28 May 2013

Review: carbon-fibre skeg by Norbert Gancarz

A carbon-fibre skeg is the ultimate bling aftermarket accessory for any kayak.
If however one considers a kayak just a tool and has little affinity with his/her craft then I don't think this skeg blade would excite them.
Just as some consider a car just a car and see no point in retrofitting it with performance accessories I am sure that to some a carbon-fibre skeg might seem an unnecessary replacement.
I don't care that much about my car but I will not say the same for my kayaks.

As all of my kayaks are rudder-less and incorporate an adjustable skeg for directional stability, I often wondered if the deployment of my skeg had as much effect on drag as when I would lower a rudder (it has been a few year since I have paddled an over-stern ruddered kayak).
In my Impex Kayak the skeg is a rather chunky HDPE blade (same material as the common kitchen chopping board); if I fully lower that skeg my kayak seem to slow down a bit and become a tad sluggish.
When Norbert Gancarz ( norbertga@o2.pl from Poland) offered me to test his latest creation, a carbon-fibre blade to retrofit the Valley skeg, I was keen to try it.

Norbert skeg_1

The skeg blade is of the exact outer shape as the VCP factory standard grey plastic one but this carbon skeg has features that the Valley skeg does not.
The blade is foil shaped like the wing of an aircraft with the leading edge thicker than the back of the blade. This shape minimizes turbulence and promotes an easy flow of water over the blade when the skeg is deployed. Less turbulence equals to less drag that leads to less effort and possibly more speed.
While speed has never been my goal, less effort is certainly welcome.

Norbert skeg_2

The skeg blade is a real work of art and the finish is incredible.
Somehow I felt that such a beautiful accessory looked out of place on the basic finish of the Nordkapp LV's skeg box but I was keen to find out if the blade would actually fit and how much effort the retrofit required. After all the existing skeg blade was still working fine...

Norbert skeg_5

I inserted a 2.5mm Allen key (like the one you get with IKEA furniture, but smaller) into the skeg's control knob found next to the cockpit and tried to undo the grub screw. Initially it would not budge but a squirt of water dispersant (WD40) and a few minutes later the key turned and the pinch on the skeg cable was released.

Norbert skeg_6
salt built up under the skeg control knob,washes away easily...
The knob was free and now I could pull out the skeg blade past its normal maximum deployed setting; the wire came out easily.

Norbert skeg_7
factory VCP skeg blade removal

Norbert skeg_3

Norbert supplied me with the stainless steel wire that I had to cut as each kayak model has a slightly different wire length .
The carbon skeg has a very neat grub screw that pinches the cable that is inserted into blade (not show here).  I measured the length of my existing Valley skeg wire and cut the new one to length with a pair of diagonal cutters (a decent pair of plier would have done the same job).
I fastened the grub screw on the carbon blade onto the wire, inserted the blade into the skeg box and easily wiggled the wire back into the housing all the way to the control knob. The skeg blade was sitting flush with the hull, all the way in the skeg box, before I aligned the knob over the hole in "slider tube" and secured it tightly with the Allen key. I made sure that the knob was in the "retracted" position or I would not be able to deploy that skeg all the way like before.

Norbert skeg_4

Norbert's skeg blade sits in the skeg box without any wiggle and the two little rubber washers on the pivot point offer just enough resistance to keep the blade in position preventing the skeg blade from creeping back up when the kayak is at speed (one of my kayaks does that and I am yet to fix it...).

But how does the skeg perform in the field, err water?
It seems to have a crisper feel with the lowering amount precisely translating to directional changes. There are no wobbles and no "skeg hum" as I have in some of my other kayaks when I speed down the face of a wave.

Norbert skeg_10

As for increased speed?
I can't attest to that as I don't have a GPS to measure precisely the speed of the kayak.
All I really want is to have the kayak on the beach, belly up, with the skeg standing up proud showing off that sexy carbon weave :-)

Norbert Gancarz can be contacted at norbertga@o2.pl

21 May 2013

Off my arse, into the sticks

Cooler weather is back in South East Queensland and that prompted me to get off my (kayaking) arse and head for the hills.
Summer just doesn’t cut it for donning a pack and walk in the heat; I don’t do well schlepping a load on my back when the heat and humidity is high and that’s why years ago I started sea kayaking anyway.
4 days away from salt water (and fibreglass) is what I really wanted.
I have my favourite destination in the bush (what my American cousins call “Outback”): it's a place where granite boulders litter the landscape.
Girraween sbr_c
Nothing feels more like home to me in nature than granite.
When I lived in the USA my favourite trips have been to the East side of the Sierra Nevada, above tree line. Here in Australia tree line is a long way away from where I now live and the closest feeling I can get to feeling on top of the world is spending a few nights on the open granite slabs.
Temperatures at night hovered just above freezing and the feeling of being cold is something I wait for all summer long.
I love sea kayaking but every so often I seek a reality check where all my gear for a few days has to be minimal and crammed into a small backpack.
There is something about travelling light and finding my way off track through the granite boulders and thick vegetation.
And then, at sunset, be somewhere high and just take it all in waiting for the sky to change to red, purple and then starry black. 
Sunset camp on top_c
a view money can't buy

14 May 2013

Photo: Landing before the storm

I am planning a trip to shores where the sun never sets.
Team members from 3 different countries will join me on a 3 week paddle in a place where granite meets the sea.

Landing before the storm_c
Photo: Tess Dodd/Adventuretess_used with permission
In the meantime I am honing my skills in my local pond (Moreton Bay) and enjoy the less crowded beaches that the colder weather brings.
I have been gathering information on the weather and coastal conditions and some locals may join me for part of my journey.
It is truly inspirational how these small boats can bring the spirit of adventure alive and create a sense of belonging to a community that goes beyond the "virtual friendship".

PS Thank you to my readers concerned about my lack of writing lately: all is good, I just have been busy :-)