Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Aquayak - Snapper Pro

I was driving past a series of shops recently, and stopped at a set of lights and looked over and there it was, my local Kayak shop. I felt it was time, given the water only five minutes down the road from me and the fact that I haven't really covered any sort of transport caught my mind. I have used kayaks before, mostly in lakes and rivers in Canada, in the Rockies.

I dropped them a line after looking over their website and I was delighted to be offered the chance to trial a couple of their models. The first is the Snapper-Pro, the fully kitted version of the Snapper.

This is a 2.7m (8'10") long ‘sit-on-top’ kayak with a range of features, including coming in a range of colours, all in their propriety 'alkatuff polyethylene' material, which holds a UV certification for maritime plastics. Pretty impressive. 

The hull is deeply molded and 0.8m (2'7") a the beam. It also only weighs 18kg empty (just under 40 lbs). I lugged it out of the shop, lashed it to my vehicle (more on this later), drove it home and looked it over before taking it out on the water.
I wanted to get a closer look at the hull cross section that had been hinted at on the website. It did indeed have a very interesting profile, and I was keen to see if this unique low-drag underwater shape that provided the speed and tracking through the water without the need of a complicated rudder that they advertised.

The last kayak I had used was a "sit-inside" type, you traditionally see, and required "eskimo-roll" survival training in the event of capsizing. On the AquaYak boats, you just climb back on like a surfboard.

Here is a cross-section of the hull, sitting as a display in the shop. The polyethylene hull is both spacious and well reinforced with supporting pillars scattered throughout. The pillars seen here actually form part of the self-draining system the boats share, as scupper holes that allow sloshed in water to drain back though the boat. The hull is around 6-8mm thick, and has most of the major features molded right in, with very few cuts or holes drilled into the body.


The kayak has a capacity of 120kg (265lbs) and as long as you keep in mind the operator (for me, that's 85kg, leaving 35kg of gear haulage) however, after handling it in the water, I wonder if that might be a very conservative rating. There are three storage ports built into the hull, fore, central and aft. The turn-lock sealed ports allow you to store a variety of gear in the hull, away from the worst of the elements, and keep your center of gravity low at the same time. 


For the fishers our there, the central port comes fitted wit ha removable, drop-in bait bucket, all the better for catching the fishes with!


As I mentioned earlier, I didn't have any trouble moving it around, even on my own. I keep a couple of karate-belts i have collected over the years in the boot, which make for excellent roof-rack ties. The smooth edges of the hull laid right on the roof of my car and I lashed it through the built in safety lines. Getting it up and down was a pretty simple exercise, the biggest trouble was doing so in the high gusting winds I had on my paddling day. I have roof-rack rails, which aided in lashing, and I could, if i needed, have put a specialized kayak carrier on, but it didn't really need it.


Here's where I went, a little sheltered bay on Port Phillip Bay. You can see that it wasn't a very clear or fine day, it was drizzling on and off, a strong wind was zipping in and there was a bit of chop. There was also a fair bit of a hill to portage the kayak over. All part of the test I wanted to give it.


 I got the Snapper-Pro off the top of the vehicle, put on my vest, and helmet,  grabbed the paddle and trotted down the hill to the beach.



Getting it down on the beach, I unfolded the padded seat, and latched it to the loops bolted to the hull with the brass clips provided. With two forward, and two behind this padding fitted in nicely to the deeply molded internal seat. Webbing straps form each of these four points  and allow you to customise the fit and feel of the seat. I opted for a slightly lent back approach, because i'm so tall. I sat in it on the sand to adjust, then got ready to push off.





 It wasn't overly cold, but with the wind, even the bit f spray I got would be chilly, so I dressed for the occasion in my Platatac Microfleece half-zip top and matching Microfleece Sniper pants under my North Face pants and Paleo Barefoots.

I knew I wouldn't stay dry,  but I wanted to stay light, and warm.

    Pushing off, I moved through the shallows, and was amazed at the very shallow draft the kayak had. in barely more than ankle deep, I was floating just off the sand, and with a gentle push of a paddle, I was afloat.
    Paddling out into the bay, it took me a few minutes to remember how to coordinate arms to hips, to ensure stability, and not to dig too deeply when on the shoreward side of waves. 

    All along  the rim of the Snapper-Pro is a safety line, a heavy cord, mounted securely to the  hull by a series of hard plastic loops. There are also two drag handles, fore and aft, to assist with hauling and climbing back in, should you go over. You can see here that my feet were right up to the front of the cockpit, as I have really long legs.
    It wasn't uncomfortable, but an extra few inches would have made a difference for me.
    One thing that I hadn't anticipated was the scupper holes letting water into the cockpit, and right into the seat of my pants. As I say, I had anticipated getting wet, so this wasn't a problem, but just be sure that you bear this in mind. For those with shorter legs than mine, there were a series of channels in the sides to act as in-situ footrests, which was a really cool idea.

    I found that I could access the center port with no difficulty, but the fore and aft ports were moslty out of reach.

    The kayak was very stable in the water, and responsive too. I haven't paddled for 15 years, and quickly found myself zipping over waves, from end to end of the little bay, against the current, against the wind, and across both. It was only when I over-paddled and over-balanced that I had any troubles controlling it. 

    You can see over my shoulder, the elastic cargo netting,  which I left empty for my trails, but would fit a decent sized pack, like my Platatac light field-pack or a child quite happily (obviously, you don't put the child under the straps). You can also see the aft drag handle. Both the inter-hull cargo compartment, and the external cargo compartments in the aft and between my knees, so there is plenty of space to haul cargo, or passengers. Bear in mind the weight limits, and get your bug-out -kit waterproofed!

    I had a couple of tumbles whist finding my water feet, and found that I could quickly (if not easily) haul myself back on board.

    Not only did the kayak handle well, and was easy to right, haul and lug, it was sturdy and stable. I feel I could have fished happily off it (using either of the two built in rod-holders in the aft) although I would need practice to get my cast coordinated so I didn't dunk myself.

    I had a real blast with this, and I think I will be trying to include more watercraft skills in the future in my planning.I also took a bunch of Contour Cam footage, and have included it below:

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