No, I didn't save up my pop bottles and buy yet another kayak. I bought a raffle ticket at Paddlefest in Ladysmith. Bernie and I returned to the Beach House that Sunday May 15, only to get a phone call saying that we had won the raffle prize of a kayak.
The next weekend we went up to Sealegs Kayaking on Transit Beach to pick up our prize. It turned out to be a MiniTripper -- a new design from Jackson Kayaks. It's a recreational boat, a smaller and lighter version of their DayTripper. It's something like a cross between a canoe and a kayak with its wide-open cockpit. Here's a photo of a kid in the MiniTripper from the Jackson Kayaks website, with what appears to be his dad in a DayTripper behind him.
A couple of times this summer, I've taken the MiniTripper out in the sheltered waters of Cadboro Bay. These short test runs have worked very well, though I'm heavier than the recommended maximum weight for this model. At five foot one, I'm not really taller than the kids expected to paddle the MiniTripper. Until I can get our friends Sophie and Mark, or Jeffrey and Thomas, or Erican and John, to try it out, I'll be our test paddler.
The MiniTripper is a convenient size at a bit over 9 feet long and 23 inches wide. It's a very portable 27 pounds, even with a reinforcing bar in the keel. I have no trouble carrying it a few hundred yards. Two kids could carry it to the beach easily, by the handles at bow and stern, or one kid dragging it along the ground. Parents, be aware of this portable quality: it's possible for an un-supervised child to get this boat to water without assistance!
Once on the water, I find the MiniTripper is a nice, simple ride. It's quiet enough that I was able to surprise a river otter today. It's fast enough that I paddled three kilometres in less than an hour, without breaking sweat or getting tired.
I find it less stable than the Lagoon from AdvancedElements (which is 34 inches wide), but with a bit more glide. I'd recommend doing some deliberate tipping over sideways in safe conditions, to get used to how the MiniTripper responds to the paddler leaning. You can even edge this boat a little! But you can't edge it up on its side like Bernie can a Pamlico 100, which is ten feet long and 30 inches wide. That's because the MiniTripper is a very shallow boat. There's not a lot of height above water here! It's a terrific experience to paddle a kayak with a cockpit rim that's lower than my elbows and knees. But then, this boat is designed for small people.
I like the open cockpit for the easy-in, easy-out feel. The open cockpit means a lot of water can drip off the paddle blades onto the paddler's legs and feet. There's plenty of room for two small people to ride, with a dog or some watertoys behind the paddler. I could easily imagine this boat being used by two or three swimming kids climbing in and out, rolling it over, and having noisy fun at a shallow beach. There's minimal flotation in the MiniTripper. Two blocks of closed-cell foam in the bow and stern are it, with no bulkheads.
My verdict: the MiniTripper feels like a fun boat for paddling flat water in sheltered places. A paddler around five feet tall can handle it easily. The Jackson Kayaks website claims that a three-year-old weighing forty pounds can paddle this boat. Having seen what Erica and John could do at age seven and five, I can believe that's possible.