Sunday, May 31, 2015

Nalu 12.5 from Ocean Kayak

  If you have access to water, and access to paddlers of all sizes, shapes and abilities, you may want to make space for the Nalu 12.5, a plastic hybrid paddleboard/sit-on-top kayak. 
The Nalu 12.5 is not a performance boat, but it is cleverly designed to be fun and easy to use.  The board weighs 49 pounds, and is an easy one person carry balancing well from either center handhold.  Aft bungees hold gear in place, and there's a compartment up front for drier storage.  Rather than a long fin, there are three keels to help the Nalu hold direction.  You can lay it flat on the grass and there is less to worry about as you launch.  And, if you've ever caught your SUP board fin on a hidden branch, you know another advantage to the keels.
     It's an easy boat to get on, and you can stand, sit, kneel or lie down to paddle.  If you're looking for a boat for a variety of skill levels at a lake, or a craft for exploring small streams, this is a great choice.
     Newer versions include a handhold in back, as well as in front, and pads to help older joints kneel.  But the versions we purchased were close-out models bought at the twice yearly Old Town Canoe and Kayak factory seconds sale; the second cheapest way to add new boats to your fleet.*
These boards come with an optional seat.  The seats can attach at four points (Two by the center handles, two by the bungees.) When all four points are used, the seat is held open.  We generally prefer to just use the two front straps, and travel with the seat folded over itself and flat.  Sometimes we don't even bother to open the seat,  we just sit on the back of the seat, or even use it as knee pad.  
One of the nice features is how well these boards stack on a roof.   Stacking is enhanced by a drain line at the rear of the bottom board which lines up with the center keel of the top boat .
  The boards do okay in moderate wind and chop, though they are a wet ride.
  The hatch is a strap-on plastic cover.
 Here Mark is testing the hatch by rocking water over it.
 The inside is still dry!  But, I would still recommend a dry bag for anything in there, and being wise about using the board on cold or rough water.

  And you can see that they do very well with a Greenland Paddleboard Paddle.   There are also hybrid paddles available.  The Old Town factory outlet has a model with a tee grip end which can be changed out for a paddle.  The model they had on hand could not compete with Marks' cedar GP for lightness or comfort though.  Another option is to use a paddleboard paddle and store a break apart two-bladed kayak paddle in the hatch.  We had no trouble getting a 240cm Warner break-apart in or out of the hatch.

  Our sons recently came by to pick up "their" boats** to use for a day trip with friends up a beaver stream to a small pond.  But, after testing the Nalu's, that's what they left with.  The Nalu's were easy to transport and when the group was traveling up the winding stream it was easy for them to stand up and check on the other paddlers.  These boats have the most flexibility for getting on and off, which was perfect for getting over beaver dams (and positioning to help other boats over the dams) as well as landing on a steep shore.  One used the Greenland paddle, the other a SUP paddle, though he switched to a Euro-paddle to cross the pond in a strong wind. 

So what are the flaws?  There are a few.  It is rated for up to 350 pounds.  We did have a fairly large guy (close to 300 pounds) test it, he enjoyed the boat and found is quite stable.  He also liked that he could easily get himself back on the board, a feat which is not possible with some recreational sit-inside kayaks.  But I think the rated 350 pounds capacity is optimistic.
    When anyone over average weight is seated, the back of the boat tends to drag.  One option is to pull the seat pad further forward, but then foot brace positions are limited.  Also, the seat angle is better for relaxing than power paddling.
    The foot wells, while they add stability by lowering the feet, limit movement on the paddleboard.  
    Shifting from standing to sitting, and more so from sitting to standing is not as straight forward as you might imagine.  Especially when shifting from sitting to standing, it's easier to go through a kneeling stage (and drag a leg off the side to do so.)

  We bought these boats to use on the Penobscot River.  The path to our boat launch is narrow with some steep drop-offs so carrying boats, even light ones, up and down regularly is more insane than buying additional boats.   Since we plan to paddleboard regularly on the Penobscot River, we'd like to store boards down there.  The Penobscot isn't a shallow stream, so the Nalu's keel isn't the advantage it could be other places, but I like to have the option to be able to sit, should the wind pick up while we're out. 

   After borrowing the Nalu's for the weekend, one son is thinking of getting one for his own use, which says a lot for their entertainment value.  (Remember his real kayak is still stored here.)

*  The best sale is the Old Town Employee-only Sale, held just before the public sale.  Old Town employees are held in high esteem in this area.

**  Some of the kayaks regularly featured in Penobscot Paddles are not technically our boats, but boats which were gifts to prior Penobscot Paddlers.  I'm sure they appreciate us continuing to exercise their equipment... 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gray Day in Castine

It was an iffy day, and the splatters of rain on our car windshield didn't make it any more appealing.  But it had been a long hard winter.  We'd started with an ice storm in early November which left us without power for a week and downed trees which still fill our property.  It had then become a record setting winter for snow and cold.  And though we'd been out on our kayaks for a few short trips, they'd all been local.  We were looking forward to a day on the water.  So, arriving at the Castine dock to see this was disappointing.

With the dock blocked off, we headed to Wadsworth Cove to try a launch.  Wadsworth Cove is named for General Peleg Wadsworth (grandfather of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), who, during the Revolutionary War escaped from the British at Fort George by wading across the cove.

We thought we might start out easy by exploring Bog Brook Stream to the north of the beach.  No such luck, access to Bog Brook had be reduced from a twenty foot wide entrance to three feet, which meant being restricted to the highest part of the tide for access.

But even in that short trip we could see what a delightful and calm day it was.  So we headed back to the car for some extra clothes and a deck compass, then took off for Holbrook  Island.

You can see how still the water was as we passed by Trask Rock.  A popular local legend says in the attack on Fort George during the Penobscot Expedition, the piper hid by Trask Rock to signal where to charge the hill

The glory of calm days is you can spot every seal or porpoise that surfaces.  The frustration is they just don't stay up long enough to be captured on film.  The closest we came to a great wildlife shot, was capturing this flock of 50 or more cormorants heading into the harbor.

 Frustrated with wild life remaining untamed, we turned our cameras to other, more stationary subjects:

The colorful rocks of Holbrook Island
A golden aspe on Dyce's Head
The Harbor Buoy with Dyce's Head Lighthouse in the distance.

  All in all, a good start to touring season.
Summary:  High about 10AM.  Launch 9AM, stop on Holbrook, finish about 11, about 7 miles.
Launch Wadsworth Cove, Town Beach, no restriction on launching kayaks that I am aware of. Generally plenty of parking.  In (swimming) season there is port-a-pottie - not yet.