After the difficulties faced using my current kayak with ocean swell conditions, with a need for a long-distance kayak for the Hawkesbury Classic in October, and after an insightful chat with the crew at Sydney Harbour Kayaks, I booked a paddle on one their fibreglass kayaks, a Boreal Nanook. Now the Nanook (apparently Inuit for “Polar Bear”, quite fitting considering my nickname!) is pitched in as a performance kayak for, err, large people. In fact their marketing spiel is quite polite on the matter:
The Nanook is designed for individuals weighing 90 kg (200 lb) or more. This kayak has a deeper profile, offering ample room for the legs, thighs and feet. For added comfort and freedom of movement, the cockpit and seat are larger than those of other composite models.
Perfect for the Fat Paddler! Now keep in mind this paddler has thus far only paddled sit-on-tops, so this was always going to be an experience. Without a doubt the Nanook feels more cramped around the thighs and feet than my Cobra Expedition, but then a sit-on-top has the benefit of complete leg freedom. After a minute in the Nanook however I’d forgotten to feel cramped and actually started to enjoy the enhanced control you get when wedged into a kayak properly!
One of the things I wanted to test of course was the stability. And compared to my Cobra the Nanook was so stable I was frankly shocked. In comparison my Cobra is 1cm narrower across the beam and about 8cm longer, and frankly pretty tippy. It has a very low profile, making it excellent in high winds, but also susceptible to water washing in over the sides when choppy or during largish swell. The Nanook on the other hand was dry, warm, and happy to bob around in the water without any concern about entering water.
But the only real way to test the Nanook was to head out into ocean swell to see if it was more stable than my Cobra had been the day before. To add to the test a nice big rain storm was blowing into Sydney and by the time I passed Balmoral and into the path of the swell coming off the Pacific Ocean, wind/rain/chop added to the equation.
I have to say I was even more impressed with the Nanook’s stability. With the big swell and sideways chop the kayak simply bobbed about happily without any water washing into the kayak at all. This is one hell of a steady & stable kayak!
Then I had a slight mishap. A running repair done just prior to my test came loose, resulting in the left rudder cable coming loose. With onboard repairs looking impossible, I used the cable system to pull the rudder out of the water and back up onto the stern, and started paddling with the swell back into the harbour.
Now tracking on the Nanook is no-where near as clean and straight as the Cobra (which is shaped with an inbuilt skeg system). Without the rudder, it was virtually impossible to keep the boat in a straight line with swell running from behind, and I spent quite some time pinwheeling perpendicular to the oncoming waves as a result. However, once I got out of the swell and back onto flat water, the forward momentum was far easier to control with smart paddling and the kayak ran effortlessly up into Middle Harbour.
In general, I really love this boat. It is big enough to handle both my weight and long leg length. It is sleek enough to develop good running speed, particularly on flat water. It is stable enough to handle nasty swell and chop. And the quality of Boréal Design kayaks is really second to none. Me likey likey! 😛
NOTE: Sydney Harbour Kayaks are the official distributors for Boréal Design kayaks in Australia and New Zealand. They are friendly and helpful and offer “paddle before you buy” sessions at the Spit for you to test their Boréal range of kayaks. It’s well worth it.