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Submitted: 05-08-2006 by Bruce
I have just purchased a new Seayak, complete with the Wildwasser balanced wing rudder, and outfitted with the new Prijon deck box - a gasketed twist-off hatch cover just in front of the cockpit, with a waterproof neoprene sock that hangs down and forward inside the kayak - the perfect place to store that cell phone, GPS, digital camera, or anything else you might not want to store lashed to the deck. I am very impressed with the overall quality of this boat, and appreciate the many fine rigging details, which include a full perimeter deck line, D-rings on the hatch covers to attach extra bungees, and the paddle groove with hold-down straps to rig a paddle float outrigger. The blow molded hull is rigid, and does not oil can, either on the water or on the roof rack. I ran smack over a sharp rock the first day out, which would have done serious damage to the gelcoat in a fibreglass boat, and was very glad I had opted for a plastic boat, because there was only a shallow scrape on the hull of the Prijon. Jon Turk pirchpoled his Prijon Kodiak on a rocky beach along the unforgiving coast of Russiia's Kamchatca penisula, burying the bow in the rocks and landing upside down on his head. The boat emerged unscathed. If these boats can survive this kind of treatment, I am confident they can endure the worst I am likely to dish out.
I just had a six-hour sea trial, and concur with other reviewers that the unladen boat tends to round up to windward with the rudder up, and requires concentration to keep it on track. However these issues all disappear when the rudder is dropped, so my recommendation is to purchase the rudder if you purchase a Seayak. The Wildwasser rudder is a work of art, providing minimal drag and very low steering effort. Being of swede-form design, with the centre of buoyance aft of the cockpit, the boat trims up slightly bow-down with the hatches empty, which causes the boat to veer off course slightly on the glide. If you choose to paddle rudderless, the cure would be to move the seat well aft, and pack all of your gear well aft in the rear compartment. Fully laden for a camping trip, I expect the helm would be more neutral - I would think that the hull was designed with this in mind. In any case, I have no issues at all with the way the boat handles with the rudder deployed, and would encourage anyone looking for a superb multi-purpose kayak to seriously consider a Seayak. For the record, the folks at Wildwasser Sport, who handle Prijon boats for North America, have been more than helpful with shipping and with all of my questions - they are very receptive to customer input and constantly working to improve their products. .
There is a peculiar ethos out there that using a rudder is "cheating" or reflects poor paddling skills - in fact what works for best for the boat you have is the right way to paddle. With the wing rudder deployed on this boat, there is no noticeable drag, and edged turns can be done just a cleanly as without the rudder - in fact you can spin the boat even faster with a bit of rudder assist. In straight-ahead paddling the rudder acts like a skeg in the neutral position, and of course minor course corrections can be made either by adjusting your stroke or by subtle rudder input.
Overall this is a beautifully built and very seaworthy boat which handles well under a variety of sea conditions - just accept that it works best with a rudder, and plan to use it. Nothwithstanding the current popularity of british-style skeg boats, there are lot of very experienced sea kayakers out there who will not put to sea in a kayak that is not rudder-equipped. For me, the choice of a rudder boat was motivated by a desire to fit a sail of the folding Pacific Action type for downwind legs. A rudder provides hands-free directional control under sail, leaving the paddle available for bracing if necessary to balance the boat.
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