Stellar S18R test paddle

CPS

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At work (Western Canoe and Kayak) we are carrying Stellar kayaks. They're pretty slick. We brought in a S18R as a staff boat, and I took it out for a quick rip around Cultus this morning.

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It's quite an interesting kayak. Just about 18 feet long with a beam just over 20". I felt it was quite stable, although I'm pretty light (about 140 pounds) and I bet it would feel a bit better with a bit of extra weight in it.

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I mentioned in my Rapier restoration thread that my initial thoughts on the foot pedal were that they couldn't be adjusted while afloat. I would revise that thought. It's possible, thought awkward to adjust the system while paddling. There are 3 flip locks to undo, and the ones at the side clamp together a set of interlocking 'teeth'. Really solid when adjusted though.

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The rudder, when not deployed, is stored upright. I'm not a huge fan of this arrangement normally, but in a kayak like this the rudder is going to be deployed almost all the time.
I did a few re-entries for the sake of science. A scramble was pretty effective, and would probably be a piece of cake if there was some gear to make the boat a bit heavier. As it is its extremely light (under 40 pounds), so any little twitch is quite amplified if one is sitting on the back deck.

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The handles are little strips of carbon. I feel like they might be uncomfortable if they were on a heavier boat. As it is they feel fine to me and are a little extra bling.

One thing that was interesting is how proud the cockpit seems to be compared to the rest of the deck. I think it's just an optical illusion due to the severe cutouts on either side of the foredeck.
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Anywho, thought some might be interested in seeing some pictures. Hopefully I can do a weekend trip in it at some point. Definitely has enough capacity.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Slick looking boat; thanks for posting your impressions.
Santa can put one of those in my Christmas stocking! :)

Are those round or oval hatches?
 
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CPS

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The hatches are both oval. The rear hatch is quite large, and the front one is still a workable size.

One thing I forgot to mention. The whole thing is vacuum infused with a foam core. That's the hexagonal pattern you see on the inside of the cockpit. Really stiff feeling layup, and it's the least expensive option.

I got to play around with some material samples a while back. Their carbon layup on a Nomex honeycomb is even lighter and stiffer. It takes about 5 pounds off the weight of the kayak, though I shudder to think about how light it would make one's wallet.
 

pryaker

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I'm very curious to know how durable those light Stellar layups are. I was considering an 18r because of the amazing light weight but had serious doubts about how well it would stand up to grinding across rocks, oysters, gravel, all the things I usually encounter on trips. Comparing to more "traditional" layups it seems there's fewer layers which to me seems like less durable. Reading a bit about the company, the factory, and looking at layup descriptions it seemed to me they are more like a race boat or a surf ski that needs to be babied. It sure would be cool to have a 40 lb boat that would last for 10-15 years of expedition style kayaking.
 

CPS

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It sure would be cool to have a 40 lb boat that would last for 10-15 years of expedition style kayaking.
Definitely something to consider. I doubt the durability would be much different than a foam cored composite boat, such as in Current Designs kayaks. Main difference being one is wet bagged, whereas the other is vacuum infused. The extra weight coming from surplus resin in a wet bagged hull isn't going to contribute significantly to strength.

Stellar does also offer a multi-sport layup which is two carbon-kevlar layers sandwiching a layer of kevlar. There's still a foam core in the deck, but the hull does have more flexibility. It's not any lighter, but is tougher.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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I like the approach of Rob Mercer and Mark Sundin at Expedition Kayaks in Australia.
Their (vacuum infused) EK Audax kayaks are in the 22-25 kg range and they won't build them any lighter, since they feel they won't be strong enough to stand up to typical usage. Their more expensive carbon/kevlar layup is not much lighter (1-2 kg difference), just stronger than the standard layup.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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A friend has owned a Stellar 16 (?) kayak for a few years and I'm told he still lifts it on and off the beach.
Loves the Stellar, but...
Last month he bought a plastic boat (CD Squall).
(Still kept the Stellar...)
 

pryaker

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Definitely something to consider. I doubt the durability would be much different than a foam cored composite boat, such as in Current Designs kayaks. Main difference being one is wet bagged, whereas the other is vacuum infused. The extra weight coming from surplus resin in a wet bagged hull isn't going to contribute significantly to strength.

Stellar does also offer a multi-sport layup which is two carbon-kevlar layers sandwiching a layer of kevlar. There's still a foam core in the deck, but the hull does have more flexibility. It's not any lighter, but is tougher.
I wasn't comparing their boats to ones with excess resin, just to one's built with quality construction like Tiderace, Sterling, or Expedition Kayaks. None of those have expedition style boats that weight 40 lbs and all are (I think) capable of surviving "rough use". It was my suspicion that the Stellar boats would require careful handling.

John's post:

A friend has owned a Stellar 16 (?) kayak for a few years and I'm told he still lifts it on and off the beach.
Loves the Stellar, but...
Last month he bought a plastic boat (CD Squall).
(Still kept the Stellar...)
seems to confirm my suspicions; lifting a boat on and off a beach isn't my thing so I'm glad I've gone down a different route for my next boat. I know plastic boats are bomber for rough use but I just can't get used to their sluggish feeling.
 

CPS

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Fair points. I'd be really interested in destructively testing kayaks to determine what the breaking limits of different layups actually are. Best we can do is keep an ear open for anecdotes of people's boats breaking.

If I was using a foam cored boat for touring I'd be pretty mindful of the landing conditions. It's all tradeoffs.

Regarding lifting a boat off the beach, I probably would if I wasn't hauling gear and was just on a day paddle. I mean, I'll have to carry it to the car anyways. But I see no issues with setting it on the ground. Perhaps this habit has only continued because the option of lifting it on and off the beach is easy enough.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Perhaps this habit has only continued because the option of lifting it on and off the beach is easy enough.
By 'lifting on and off the beach' I was referring to practices like:
- wading into thigh-deep water to enter the kayak while it is completely afloat
-putting the kayak parallel to the beach and stepping out while it is still afloat
-loading the kayak when it is afloat
-avoiding putting the bow in contact with the beach
etc...
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Fair points. I'd be really interested in destructively testing kayaks to determine what the breaking limits of different layups actually are. Best we can do is keep an ear open for anecdotes of people's boats breaking.
Russell Henry paddled a Stellar S18R on his record-breaking paddle around Vancouver Island.
From the Canoe and Kayak article:
The physical struggles of traveling alone were also getting to Russell. At one point, he stopped for a break and, instead of his usual routine of methodically unloading his boat and carrying it above the high water mark, he dragged it over the rocks. Back on the water, his boat paddled sluggishly. He discovered an 18-inch tear in his boat, which had filled the stern hatch with water. A quick fix with tape and putty staunched the leak in the short term, and he did a proper fiberglass patch before rounding Cape Scott at Vancouver Island’s north end, the final obstacle of his journey.

I asked the Stellar rep about that, and his response was:"Well, he slid it over a log when it was loaded with gear and water!!!"
 

pryaker

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@CPS is this boat a fleet boat (rental/demo) that you'll be able to see over long term? That would be cool to see how it holds up. Seems like they're super light and stiff and so would be a joy to paddle. Did it seem more responsive than a traditional layup composite boat?

John's descriptions of his friends treatment and Russel Henry's experience makes me think my instinct were right and it wasn't the boat for me.

My thoughts: Sand beach, downwind cruising, this should be on the short list. Rocks, barnacles, oysters (yikes, imagine a sharp one slicing down the length of the hull!) not so much...
 
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CPS

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Technically it's the boss' boat, for staff to use. He hasn't actually used it yet, but I know he's looking forward to it, as are some other staff. So it should see a decent amount of use. I'm curious to see how these hold up long term, but I'm optimistic.
Apparently a group of students took some S18 (the touring boat, not the racey one) along the Inside Passage without significant issues.

As far as responsiveness goes, it's hard to qualify if it was the stiffness that made a difference or the lightness, but yes, I found it more responsive than most composite boats I've paddled.
It's somewhat akin to the first time trying a foam cored carbon paddle after using fibreglass blade. There's a sort of lightness in the movements and a feeling that less effort is being lost.
 

AM

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The weight/durability tradeoff is something we all wrestle with. I drag my kayak quite a bit, but its fiberglass layup is remarkably resilient (whereas my aging back is not). A couple of years back I watched my tripping partner seal launch his fully loaded NDK Explorer off Jepther Point. He laughed that his boat was flexing, but it suffered no harm.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

pryaker

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Ha ha, Jepther is supposed to be an orca rubbing beach, his kayak probably enjoyed the seal launch! For me it's usually misjudging the dropping tide on a launch. By the time I get the boat loaded it's a meter or two of dragging, usually over some pointy rocks or oysters, in order to float the boat and launch. I've heard of paddlers bringing pool noodles to use to avoid scratches on the beach/rocks but that's definitely too fastidious for me.
 
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