Submitted: 07-08-2005 by mrule
At first glance, the Kevlar Pachena DX from Current Designs seems to be such a collection of deep compromises that it should be versatile, but slow and uninteresting. In reality however, it is such a nicely balanced design that it is a very capable and exceptionally good natured little yak that can do many things well. It is indeed versatile. My kayak needs require rough water capability but are length and weight constrained and experience challenged. Length matters because like any self respecting bachelor, I spent my money for a couch on a nicer kayak and it resides in my living room instead. Weight counts because I live on the second floor...
As you might expect from its short length (14'1") and wide beam (25 1/4"), it has a limited top speed, great stability and rather relaxed tracking. The real magic of the Pachena for me however is its delightful speed for a moderate effort. Its acceleration is surprising and it coasts forever. Moving the boat at a good clip requires nothing more than going through the motions and its ability to penetrate upwind at a solid rate with an easy effort is uncanny. If you are paddling, you are moving along just fine. Its stability is so robust that you can usually ignore the sea state and paddle finesse and just motor straight towards your destination; an excellent kayak for a tired paddler covering distance.
This efficiency was apparent at the 2005 Monterey Bay Paddlefest where their Pachena was popular with the smallest paddlers who, despite some complaints of clipping the high, fore cockpit coaming, were able to zip around at surprising speeds. It was clearly the fastest kayak for small paddlers and beginners, no doubt helped by the fact that the wide hull is completely indifferent to sloppy paddling and we beginners could throw our shoulders into the strokes and just fling the lightweight little kayak around. I found it to be much faster and more stable than any of the dozen or so designs I had tried and to have no trace of the false sense of tipsiness that comes from a shallow V hull, although the Pachena is listed as such. Top speed honors at that event incidentally have to go to a magnificent pair of wooden Actionfish kayaks that, with great dignity, effortlessly outran everything on the water, barely disturbing its surface as they glided by.
The versatility of the kayak does make for compromises. The cockpit of the Pachena for instance is huge, actually too big for a 5"9' paddler such as myself, with an enormous, plastic, tractor-like seat, molded without a drain and capable of holding gallons of water. It will fill quickly too, as an unskirted ride in a Pachena is a very wet affair from paddle drips, with the extended keyhole cockpit catching every last drop that might be missed by the wide coaming. I come back from two hour trips soaked, with an inch of water sloshing around in the bottom. I love it.
A nice set of thigh braces can be made for this and other kayaks by using Tupperware type containers bolted to the side of the kayak with 3/8" closed cell foam adhered to the lids. I use nylon hardware which is likely to shear before damaging the hull and mount small hooks inside for clipping valuables. This allows dry, accessible storage for suntan lotion, fig newtons and other vital equipment. I found the Sterilite "Ultra Seal" 2qt. cereal container to fit the deep sidewalls of the Pachena nicely and provide that "night and day" lower body fit. These are almost weightless and have nifty hinged lids that are perfect for the purpose.
The rudder works well, serving not only to help with directionality, but also stabilizing it in roll, and helping neutral tracking by adding a little drag far aft and extending the keel. It reduces the overall liveliness of the hull. It's fun to surf along the crest of the leading edge of waves, using the rudder to keep it on the face.
Construction deserves comment. The worst aspect of my Pachena is the gelcoat. It seems thin, brittle and chips and scratches easily. It has broken through in two small holes at the aftmost point of the hull where it was unadhered to the mesh. Mine came with an unrepaired bad area with the underlayer showing. The "smoke" color of the hull may be hard to match for repairs; white is not available. All of this is unfortunate as it seems to be largely a materials issue and degrades a well made kayak (and my rating to a 9). The interior layup, bulkhead fitting and most other important details are superb. The hatches are works of art.
So, if you are looking for a kayak to keep forever as you expand your uses for it rather than change equipment, the Pachena is pretty ideal. As a fishing boat, or five day campout boat, or one to take to the big family picnic at the lake where it will be fun and safe for everyone, the Pachena is a great choice. Or, if you are like me who prefers birding to bracing and enjoys ignoring 18" broadside waves while sitting with both feet hanging in the water, and then being able to streak back to the shore at sundown, the Pachena is perfect. It always seems to be 10% more than I expect while so many others were 10% less. It is not inexpensive, but it is the cheapest Kevlar to be found and a top notch product. Besides, It looks fabulous in a living room.