The Finn Gadget -- aka 'Stingray' -- enjoys its maiden voyage

With a stiff north easterly and gusts of 18 knots I took my new paddleski down to the bay this morning bright and early.  Not the best conditions for paddling anything and hardly ideal for a maiden voyage but I had to find out what the Finn Gadget  was like floating under me .
I should also point out that I have not done any serious paddling for... almost 30 years. But hey! it's like riding a bicycle. I did have on my PFD and the waters were no deeper than a metre so I aint as stupid as I my look.
Yep...like riding a bicycle.
Mounting the craft against the waves was very easy in the choppy conditions. With mangroves at my back  getting in and pushing off against the chop  was a pre-requisite challenge to anything else and the boat was very responsive to my first plunges of the paddle so I pulled away from shore without drama.

The mount was an easy jump and landing upon what proved to be, once my behind descended,  a stable platform. No challenging rock at all.

Since it was high tide and the wind was  stiffening, there were a few white caps   and some occasional deep troughs. While it surprized me how keen the Gadget was to surf -- even though I did not want to go down that route --  the beaminess, raised sides and high buoyancy ensured I experienced a reasonably dry ride. This is messing about in boats on rather than in the water . Despite the sort of bathtub interior where you sit and stretch the legs out, paddling the Gadget is a high roller ride. 

I would have thought that this ensured that the craft pulled like a cork victimized and tugged by any current or waveform.  While you are very broad on the water, underneath the sharp lines of the catamaran hull seems to offer you better tracking than you'd expect. I could pull an intended course albeit without generating a lot of speed. There appeared not to be much glide.

While i wasn't surfing south and momentum of the wind and waves was pushing me along but at no time did the bow plunge under the water line. This suggests that the Gadget is well balanced -- despite my 93 kgm weight / 5'8" height -- and utilizes its high ride good effect despite what may be forward motion forces.

This was an easy pull south with a nor easterly behind me, but on the return journey, tracking across the wind (due north) pulling the paddle and advancing forward was not  an easy exercise. Pulling against a 18 knot wind  is not recommended for any paddler but I think the Gadget's design did not suit the conditions against the wind: it road high in the water, caught the wind on its high oblique sides , and acted more like a cork.

It was at this moment that I began to experience a few newly discovered muscle groups...

Nonetheless,  I could still navigate with intention and when I turned towards the shoreline, I was in charge of the boat all the way in despite the waves at my back and the fast approaching mangrove snags which I had to manoevre around. 

In my years  of experience of surfski-ing (way back when), if you move lateral/parallel to a forming wave you can often be in trouble because the craft tends to roll into the wave and tip. But the Gadget holds its position in the water and will rise up just so long as you turn its bow a tad into or away from  the wave.  The point being that despite the chop at no time was I in danger of being capsized.

Pretty amazing...for what's called a kayak. and for what is only 2.4 metres long.

So in summary -- and after only one short paddle: Gadget performed as I had hoped and its attributes were even stronger given the challenges posed by the conditions. While I'm not sure how much drag will be caused by the craft's beaminess  -- such as what would handicap a paddle on a calm sea -- like a Canadian canoe, the higher sides catch the wind and that means you have that counter force to contend with or harness depending which way you are going. Since I plan to explore its sailing potential that's sure to make for an interesting ongoing project.
While the Gadget weighs in at 18 kilograms but with all  craft like this shape and volume matter in regard to the ease of any lift. Finn have added a small hand hold indentation half way along the hull so that right handers can more easily carry the boat against a hip. This little impression makes one helluva a difference to transportation.  So it is feasible to carry the Gadget a good distance like this despite -- as I found out -- the wind. 
(Image above  is of Beachmere but today there were fewer white caps than illustrated. the water was however choppier).


After I disembarked the rain started pelting down and I got wetter walking the boat home on my cart than I did paddling the waters.

If you note my 'bike cart'  (pictured right) you'll recognise how size does matter. while not the main factor in my choice of the Gadget, the 2.4 metres fits nicely atop my cart especially after I made some adjustments to the top frame by adding extension wings and using a section of a Swim Noodle for padding.

All I need do is hold the Gadget perpendicular with one hand and slide the cart underneath, before lashing it down with a bungy chord. Easy.

With the Gadget 'face down' and its bottom facing skywards the cart makes a handy repose for the craft in ready mode for a trip to the sea shore. Rainwater run off guaranteed. A covering of shade cloth protects the plastic hull from UV. I also use a bike chain through the front carry handle to lock the craft to a post(and later use the same locking setup to secure the bike cart -- and bike? -- when I'm in the water paddling away).

I didn't plan it but I may be able to simply drag the cart with paddleski atop behind a bicycle  when I want to launch from the river boat ramp -- 2 kilometres from my front door. Or I can bike cart it the 4 kms to the wetlands reserve north of town for some paddling over the sea grass meadows and maybe among the Dugongs (preferable some days  than paddling the distance along the coastline).

As I log more paddling time I'm keen to see how the craft performs in shallow water -- such as in depths of less than half a metre -- especially in way of being able to dip the paddle and move along without scraping the blade or the hull on the sandy bottom.


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