A couple of plastic boats have been added to the fleet, one new and one 'gently used'. The VOR and I started out with the same plastic boat, the stable and absolutely straight tracking Current Designs Storm. Then came the glass and composite skeg boats with day hatches and that lovely gel coat finish. Some friends are still sold on plastic boats, the BadHatter, FrugalFisherman, and KingOfIronwoodIs among the most notable, but lower weight, more stiffness (and hence speed), and of course that sleek and cool look have plenty of sea kayakers in glass and composite boats. But there are many good reasons to have a plastic boat and that's why the venerable Valley Skerray and a trendy P&H Delphin are now stuffed in the garage. How the new one got there is where the thread of conspiracy begins.
I am not one of those guys who jumps out of his boat into water just over the top of his Chota mukluks, in order to protect his delicate gel coated hull. I do admit though, that the brutal beating the BadHatter administers to his Prijon is a frequent cause for envy. There is no rock too sharp, no beach too cobbled for him to abandon his 'accelerate to ramming speed' landing technique. Launches are much the same as the video clip below illustrates. Instruction is another good case for plastic, as is guiding. Contact tows, T rescues, and other tasks are OK with a composite boat from time to time but if they are done a dozen times a day things tend to get scratched and nicked. Rivers with fast water and lots of rocks make plastic attractive as well. Those pesky rocks are unfriendly to high end craft and the gel coat deposits on prominent rocks tell the tale. The above considerations played a significant part, but the main reason I decided to revisit plastic boats were two additional reasons. Surfing and rock garden play, and participating and coaching 'kayak games' type events at classes and symposiums. Those two thoughts meld together like beer and pretzels in the person of one insidious, some would say disturbing indivdual, Mr. Kelly Blades, one of the ringleaders of the conspiracy I've discovered.
Yes readers, Kelly Blades. While assisting him at his sadistic 'kayak games' class at the Washburn symposium I found myself standing up in my NDK Explorer, in the steady rain, while the boat was the top log in a Lincoln Log-like arrangement of kayaks. I don't remember being drugged, yet there I was. The Elite layup did not enjoy the abuse and I wound up spider cracking the foredeck, either then or when I was clambering around on it like a pommel horse at a gymnastics competition, also at Mr. Blades behest. Later that month I found myself in roughly the same situation with his co-conspirator Ben Lawry, and after I showed him the cracked fordeck and brutally savaged Mr. Blades, he suggested the Delphin might be the answer. Since he is a P&H rep this makes sense. So is Kelly, which is where my first inkling of conspiracy began. Then an article shows up in the Gales Spacebook site touting the virtues of the Delphin. The author you ask? None other than Kelly Blades.
The Delphin seed had been subliminally planted and a combination of no boats locally and very pricey boats in the state to the east led me to Bill Thompson of Downwind Sports in Marquette, who solved both problems. Coincidentally enough, the Gales is being held in Marquette and will be attended by one Kelly Blades who will be delivering a talk on....the new P&H Aires/Delphin! Lets see here....cracked fiberglass boat, Delphin suggestion from P&H rep, Gales event in Marquette with strong recommendation of plastic boats, article on the Delphin, keynote address on said boat at Gales......yup, it's pretty apparent that I fell for this Delphin/Gales ponzi scheme hook, line, and sinker. I now own the boat as well as a registration confirmation for the Gales Storm Gathering.
I feel so used. On the other hand I have a sweet boat, two of them actually if the VOR consents to let me play in her Skerray, a boat we owned once before, sold to the BearWhisperer up in Washburn, WI. I can blast down the local rivers, land at the Sand Island light's rock ledge with impunity, and generally be free from the shackles of gel coat. In select occasions of course. Our quartet will saddle up later in the week and head north and east with visions of wind and waves in our heads. I hope to learn more about rough water technique, put the boat through its paces, and go toe to toe with the Grandmaster of this conspiracy, Mr. Blades, with a fine microbrewed beer in both of our hands.