The new boat had to get christened in what they call a ‘fresh breeze’. It was only going to get windier over the next few days. Either that or it would stay rolled up till the new year.
I went to freshwater Loch Ra round the back where I took my packraft for a ‘gale test‘ one time. It’s a safe place for this sort of thing. My new wind gauge – a tenner on ebay – was reading a moderate 15 mph, but it felt like more. I do wonder about the accuracy of that thing. Turns out Ardmair near Ullapool was registering a solid 25 with a spike up to 35 around the time I was out. So let’s call it at least 20 mph – not really IK weather. I pumped the sides up to about 0.33 bar (4.8psi) and jury rigged a quick footrest stirrup, but under the deck it was hard to line up quickly when you’re getting in while being blown around. I have a better idea to counter-tension it into position from the other end with an elastic (left). That, or copy the Amigo set up with D-rings – less straps cluttering up the floor that way.
Used to hoping effortlessly into open boats and setting off whatever the conditions, the need to negotiate the deck made getting in all the more awkward – though a grounding skeg is also a factor. With an onshore wind, I figured out a nose-to-the-shore angle but had the paddle blown out of my hands just as I was slotted in. I retrieved it and tried again using those nifty deck elastics for the stick, then backed up and swung into the wind.
As expected progress was slow until I found a rhythm, and then just very effortful – like hauling a head hose uphill. The Seawave’s more rounded hull means it’s a little more tippy than the mattress-flat Amigo, but in a good way. I never thought I’d write that line, but a little rolling means side waves need not push you over if you counter brace, though I can’t say the Amigo riding side waves flat like a raft was ever a problem. If it didn’t tilt with the waves water would pour over the sides. With the Seawave’s deck, lateral sea waves need not deck the Seawave.
Before I got too far out I checked to see I felt in control across the wind. It was blowing so hard I only needed to paddle on one side to go straight, but no stability worries. Then downwind with no untoward weathercocking either, all things considered. Further out on the small loch the fetch flattened a bit but another side-to-the-wind run saw the long boat extremely hard to bring back into the wind. A rudder would be handy, or maybe more aggressive leaning or my weight further back. It felt like my position was a bit too far forward to lever the bow round while the wind pushed on me and the sides. Not sure if that makes actual hydrodynamic sense, but without knowing the Seawave’s normal seat position, there’s certainly room to move my seat back in the cockpit a few inches to see if it makes a difference: more ‘rudder effect’ with a rearward paddler. This animated gif on the right shows the seat about 4 inches further back. Of course these were conditions where you’d expect a long, unloaded, over-buoyant IK to handle like a drifting log.
Upwind it felt like I was crawling along but I got to an island faster than expected, got beached then carefully inched around it. As I knew well, a backwind may be less effort but can be as hard if you can’t keep the back of the boat from coming round – a common flaw with wind-prone IKs. But the Seawave tracked pretty well, right on- and then just off the wind, with only the occasional double pull on one side to level up. I did a bit more crosswind practise but by now I was pooped and even needed to drink out of the loch. Any hope of more tests without the skeg, without deck, at factory pressures and so on would all have to wait.
Back home the GPS showed up some surprises (right). Into the wind I was hacking at a surprising 3mph, across it at 4 and downwind at up to 5mph. All much more than it felt. I’m pretty sure the Incept would have managed the same – and it was less effort than in the Amigo.