Please note this Kayak is designed to be agile in rough and windy conditions. The moderate rocker in the hull makes the boat easy to turn against the effects of wind and waves, and this is important if you use this Kayak in rough seas or windy areas. But with my 270 Lb weight in the Kayak, I had some tracking issues. I found I needed the rudder to paddle straight under most conditions. I am not a highly experienced paddler, but not a beginner. This is my third kayak over the last couple years, and my 2nd Fiberglass Kayak. I noticed this a little during the test paddle I did, but didn't realize the scope of this situation.
While paddling the Nanook on calm water without the rudder, I would find it "hunting" for a line to track. After paddling about 50 yards or so on calm water & wind, it would sometimes start to go to one side, or the other, for no rhyme or reason. Leaning hard into that curve, would not stop the curve or straighten it out. Dropping the rudder resolved that, but I don't like using the rudder all of the time. I can best describe this situation by saying it was a lot like riding my motorcycle, and having a gust of wind all of a sudden cause my cycle to go to one side or the other. I thought this was really weird! I would be paddling along in a straight track, then all of a sudden the boat would head off in one direction or the other. It would take 2-3 really hard strokes on the side it was heading, to get the boat back on my desired track. With my previous Kayaks, I could paddle evenly to go straight, and then vary the force to the paddle on one side or the other if I wanted to turn. When not using the rudder, the Nanook was a problem for me.
The directional stability issue on calm water really bugged me. Since I love to paddle on "smooth" water, I wanted to figure out why I was having this problem. The Nanook would not drift straight either, It would usually start to curve to one side or the other, when I stopped paddling to take a break. If I tried a hard lean while drifting, it would continue doing what it wanted, not carve a turn in the opposite direction of the lean. I contacted Boreal and my dealer, and they both responded by saying that "I must have poor paddling technique, as the Nanook does not have this problem". Since part of the problem existed when I was drifting or coasting, and not paddling, I felt it was the boat, not my paddling technique.
The boat does not have a shallow "V" hull, so thinking the lack of a Keel was the problem. I put a hard rubber molding (7/16" wide, and 7/32" high) under the length of the hull to act as a keel. This "helped" directional stability, but did not solve my issue. I can tell you where to get this molding by mail order if you would like to know for your own boat (It protects the hull too).
I then did a lot of research on the internet about Kayak tracking, and found some interesting points. On a web page of a company who sells Kayak kits, I found information about shifting weight (seat) front or back to get the kayak to sit "level" for optimum tracking. I then found an article about how to make a Kayak turn tighter, when leaning to carve a turn. The article said if you lean forward to make the Bow dig deeper into the water, at the same time as leaning to the side, it will make the bow grab more water, and decrease the turn radius, making a tighter turn.
The Cockpit opening of the Nanook is further front than some boats (CD Solstice & Eddyline Nighthawk 17.5), so I started thinking of the possibility of my forward weight making the bow sit too deeply in the water. The Nanook is advertised as a boat designed for people OVER 200 Lb, with a max loaded net weight of 345 Lb. So I felt the Nanook was designed just for me.
While sitting in the Nanook on calm water, my wife put crayon marks at the water line of the boat, front, back, and at the cockpit. These marks showed the stern only sitting about 1-1/2" in the water, and the bow looked like it was sitting very deeply in the water. To me it looked like I was paddling with the bow low in the water, trying to make it turn like in the forward leaning technique I read about, and at the same time with me wanting to go straight.
I started bugging the dealer and Boreal about what I found, and they both kept insisting I needed to learn to paddle correctly! I finally got Boreal to suggest I put 5 – 10 Lb of sand bags in the far stern to see if it helped. I put a 5 Lb bag of sand, and my 5 Lb Paddle-Boy Cart in the far stern, and it turned into a totally different boat. It went exactly where I wanted it to go when I was paddling, and it drifted as straight as anyone could ask for. When drifting, I tried a hard lean to the right and then left, and the boat responded with a beautifully carved turn in the proper direction. I was so happy to have resolved my problem I couldn't wait to tell Boreal the results. I must say I was impressed.
During this time, while I was trying to figure out what the problem was, I had been communicating with the dealer the tests I was making and the results. He kept inviting me for a lesson on paddling. Boreal "somehow" got the idea that the dealer was trying to contact me, for me to get with him, and learn to paddle correctly, and I was ignoring his attempts to communicate with me. I had not been ignoring him, but I was waiting for him to get a replacement Nanook, so I could show him the problem in a stock boat (as mine at this time had the molding/keel). Since they had this false information, they decided I was a "crack-pot", and told me to stop communicating with them, and only work with the dealer. In other words, they told me to go away and quit bugging them. In spite of this, I wrote a typed report, complete with pictures and a CD, and sent it to Boreal and the dealer to show them what I saw (waterline, etc.). I was hoping for any kind of positive reply from them.
They did review the information and pictures I sent to them, and their "official response" was to say that the water line shown on my picture, is where they would expect it to be for a 270 Lb person. In spite of the success I had with ballast in the stern, they neither refuted, nor agreed with what I was trying to show them. They made me feel like a fool for trying to get them to recognize that a person of my size needs ballast in the stern in their Nanook, so it will perform as expected.
In conclusion, I spoke with a couple people in the 210 Lb range, and the boat was fine for them, I spoke with 2 other people around 250 Lb and over, and all of us "big guys: feel the boat doesn't track well without a rudder. I feel I proved that our heavier bodies push the Bow lower in the water, and negatively effects directional stability, & tracking. Boreal just wont acknowledge the results of my tests.
I removed their hard back-rest, and installed a Kayak "Back Band" to the rear of the cockpit opening. I was then able to move the seat back, a bit over 2 inches, to shift some of my weight back away from the bow. With this weight shift, and my Paddle-Boy cart in the stern (directly under the rear hatch cover), I have trimmed the boat to where it performs well for me. This weight shift of the seat, lowered the stern about 1-1/2" deeper into the water. I loved everything else about the Nanook except the tracking problem, so now I am relieved to have resolved this also. I believe Boreal needs to move the cockpit back a couple inches to accommodate the heavier paddler, since they advertise it as designed for the "heavier paddler".
If you are a person close to the 200 Lb range or under, you will love the boat as it is. If you are close to 250 Lb, or above, and you too agree it doesn't track well without the rudder, try some stern weight when you test paddle it. Right now the water line for me at the stern, is just below the reflector strip at the rear. If you have paddled this boat, and are on the heavier side like me, and didn't like it's tracking, please tell Boreal about your dislike. They can be reached at email@example.com. Let me know too. Maybe they will listen, and I wont be thought of as the "Crazy Guy who complained about the tracking"!
I now love the boat, but am sad and discouraged over the way I have been treated by Boreal and the dealer. Now that I have it tracking well, I would give it a 10, before, I would give it an 7. I would give Boreal and the dealer a "4"