On, In and Under the Water


As I mentioned the other day, I took my new kayak out for the first time this past Sunday. I went with my pastor and a friend of his to the Flint River, covering about 10 miles from the Hays Nature Preserve near Highway 431 down to Hobbs Island Road.

The river had several shallow areas, which meant we had to portage at least once, and get out maybe a couple more times. There were also a fair number of downed trees across, under, on and over the water, which we’ll come back to in a minute.

My kayak is a Pelican Potomac 100ES. I had one major consideration when I was buying it — I wanted something cheap. I’ve enjoyed kayaking when I’ve gone, but I wasn’t sure how much I would go if it were just me and my kayak and my schedule. So rather than sink a bunch of money into something I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I would use enough to justify the cost; I figured I would go with something fairly low-end, see how it works, and go from there.

(I will say, straight out, that I took the same approach with my paddle, and that was a mistake. Paddles are more expensive than I expected, but trying to save a few bucks by getting a low end one was a big mistake. Greg let me borrow his for a while, and it made a huge difference. I need to go get a new paddle soon.)

I had originally wanted a sit-on-top kayak, which has been my preference in the past, but I wasn’t too keen on the only one I found in the price range I was looking at, so spent a little bit more for the one I ended up getting.

I had reasons for picking the one I did, I just didn’t think through what the ramifications of getting what I wanted were.

I liked the lines. She looked rather aquadynamic. She was thin, top to bottom, and I liked that. She looked sleek. She wasn’t built for comfort. There’s padding for the back of the seat, but not the bottom. There’s no storage area behind the seat. Other kayaks even had molded cupholders, but not this one.

All of which, I figured, was fine. I’m interested in performance. I’m interested in how well she moves through the water. I’m not going kayaking to be comfortable. I could sit in my recliner at home for that.

And, what I discovered is, she moves through the water rather well.

In particular, she’s got great glide. There’s very little resistance, she cuts through the water easily. There were times when we were going through a narrow area that we couldn’t pass each other, and I would actually have to brake to avoid hitting the person ahead of me; I kept moving more quickly coasting than they were moving paddling slowly, there was that little resistance. Very sweet.

Unfortunately, she has lousy tracking. I’ve been out on rented kayaks with groups, where we could just pull the paddles out of the water and drift and talk. Not an option with mine. Stop steering for a moment, and you’re going to start drifting off course immediately. She doesn’t have a cupholder because you couldn’t pick up a bottle of water, take off the top, take a sip, close it again and put it down without drifting way off course. The awesome glide means that she requires a lot less paddling than most I’ve been in, but the lousy tracking means that you’re still having to paddle constantly to maintain heading.

The low profile, I believe, added to the glide. It was also nice going through shallows, she didn’t need as much depth of water. I believe, however, that the low profile contributed to me capsizing. Twice. The first time, I caught a tree underwater, and flipped. I ended up underwater, beneath the boat. Thankfully, not hard at all to slip out and get above water. The second time was shortly thereafter, trying to recover from the first. She holds water easily, and that contributed to the second time. I’ve never flipped a kayak before, and, to be honest, it was kind of cool that I got to do so for the first time in mine. Thereafter, didn’t have any problems. I’ve read reviews since talking about stability problems, but, even having flipped her, I don’t know if I would concur.

So, I’m looking forward to taking her back out again fairly soon, but this time going out to the Tennessee, and being able to just open her up and see how fast she can go. She was a little tiring for a Sunday stroll, but I’m betting she’d be great for a sprint.

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