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SOF Questions for Dan

Apr 8, 2005
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Dan I notice you appear to use the Skin On Frame as your main kayak to paddle. I know you also have the Osprey Tandem. What are the dimensions of the SOF (length, beam, depth). More importantly what self rescue techniques have you practiced/used. Finally how stable is the boat.

I finished my SOF in November and have only had it out on Lake Ontario in less than optimal conditions, which made me a little nervous. The specs are 17ft 3 inches long. Beam of 22 inches and about 7.5 inches at the back beam. So it would not be characterized as low volume. Did some pool sessions with the boat this week. It is very twitchy. Has low primary but very good secondary. Once you get used to it you can feel quite comfortable in it. It doesn't roll very well (I couldn't roll it but the instructor could). I can roll my Tempest 17 (in a pool ok) but have not rolled it in the lake. Did try a self rescue in the pool and it is not easy. The cockpit looks to be about the same size as yours. What makes me nervous is being able to do a self rescue when I need to. That is really what prompts my questions. You obviously have overcome your concerns about this issue.

Any comments?

Yes, I paddle the SOF nearly exclusively. In fact the only time I take my double out is if I've got my kids or someone else with me who doesn't have a boat. Generally, I just really like the SOF and I feel very comfortable in it. It's a fun, and responsive boat.

My SOF is 18 feet long and 24 inches wide. I'm not certain what the depth is but I believe it's about 7 inches behind the cockpit from the top of the deck to the keel. Any gear that I stow behind the cockpit must be less than 5 inches high to slide under the deck beams. It's definitely not a touring boat but I can pack enough gear to do a one or two night trip if I pack very light, and very carefully.

I did a few practice solo paddle float entries last summer and didn't have too much of a problem with it in calm water. Because of the smaller cockpit, the re-entry is more of a cross between a traditional paddle float rescue and a cowboy entry. I must say that I haven't tried getting back in the boat in rough water -- I don't expect that it would be easy, but I'm confident that I could do it if I had to. I do a fair bit of solo paddling and I don't worry too much about having a need to exit the boat as my bracing skills are quite good. Generally when I solo paddle I'm in calmer water conditions. If I'm heading out in rough water, I'm almost always with at least one other paddler. I haven't started rolling yet (but will be in the next week or so) but I do know from others who have paddled my boat that it rolls easily. I should also mention that I always use floation bags in the boat.

Primary stability for my boat is fairly good -- it's not rock steady but it's certainly not uncomfortable. When I first started paddling the boat, it seemed very "tippy" but that has gone away -- most likely because my skills have improved -- now, it doesn't seem tippy at all. Secondary stability is awesome.

I've found when entering the boat that I can balance quite easily with little or no support from a paddle. I often enter the boat merely by sitting on the rear deck, and sliding my legs in through the cockpit with no paddle at all for bracing (Mark is an expert at this type of launch -- it's amazing to watch him push off backwards from a beach and leisurely get into his boat as he's gliding away from the shore).

What I really like in the SOF is 2-3 foot wind waves or large swells. The boat handles very well and surfing with it is a blast. I've had a couple of instances where I felt I was pushing my abilities a bit too much and simply backed off to find my comfort zone.

Feeling comfortable in this boat is not something that came immediately for me -- in fact, the first few times that I took it out in choppy conditions I was quite nervous -- but I think that was more a result of my being a bit "stiff" -- once I relaxed and realized that the boat was fine on it's own, it was easy and I felt fine. I found that reminding myself that the boat knows how to stay right-side up on it's own really helped get past that initial apprehension -- just let the boat do what boats do. With time, the nervousness went away as I became more familiar with the characteristics of the boat -- now, I don't even give it a second thought.

I think the biggest thing is to get out and play around in calm conditions -- practice bracing, push the limits and find out where they are.

more SOF questions

thanks for the response

I pretty well assumed it was just a matter of time in the boat before I got comfortable in it. But prudence says you always should be self sufficient when it comes to rescues (to the extent possible).

I do intend to practice more self rescues with it once the water gets warmer. In the meantime I will stay within "swimming distance" just to be prudent. Lake Ontario stays very cold until about June (when I will be back in BC....) so I wear a wet suit (don't have a dry suit). I know the ocean in BC this time of year is no warmer. Do you wear either a wet suit or a dry suit?

I also have put flotation bags in my SOF. Which begs another question. Many skin boat paddlers (for example Tom Yost) swear by "sea socks". The primary reason of course being to limit the amount of water the boat takes on if you capasize and to keep the boat clean. Since you didn' t mention it, I presume you don't use one?

For me the SOF is a boat which I built because I like building boats and because I wanted to stretch my paddling skills. Also I thought it would be nice to have another boat for other family members (I sometimes paddle with either of my two kids and my wife). My "main kayak" here in Ontario is a fiberglass Tempest 17. I really love that boat and have been out in some rough stuff and feel very comfortable handling those conditions in that boat. I know I a can do self rescues in that boat. Which of course adds to the challenging decision of deciding when do I take out the SOF.

Isn't life great. So many tough decisions which we need to make.....
I wear a wetsuit on all but the hottest of summer days. As the weather and water temps warm up, I'll switch from a full wetsuit to a shorty. Later in the year I'm planning to shell out the thousand bucks for a dry suit.

Seasocks make a lot of sense in a SOF and lately I've been giving some serious consideration to getting one -- they do make a great deal of sense and certainly add to the safety aspect.

I know what you mean about building boats -- I'm now gathering materials to build a SOF for my daughter. She's 10 years old and has shown quite an interest in paddling -- I think it's time for her to have her own boat. And then I *need* to build another wooden kayak -- this time a single...

Swindle?!? I think the word you're looking for is "convince". :lol:

Yes, I've been fortunate enough to have some gracious folks carry the occasional piece of gear for me at times. :D

Tim, yes my double is a Pygmy kit. http://www.pygmyboats.com

I kept a journal of the construction which can be found on this site in the Boat/Accessory building section.

Although I've not built any other kit, I really have nothing bad to say about the Pygmy kits at all -- they're really nice to put together. I've heard a few people say that the instructions could be better but I didn't have a problem with them at all. The folks at Pygmy are excellent to deal with and if you have any questions, they're very good at providing answers either by e-mail or by phone. I wouldn't hesitate to build another Pygmy -- in fact, I'm looking at purchasing the Arctic Tern or Coho kit a bit later in the year.