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Legendary kayak design with tons of history
In the progression of sea kayak design one boat always makes the list, the Nordkapp. I first saw one of these back in the early 80's when a friend of mine named Max Smith showed up for a San Juan Islands weekend kayak tour with a bright red Nordkapp HM. I was intrigued with the boat and almost afraid in many ways. It looked too narrow, the tiny ocean cockpit was confining and everything had to be packed through these small 8" deck hatches. Max was a character and at that time he was going through his "live-off-the-land" phase. As a result he barely bought any gear and was fishing and foraging for dinner along the way. Good thing we bought some extra so he didn't starve. So at that point I had the design on my radar but it was not until almost 20 years later that I finally owned one.
I saw an original Nordkapp HM listed for sale locally and bought it. There are many versions of the "Nordkapp" and I will not get into it here. You have to go on-line and read about the different versions. The name had so much value in the market that Valley Canoe named many boats as "Nordkapps" and it is somewhat confusing at this point. The boat I bought was a 80's vintage boat with a yellow deck and white hull. It came complete with the little bilge pump mounted in the deck behind the paddler. It is a low volume boat and I find it amazing the expeditions that this boat has accomplished with its tiny hull crammed with the gills with provisions.
I find the boat very stable and very forgiving. The Ocean Cockpit is tight but feels very secure for bracing. The boat has a lot of volume at the paddlers location and forward so it is a remarkably dry boat even loaded to the max. These were thick hand laid fiberglass hulls and are super strong. Older boats usually need new hatch covers but the hulls are usually hard to really damage with normal use. I really liked the experience of the Nordkapp. It tracks well but not too well. It was easy to maneuver using the swells and some easy corrective strokes. I had a hard time packing into the boat but the new ones have larger hatches so this can help the packing problem. They are still low volume so you need to pack carefully. It is hard to get a case of beer into the boat for a long tour. Just line the big cans of Fosters right down the keel line for stability.
I have paddled a modern version of the original Nordkapp design and it is still a classic. Valley makes a great kayak and this boat is no exception.
Paddle on lads...
Expedition boat for the forgotten corners of our planet
It’s funny to read some of the other reviews in this section. Mostly they are from old timers reminiscing about the good old days. I guess I might fit into the “old timer” demographic too. I think you have to put the Klepper into context. If you are planning a sea kayak trip to some far-reaching destination that requires a small plane or helicopter, then a folding boat is a must. There are a few designs out there but one of the oldest and best known is the Klepper.
If you live out here on the west coast of Canada you might choose a Feathercraft instead of a Klepper. They are the modern equivalent and seem to have a great reputation amongst paddlers I know. There is also the Nauiraid which is very much like a Klepper in many ways. The pre WW2 history of some of these boats is interesting including British raids in Singapore and a Atlantic Ocean crossing. I was first introduced to the Klepper by reading John Doud’s book of the early 80’s called Sea Kayaking. Doud elaborates on a trip he took paddling across the Caribbean in tropical heat complete with sharks.
Folding boats required special care. Rinsing off the canvas and Hypalon hull with fresh water to prevent mildew and corrosion. The Klepper has a wooden frame that may require touch-up varnish on areas of wear and chipping. It is unique to have you can kayak fold-up and store in the hallway coat closet.
I bought my Klepper in Germany while I was working over there. I did what any German would do and folded my boat up, packed it on a train up river assembled it and floated back down. I explored lakes and rivers all over Germany. If you are looking to get way-off-the-beaten-path a folding boat is a great option. The main mission for my Klepper was the Queen Charlotte Island or better known these days as Haida Gwaii off the west coast of Canada. Once I got home to Seattle I started planning.
In May 1980 I folded up my Klepper and flew from Vancouver BC to Sandspit on Haida Gwaii. From there I chartered a seaplane to fly south to Rose Harbor where we assembled the kayak half inside the plane and half floating outside the door of the plane. We spent 3 weeks paddling/exploring the rugged coast on our way back to Sandspit and our flight home. In those days, there was nothing down there and the month of May proved to be very early season with lots of stormy weather. We had one particular day with winds in excess of 70mph that caught us off guard.
I can tell you that the Klepper is a surprising boat. It is short, wide and totally unsinkable. It is actually a good performer if you are paddling alone on a summer day on some German Lake. The big cockpit and a central seat option make a great boat for exploring. For long touring, you need to pack carefully but since the cockpit is so large it is easy to have good access. Take the seats out and use a gear filled dry bags for seats. Pack every available area in the cockpit even under your legs. Tie down the gear in the event of big seas. The spray skirt is kind of leaky so expect water in the boat. I do not think you can capsize a Klepper but swamping a boat over a day of rough paddling is a possibility. We devised a foot operated pump for the bow paddler that had its pick-up tube way back in the stern, we used this a lot!
These days with paddlers looking for real adventure, I think the time of the folding boat might be back. Every time I see a folding boat for sale on Craigslist I think about the idea of flying north to some isolated place for a month of paddling.
Narrow Early British Design
The P&H Kayaks known as the Baidarka Explorer is a rare find here in North America. I found one in Seattle a few years ago with a worn through keel and missing hatches. I recognized the design since it is related to the "Dawn Treader Odin". From what I know the Dawn Treader was the Baidarka Ex with the funny curvy bits on the bow and stern trimmed off. These are narrow boats at 20" and have a super deep "V" hull section and almost straight keel line. The original seats are very narrow and short, the cockpit is "Ocean" which is small. You have to get into this boat with both legs at once and its a tight fit. The construction is primitive by modern standards but durable. P&H is a great builder these days and the old boats represent the early fiberglass days for them.
I remember back in the early 80's Derek Hutchinson came to Seattle to give a talk and brought one of the Dawn Treader hulls with him. By then the design had been eclipsed by superior British designs but to us it looked radical since we were paddling wide stable NW style touring boats. A local builder got permission to pull a mold off of the boat and built about 20 of them using vacuum bag and some of the best techniques of the day. He was able to bring the weight down and we all got a chance to try out the boats. I owned one of these light boats and enjoyed it, always regretted selling it. So when I saw this old broken Baidarka Explorer I was intrigued.
I was able to bring this old boat back from the dead, Glassed the cracked keel from the inside, added exterior keel strip. Cut-out the tiny seat and made a new one for my normal sized American ass. New hatches to replace the old leaky style. Buffed the glass deck and hull and it started to look respectable. Added new deck lines and off you go. That's the great thing about glass boats, infinitely reparable given enough time and a bucket of resin.
These are not great beginner boats. Very twitchy on first impression but you get used to it. The straight flat keel-line tracks like crazy so you will be doing some long corrective strokes if you get blown off course. Great boat for carving turns. I have done some local touring in the boat and when it is loaded with gear it feels great, really great. If you can find a old boat for cheap and fix it up these are fun to paddle. The tiny 8" hatches are a challenge for loading, be sure to tie a retrieving cord to the stuff you push up into the end of the boat. I think these boats are important in the modern sea kayak design progression.
Strong, fast real-world touring boat
2 years ago we were planning a trip 108nm from Port Hardy BC around the northern tip of Vancouver island via Cape Scott up Quatsino Sound to Coal Harbor. Because lingering out there on the coast is a risky business we needed fast boats so when the weather and tides were right we could pound-out the miles. I have been paddling a Necky Arluk 1.9 for about 15 years and really like the speed and seaworthyness of that design but I wanted more capacity for gear and water.
I started looking around and found a used Seaward Quest X3. The overall dimensions looked good and after paddling it for a few days I knew it was going to work great. So far no disappointments. Good deck height and foot room, the seat is not perfect but with some modifications I made it work. The use boat that I bought had some cracks in the material that bond the hatches and coamings to the deck. I used a dremel to cut out the old material and re-bonded the coamings, sanded the areas super smooth and the results were strong and water tight. That is the great thing about fiberglass boats, there is always a way to bring them back to 100%. I did not like the criss-cross bungy system that held the hatches. I was not confident that they would survive a surf landing. I replaced these with some spectra cord and a side release buckle. The solution worked great and there was no way they would get blasted off under pressure.
The boat has fantastic storage capacity, Its really nice to get all the gear below decks and have a smooth deck profile. I think it is much safer to have everything below deck. Good, strong rudder system hung on a mini transom. I like the long ski-shaped bow for beach landings. The boat has a slight "V" section and good rocker. Slightly twitchy stability empty but loaded it is a rock. This is a very fast boat and we were able to make 30 to 40 mile days which gave us time to hang out for bad weather and explore the coast more.
I would recommend this boat. Seaward appears to build a great product based on my experience with this used Quest X3. The hull is light and strong vacuum bag glass and the deck is hand laid. Recessed deck fitting and recessed low-profile hatch covers. Bulk heads are super strong and glassed in place. Great foot peddle rudder system, rudder will kick up over rear deck, skid plate at transom keel. You will not go wrong with this design.
Old School sea kayaking classic
If you like the British West Greenland style boats this is a good option. This is a Derrick Hutchinson design built by one of Canada's best builders. The build and finish are excellent. Unlike the British built boat these have the advantage of being light and strong. A comparison is the P&H Sirius which I believe is the same basic boat design and weighs a ton with little or no strength advantage. Vacuum bagged hull and hand-laid fiberglass deck. If you can find a Kevlar version of this design it will shave an additional 10 pounds off. Mine is all glass and weighs in at 53 pounds, so not exactly a light weight but manageable.
The Andromeda is not cutting edge in touring design anymore but that does not diminish the way it feels and paddles. Loaded with gear this boat will feel solid and track like crazy. Turning requires some leaning and carving. Unloaded it will be twitchy feeling sitting on its narrow 20" beam and deep-V hull. Once you have spent time in the boat the twitchy-ness will subside and you get more the feeling of a sports car like performance. It is effortless to paddle through the water and maintain normal touring speeds, I have raced the boat in recreational divisions and done well. Pushed beyond hull speed it will squat in the stern but still has very little wave-making. Over all it is a beautiful boat to paddle and watch being paddled. A classic!
Lots of room for touring. The storage hatches are tight and well made. Large round hatch forward, Large oval aft and also a third "day" hatch just aft of the cockpit. I have never had a problem getting 5-6 days worth of gear into this boat. Really there no room to spare and it does require packing more carefully. I am a tall paddler (6'-2") and find the cockpit fits well. Nice foot space under the tall rounded deck and even extra room forward of the foot braces for a water jug when you need to carry your own fresh water.
If you are a entry level paddler this boat will challenge you but might not be a good choice for overall performance and comfort. If you want to get that old-school British boat experience, this is a great choice. Classic Brit design with the quality Vacuum bagged Canadian build. I do not think they build these anymore. Maybe a special order to get a new one. Don't fret, there are enough used ones popping up from time to time. Since they are so well madee the used boats are almost uniformly in great paddling condition. I had to wait awhile to find mine but it was a 2002 boat with not a scratch. I have paddled other Derrick Hutchinson designs and wanted to experience this one which I feel is his best work. I mostly day paddle my Andromeda and instead use some more modern sea kayaks designs for long-haul touring, I still come back to this design and feel amazed by the audacity that created it and the experience it delivers.
Paddle on lads.....RIP Derrick Hutchinson.