Have a boat for a year!
It all started with the following conversation:
“We want you to tell us what you think about our sea kayak J-P – warts and all” – said Rick Cooper from British Seakayaks
“Are you sure that you want me to do that? There are lots of other people out there that could do that, plus I have a reputation of pushing boats and people to the edge, and I don’t want to break it!” – says I
“Exactly” – came Ricks bold reply.
I am a lucky man. Who could turn down the offer to test a sea kayak for a year? Why me? I have no sponsorship or support deals, plus with the experience that I have I am in a great position to do this independently – indeed, fairly.
I will be getting something out there each month about it for the last 12 months, and if you want to have a go too, you are more than welcome on one proviso – you must write a paragraph and tell me what you think, and ideally add a picture or two.
What sea kayak am I talking about? It is the NDK Romany Sport Mark 1. Knowing that this was coming my way, my expectations, given the
Sport name, were that it was lighter, stronger, faster, sleeker, more agile than the rest – for example like a small sports car, say a Mazda MX5. Top of the range stuff. My expectations have not been met in all of those categories on first impressions… it is neither particularly light, compared with other similar plastic boats, or the fibre glass version, nor is it sleek, as it’s cockpit room is good for me, but would be too much I imagine, for the small to medium sized paddler (an LV model is on its way).
Plus, I have been kindly given a pink one, apparently chosen from a wide range of colours available, including the nice colours orange, or potentially blue. This kayak isn’t even a dull, sun kissed pink. Not for me; it is a positive, vivid, piercing, in your face, never to go unnoticed shade of pink! “It will show up really well in pictures” was explained to me – hhhhhmmmmmm.
Anyway, the real question is how does this pink passion wagon work? I need to say at this stage for those of you that want to know the detail, the Mark 2 is now available, with the added benefits of and NDK embossed logo on the front deck, and flat head screws throughout for the deck fittings.
The first thing that I noticed was a lack of flex when lifted at either end compared with other plastic boats. I am excited, in my ‘nerdy’ sea kayak way about its stiffness, to such an extent that I did the ‘see how hard I can comfortably strap it onto my roof rack’ test. You know the one – does it bend into the roof bar? Does it bulge on the sides as you tighten the strap? Does it easily give lengthways when you move the bow or stern to check for roof rack longitudinal wobble? The answer was a definite no, not at all. I would go so far to say that it straps on more rigidly than my glass boats, which is a first! I am positively anticipating how this translates onto the sea.
A small but not insignificant thing is that the day hatch is bolted on, and the fore and aft hatch are part of the plastic mould. Good thought has been put into water tightness and flex here. A rigid day hatch means that a less flexible, more watertight hatch cover can be used for the hatch that I need to access regularly at any point. Whereas, the other hatches that I access less can have more flexible hatch covers, made of a different rubber, also to make the seal more watertight, without adding extra cost to fixtures and fittings.
Rick helped me fit it out. There are 3 levels available for the seat height, which are accessed by taking out the seat screws and raising the seat to the level required. Unfortunately, on this version there were no other levels drilled out, so out came my drill and Ricks drilling expertise soon had the seat at mid level – comfortable for the 6ft of me to fit into. I noted a few things whilst this happened for about 20mins; If you have a back band, it would be even trickier to find the screw holes; the seat was not finished symmetrically, and the seat pad underneath the seat was not lined up centrally with the keel; the holes drilled to attach the seat to the hull had been done shoddily. All of these could have been done well initially at the factory.
Sitting in it, I noticed that the skeg slider dug into the top of my left hand knee cap/bottom of my left thigh; hopefully something that won’t be amplified when paddling it for a long time. I plan to make a piece of foam that slots over this so that I don’t feel it at all – watch this space.
Finally, I have nothing yet to say about the fusion of plastic and fiberglass in the cockpit, however, it being 2017, and the model being ‘Sport’, would it be possible to have a totally adjustable seat that I can adjust whilst sitting in it, like the one in my playboat?
Pro or Con?
Surprisingly, there is also no flex when my big bum sits on the deck behind the cockpit, about to slide into the seat. The rear cockpit bulkhead is in a great place for rigidity. I am interested to see if, as the blurb says, you don’t need to X rescue this kayak – or will you end up sitting in a pool of water when only doing a bow lift?
Bring on going afloat – and watch out all other water users as I might blind you!