the boat has tendencies to weathercock without skeg, especially if the load in a boat is not spread very well. However with careful loading, skeg can handle most of the situation and some edging is needed only occasionally.
Now, where do this ten years of usage come from? Mainly the landings. Since Natalie needed to stop more offer than I, we had to land on various places, anywhere, including between rocks. Also for the boats being heavy and us not being able to carry especially on uneven ground we often have to drag them above the water line in order to unload them. The landing were also hard there and now with boats being dumped on the beach. Although we were sure the boats were sturdy we are surprised how well they managed. If you ask Natalie how’s her boat, she would say: “Still shiny”.
As expedition boats these boats are great and we would use them again any time. As a boat for everyday use? I used Xplore for almost two years before and know that this boat can be used on overnighters, rock hopping, playing in surf equally.
I can’t and don’t wont to compare how fast or how small turns it can make in comparison to others. What I know is that this boat paddles well full or empty, it feels great on the water and that’s what matters.
During our paddling before this trip Michal always used Werner and I used Lendal. But for this trip we knew we needed a second pair each. We had an opportunity to try RAAB paddles from Czech Republic. This company has a long history at making white water racing paddles, some of them are being used at the Olympic games at the moment.
They also started to make sea kayaking paddles. The ones we had was one of their first models.
Once they arrived we were impressed by the quality of the finish. Suddenly some of the paddles we used before started to look like homemade. These paddles are very light and very powerful. Originally we thought we would use them as splits, but as soon as we tried them, our original paddles became splits.
We felt very fortunate to have such great paddles despite the few disadvantages. The blades were bigger than on our original paddles. It didn’t matter but for when paddling for too long against the headwind. The company has a solution, new different version with smaller blades. We are looking forward to try these as an addition to these original ones.
Since these paddles were the first split version RAAB ever made, we experienced some problems with the joining mechanism. It stopped working half way through the trip and had to be fixed by ever so good looking orange tape. Fortunately the company has a solution already, a new joining mechanism which seems to be better. Once we are back, it will be changed on our old paddles.
Despite few minor hiccups we do think that these paddles are one of the best Euroblades made for sea kayaking so far.
PALM OCEANA (Writen by Natalie)
During this journey we used cags from Palm, Oceana. Due the problems we have experienced with our drysuits we have used them more than we originally thought.
We were surprised at how good they are. It started long ago at home when Michal took it our of its packed and put it on. Suddenly his old cag, so comfortable until that time, wasn’t any more. He wasn’t sure about the hood, though, but during our days paddling in rain and wind, he began to like very much.
I just liked the look of them and the double neck. I likes to have jackets high up to the chin and this one provided that and had nice soft fleece which didn’t hurt on the chin.
Later during the paddling I also discovered the advantage of longer shaped cuffs, they do cover top of hands and give them protection from sun and spray.
We are not going to describe all their features as some had no great significance for us, for example pockets. The jackets perfectly lived up to our expectations, being comfortable and to last for the whole time, despite the great amount of abuse they sustained.
We did not have any opportunity to rinse them in fresh water, apart from while raining, and often they were covered in layer of sea salt crust. They never had real time to dry perfectly between being use and were stored in the tent porch in an IKEA bag mostly.
We didn’t expect to stay completely dry when rolling or capsizing in turing jacket but we were surprised how dry we stayed even when going through surf breaking over us or wearing them all day in pouring rain. We are definitely going to use these again, won’t be looking for any other alternative.
During this trip we had an opportunity to try a selection of dry bags from Overboard. Now, our previous trips we tried few different ones, so we could compare.
When we started to pack I found the Overboard bags little bit tough to fold and squeeze into the boat. But soon during usage on the trip this problem disappeared. On the other hand the sturdiness of material made the very resistant to wear and tear. There is not much to say about dry bags in general, because most people have only one expectation, to keep stuff dry. Well these did it.
Yet Overboard puts lots of thoughts into their cases and bags. They have them in a great range in sizes, shapes – the flat one came handy, and colours – so important when having lots of smaller bags full of different kit. We also shortly used a laptop bag and felt confident, and definitely didn’t worry with the iPad one.
Overall we are happy that four months on the bags look good as new and we can use the same ones again and again on future trips.
A Czech company HANNAH Outdoor Equipment provided us with a selection of clothes for land and camping gear. I am not going to describe all of it, but what was very useful on trip like this were the soft shell trousers. They had several great features, they were comfy, sturdy, fast drying, wind proof and survived without being wash once.
Other must have thing for us was a Pertex jacked with PrimaLoft insulation. It was great against wind, light rain, but mainly it remains dry even in the salty environment.