Submitted: 08-30-2004 by jllong
There are lots of sea kayaks out there. There are some that are fantastic all rounder boats like the NDK Explorer. Sometimes I think some boats get criticized for not performing well when they were not designed to do what they are criticized for not being able to do. What I mean is: no boat does everything really well. If a designer wants a boat to do something exceptionally well he/she must give away something to accomplish this. Really long, fast boats were never designed to turn on a dime.
The Viviane is one such boat. Make no mistake: this is an exceptional sea kayak. Exceptional. But it was not intended to be an all round boat or a fun playful, quick turning, boat. It was intended to handle well in big water and has a very round hull and lots of volume in the bow. It was designed to be very fast and it is extremely fast for an honest to goodness expedition sea kayak. I have raced the Viviane and stayed very close to a Fenn Mako surf ski and a West Hill Thunderbolt, both of which are extremely fast racing hulls. I capitalized on the stability of the Viviane's hull and was able to paddle at full power thru wind and chop when the race boats were not.
What the Viviane does not do well (and was never intended to do) is turn quickly, this is an open water boat and would be a liability in a rock garden. There is nothing like it for hour upon hour of fast paddling. I paddled the entire coast of Georgia (nearly 100 miles) in 48 hours carrying what I needed: shelter, food and water. The boat performed wonderfully.
The rod actuated skeg is wonderful and I have never seen it's equal. It works well in most conditions. The Viviane is sensitive to trim and may require weight placed toward the stern to avoid weather cocking in stern quartering seas.
The big surprise in the Viviane is how well it rolls considering it's size. This is a voluminous hull yet the way the deck and cockpit coaming are shaped it enables a very efficient position for rolling. I can easily hand roll this boat, loaded.
The Kajaksport people make no false claims concerning their largest single kayak. They never claim it is a great all rounder and in the language of kayaking they paint a clear picture of what they intended this boat to do: Hold lots of stuff, go fast and provide good stability in rough water. They have accomplished these goals admirably.