Category Archives: Summer Isles

Windpaddling to Achnahaird

The packboat sailing page

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We decided to lap the tip (left) of the Coigach peninsula. Doing it clockwise put us in the lee of the afternoon’s southwesterly once in Enard Bay and better still, we’d catch high tide at Achnahaird, enabling us to paddle up the creek to complete a near full loop back to the car via the freshwater lochs of Ra and Vatachan.
I remember being quite nervous the first time I did this way back in 2013 in my Amigo – in the other direction from Achnahaird. Looks like I’m not the only one – I blame the Pesda guidebook.
It felt like a long old slog west then north between the Ristol islands – the tidal Ristol channel was dry. But by the time we’d passed the reefs of Reiff and reached the sparkling beach at Camas Ghlais (below) we were already more than half way round.

Sitting on the beach, on warm days like this and always looking to refine my set-up to a razorbill’s edge, I sometimes think a sturdy football-sized net bag to take a beach stone would be handy to anchor the boat out in the shallows. This way it won’t beach itself, get hot and purge air which can make the kayak soggy once back in the cool water. It’s one slight drawback of running PRVs on all 3 air chambers. I could probably find some washed up net up among the flotsam and make one. Or I could Buy [a ball bag] Now on ebay for a £1.62.  Leaving the sandy bay, I give the Seawave a quick top-up with the K-Pump anyway.
On the north side on the bay we nosed towards a slot cave (above left), but white streaks running down from the ledges suggested nesting birds had hung out ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs. Either I’ve never noticed them before or there are lots more nesting birds around this year. It’s the end of May but there are still tiny snow patches on An Teallach and Beinn Dearg – maybe the season is late.

North of Camas the unrestrained swell was bouncing back off the low cliffs and small dazzling waves were breaking over semi-submerged rocks, making for a rough ride. But it’s all relative and showed what a sheltered life I lead, paddling mostly in and out of the protected Summer Isles.

We passed on sandless Faochag Bay and on turning the point of Rubha Coigach all was calm as the grand panorama of the Assynt peaks came into view (above). From the right: Quinaig; Canisp behind Suilven, Cul Mor, Stac Polly in front of Cul Beag, and the group around Ben Mor Coigach. It’s one good reason to do the paddle in this direction. There’s a bigger version of the Assynt panorama here taken on the road above Achnahaird. I really must work out how to do that panorama photo-stitch thing.

Coming down the Enard Bay side, we tried to explore some other caves with green moss streaked with guano, but got dive-bombed by angry shags.
Back out in the bay an unpredicted northwesterly picked up – time to launch that WindPaddle which has been sitting in my kit bag unused for a year or more. Initially the breeze barely reaches 6mph – we could have paddled faster – but it sure was fun to kick back, look around and let the boat waft quietly  along, free from the splish-splosh, splish-splosh rhythm. I wonder if self-driving cars will be the same.

It’s been a while since I’ve done this but the WindPaddle definitely felt better than my homemade efforts from years ago, as well as the knock-off WP I bought a year or two back. I tried a V-sail too but have never really got the hang of kayak sailing. It seems the sweet spot is hard to find: either the wind comes and goes and the sail flops, or it blowing so hard the sail can’t handle it and you’re clinging on. Still, I look forward to giving the WP a spin in slightly windier conditions. For the compact size and light weight I get the feeling it may be worth keeping.

The breeze picked up and we chugged along at a brisk stroll. But even then the WindPaddle feels satisfying to use. I think the key is the sprung tension of the composite batten (rim); it retains the circular shape of the bowl which means it’ll stay up as the wind drops and keep shape as it rises, then can be confidently scrunched down to a packable size without breaking. Doing that during a bit of a blow may be tricky, but it can easily be pulled back and tucked down unfurled over the legs (right). It’s only a downwindish sail but as with previous disc sails, I like the way you can steer intuitively by pulling one line back; a skeg must help but there’s no need for paddle-rudder assistance.
It was nice to look around in the quiet but I also missed that thrill of thrust when a sail catches oystereggsand holds a good passing gust. Eventually we could stand the relaxed pace no more and the geef paddle-assisted us towards a stony beach at the mouth of the oysterchaAllt Loch Ra creek. Squawking oyster catchers were guarding their nests. Left, by the bothy at Badentarbet last year; don’t stand on the eggs.

Refuelled, we paddled upstream for a bit then I tow-waded the boat, reminding me of the shallows of Shark Bay in 2006 – a good way to rest after what felt like days of headwinds. The short wade brought us to within a couple of minutes’ portage of Loch Ra just over the road. Now on fresh water, we dragged through the reeds before another short portage over into the adjacent Loch Vatachan. Picking a passing place close to the shore, the geef walked off to get the car while I rinsed off the seawater – another good reason to paddle this loop clockwise. It’s 15 miles and about 5 easy hours to loop the Coigach loop.

Gumotex Sunny in the Summer Isles

A few shots from our first visit to the Summer Isles in 2006 with my original Gumotex Sunny and Mk1  Safari and when it seems the weather was unusually good for August. One day we paddled out as far as Tanera Mor and Tanera Beg, as well as Achnahaird and Loch Sionascaig and Osgaig and thought it was all a huge adventure.

 

Skerries of the Summer Isles

summerskerrriesmapI paddled out into the Summers the other afternoon to see how far I’d get. What I was really eyeing up was Stac Mhic Aonghais or ‘Precipitous rocky feature of Angus’, one of three skerries bobbing just south of the Tanera islands.
I only really clocked it on last year’s crossing from Carn nan Sgeir to Tanera Beg. I suppose now I’ve visited just about all the Summer Islands I’m looking more closely at the bits in between.
But I knew before I got on the water the tide was not with me and nor was the wind. Hauling myself through the Tanera channel, by the time the cheese-wedge profile of Angus came into view to the southwest it looked a long way away, with only Glas-leac Beag (on the right, below) between it and the inky depths of the Minch.
Stac Mhic Aonghais

horsesoundSo I swung east around the south side of Tanera Mor and, now with the wind and tide behind me, at the last minute decided to make a ‘training dash’ towards ‘Goat Sound’ (left) – the tidal passage between Horse and ‘Goat’ island which I guessed was flooded by now. From there it was a weary hack back against the squalls to the beach and an XL dinner.

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A few days later I persuaded visiting paddlechum Jon that a tour of the Summer Isles Skerries was good use of his holiday up here. He’d just returned from a gruelling, two-day bike ride through the Assynt – part of the HT550 – so his arms were in need of some exercise.
As skerries go, the supposedly 78-foot-high (26-m) Stac of Angus (see below) has a dramatic profile. From some angles a homesick Norseman pining for his mead might even call it a dragon’s tooth. It also looked fairly easy to climb to the top to get a nice shot of a kayak below.

summerskerriesStac Mhic Aonghais, Sgeir an Aon Iomairt and Sgeir Ribhinn or Revan. All three line up with about a kilometre between each; long thin skerries aligned on a SW/NE axis, as is much of the lower elevation topography up here; valleys and trenches carved I assume, by glaciers advancing from Scandinavia. This report suggests that 12,000 years ago during nwh-mapan anomalous cold spike following the end of the last Ice Age ‘…climatic factors, combined with the availability of large quantities of subglacial debris, led to the development of distinctive glacial landsystems, which may have no direct modern analogue.’ As we know, the dramatic Assynt has no topographic analogue elsewhere in Scotland and the angular claw of Stac of Angus is one of its many remnants. (Btw, that marine chart screenshot above left is from a very handy and editable online nautical ‘mapp’).

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skerryhighPlanning paddles up here is of course a lottery but came the day, by some miracle a High had parked itself over the northern British Isles, put on the handbrake and tipped the seat back. The 4.5-m tide may have been at the peak of its fortnightly cycle, bottoming out at 2.30pm, but that could be handy if we used it right. If we left Stac around low tide, it should be an easy ride back up to Old Dornie, assisted by the rising afternoon breeze.
We paddled down between the Taneras with the tide, passing some other kayakers on the way. I mentioned the Tanera Beg arch just round the corner to them, but after a quick check the tide was too far gone to thread the arch.
stacmikIn little more than an hour we were approaching the gnarly, storm-wracked northern prow of Angus. It’s hard to think how the 1:25,000 OS map arrives at the oft-repeated height of 26m. The picture below of Angus’ high point is about 90 minutes before a low spring tide at around 0.5m above Ordnance Datum – which is the lowest astronomical tide – ‘LAT’ – at Newlyn. So even if you add about 2m or 6 feet to measure the skerry at LAT, or just use the more likely MSL, there’s no way that adds up nearly 80 feet; it’s more like half that. It’s odd because the two other skerries we were heading for had entirely plausible heights.

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Anyway, we paddled along the exposed west side looking for a landing spot but found nothing but 45-degree slopes. I was sort of hoping that low tide might reveal a platform or at least give us more rock surface to choose from, but very low tide also exposes seaweed, kelp and other crap; there’s probably as much chance of getting alongside a handy ledge at higher tides.
Stac Mhic AonghaisAs we passed between the two outcrops on the south end, Jon smacked me in the head with his paddle (left). Lifted through by a 1-m swell, on the inshore side we found the least unlikely looking parking slot, where between bigger swells I could crawl out (right). If you think about it, sitting as you are on the floor of a bobbling Stac Mhic Aonghaisnarrow boat at sea level, there’s nothing harder to get out of than a kayak, especially once you’ve attained a certain age. IKs are easier than a proper sea kayak of course, but even a canoe’s bench seat might be easier to spring or step off.
angus - 6Stac Angus is nearly bisected by a punched-out breach (left) through which storm waves tumble; the higher part is in the north. Problem was getting there from the lower half of the skerry where I’d landed. Even if it wasn’t 26m above MLWS or LAT or even M&S, accessing that northern spike was a lot more of a rock-climbing challenge than I was prepared to take on. So I left it to the squawking guillemots and settled with just enough elevation to get an OK shot of Jon gliding by (below), then scrambled back down to the slot and hailed down my water taxi.

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With Stac of Angus ticked off, we scooted over towards Sgeir an Aon Iomairt (in the picture above, on the right), hoping angusionmarslotit would provide an easier landing for a civilised terrestrial lunch. Iomairt has a similar NW-facing cliff and on its NE corner has a parking slot of sorts (right) where a kayak can wedge itself as the tide drops away below it.
angus - 16The surprise here was the thick cushy duvet of soft grass and thrift flowers which capped the island. Picture left: looking south from, near the summit towards the Carns, Bottle and Priest Island. Whatever it is that makes Iomairt agreeable to lush vegetation and sea pink thrifts, while Angus makes do with lichen and bird shite, it’s found here. Perhaps because it’s less of a jutting flake and flatter, with many crevices where rainwater and sludge can gather and foment.
Who knows, but it was nice angus - 17to be able to walk around, rather than teether on acute, barnacle-covered slabs, as I’d just done on Angus. We settled down out of the breeze – May temperatures are still barely in double figures up here – and unpacked our munchies. We had with less than an hour before the tide turned and lifted the Gumotex away. As we ate we spotted another couple of paddlers enjoying the calm conditions out to the southeast, near the two Carns which join up at low tides, like today.
angus - 13Though you’re not spoilt for choice out here in the Summer Isles, you could easily camp on Sgeir an Aon Iomairt. There’s brackish water in some angus - 14pools, good enough for a wash, and enough flat patches to sleep in comfort. Hardshell or IK, for peace of mind you’d still want to lug you’re boat above the high water line unless you can find a bombproof anchorage. And the elevation of around 16m is, you’ll be pleased to know, about right.
angus - 18When our time came the tide had dropped a metre but was on the turn. Getting back in  was as always an angus - 19awkward shunt, slipping around on kelp and slimey molluscs to get the Seawave back on the water, but once in the pool it did manage to paddle itself out over the slimy kelp towards Sgeir Ribhinn (‘Maiden’s Skerry’), the last of our Summer Island skerries.
angus - 21Coming round the eastern side of Ribhinn, even this skerry managed to sustain a small capping of grass. We nosed into a kayak-wide geo and found ourselves in a twin-arched cave, another angus - 22paddleable arch (right) to add to my list.

All that remained was to paddle back the way we came through the western passage of ‘Tanera Sound’, between Tanera Beg and Eilean Fada Mor. With the spring tide still low, all the tanbeg2006shell beaches were out sunning themselves. After looking for it for years, I finally recognised a cove and beach on Tanera Beg (left) where we’d spent a lovely afternoon 12 years ago with my Gumotex Sunny and ancient Safari when we first started coming to the Summers.
Back to now, I hopped off at Eilean Fada to top up the air that had purged while out of the water over lunch, and to get a shot of Jon floating over the azure Bahaman sands (below). My kayaks have got a lot better since 2006, but the Summer Islands remain the same great place they always were for a quiet paddle.

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Flat Calm in the Summer Isles

A few pictures from a 5-hour, 22-km paddle round the Summer Isles on a rare day of near-zero wind and hot, sunny skies.
From Badenscallie I went south past Horse Island and Iolla Mhor to Carn nan Sgeir, a quick loop around Meall nan Caolach, just a mile from the south side of Loch Broom, then right across to Tanera Beg to revive the legs with a walk up to the summit, and finally back to Badentarbet. Noticeable is the lack of fatigue when there’s no wind or waves to cut through. I’d have been more tired walking the same distance. A few days and a bit more wind later, I did a 14-km lap round Tanera Beg and was pooped.

Glistening, brassy kelp round the back of Meall nan Caoloach, or Sheep’s Hill.

Strange dangular life forms you only see at very low tides.

Chestnutty limpets.

Faults and folds on Carn’s south side.

View north to Ben Mor on the way across to Tanera Beg.

South of Tanera Mor, the cabin’s roof on Eilean Dubh.

Landfall at Mol Bheag on Tanera Beg. Should I worry about the rising tide? I’ll only be gone half an hour. (Sorry – bit of lens smudge from here onwards.)

On T.Beg’s 83-m summit looking ENE towards Achiltibuie and the Assynt mountains.

Southwest, the curious wedge-skerry of Stac Mhic Aonghais – Cliff of Angus. Must try and nip out there one time.

Boat still there with two rocks on the anchor line.

Looking SE: Carn nan Sgeir back left; Eilean Dubh on the right. A trawler passes by.

Storm-mashed tin can.

I find a superb crate/bench from a Fraserburgh trawler, and a massive pearl, too. Incredibly, this one is pre-threaded for a necklace which makes it even more valuable.

In just 40 mins the tide has risen a metre. I forgot that at mid-flow the rate of change is much greater. I wade in up to my shorts and clamber on with my treasures.Round the corner I come across the Tanera Beg arch.

Enough to pass under, but not enough to get right through.

The birds are disturbed.

The sandy green depths between T. Beg and Eilean Fada Mor – aka: Caolas na Gainmhich.

Crystal-clear reflections – but always the racket of a boat somewhere. Makes a change from wind, I suppose.

Back towards Badentarbet after a great half-day out.

I notice several beer bottles bobbing around near the pier and sink them. Better that than smashed on a beach. Left last night by some beach campers, I suppose.

As tradition requires, I pass under the prematurely condemned pier. They say the new owner of Tanera Mor (who already has the diggers in), might replace Badentarbet pier with a floating jetty to serve his planned island restaurant. Currently, Old Dornie jetty is twice as far and tide-limited.

On the beach the owner of the cute Salmon Bothy is trying to locate an oystercatcher nest.

Can you spot the eggs? ETH 3 weeks.

Semperit at sea – 2

aziWith an inexpensive Sevylor barrel pump I was able to get the sevypumprepaired Semperit up to a good pressure. Ten days passed while i finished my current project, during which time the boat lost no air that I could feel. Over the same period the Seawave was a little soggy all round, as you’d expect with PRVs purging with changing temps. I keep the boats alongside the shadiest north side of the house, but this far north the early morning- and late evening sun still lights it up. In fact, looking at the graphic, above, it’s amazing just how far north the sun comes and goes at this time of year, a month from the solstice. Work out your own angles and azimuths.

sevy4-2Back to the Sev. With the desk finally cleared, conditions were as good as they ever get up here: hot, sunny and virtually windless – a triple meteorological miracle.
I decided to nip over to Horse Island from Badenscallie (bottom of the map, above right), still assuming the boat might still track poorly and feel saggy. As it was, the Forelle felt much better – as good as you can expect of a 3-psi IK. With just the slight 2 o’clock head-breeze, I was reminded of the technique for skeg-free paddling: simply pull gently to stay straight. You go a bit slower but in the near-calm conditions it worked, with the odd double pull to bring things back on line.

sevy4-7With spring tides peaking, I was too late to pass through the channel between Horse and Meall nan Gabhar, so I clambered up a hill. Looking south to Eilean Dubh and the outer Summers (below), had I moved quicker I could have done the full tour in the Seawave. You only get a couple of days a year like this.

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Back at the boat, it seemed a shame just to paddle the mile back to Badenscallie now that it had proven itself. So I set off north around Rubha Dunan. With the ring of mountains from the Torridans (below) up to the Assynt, what an amazing day to be out in a kayak.

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sevy4-8On the way back I managed a quick selfie to assess the sag (left) and have to say that’s pretty good considering I’m nine times the weight of the 3.5-m boat.
In a ruined croft on Horse I’d spotted a plank bench and thought about pinching it to level out the boat (by sitting on the plank),  but in calm waters the fully pumped up Semperit was holding up fine.

It wasn’t all rosy: my old packraft seatpad was leaking from the stem base, and with my reluctance to lean back on the basic rope backrest, I couldn’t relax fully. I ended up sitting on my water shoes (a new pair of Teva Omniums) which gave me nearly enough butt-over-heel elevation for good paddling efficiency. The rope could work well enough, but I don’t want to stress the ageing Forelle’s rather puny seat-mounts. sevy4-3What the boat really needs are a couple of bomb-sai14proof D-rings on top of the sides to take the backrest strain in line (like I did on my old Amigo – right), but as I’ll be selling the boat, I’ll let the new owner decide what sort of seats they want. Like all IKs, with a higher seat or a small crate, the Forelle could easily be used as a canoe. I know a lot of people like them.

According to the map, Port Mhaire is where I landed. From here a new track led inland to the Piping cafe at Polglass where I dumped the boat under some shady trees and walked back to Badenscallie.

With proper seat support and perhaps an articulated skeg pivoting off the existing rudder mounts, the Semperit would make a nifty boat for calm inshore and lochs, and rivers. But in the Seawave and my Alpacka Yak, I’ve got all the boats I need. It was fun to do up and try out the Semperit, probably the first serious IK from which twin side-tubers like most Grabners, the Incept and Gumotex Seaker can all trace their roots.

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Semperit at sea 1

semp2 - 6No doubt about it; since flogging my much-used Sunny in 2011, followed by a flawed experiment with a Feathecraft Java, I’ve become spoiled by high-pressure IKs like my fast Incept K40 (based on the Forelle’s design), the brick-hard but slower Grabner Amigo and my current lightly modified Seawave. Just 25-60% more pressure makes all the difference, especially once the boat gets usefully long.

I only had my K-Pump Mini to inflate the Forelle after its repair and mods. I’d hand-pumped it up as hard as I dared but was probably a bit too cautious to not over-stress the old trout. Getting in I was reminded of that uninspiring slackrafty squidginess. I should have topped it up after putting in the cold water, but anyway there’s no easy way to accurately check the pressure off lilo plugs (I tried jury-rigging my manometer). Presumably in the 70s the idea of using tough, one-way rafting valves on IKs hadn’t been thought of yet.

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In this under-inflated state and with a slight breeze, tracking away from a headwind was tricky, though I knew that new boats require a quickly acquired knack. As expected, the crumpled keel strip didn’t really do much, perhaps that’s why the Forelle 2 came with a rudder mount. As you can see there’s some taco-ing (folding) going on below me – and this was before lunch!  Without a skeg or a rudder such sagging won’t help good tracking either.

My over-pressure caution was understandable, but thinking it over, I decided the Semp was under-inflated. What this boat needed was a better pump. sevy-pumpA couple of days later a £10 Sevylor stirrup pump turned up (I left my super-duper Bravo kite pump down south) and I whacked in what felt like Sunny pressures. With the position of the lilo tubes tucked under the stern cover, and the need to yank off the hose adaptor while pinching the tube to stop air escaping, and jam in the lilo plug, it’s a bit awkward. These plugs really do grip/seal well.

That’s another great thing with running calibrated PRVs on all chambers: you just pump away until they hiss and the boat is correctly inflated while being protected from over-pressure. No need for manometer faffing.

Semperit at sea 2

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Seawave Rudder MkII tested

Gumotex Seawave main page
Rudder rationale discussed
Gumotex’s 2016 factory version
Making the prototype rudder
Testing the prototype
Update 2019:
I’ve not used my MYO rudder since I made it in 2016. Partly because I’ve only done day trips predicated on nice weather, but also it’s all just more faff and clutter, not least the lines and footboard. As explained earlier, for gumsee07multi-day trips where you must deal with the winds you’re given, it’s a good idea. But even then, you only notice your relative lack of speed alongside others. Alone, you’re as fast as you are.
Rudders are not about steering or tracking as they are on powered boats; in a kayak they’re about enabling a more efficient, balanced paddling effort on both arms by compensating for the boat’s deflection for side winds. In a way the simple stock skeg-shifter (right) will do as well with much less clutter and weight. Or, use the MYP rudder, but locked-out as a lifting skeg in place of the Gumotex skeg for shallows and beach parking. That is handy to avoid stressing the stock skeg, especially when the boat is loaded. 

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While waiting for rudder bits to turn up, we went out for an evening paddle round Eilean Mullagrach. It was pretty calm but at no point did I think, ‘Darn, I wish I had a rudder’. When it came to turning corners we just paddled hard or dragged a blade and round we came.
But the Seawave rudder project carries on like a supertanker with a jammed… rudder, if for no other reason than it’s fun to experiment and a rudder can also work as an articulated skeg when locked out – something I’ll look into when it’s all done.rudderdyl
Ironing out the flaws with the prototype added up to attaching it more securely at the back and making the pedal board out of something more responsive and durable. By coincidence, all these components can be sawn from a single piece of 450 x 300 x 12mm LDPE chopping board (left) which costs from £8 on ebay in a range of colours. This is 50% thicker than the smaller board I used on the prototype plate so doesn’t need doubling up and gluing to make it rigid.
rudm211rudm21At the back I  slimmed the rudder plate right down to a simple strip of 65mm x 450mm, glued a block on the end to better support the gudgeon swivel pivot sleeve and added the crucial second fixing under the portaging handle (left). I also added a triangularish screw plate rudm23underneath (left, with red cord) so it all sits snug in the stern. With the hardware and saddle strap that now adds up to 306g (the rudder unit weighs 450g with its running lines). Even though it’s slimmer than the proto plate it weighs about the same because it’s now 12 mil. But looks a whole lot neater.
rdd5The pedal board is from the same slab but uses stainless hinges, not zip ties. I’m reminded, you’re constantly making small adjustments as you paddle so pedals need to be as taut and responsive as possible. Once I’d trimmed the board and pedals a bit (left), with hinges it came in at 660g.
rudnee1The board and maybe the pedals could have been made from 8mm if there was some to spare – but an 8mm board wants to be ~450mm wide to sit snugly in the boat’s side channels. Like the rudder, the pedal board will be subject to strong forces in heavy seas so also needs to be solidly jammed in. Meanwhile, I noticed the floor-laminate prototype  board (right) gained nearly 15% in weight after getting wet – a sign it won’t last long. Still, it made a good template.
garbpedalsI do wonder if something like the Grabner rudder pedal bar (left, similar to Gael’s old H2) would be much lighter, as solid and as effective as my board. It costs €70 plus €30 for a pair of Zoelzer pedals.
I can’t really see how I could replicate that alloy footrest bar – out of copper tube filled with resin perhaps (like this motorbike rack)? It’s held securely in place without fittings by being jammed in the channel cavity between the floor and the sides (like my board), but a check with Gael advised me against it. As it happened, I’d pretty much decided the same mid test run (below). A sliding ally bar plus sea water isn’t a great combination and might bend or break, or the pedals snap. I know the ally backrest bar on my Amigo wasn’t up to it and Gael’s backrest broke (though it was ancient). My plastic version may weigh double but should be solid. Interestingly, just as a bag of clam cleats turned up make a quicker way of fine-tuning the rudder pedal lines from the cockpit, I see left that Grabner use them – a good sign.

rudhorserudm221The weather here’s about to crack and then we’re moving south, so in a rush I took the revised rudder plate out for a test with the creaky waterlogged pedal board. Heading towards Horse Island tidal passage, I didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blew: from the WNW at about 12mph. Initially the boat needed constant small corrections to maintain a course, and there was some stiction, hopefully down to the zip ties on the soggy pedal board. I tried a few pedalotight turns and marvelled at the control and how sharply the boat swung round like a pedalo. The rudder plate is now as rock solid as anything fitted to an IK can be. Again, I consciously tried not to correct with my arms, just my feet, which were twitching regularly.
rudm24At Horse Island I was way too early to run the passage, but as it was probably my last paddle here till next year, I decided to head for Badentarbet. Turning north, closer into the wind the micro corrections were no longer needed and the boat ran as if on a skeg, but without arm corrections. I’m pretty sure paddling 20–30° off the wind would have required arm steering, but I just hacked away towards Rubha Dunan on the mainland as the wind increased. When I tried a bit of downwinding protracted rudder juggling ing was needed to keep the back-end in line.
rudgaprudm23I passed through a channel on the headland and the NW wind got steadily stronger so crossing the bay to the beach seemed to take ages of effort. By now the small corrections I’d been making were no longer necessary, perhaps something had bedded in, the knots had tightened up or like riding a bike I’d just got the knack of minimal rudder movement to keep the boat on track. But upwind paddling is comparatively easy so I tried across the wind, now running over 15mph, and a bit more downwinding which gave me that unsettling Ningaloo feeling. This must be the weak point of a buoyant, windprone IK (especially when unloaded), and maybe all kayaks and canoes too. The chop was only a foot high, but were there a swell of a metre or more, the rudder would be briefly lifting and the stern sliding. I wonder if in a such conditions a combination of rudder and skeg (which is always submerged) might be a way of limiting weathercocking? Or perhaps just more practice is required. There’s also another solution that might arrive here in time to try out.
rudruddAs I neared the beach the wind was hard in my face but I realised I was actually on good form, unlike on the Tanera run with the prototype. So I hammered away with all I had until my strake hissed onto the sands. Paddling hard is all helped by my brilliant, bent-shaft Werner Camano paddle, no less than ten years old this summer. It still clips rudaliotogether with a satisfyingly ‘clunk’ and has very little play. If it ever got lost or abducted by aliens I’d buy another without hesitation.
I was glad I’d got stuck into a longer test run than planned, and am now confident my MYO Seawave rudder is in the ball park. Hopefully the new pedal board will complete the job. 

  • Total weight: 300g rudder plate + 450g rudder + 660g pedal board + ~100g rigging = 1.51kg (3.3lbs), or < 10% of the boat’s weight
  • Total cost MkII version: £20 rudder + £15 rigging + £8 LDPE board + £10  hinges + £2 fittings = £55

rdd4rdd2For about £200 posted I could have installed a 2016 Seawave rudder kit, but from all the images I could find at the time it was unclear exactly how it secured at the back – there must be their version of an unseen triangular underplate, but even then it’s still a stressed-out single point attachment. My additional under-handle fixture eliminates pivoting. And the plywood Gumotex footboard (right) gumrud3appears to sit loose and seemingly will also pivot on that single strap. Production versions may differ and let’s not forget that adding all this complexity also adds a risk of breakage or damage. The simplest solution is usually the best, but the 160-g skeg will always be clipped in the boat as a back-up and a Seawave is controllable (if much slower) with no tracking aids at all. It’s worth remembering: a rudder isn’t about day-to-day tracking, it’s about maintaining a course when the boat gets pushed about in stronger winds. In such conditions a skeg is essential and a rudder is an improvement, as explained here.
rudstashrudderweightsOn the beach, prior to lugging the boat over seaweed-clad boulders, it took only 30 seconds to unclip the rudder mechanism from the plate to pre-empt stumbling and damaging it. Since then I changed the rudder plate mounts with tool-free knobs and an eyelet (left). When rolling the boat up it was best to pivot the rudder plate around the drain hole 90° to pack better.

rudm25

Gumotex Seawave vs Incept K40

Seawave main page
Home-made rudder tested
gumk44

I own a Gumotex Seawave and a couple of years ago had the Incept K40 for a year or more. IMO these are two of the best IKs around for sea kayaking and touring.
Like my recent paddle with my former Grabner Amigo, a longer trip with a K40 also gave me a chance to reappraise the pros and cons of these two IKs. Gael’s red K40 is the same one I tested in 2012.

As you can see in the table, the Nitrilon Seawave is a little longer, quite a lot wider but less spacious inside. It claims a much greater payload, has space for up to 2.5 paddlers as well as fitting an optional fully removable deck and a fixed skeg.
The K40 is made from a stiffer ‘PVC-urethane alloy’ fabric, has a zip-up/roll-back deck, a rudder and a single seat. The twin side-beam hull explains its slimness as well as the greater internal width. Both these IKs weigh around 17kg.
New Zealand-made Incepts are hard to find in Europe or the US. One price in Germany today quotes €2500, while a Seawave with an optional deck comes in at £995 in the UK or from less than £700 when boatpark.cz were having a sale.k40swOut of the bag the Incept runs PRVs rated at 5 psi or 0.34 bar on all three chambers, with inflation valves handily located around the cockpit. I’ve adapted my Seawave to run all-round PRVs too, all rated at 4.78 psi or 0.33 bar. Even then, loaded up I could feel my kayak flexing a little in the briny swell bouncing off the Ross of Mull.
Paddling with the K40 for a couple of days, I got the feeling it was a little faster than my Seawave. Gael’s K40 was loaded a little more heavily than my boat, but my added weight easily exceeded that. Both boats run similar pressures but the slimmer, stiffer fabric’d K40 has the advantage, even though it’s a little shorter. Gael may also have a more efficient paddling technique, but overall we agreed that in the windy conditions we were experiencing, it was his rudder which made the difference when it came to maintaining a steady speed, despite its slight drag deficit. (Good page explaining sea kayak rudders).
fullsaSimply put, with a bit of rudder correction to compensate for winds pushing the boat off course, Gael could carry on paddling full steam ahead. At the same time I had to correct my steering by yanking hard on the upwind arm and trailing the other to maintain a given course, so I was only powering with one and a bit arms. This gave the K40 the edge – say 5–10 minutes over an hour.
Running a Grabner Holiday Gael is a rudder fan and thinks adding one to a Seawave would make it a perfect IK. Me, I’m not so sure the added complexity and risk of breakage is worth the ease of balanced paddling, but I think I’m talking myself into it. As long as my system is not like the Incept’s horribly mushy rudder cushyactuation. It felt less effort to paddle Gael’s K40 than my wider Gumboat, but pushing hard on the inflatable pedals was a bit like using a cushion for a steering wheel.
A grabrudgreat way to improve the K40 would be to be to fit something like a Grabner rudder (left): hard plastic pedals pivoting on a rigid bar. The actual pivoting- and rudder-lifting mechanism at the back looks like a standard sea kayak arrangement with a rudder pin.
We both agreed the K40’s generic hardshell rudder blade is too small for this boat when the seas get lumpy or the winds exceed F4. A gumsee07longer blade is needed, but that creates more drag. Better just to accept an IK limitations and not go out in those conditions, as I found once, though I’ve just remembered the skeg-steering idea a visitor suggested to me last year: pivoting the half inserted Gumotex skeg using cords (left) to fix an angle against a steady wind.

skegliftEspecially when loaded, my Seawave’s fixed skeg can be a bit of a pain at the shore. You need to drag the boat in on a flowing tide but I don’t like the idea of the heavy IK pressing on the skeg unless it can gradually sink into the sand on an ebb. At other times I needed to find a rock, use my Pelicase or lean on the K40. But that’s all a small price to pay for the benefits the skeg brings at sea. I’ve thought of fitting a retracting/trailing skeg to get round this, but if I go that far I may as well try and install a rudder. Chinese SoT ones on ebay go for just 20 quid and it could help review my dormant sailing experiments which I recalling during the backwinds of Mull.
The other impression was the initial tippiness of the K40 – yikes, it’s been a while since I’ve experienced that. In fact it soon went away and anyway was helped by the thigh straps which again, I’m reminded don’t snag the knees as securely as my set ups in the Amigo and Seawave – possibly because the front mount is too far forward (using the rudder pedal hullprofilesmounts). But then again, I should have bothered to adjust the rudder-footrest towards me a good few inches. just as Gael moved my footrest tube away to suit his longer legs when we swapped boats
As well as being narrower, the K40 gives the impression of a more box-like hull (left) with more prominent chines which aid edging. On a proper hardshell sea kayak edging can be used to turn the boat (lean right to turn left – no, I never got the hang of it either) but I doubt the K40’s hull was designed that precisely. A hardshell’s retractable skeg (where present) is used to carefully counteract the kayak’s weathercocking rather like a rudder.
I don’t recall steering using the K40’s edge (with the rudder up), edging was more a way to keep the boat levelsaewave with the help of the thigh straps when riding up side waves and to limit swamping. The rounded Seawave is more raft-like in its stability, as Gael soon noticed, but gets there in the end thanks to high pressures and a long waterline.
The Incept was also much more roomy thanks to the slim side tubes. That makes the thigh straps more important and I actually missed the packraft-like jammed-in feeling between my Gumotex’s fat side tubes. The seat didn’t feel as comfy and secure as the packraft/SoT set up on my Seawave and all-in-all, I felt a bit out of sorts in the Incept which helped me realise how well my Seawave is suited to my sort of paddling. About time – it’s taken a few IKs to get there.