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Submitted: 07-16-2008 by alfcheung
First, some background on me. I like rock hopping and surfing more than paddling flatwater. In the last two years I have been spending more time paddling my sea kayaks on the ocean and tidal rivers when I can. But living inland, I find myself surfing standing waves of local in-town rapids, paddling the Thousand Islands (looking for the odd bow wave), and large lakes in a variety of conditions. I still enjoy a nice relaxing exploratory paddle once in a while.
I bought the Baffin in May 2008. Got a fantastic deal on it as it was one of Boreal's demo boats (still "new" though). I had contemplated building a skin-on-frame boat similar in size to my Ellesmere but with lower volume. However the need to re-skin depending on how hard I use the boat put me off. With the Baffin, I pretty much don't need to build a kayak unless I want a significant weight savings.
The Baffin is outfitted with Boreal's dial-a-setting skeg. It has the plastic version of the backband seat with the hump. The nice thing about the Baffin is that the rear part of the coaming is now further away from the backband. You can stuff your paddlefloat, pump, sponge and even a nalgene repair/first aid kit all behind the seat.
The decklines have the reflective ribbon weaved in. There is an indentation just ahead of the front coaming lip that serves as a paddle park while resting and possibly for self rescues (although I personally hold my paddle against the back coaming and park my paddle across the boat, just in front of my abdomen). I'll have to try the front the next time I'm out to see how well that works.
It's a heavy boat. It's 1-lb heavier than my Ellesmere (61-lbs). But the Ellesmere feels heavier because lifting up a fibreglass boat by the coaming isn't as comfortable(?) as lifting a plastic one. Being a low volume boat, it has less storage than the similar Ellesmere. With careful packing and sharing of resources, a week long trip is realizable. Along those lines, you had better make sure you put your skirt on when surf launching as the lower fore and aft decks will allow copious amounts of water into the cockpit.
It weathercocks a fair bit. Lowering the skeg or edging alleviates that. There one interesting observation when going skegless. You need to be mindful and anticipate when it begins to weathercock and edge. Once it starts weathercocking, any edging or leaning only causes the Baffin to carve and turn more aggressively. Only when using a stern rudder in a pry or draw puts you back on course.
The beautiful sheer line makes storing long greenland paddles somewhat difficult. Euro paddles are not a problem. In fact, there is some extra rigging on the foredeck like what you see on NDK boats that does a better job of securing splits than the Ellesmere.
Common to all Boreal Design plastic boats, they lack that cool banding along the hull and deck seam that distinguishes Boreal Design from other composite kayaks. But that's a minor cosmetic detail.
Like my Ellesmere, the Baffin has a day hatch. I became addicted to using my day hatch and sold off my generation one Capella partially because of that. However, Boreal Design uses foam bulkheads. I was used to having thinner bulkheads (welded in the Capella and glass in the Ellesmere). To my surprise, I have slightly less room in the hatches because of the thickness of the foam bulkheads.
The stock bow toggle rope is too short for my tastes. I lengthened them and added bungies so the toggles wouldn't hang loose and throttle the hull when surfing. It should be noted that because of the upswept bow and stern, a two person carry already had the boat low to the ground. With lengthened toggle lines, it's that much lower. But it makes it easier for swimmer rescue.
The skeg is dial-a-setting skeg. Works well, but the way it's put in the rear hatch can be a pain when packing the kayak. It runs down the side then veers diagonally and down to the skeg box. You have to pack your stuff around the plastic sleeve protecting the skeg rope. You need to be careful that you don't damage the seal at the sleeve/ skeg box junction. Otherwise you might end up with a leaking skeg box.
It's a beautiful looking boat. Holding an aggressive edge is very easy. I found the secondary stability better than my Ellesmere in moving water. Then again, I haven't paddled my Ellesmere since getting the Baffin. The reverse hard-chine is present in the Baffin like the Ellesmere. There seems to be slightly more flare in the Baffin. That could where the extra 1/8" in width comes from. That combined with the lower rear deck allows for easy cowboy scramble rescues.
The low rear and fore decks make rolling a breeze. It's a great boat for greenland rolling.
It is a very snug fitting boat for my size (5'8", 145#). Adjusting the footpegs gives you phenomenal control over the boat. The weight range allows for my friend who is 6+' and 210+ lbs is able to paddle it. However, he has a harder time getting his legs under the thigh braces. When demoing the Baffin, having a 200+ lbs of swimmer on the rear deck causes it to submarine.
The quality of the plastic used in construction has held up over two weeks of hard dragging and paddling in rock gardens and surf.
There was one construction issue I had, there wasn't enough silicone used on the rear hatch ring. It leaked like a sieve. Once that was fixed, all hatches have been dry. When surfing on the Shubenacadie, there was some mud infiltration between the hatch ring and bottom the the hatch cover. But none of that ever migrated past the hatch ring lip. Perhaps that's one plus of Valley hatches.
It should be noted that all the Boreal Design has now taken to making their own rubber hatches. The Boreal rubber is softer than the all-rubber Kajaksport hatches. An added bonus is that the Boreal and Kajaksport hatch covers are interchangeable as they use the same sized hatch rings.
I'm not sure if it's present, but the Ellesmere had pin holes in the bulkheads to alleviate pressure due to hot air expansion. I've noticed on the odd occasion that the hatch covers ballooned (e.g., when driving 1500km or having the Baffin on the roof rack in the sun). Not to the extent that popping off was imminent. But enough to concern me and add it in the review. The Boreal hatch covers unlike the Kajaksport hatch covers only have a tether on the inside. The pull tab is too short and fat to accommodate a tether plus clip on the outside.
The Baffin is not too bad of a boat for surfing. I think (no, I know) I need more practice.
If you look at my picasaweb album comparing my Ellesmere and Baffin (http://picasaweb.google.com/qajaq8/Ellesmere_Baffin_Comparison), you'll see that my particular Baffin has more rocker than my Ellesmere. I had originally thought that the Baffin was supposed to have less rocker than the Ellesmere. The reason being was that the Baffin's stern drops down more vertically unlike the Ellesmere. However, I like the way my Baffin behaves.
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