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I thought I had found my yak when I purchase a NDK Explorer. It was my go to boat for long paddles on the Anacostia River and around Kent Island. For my birthday I attended Brian's kayak build class at the Delmarva Greenland Paddling Fest and built a Cape Falcon F1 under his expert guidance. It proved to be a great kayak. Before I moved back to California, I sold the NDK to a willing buyer, and put the F1 on the Hullivator for the long drive across the country.
The Cape Falcon F1 has proven it worth on surf zone entries and landings in the Monterey Bay, choppy paddles on Elkhorn Slough, and long paddles in San Francisco Bay. I haven't looked at another kayak since I found how adaptable I have become on different waters with the F1. I don't miss the cold winters, basement storage, and heavy kayaks of the Mid-Atlantic.
- I have been paddling for 13 years and last season I paddled 1200 miles (April through October). The year before that I did 728 miles. My boat was a 17' plastic sea kayak built for large paddlers and weighing about 64 pounds (Dagger Atlantis). It had an integral rudder that I removed 5 years ago. I'm 5'7" and weigh 150-155 pounds so this was way too much boat for me.
- The F1 weighs 27 pounds empty. I can easily lift it onto the roof rack of my Honda CRV by stepping onto a milk crate I leave in the SUV for that purpose. People are jealous of the weight.
- All miles have been in Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut. Conditions have varied from flat water to 25 mph gusts with heavy rain. Seas have ranged as high as 3 feet but we don't have breaking surf. Lots of chop from boat wakes is common. Trips have ranged from 90 minutes to 6 hours, with a median distance of 20 miles per paddle.
- Our try-out in the river in Oregon after we finished building our boats was not a confidence builder. The boat seemed tippy and hard to steer. I'm not sure why that was because after just a few miles on my home turf I can report that the boat is quite stable, tracks great, does not weathercock, handles wind easily, surfs nicely, and cuts into waves with confidence. Perhaps a hard-chined boat took a bit of getting used to?
- I downloaded a free app for my iPhone to check speed. I can cruise at 4 mph without a problem. (The app is called Max Speed.)
- One day, a kayak buddy of mine who races a 19 foot custom carbon boat said he was tired and was willing to paddle with me. He slowed down from his usual 8 mph and I revved it up to about 5 mph for an hour or more. I was tired that night but I could keep up with him at that speed.
- The seat, made from closed cell foam (optional purchase from Brian) is surprisingly comfortable for the first few hours. After that, it gets uncomfortable. So I cut off a length of pad from an athletic mat we don't really use and that helps. It helped enough that I then doubled it but it raised the center of gravity too much. The backband works well and I don't have the back problems I had in my old boat.
- Accessible storage needs some work on my part. Brian recommended a water bag behind the seat and I think I need to do that. Otherwise, I tuck 4 water bottles under the bow floatation bag and that works 'okay'. It can be hard to reach up and under to grab a bottle. The deck riggings works well but I think the hide is stretching.
- As noted above, I am using my Werner Camano paddle (I think that's the model). The Greenland style paddle uses different muscles. The Werner gets me to max speed quicker but I'd love to do a physiological study to see whether I expend different amounts of energy with one of the paddles.
- Based on my new paddling speed I now wonder whether I should have built the LPB. Next time!
REVIEW OF THE CAPE FALCON KAYAK BUILDING CLASS
We had 6 people for the class and 2 of them were returning students. That said something right at the start. My friend and I were from the East Coast, there was a carpenter from Chicago, a retired music teacher from Colorado, a librarian from Seattle and a professor from Tacoma. They were very nice people, not surprising, given that this is not a random sample of the population. The music teacher was very handy and brought his own tools, but 3 of us were less handy and we all ended up with a quality boat.
Brian is easy-going and West coast laid back but this belies an obsession with quality. I run professional training workshops and I learned several things about training from Brian. He set up each module by demonstrating the process on someone's boat. He answered questions with openness and without making us feel dumb. Brian was very patient and was always happy to repeat instructions or help an individual with a task.
After the epoxy was done and we were waiting for it to dry we began making a paddle. I thought this was just a time filler while the boat dried and that we could have just taken time off to explore the area. But the paddle making was fun and not only that, the paddle itself is terrific and seems matched to the boat although I use my Werner paddle 95% of the time. You can get into a meditative state with the block plane and sandpaper. The result is a beautiful and highly functional paddle. The rigging took longer than I thought, but exactly as long as Brian said it would!
We shipped our kayaks home. Brian wrapped one and we did 3 more. He drove the boats to Portland and it took about 9 days to get the boat after class was over. Shipping and materials are extra. The boat was unscathed when I picked it up. (FYI: It gets shipped via truck and you pick it up at one of their terminals located at a major airport. UPS does not drop it at your door!)
Prices are very reasonable but do expect, as Brian says upfront, to pay extra for the backband, seating, flotation and shipping. Brian believes in his product and made sure that we built a high-quality boat. He backs this up with a guarantee, even with boats we built ourselves. Brian also hosted dinner one evening and toured us around his organic farm which runs with solar and hydro power.
I give Brian my highest recommendation and would not hesitate to send anyone to one of his classes. I'd love to go back myself.
I looked for over two years to find a 'used' F1, I even tried to buy one off a houseboat but the woman who owned it said she would never sell it. I tried to buy one off a car top. "No way" was the response. I tried to buy a used one from Brian, but he wouldn't let me because he knew over the long haul I would be happier with a new boat. I'm offering this information because if no one who owns one or built one will let it go...it must be a pretty good kayak.
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