Monday, September 22, 2008

The game of musical boats

After selling one boat and buying two this summer, I'm pretty sure my boat swapping is over for the year. Not so for my fellow paddlers however. The BemidjiIntelOfficer tested and purchased a Valley Aquanaut demo on Saturday and RonO has decided its time to move the Romany S. Both boats were viewed and paddled on a unseasonably warm afternoon on the Minneapolis chain of lakes yesterday. After battling our way through sailboats, windsurfers, rec kayaks, paddle boats, fishing boats, and the occasional bobbing head of the long distance swimmer, we arrived at Cedar Lake in relative peace and quiet and were able to discuss the dynamics of the buy/sell decision.

Some people are analytical, some emotional, some impulsive, and most are a combination of the three when it comes to a new kayak. For me the idea kind of lurks in the back of my mind, in the periphery of conscious thought, until something brings it to the forefront. In the case of the Capella at the auction this spring, it was GalwayGuy's need for a better boat (that I could borrow from time to time, of course), the competitive juices of the auction, and the fact that my bidding nemesis quit long before I would have. The Q boat involved a much more analytical process. I had paddled the boat a couple years back before purchasing the Aquanaut HV and found it too small and a bit squirrelly. At that time though, I was in the market for a multiple day expedition boat with some load capacity; if I don't have my dutch oven, folding chair, and a respectable amount of beer on a trip I get surly. The Aquanaut HV fit well, handled well, and could carry the gear. As I began to work on more and more rolls it became apparent that my 'ore freighter' was the main limiting factor. There were many rolls that myself and GalwayGuy could do easily in the VOR's Avocet that I couldn't get close on in the Aquanaut. Then after one of us (I'm certain it was him!) broke the seat on the Avocet and the VOR banned both of us from tipping the thing over any more. I also was required to install a new seat in the Avocet, even though I'm certain it wasn't my 225# frame twisting around in the cockpit that caused the failure. Earlier this summer, a 45 minute stretch in the Q boat at the Great Lakes Symposium in Grand Marais, MI made me look at it in a whole new light. It handled well, rolled superbly, and fit snugly and comfortably. When the Big Kahuna sold and the Q boat turned up at Midwest Mountaineering the stars were aligned and the purchase fell into place logically as well as emotionally.

The 'BIO' was in the market and had looked at and tested boats as varied as the Impex Force Cat 3 and the CD Solstice GTS. She said that when she sat in the Aquanaut and paddled it that it just felt right as well as being narrower, faster, and more stable than her current boat. RonO was on the demo mission also and rolled the boat, paddled it, and pronounced it a fine craft. On the same day the Aquanaut was purchased Ron put the Romany S on The trouble is that with all the discussion of this particluar boat on P-net, we're not sure what boat it really is. Apparently neither does anyone in the message string. The discussion reminds me of trying to swallow a piece of toast while suffering from a hangover. You keep chewing and chewing on the thing but are never ready to swallow. We had to chuckle at the arguing back and forth and frankly, who cares? Its a great boat from a reputable manufacturer, well built, and it surfs and tracks great. If you jump in it, find that it fits, and like the way it handles, grab it. In the end thats what buying a new boat is all about.

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