Paula bought an Old Town Adventure XL 125, a fairly sharp looking boat. It has a sharp bow and does tend to keep much of the spray off her face—unlike the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100 that is now mine. It is rotomolded plastic—well, Old Town raves about it being a patented “polylink 3”, but it is still a plastic boat—but it has forward and rear watertight compartments and a rudder, making it a boat suitable for overnight trips and extended touring. The price was so good that she bought it without even a test paddle [Paula adds: I insist that we paddled one very like it last summer at Elk Lake during a boat trial!], but from the configuration, it should be similar to the Pamlico in stability. It comes in right around the fifty pound mark, so Paula will be able to lift it on her own if need be. But until the need arises, it looks like I'll be the one humping it about.
We are still waiting for delivery of the skirt—the one in stock was a “wide” and we need the “not-wide” version—but it should be in soon. The wide version had been stuffed in the cockpit of the Adventure in case it was the only one available, and when we walked out of the showroom, it was still in the cockpit. Had I not really liked the people at Pacifica Paddlesports, we'd have a really really inexpensive skirt on the boat right now. But I noticed it and handed it back—what can I say?
We got the boat in the water Saturday morning—having been in a bit of a hurry, I didn't take the camera, so there are no pictures. We paddled out to Flower Island and back, Paula getting a feel for the boat. And yes, she does like it. It is difficult fitting her thighs under the coaming—something you need to be able to do to control the boat. Lifting a knee causes the boat to turn, and in combination with some aggressive paddle work, you can carve some pretty nice turns. But the Adventure seems to be a lot shallower than at first glance—until you have a look at the seat. The seat seems to be a “recreational” seat, meaning that it is built for comfort and infrequent paddling. Overall, it is far too high off the bottom of the boat, raising even Paula's centre of gravity up quite a bit—something which affects the righting moment of the boat. With the centre of gravity raised with an overly thick seat, as the boat heels to one side the point at which it capsizes arrives much quicker. I proved this to my own satisfaction when I got a turn in the cockpit of the boat; I liked the way it felt, and tried some progressively more aggressive turns—culminating with suddenly finding myself in the late winter ocean. [Paula adds: A woman chatting with me on the beach suddenly said: “Oh! Did he mean to do that?” “Probably,” I told her.] The Adventure does have pretty high initial stability—it takes quite a tip before you are ready to capsize—but it is definitely not helped by this seat. Also, the back of the seat reaches as high as Paula's shoulder blades but provides little lumbar support. So this seat will be replaced—probably by a Necky touring seat.
The Saturday baptism was followed up with a Sunday morning extended paddle up the Gorge. We spent a good 2 ½ hours travelling from the Inner Harbour up to the Tillicum Bridge and back.
[Paula adds: I like the way the Adventure handles. It feels stable when I'm sitting still or paddling slowly on calm water – this is important because I have little or no sense of balance, with my half-deaf ears. When I'm paddling at speed or in slight chop I get a good sense of this boat's movement in the water from my muscles. Alison's kayak has a rounder bottom that makes feel a bit more like I'm sitting on a unicycle. The Adventure never felt tippy yesterday or today, even as I turned in the slight current under the bridge. I'm looking forward to taking it out when there's a little wind so the rudder will have a chance to do more than just steer the boat in calm water.
I liked the high bow and put it to use pushing Heather's inflatable life raft with surprising ease. The bow rides up over small chop and the high, rounded deck makes waves split to either side instead of splashing up into my face. Even without a skirt, I had only a few drops of water fall inside the coaming. Once we get a skirt, I'm going to be a little more daring this summer and learn to handle waves and chop bigger than a foot high! But first, I'm going to practise tipping it over and doing wet exits (and maybe trying a roll for the first time in twenty-five years). And I'll put some pipe insulation under the coaming where my knees will press.]