Seaward Kayaks Factory Tour – Part 3

5 11 2011

 

Seaward kayaks in action...

In Part 1 of this tour we talked about how Seaward Kayaks made their thermoform ABS plastic kayaks. Part 2 looked at the fiberglass/kevlar boats and why they were so nice. In this installment I’m going to discuss which Seaward kayak I’m keen on and why.

Single or Tandem

I spent a long 4 month Baja paddle trip with my friend Anna in two single kayaks. We had an amazing time, but we both agreed that we would never embark upon that sort of trip again unless we had a double kayak. Our paddling speeds were so different that even at my most relaxed pace I was usually 1 bay ahead of her so I would close my eyes and nap while she caught up and I’d leap ahead again. You might say just paddle slower and I tried – I really did. I felt like I’d have to paddle backwards to go any slower. We still ended up miles apart after a couple hours. The second issue is that when the wind picked up and things got rough Anna was not as confident in her paddling skills [she was a novice] so we had to head for the beach early to get her to safety and when we did stay out in the waves she was anxious.

A tandem would have allowed us to stay together for social reasons and make the trip safer. It would also have allowed us to cover 50% more distance each day and made camp in the evenings more fun since nobody would be tense! I was convinced about a tandem kayak years ago, but my recent experiences with a tandem bicycle just confirmed that opinion 100%. Especially in the more dangerous waters of the North Pacific Ocean I’ll feel far better about Sharon and I being in the same boat.

Tandems aren’t all roses they are crazy long, heavy, expensive and you can’t paddle one solo. Trying to move and store a 22′ long boat is pretty epic! On the plus side it’s easier and cheaper than two 18′ single kayaks.

Praying we don't get into a fight today due to vastly different paddling speeds!

Material

All my previous and my current sea kayaks were made of rotomoulded plastic. The dull soft kind that you see for rent at the beach. These boats are cheap, heavy and tough. They tend not to be very efficient due to the limitations of the shapes allowed by the rotomoulding process and because they are targeted at the less hardcore end of the paddling market. I’ve always wanted one of those shiny fiberglass kayaks I see down in Baja that glide through the water so easily and look so nice. So the one thing I was certain about was that I would not be buying another rotomoudled sea kayak.

The tour of the Seaward factory confused me a bit at first since the thermoform ABS kayaks had solved a lot of the things I didn’t like about my old plastic boats while retaining the lower cost compared to fiberglass. They are lighter, stronger, better looking and can be made into more complex shapes than a rotomoulded boat. For a recreational boat I think it’s a no brainer that a thermoform plastic kayak is the best bang for your buck.

The fiberglass boats do offer some important benefits though:

  • 100% customizable
  • can be built in any complex shape for highest performance
  • strongest/stiffest construction option
  • easily repaired and repairs can hardly be noticed [ideal for a long term boat]
  • 30yr+ service life

A morning fishing paddle on the Sea of Cortez...

This makes them best suited for the challenges of long tours with a lot of gear and supplies. On my long Baja tour we each carried 40L of water that weigh 80lbs on top of food for a couple weeks at a time and camping gear. Now double that and put both people in one boat on a rough sea pounding from wave to wave and crashing up onto a beach in a storm. The stresses are phenomenal and orders of magnitude greater than what a recreational boat experiences on a relaxing flatwater paddle.

It’s not surprising then that Seaward’s thermoform line up of kayaks are largely recreational boats suited for less demanding use and their fiberglass/kevlar boats are more focused on the performance touring/expedition market. Since I can only afford one boat it has to be suited for casual day paddles in the Victoria Harbour as well as a 2 month long trip down the Sea of Cortez. If I’m going to spend a lot of $$ on a sea kayak I want to customize it so it works optimally for us which means a fiberglass or kevlar boat.

Kevlar offers the same strength as fiberglass at ~10% less weight, but it costs more. I’m not sure if I would be interested in that feature yet. That’s a decision I’ll leave until just before I place an order. I’m hoping to demo similar kayaks in fiberglass and kevlar to get a hands on feel for the practical differences.

Passat & Passat G3...

Which model?

Based on what we’ve discussed so far the only two Seaward models that fit the bill are:

The key difference is the large center hatch on the G3. You gain a little weight and lose a touch of performance for that feature, but my experience on a long kayak tour says the connivence of easy access to gear is well worth it. These kayaks are very strong, stable boats with rudders for keeping on course with varying winds and waves. Totally overkill for a casual paddle, but you have to get to know your boat close to home in friendly waters before you set out on a challenging tour in new territory.

You can read more about the Passat G3 below or click here to jump to the Seaward G3 product page.

Passat G3 marketing spew...

Colour and Features

Now onto the really important stuff like what colour I’d get?…hahaha…=-) Sharon will get to pick the colour, but I’m leaning towards something simple and classic like the red/black/white scheme shown below. Seaward has a custom colour tool so you can mess around with whatever combinations you think might be nice and see them on a boat.

As for the features I’d order I’m not really sure yet. I need another trip up to Seaward to chat about what the options are and what the pros/cons are for each one. Doug appreciated that this is a huge purchase and was willing to talk about it as much as I wanted to which is cool. I’ve learned so much in that first visit that my brain was on overload. Now that I’ve processed everything it’s time for round two and more detailled questions.

Red is faster right?...=-)

What’s next?

If time allows I’d like to visit Seaward’s factory again and get some more info. I’d like to demo a kayak or two if I can and I’d also like to shoot some video of kayaks being built.


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2 responses

5 11 2011
Randobarf

My two cents worth is that doubles are fast and fun!

There’s really no downside to owning a double. A double is more stable. Doubles are good for someone who is bad at rolling but good at wet exits and re-entries. Very few people can roll a double anyway.

As far as material is concerned, glass is better than kevlar because of the stiffness. In a double you want as much glass as you can handle without a forklift. The stiffer, stronger and heavier the better. Kevlar is for ladies who cannot lift a glass single boat over their head. Flexy kevlar hulls also make it more likely you will flex-damage the gelcoat.

I would choose the colour solely based on visibility. On my own boats I go the whole SOLAS nine yards with the SOLAS reflective tape and so on.

The life of any boat, glass, kevlar or plastic will depend on its exposure to the sun. Store your boat indoors or under a proper UV-protective kayak cover (not a plastic tarp from Home Depot, which can help destroy your boat instead of saving it like people think). Car trips are bad for glass and kevlar boats. Leave your car at home and paddle to Mexico or rent a boat in Mexico. Actually, you should paddle to Mexico because that will make a good blog entry.

You also need a single for splashing around the harbour. Any cheap plastic boat will do or you can get a seasons rental pass so you don’t have to haul your boat down to the water. You need a way to keep in some sort of paddling form without having to coordinate with another persons schedule.

5 11 2011
thelazyrando

I am too weak to paddle a kayak to Mexico. In fact I didn’t want to mention it, but I had fully intended to fill all three hatches with helium to make lifting the kayak easier.

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