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Submitted: 08-28-2006 by Tig

This follow-up review of the Viviane is after logging an additional several hundred miles, all in the Pacific offshore, and most of which was from a paddle trip offshore from Ventura out along the Channel Islands to San Miguel, back along the south side of the islands to Santa Cruz, then south to Santa Barbara Island, then Catalina and after a rest of several days, a long crossing to land at Del Mar in San Diego county. In our group of four, the other kayaks were an Aquanaut, a Nordkapp and a wood, fiberglass and carbon fiber kayak that I designed and built for a friend.

The Viviane is a fast, lively, generally responsive kayak thatís easy lean; scull up and real easy to roll upright. For the novice, this kayak would feel twitchy and unstable. Add a load of gear and food, for this trip about 120 pounds, both primary and secondary stability increased dramatically.

The paddle trip involved several long crossings, the longest from the Palisades area of Catalina (33.3082N, 118.3469W) to Del Mar (32.9346N, 117.2602W), a distance of 68 miles took a total of 15 hours including rest stops and bio-breaks, or just over 13 hours of actual paddling. The other long passages of the trip were 51 miles (Santa Cruz Island to Santa Barbara Island), and 41 miles (Santa Barbara Island to the Palisades area of Catalina Island). Paddling varied between fairly flat water with long, low swells and gentle winds, to moderate winds of up to 15 knots, wind waves of 1-2 meters on swells of 4 meters. The roughest day was 2-meter breaking wind-waves atop 4-meter swells in a sustained wind of 12-16 knots, when we paddled from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara Island.

We swapped kayaks throughout the trip and everyone agreed that the Viviane was the fastest of the kayaks but not the most comfortable to paddle, two of us tend to bang the side with our 230 Werners; 235 or 240 would fit us better for this kayak. While Iím at it, for any kind of bumpy surface, a low angle paddle stroke is the better to use for stability; a high-angle stroke can trip you up. Since Iím on the general group consensus, everyone agreed the Aquanaut was the most stable in primary and secondary stability, the kayak I designed and built being the most comfortable and all around enjoyable, being both the lightest and the most attractive of all of them. The Viviane was both the fastest and roomiest. The Nordkapp came in last.

Vivianeís strong points:

As other reviewers wrote, the Viviane is fast enough to catch up to and drop onto wakes and waves, and the hull is fast enough in design and hull speed that youíll end up in front of the wake train so you can catch it again and again and again. As others mentioned, you most definitely want to be perpendicular to a wave or wake to surf otherwise youíll be ending up having to do some serious paddle turning to work the bow back round.

The kayak has a low righting moment, meaning a low heeling moment, or in other words, allowing it to be easily leaned into the sides of steep seas. Also, lacking an extensive defined chine, it doesnít ďtripĒ over the chine in those awkward side-surfing moments when things didnít go quite the way they were supposed to when landing. Further, thereís some surprising secondary built into that hull, and when leaned past that, itís not difficult for a person to scull back up. The simple rubber Valley hatch covers, though not beauties, are easy to get on and off yet are very secure, and definitely watertight. The hatch openings are large to fit most things one takes along on trips.

The kayak is dry ride, when empty it floats over most everything, but with all that positive buoyancy in the bow, it is not the best kayak for beach launches when its very desirable to punch through the crest of a plunging wave in those times when getting out between big waves is just not going to happen. By no means am I saying that it canít do it, just that there are some kayaks that are just better at it, but then, that means a wetter ride.

The skeg design is really good and mostly flutter-free, strong, so far it hasnít jammed with gravel, and never binds up or hard to use, but I do wish the control knob was more forward at least 6 inches. Another very strong point is that the Viviane is easy to paddle backwards, and she goes straight, too. To me this is a great and wonderful feature right up there with itís speed and ability to catch wakes for long rides.

Vivianeís weak areas:

Right off, I canít stand the frigginí bulkheads position and construction. By midnight of the same night the kayak was given to me I had them out. The front bulkhead is far too forward and the rear bulkhead too far back. This makes for a tremendous volume in the cockpit, and removes all sorts of volume from the front and rear compartments. So when you find yourself offshore in rough water and the spray-skirt just blew in with a breaking sea, you get to pump out all that extra water and have an even larger free-surface area! This is beyond bad. I repositioned both bulkheads, and added a foot-operated Bosworth Guzzler foot pump, too.

The seat and back-band is garbage. So out it came and I made a minicell throne. Not only is it comfy for 10-20 hour paddles, but itís much lighter then the original seat and it takes up additional cockpit volume which means just that much less water to pump out. As I mentioned above, the skeg control needs to be moved at least 6 inches forward so that skeg adjustment can be done smoothly while paddling.

Finally, the positive nature of being so long at the waterline and with a deep-V also makes the kayak twitchy in short, steep, confused seas, conditions found when swells come from two directions with a tidal influence over shallow water, where playboats do better.

Bottom line, this is my 17th kayak Iíve owned and is the fastest and most fun of my fleet. Itís fast, roomy, twitchy, and damn does it like to surf, or should I say, how I like to surf! Pick up a used one and do the mods I did and youíll have a rocketship ride that fits you well. The best color to get is white for a variety of reasons, trust me on this, I speak from over three decades of paddling and many, many long trips and many firsts throughout the world.

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