No doubt about it, the K40 is fast enough for an IK. Last night was a calm but chilly evening, not very inviting so I settled on some effort and endurance rather than relaxed fun, nosing along the coast.
Alone and without my usual dry suit, the initial agoraphobia certainly helped with the digging. But for goodness sake, the sea was barely stirring apart from an eerie swell, so I dared myself a dash over to Tanera Mor (left). It’s only a 25-minute crossing.
The day before a kayaker fell in heading in the other direction back to Old Dornie and ended up being rescued by the coast guard (one press version here with a few small errors). I was told only one of the two kayakers actually fell in and although experienced, couldn’t roll or exit instantly, possibly as a result of cold shock? I presume it was that effort along with, like me, not being ‘dressed for the swim’, that brought on the reported hypothermia and associated helplessness. There were several other kayak rescues reported around Britain last weekend. Certainly up here it was the first sunny and calm couple of days in ages which must have brought paddlers out, even if sea temps haven’t caught up and may never do so.
I kept upright and sustained a sweat-inducing 4mph plus for half an hour, peaking with the aid of some unnoticed surge at just over 5mph (8.5kph or 4.6 knots). I suspect that in similar conditions, a slick fiberglass sea kayak that’s six inches narrower and six inches less high can cruise at around 4–4.5mph all day, and I’m also told that at sea you should bank on an average of 3 knots (3.5mph, 5.5kph) when estimating distances. On the last leg, going east against the ebb and a light breeze didn’t make much difference to my speed. Until I was spent, that is. In the absence of sunny vistas and a warm breeze to linger over, it was a good work out. See also a similar test with my Grabner.
This was my first proper outing with the thigh straps. It wasn’t rough enough to test them, but I’m sure they enabled me to keep the speed up. This is partly due to the fact that, like so many IK seats, the Incept backrest collapses as you lean on it as it’s far from rigid, no matter how much you inflate it. It’s why I got an Aire Cheetah seat for my Sunny years ago, and why, along with its mushy footrest, the g-friend can’t get the most out of her Solar (top left; I fixed it later). When you lean back on an inflatable seat – even attached to the hull tops (the highest point) – it still just folds down from the arch of the lower back. This leaning from the middle-lower back rather than pushing from the lower back/hips is partly to do with a lack of solid footrests in the Incept and Solar (before mods). All this squishy inflation certainly creates comfort but is also the biggest performance drawback compared to hardshells – even if you do read of SinK Sit in Kayak hardshellers complaining of numb limbs until they find their ideal boat/set up. One reason a sea kayak can manage to be just 22 inches wide is that you can jam yourself into it – hip, thighs/knees and feet – so it fits and responds on the move like a running shoe, not a woolly slipper – a nifty analogy for SinKs vs IKs.
Without a solid seat or footrests, the thigh straps on the Incept do their best to replicate a hardshell’s underdeck thigh pads, enabling me to sit upright because the backrest as it is can’t provide that support. If that means more strain on my abdominal muscles, bring it on!
As I mention elsewhere, with the deck zipped up there’s normal back support off the coaming that’s still mushy enough not to make you sore as it would do on a SinK. Open deck, one solution would be to incorporate some rigid sticks or a board into the backrest to stop it scrunching down – like a Cheetah in fact. At one point on the Sunny, before I got the Aire seat I had a board jammed in behind me to help push off the box I used as a footrest. And so I conclude: seatback with the top down, not so good no matter how you adjust it; thigh straps good any day of the week.
One thing you lack in open deck mode on a K40 or any open IK is flat space for any sort of secure storage or fitting points. It’s the same story on a packraft. Trying to emulate a professional, I went out with my new large SealLine ziplock map case which lay at my feet. Gael turned me on to these. Unlike some walking map cases that I’ve seen over the years, it’s clear on both sides and best of all is big enough to give you a whole day of map on view if you fold the map right, so avoiding unnecessary fiddly openings on the water or in the rain. Online walkers’ reviews seemed to rate the Ortlieb roll-top equivalent, and claimed the Seal Line will split at the ziplock, but even if it’s simpler, I can’t see roll-top anything being as bomb-proof on the water as a ziplock, and Gael’s had his still-unyellowed SealLine for years before it developed a tiny hole on his last trip.
Back to stashing; of course you can attach everything to some point on the boat, Gael managed fine in his H2, but bits of string around your legs doesn’t seem such a good idea unless you’re really organised. I tried paddling with my Peli 1400 box (left, with a lid-net I plan to fix on – bought here) under my knees the other day, but handy though it was, that wasn’t going to work. It would be better fixed behind me. A Peli is easier to open and close quickly and reliably than my yellow Watershed bag (also ziplock closure), but I think it’s shape will make it a much better ‘day hatch’ bag on an open IK and a packraft, even if closing it securely as a hazard looms may take some luck.
Of course in zippy deck mode you have quite a lot of flat space, even if the Incept’s deck stretchies are almost over my feet (the thin shock cord is indeed too flimsy as Gael mentions). But top on there’s enough flat deck space by the hatch at 10- and 2 o’clock to stick a D-ring or velcro. One way I’ve got round this so far is packing it all on the pfd. Certain things belong there sure, but you can end up feeling like some special forces dude, waiting the the signal.
You can attach things to your thigh tops which are within reach and sight. The SealLine map case will clip around a thigh. I’ve tried doing the same with an Aquapac GPS case strapped round the leg; it’s OK and can hook to my drysuit’s relief zip tab to stop it slipping down when walking, but it’s all more junk hanging off you. Compass excepted, a GPS isn’t really a vital gadget in clear conditions. On the sea a legible and accessible map is handier. Still here? Then there’s a good page of improvised deck tech on ukrivers – but of course it’s all oriented towards hardshell SinKs.