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Bad paddling technique? Or just top heavy?

Posted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:35 am
by Africanklepper
Took my FC Java out for an afternoon paddle with my girlfriend. We put-in on the slipway at the fishing harbour in Hermanus, Western Cape (South Africa), better known for its visiting Southern Right whales than for kayaking.

A 15-knot south-easter was blowing and there was quite a bit of chop beyond the breakwater.

A couple of strokes beyond the breakwater, we decided that conditions were not great for a continued coastal paddle and turned about to head back to the harbour. A few strokes downwind and turning slightly abeam a following sea, we flipped, easy as pie without so much as even an attempt at bracing.

The nice thing about the Java is that it is a doddle to get back on (very much unlike a waterlogged Klepper) so we were back on in no time.

But it was a salient lesson in boat stability and usability. While the Java can take a second paddler comfortably (and I'm 6'3"), it having a second paddler aboard seems to alter the stability of the sit-on-top quite dramatically.

My question: is this purely a function of waterline length coupled with a high centre of gravity? Or merely poor paddling technique?

I would guess that Feathercraft's Gemini (a proper double) would be a more stable boat given its greater waterline length, but I would appreciate any thoughts on this issue.

Thanks,

PK

Re: Bad paddling technique? Or just top heavy?

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:33 am
by gbellware
So I am not going to take you off the hook for bad paddling technique, only you know if that is the case :-)

But I can speak to the high COG and "tip-ability" of the Java. It is hard to put one over in single configuration, but easy in double. My wife and I almost spilled ours on entry, and we were in gator waters at the time. You probably don't worry about gators. They don't share waters with your Great Whites.

So live and learn. SOT's are wet, high COG, and tip-able. You can improve the stability with careful balancing of the inflation pressure (low on the bottoms / high on the tops) but, at the end of the paddle, you are sitting on -- and not in -- the kayak.

Best,

g

Re: Bad paddling technique? Or just top heavy?

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:39 am
by Africanklepper
gbellware wrote:we were in gator waters at the time. You probably don't worry about gators. They don't share waters with your Great Whites.
Thanks, G.

We think about the sharks. A lot. Shark Alley - which sees an estimated 3000 Great Whites swim through every year :shock: - is on the other side of the peninsula. We don't paddle there.

But crocs in our northern and eastern rivers and estuaries are a real issue. In fact, there are a lot of beautiful bushveld rivers in the east that I won't go anywhere near in a kayak. The thing is, in some places the rivers can't support the huge croc numbers, and they get aggressive. Further north, it's hectic: a friend once did a two-week trip on the Kunene (btw Namibia and Angola). On one single day he and his support boat - an inflatable known locally as a Croc, unfortunately :? - were attacked 28 times by crocs. He came off that river with PTSD.

As for paddling technique, yes, we learn by doing. But we'll use the Klepper when going coastal next time.

cheers

PK

Re: Bad paddling technique? Or just top heavy?

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:13 pm
by bstevenson
From your description it sounds to me like your initial stability was quite low and it was this rather than poor paddling technique that was the primary causal factor in your flip. The way to improve the initial stability of a kayak is to load the hull with cargo and limit the weight of the paddler(s). On a SOT it is not possible to load the hull down low. A two person SOT would probably approach a worst case for initial kayak stability. I agree that you would have been much better served by your Klepper in the situation you describe.

Bill