Every Thursday my local kayak shop has a come-along paddle, just for a few hours after work. It is free for all, but yesterday we were only five, two coaches, two aspirant coaches and a girl that helps in the shop.
We took one of the common trips, to the local lighthouse and back, which ended at 7 km. Quite eventless, really, no wind and no waves, but a nice social occasion. The only thing that happened was that a group had set up an ad-hoc race track just in front of the exit from the beach park, so we immediately ended up in the middle of a bunch of sailing boats, and we had to creep along the coast towards the airport to get out on open water.
I did get to try two kayaks I haven’t paddled before: the Nigel Foster Silhouette and the Skim Dex.
The Silhouette was a bit small for me. It has a very low foredeck and I could hardly squeeze my thighs under the thigh braces. It was a really tight fit for somebody my size. It left me sitting in a position with more stretched legs than I’m used to, and initially I felt I had less control over edging and turning than I wanted. After a while and a bit of paddling I got used to the boat and became more relaxed.
It is a fast kayak. With my “normal” paddling style it did at least a few extra kilometres per hour than I do in my Valley Nordkapp, which is normally considered a reasonably fast boat.
The Silhouette is very responsive, which I believe is what Nigel Foster intended. It edges well, very well once I got used to the cramped leg space, and it responds immediately to even a small edge. It tracks OK with the skeg deployed. I would have loved it if it had had a little more room for my legs and thighs, but the conclusion is that it is not a kayak for anybody of my size.
At the lighthouse I swapped kayak with one of the others, and I got over in a Skim Dex. Its the first time I try one of the Skim boats, and it immediately felt very nice, but that might have been because I had too little room for my legs in the Silhouette.
The Skim Dex is a brilliant kayak. It is the shorter of the Skim models, and it is very manoeuvrable. It has absolutely no rocker, but put on edge it turns on a dime. It too tracks well enough with the skeg down, but neither of these boats are for expeditions. They are for playing and day trips.