Submitted: 01-03-2003 by bnystrom
The Aral fits midway between the Valkyrie and Recluse in the BBK lineup and shares their 20.5" beam. Fortunately, it also shares many of their handling characteristics. I've also owned a Recluse and the Aral is much like it. It's very stable for a narrow boat. It's nearly neutral in the wind and responds beatifully to leans, making a skeg or rudder completely unnecessary. It's quite maneuverable for it's length, but tracks well enough that you won't find yourself constantly correcting it. In this regard, it's about the best boat I've paddled. It's also pretty quick, which is to be expected in an 18' boat.
BBK emphasizes light weight over durability and the construction reflects that. The deck is thin (3mm) and much of the boat is only fiberglassed on the outside. This is not a boat for rock gardens or surf play, but it IS light.
The downsides of BBK boats are small hatches that tend to leak if not fully seated, no day hatch option, sparse deck rigging (optional full deck rigging is available) and finish quality that's not comensurate with the price. They're structurally sound, but there are numerous unfair areas in the hulls and I have yet to see one with a coaming that wasn't noticeably crooked.
I guess one could say that BBK is the NDK of wood boats. Outstanding design and handling qualities, with so-so build quality and a few annoyances. I'd rate it a 9.5 for handling and a 6.5 for construction and finish work, so I'll call it an 8 overall.
It's funny how you forget all about the flaws when you're out on the water...