P&H Cetus. We've borrowed both of these boats from P&H, who were happy with the coverage they received in the Canoe Boys programmes last year. Perhaps it speaks volumes that Liz would now like to buy hers, rather than return it in October, and I feel much the same.
They carry all our kit effortlessly, and that's the main thing about this 'expedition' boat. It's fatter hipped and flatter bottomed than what we're used to, and now we have the hang of them, they proved very stable. After surving the F6 beam sea breaking over her as we came into Duart Bay on wednesday, Liz said, "If I'd been in my usual boat I'd have been over".
In calm conditions it's easy to get a hugely impressive edge. I'm not so confident in bigger seas, but now I have the weight-trim right, I can alter course easily with the usual knee-and-buttock lift. Except, that is, in a rear quartering sea. It's probably the added weight of my tripod, which has to sit on the back deck as it won't fit through the hatch, but in a rear-side sea the boat is tricky. I struggle to stop its nose turning towards the wave. In a confused rear sea, with waves coming from both directions, it's like riding a corkscrew. Liz's boat does not behave like this to anywhere near the same extent, so I'm willing to believe it's the way I've loaded it.
I now like the 'elasticated' skeg, which has no wire so even I can't kink it. But after Cailean and I broke last year's demo Cetus skeg, I'll reserve judgement on that. Overall, I'm hugely impressed.
Werner Foam Core Paddles. We took a deep breath, asked for some discount, and bought two sets of Werner foam cores each - total value about the same as a new kayak.
Boy are they worth it. The weight makes it easy to paddle, and paddle, and paddle. With our old paddles there's no way we could maganage 40km days near the start of something like this - we're not athletes! We didn't train for this for heaven's sake, it's a holiday! The foam core pops the paddle out of the water at the end of the stroke, and I'm sure a google search would produce a much better explanation than I can manage of why that's a good thing.
We expected to use the bigger Ikelos blades most of the trip, switching to the smaller Cyprus at day end as we tire. However, the Cypus have become our first choice, putting less strain on arms and shoulders and eating up the miles. The Ikelos are good in big seas as there's so much blade to brace against. Despite batling high winds this week I never once felt these were going to blow out of my hand.
There is an issue with the placing of the button to release the paddle joint, which if it bashes against your BA in surf could realease, leaving you with half a paddle in each hand. I hear Werner have been told about this and I hope they're shifting the button.
So that's it. More about Palm kit and Terra Nova tent later.