Phil, Lorrie and I traveled up to Contoocook Canoe and Kayak for a big demo day event. I was looking for a kayak that is fast, nimble, with low back deck for rolling ease.
I headed straight for the Boreal/Maelstrom tent. There was the Vital, a unique boat with great rocker, a very low deck just behind the cockpit (good for layback rolling), and hard chines for sharp execution of turns. I climbed in and tried it. Fast, extremely easy to roll (forward-finishing rolls a little more difficult due to the low front deck), and when brought up on edge it turned very quickly for its length. I really liked paddling this one and came back to it 2 more times during the afternoon. It is high on my wish list. I could ask for the cut-away deck of the Cetus LV, and perhaps slightly more aggressive thigh hooks. But it's a really well-designed kayak. Has the cool 4th hatch just in front of the cockpit too.
Next up was the Pilgrim, an NDK design now manufactured by SeakayakUK. This had a curious twitchy feel to it, much like the Silhouette - a shallow V hull with hard chines, such that the kayak wants to lean slightly to one side or other before coming to rest. It was easy to roll, and it had a predictable feel that is how I've been told its big brother Explorer feels. It didn't stand out for me.
Then I tried the Pilgrim Expedition. It was much more calm, solid, the classic Explorer-type kayak. I thought it would be an excellent expedition kayak - lots of room for gear (although I'm not a fan of the NDK small round hatch openings), stability, but easy to roll and comfortable to sit in. If I had unlimited funds, this would be my dedicated expedition boat.
It's wonderful that there are so many new designs for the smaller paddler. Any of these that I demoed would be a worthy addition to the boat quiver. I'd like to try the Vital on open water. I'd like to take the Pilgrim Expedition to Newfoundland!
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