I have recently seen a lot of use of the phrases, “British style” or “Greenland style” kayak. Can anyone tell me what this really represents? I understand that a lot of manufacturers use these terms loosely, but just for my own knowledge I would like to know what these really mean.
Also, in reading a lot of recent kayak reviews I have seen people mention that a boat is good for Greenland style skills----once again, what does this mean???
My Attempt At Defining…
Greenland style boat boats tend to be very low volume relative to the paddlers. This is achieved by having narrower beams, lower deck heights and finer ends. True Greenland style boats will also have hard chines, replicating the sharp shape/angles created by the use of wooden stringers of the real Greenland skin on frame. The deadrise (angle from keel line to chine) tends to be higher and gives it a bit of a "V" shape if the boat is intended for rougher conditions. This v shape makes the boat "tippy" when at rest but more "stable" when moving through rough seas.
The low volumes of the Greenland style boats make them less affected by wind (minimal windage) and also easier to accelerate (not necessarily the same as top theoretical speed of the hull). The Greenland boat is well complemented by a Greenland paddle where the overall length tends to be on the shorter end of what is "normal" for modern paddles. (However, the recent trend of modern paddles are towards shorter lengths). The Greenland paddle blades are long and narrow while the loom is very short. The GP doesn't give the same initial acceleration of a modern paddle since blade area is dispersed along the paddle length as opposed to concentrated at the tip like a modern paddle. However, once up to cruising speed, the general opinion, is that the Greenland paddle provides about the same propulsion as a modern paddle (the "horse", or person, being equal). The quicker acceleration of the Greenland boat thus helps to complement the Greenland blade. But the original Greenland paddlers were more into stealth rather than acceleration for hunting purposes.
"Greenland style" paddling is usually talked about, at minimal, in reference to the use of the GP paired with a narrower, lower volume boat. The hard core "Greenland style" paddler will also try to learn the 30 plus different rolling methods with a greenland paddle, throwing stick, air bladder, elbow, hand and no hand. Some will get into harpoon throwing and "walrus pull" These last two are more academic for most of us since we are highly unlikely out there attached to harpooned walrus. The narrower and lower volume Greenland style boats (plus the addition of a tuiliq) can facilitate many of these maneuvers, though skill of the paddler is always the deciding factor.
"British style" boats also tend to have fine ends and narrower beams. But the volumes can be much higher and, thus, more appropriate for those famous British "expedition" paddles. The deadrise of Brit boats will also be a bit more the the average (whatever that may be) of some "touring" boats but definitely more than a light touring or rec boat. Again, the more acute deadrise will give it a tippy feeling when sitting still but certainly more rough water capability. The chines of "Brit" boats tend to be rounder due to fact that such can be achieved with modern production methods, be it with plastic or composite. Rounder chines make the transition from initial to secondary stability more smoothly felt than the sharper chine Greenland boat. The sharper chines of the Greenland boat does carve better on a leaned turn.
Because "Brit" boats tend to be higher in volume, these are more affected by windage and, thus, possible weathercocking in strong winds. The prefer "Brit" method for addressing this seems to be the inclusion of a skeg (over a rudder) to the boat. Brit boats also not only include the standard fore and aft bulkhead and hatches but also the "day hatch." ( The latter I suspect to get a spot of tea from a BCU approved thermos on the water. ;) )
Generally speaking (every thing is relative and general), the Greenland and Brit boats are designed with the intended usage of rougher conditions (and cold water) in the open ocean.
Some manufacturers will claim to make "Greenland" inspired kayaks. Specifically they will be referring to fine ends and, maybe, hard chines. However, since the manufacturers want to produce boats for a wider range of paddlers, as opposed to the custom built of a true Greenland boat, the so called "greenland boats" put out there tend very much on the side of higher volume (and wider beams). This higher volume mitigates some of the advantages related to Greenland boats when it comes to rolling maneuvers, less windage and ease of acceleration. However, if you put a really large paddler in some of these western produced "greenland boats", they do function similar to custom built Greenland boat. Luck of draw.
Right now, a good example of a western manufactured "Greenland style" boat would probably be the VCP Anas Acuta with its relatively narrow beam, fine ends and hard chines. A good example of the "Briti-fication" of the Anas Acuta is the VCP sister boat, the Pintail. The Pintail adds on two inches to the beam (22" to the Anas Acutas' 20") and has rounder instead of sharp chines. You can go to this page, hit the link to "sea kayaks", to compared the Anas Acuta with the Pintail:
Other examples of western produced "greenland style" boats would include Nigel Foster's boats (which have a combination of sharp and rounded chines on the same boat), the discontinued WS Sparrow and Arctic Hawk boats and Impex's new Outer Island (though I believe the chines here have been rounded a bit). Necky's Chatham is also said to be "Greenland" inspired.
I think lower volume boats ate better for day tripping, which most of us do anyway. The fact of the matter is that, if you're a small paddler, you can not derive all the benefits of a "Greenland style" boat as those being produced by western companies. They're all too high volume relative to the small paddler. However, if a smaller paddler is looking for a boat with overnight or even expedition capacity, some of these western produced "Greenland style" boats may fill the need perfectly.
Great response…thanks Sing!
That is some great information. Thanks.
very lucid and coherent explanation.
I’ll be looking for your book when it comes out!
“Tracking Vs Maneuverability…”
in anticipation of this question, tracking vs maneuverability is a function of rocker or lack of. Regardless of boat "styles", one or the other characteristic can be made more or less with the amount of rocker.
I find it funny that the GRO site said the hard chines of the Anas Acuta makes the boat more stable. No. The initial stability of the boat are determined by the deadrise from keel to hull (and also beam width). Not the chines. The secondary stability is affected by the deadrise and, I find, the amount of flare from the chines to deck. Boats of different styles have different amount of deadrise and flare.
Most of the Greenland and Brit Style boats tend to be symetrical, as opposed to Swedeform (wider in the aft) or fish form (wide in the fore). Folks can debate how the boat will behave with the various beam shape. But, again, the beam shape has to be taken in account with the amount of deadrise, rocker and other characteristics to really give the performance traits. For example, I'm fascinated with the Thule (a Greenland region) kayak's swedeform shape. This boat also has a relatively flat bottom. I think if some rocker was put on the front end, this boat would be a day touring boat that will handle surf well because the turns would come from the back, with the sharp chines. The rocker up front will allow the bow to not get stuck in the trough to make turning more difficult or leading to a pitchpole. This is akin to what the Mariner kayaks do. The Mariner kayak is neither Brit or Greenland.
Bottom line is what the individual paddler wants most for boat performance (remember, can't have it all). The boat that will meet the need best must be considered in it's entirety: from volume, length, waterline, beam width, depth, rocker, deadrise, full or narrow ends to plumb or rising shearlines.
So, one can't just assumed that moniker of "Greenland" or "Brit" will ensure a boat that will fits one's needs/wants (except, perhaps, to say that one has ____ style boat and whatever psychological satisfaction that goes with that).
You should be on some builders payroll! I got a cricket GP about 4 years ago & loved to paddle with, until I loaned out the low deck kayak I was using with it. I really miss it, but it looks great on my wall. I found it to be 8 mins slower per hour than my wing, but lots more fun to learn.
Not That Impressive…
Just lurk on the Qajas/USA and Kayakforum (building and design forum) sites to pick up info; and buy lots of used boats, go paddle and figure out what one likes.
Also, the general consensus is that a wing paddle is specialized and faster (again, the "horse" makes the most difference) than either a GP or Euro paddle.
Oh, while this is related to touring boats, white water and surf boats also inform a bit too about design and handling characteristics.