I can here the groans and sighs…stop it!
So its been a few weeks since I last updated as to my pregress in Sea Kayaking.
After a couple more attempts in the NDK it just wasn’t happening and as the advice here and from others suggested things were going wrong due to size rather than non ability to learn.
Suer I could sit in the boat every week for a year and at the end of it feel more comfortable… but that kinda defeats what the point if there are better suited Kayaks.
So this last sunday it arrived.
The instructor that is determined to get me paddling comfortably brought a Rockpool Menai 18 over to the Island for me to try.
Looks great. The finish and paint scheme (this one was all white with blue binding and blue sparkle stars/coral starfish design) is quality.
The bottom of the boat looks flater and doesnt taper off as quickly as the NDK and the bow/stern looks alot deeper.
Looking down the boat it is narrower which kinda worried me before getting in.
The NDK cockpit looks big and the boat extends eitehr side of the cockpit, the menai isn’t really wider than the cockpit when looking at it from the top and the cockpit key shape is alot narrower than the NDK.
There was 4 hatches (I think… my memory can be quite bad :-)) and the little hatch right in front of the cockpit looked real handy.
Its tight. If I owned this boat the first thing I would do is grind down the thigh braces. For someone my size there is no need for such extreme pronouced thigh braces… definatly design for someone with smaller thighs and is able to bring their legs in and up more.
Like I said its tight but comfy, prefer the foam seats in the NDK.
The foot pedal system is brill. Its just one big board that is slightly tilted towards the front… allows for different feet positions for different strokes although you can’t stretch your legs as much as you can in the NDK which has the pedals either side and a gap in the middle.
The cockpit is quite a bit smaller than the NDK.
On the Water.
The hard part is forgetting how tight it felt getting in. Its very comfortable when in… like a wetsuit I guess… but you couldn’t rush yourself out of it… and with this boat I realised how important a non rushed calmed and relaxed exit was needed.
The boat immediatly felt more stable… not even close to the tipyness of the NDK… my legs were able to move alot more freely and the hieght of the deck made things “seem” bigger.
Where as little movements in the NDK made big/quicker adjustments to the stability the same in the Rockpool made slower adjustments to the stability… that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Its hard to describe.
We went out for a paddle around the coast and encountered swells and chops I wouldn’t have dreamed of going out in the NDK… seriously… not a chance. In lesser swells the instructor was coupling the boats and paddling me back to still water in the NDK.
I’m very happy in this boat… I’m still twitching but it feels like a learning curve now rather than battling the odds.
I really can’t believe that the boats feel SO different!!
Another major triumph was being able to sit still in the Menai. In the NDK it was like being on a bicycle with ya feet in clips waiting at the traffic lights… working hard to stay upright and still.
In the Menai I can sit still, drink water, chat… look at scenery…
I’m very happy!!!
Sorry for the long ramble.
Great to hear!
Very neat that they got you a Rockpool. The guy who designed the Rockpools, at least the Alaw and the Alaw Bach, is the same one who was primarily responsible for the Romany/Explorer. He gets a lot of credit for showing that a boat with a high level of primary stability can still be a boat that a more aggressive paddler can enjoy. Until the Explorer, the Nordkapp had been the dominant expedition boat. Very neat and capable boat in the right hands, but we heard from more than one really good paddler that it only behaved nicely if it was carrying a full expedition load.
I checked the measurements. The Menai per manufacturer's statement is at most an inch wider, but I think it's half an inch though, and if I recall correctly 5 inches longer. Altogether, I'd guess that you were seeing the different profile more than a half inch of diff in width when you looked at it. The Rockpool boats also have higher front decks to allow for pumping action, so the allover effect of the boat is probably quite sleek. (I've yet to see one in person.)
Interesting result altogether - a boat that is pretty darned narrow for 18'2" in length ends up being more comfortable for you. It really shows the importance of tuning the volume of the boat to the paddler.
The Rockpool website lists some improvements being considered for the Menai. I don't know that they'll get to them but a couple sound pretty interesting, including a "Paddler hydration system" and a "Lap-operated rear deck mounted towing system".
If the boat you have has that lap operated towing system, I'd love to know what the heck it is.
I’m guessing its…
a standard Menai 18 from this years/last years spec.Orinally it was being bough over as a demo boat but I think the Instructor has bought it to add to his fleet.
The boat looks narrower but your measurements tell the truth. The cockpit is tighter and on first sitting I thought the NDK was positively spacous!
The Menai isn’t perfect but all the things that didn’t suit can easily be changed I think without interupting the flow of the boat.
I really am chuffed and amazed that their so different in the handling department.
My upper body is out of the boat just as much as the NDK…
Sitting side on to swells was fine and not stressing me out at all… where as 5 weeks in the NDK and I still couldn’t do it.
Great Post … congrats
I’m sure it will be helpful to many folks. It illustrates the need to try different boats and that there are no bad boats just better ones for a particular time and place. The same boat will vary greatly with different paddlers.
Keep up the good work…
Good on you for hanging in there!
I am not familiar with this boat, but the Rockpool sight give the beam as 21" and says
"The MENAI 18 is a high carrying capacity and rugged sea kayak for extended expedition use by advanced paddlers."
So it is good that you have tried another boat and appreciate how much difference it can make. And this boat is at least capable of carrying your weight, and could even be a boat you will grow into. But you are not an advanced paddler. It would be good to eventually try something designed to carry not just a lot of cargo, but a BIG person, like the Capella 173 or the Aquanaut HV, and is 22.5 to 23 inches wide. I think you would really see the light if you tried one of these.
But everybody is glad that you at least have something that allows you to grow, and could even be a great boat for you over time.
The less you weigh, the better that boat will be for you. Your approach reminds me a lot of myself, and I wouldn't be surprised of your love of kayaking motivated you to become more fit overall. A great website for guys (who may find
Weightwatchers a bit too "feminine?" in approach is Austin Davis' http://www.fitandfunny.net/. Austin is a great guy, a kayaker (I met him when he bought one of my kayaks), and a consultant on the TV show "Big Medicine". His clients there will redefine what you think of as heavy. Anyhow, his tapes are great and have really worked for me.
Beam and stability
I don't know this boat, but have read enough reviews of the Rockpool Alaw and Alaw Bach (the latest just this last weekend) to believe that they are boats that can feel like they have pretty reassuring stability. The width itself doesn't tell the whole story - the combination of that and all the other pieces of hull design could produce a boat that was narrower in that dimension but still more forgiving than another for a given paddler.
Not a reason to skip time in these other boats at all - just a comment that the total package may matter as much as one part.
For an even better fit.
Consider the Tempest 170 and 180. The T170 has an extra inch in the thighs over the Explorer. Very comfortable boat. 22" wide. The tempests have a little extra primary, even for their width. Strong secondary, too. Very good boats loaded, and in conditions.
Thanks for the comments…
I will for sure keep trying boats… but as I said in a previous chapter, my location means that I just dont have access to boats unless there already here.
The instructor I’m going out with each week has been awesome. I think he’s as determined as me to get me paddling comfortably and learning. He really is pulling the stops.
So I’ll sit in the Rockpool for the next month or so of sessions and see how I feel.
Whether its for advanced paddlers or not, its the first kayak that I feel comfortable in and can think about learning rather than capsizing.
It sounds like you have a great instructor, and there really isn’t any reason you have to be the kind of boat whore that so many of us tend to be anyway. Loyalty to one that works is fine, especially one that sounds as nice as the Menai.
The rest of us just lost our morals along the way…
Ditto on the great post
Myself included, your post should be required reading for folks looking at new boats (or first boats). You went thru the issues one by one as they pertained to you and afforded observations on each boat.
And,in the end,you found the boat that fits you and your needs and it looks like you’ll be tackling a bigger variety of water come next season.
Congrats and thanks!