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The wondrous hull

drahcir

Paddler
Joined
Mar 26, 2010
Messages
694
Location
North Idaho (Sandpoint)
On a recent outing off Nanaimo, I forgot to check my skeg after lunch before setting out again. The skeg was fouled by sand. With the wind coming from the port quarter, I found I couldn’t deploy the skeg and had to paddle asymmetrically to stay on course. I quickly caught up with a friend who pulled down my skeg, using the cord I had mounted to the bottom of the skeg for just this purpose. No big deal.

The rest of our group deployed rudders or skegs as needed ... except for one person. She had neither rudder nor skeg and had no problem. Why? She was driving a Mariner Elan (as reconfigured by John Abercrombie). The Mariner hulls are famous for remaining neutral. The Mariners are no longer in production. Have no other kayak manufacturers developed such wondrous hulls? If no one has, why??
 
Have no other kayak manufacturers developed such wondrous hulls? If no one has, why??
It's a good question. I've always wondered, "if it was so good, why didn't......"

I'm guessing most people, when they first get into kayaking, would be drawn to a boat with a rudder for ease-of-use; push the pedal left, the boat goes left - kind of thing. By the time they gain the experience to appreciate the nuances of the Mariner hull design they might be put off by some of the other drawbacks ("features") of the Mariners, like no hatches or watertight bulkheads. Also, IMO, they're kind of.....different (quirky?) looking. Probably a tough sell to go against the marketing muscle of CD, Necky, et al, during that time.

I'm interested to see what others have to say about this. A good hull design is timeless, you'd think....
 
Personal view:
they seem out of balance: forward paddling necessary, more windage to bow so stopping in wind looks awkward, asymmetric [bow to stern] hull. Back paddling looks like a pain. Like a built in skeg approach - do you always want a deployed skeg? . . . how about a variable skeg, oh yeah all the others.
01-ElanBalance.jpg

anyway, one viewpoint.
 
Skeggs and rudders definitely are impacted by hull shape. But everything is a trade off - a hull design that doesn't weather cock much wont do some other things well.
 
Personal view:
they seem out of balance: forward paddling necessary, more windage to bow so stopping in wind looks awkward, asymmetric [bow to stern] hull. Back paddling looks like a pain. Like a built in skeg approach - do you always want a deployed skeg? . . . how about a variable skeg, oh yeah all the others.
anyway, one viewpoint.

I had an Express for several years and generally enjoyed it. My big complaint was the lack of a bow bulkhead and hatch (I had Steve at Nimbus install both in the stern). If I had had an Abercrombie-modified Express, I would likely have kept it. A great all round boat.

However, nothing being perfect, I acknowledge that Mick’s observations are relevant. My Express lee-cocked in high winds (say over 25 knots), which is more dangerous than weather-cocking. (Incidentally, my Delphin has the same quirk). And paddling backwards was not its strength — in fact, that was the major complaint levelled by Leon Somme against the design.

Cheers,
Andrew
 
I can hardly remember the times I’ve had to paddle backwards for any duration. I might go forward to peek at something then a few back strokes to get out; but that’s about it. I look at lack of bulkheads as a feature - mostly. It is so easy to load and because I’m not fitting gear into smaller bags (that have to fit through a hatch) I can minimize loading/unloading My goal is four bags; food, clothes, camp/cook gear, shelter. In addition, though it isn’t variable because I don’t have a sliding seat model, I can assess the conditions and slide a dry bag further up the bow if it will help the trim.

That said, I’m glad my boats have the reach hatch modification. That gives me one guaranteed watertight compartment for safety. The only two other boats I’ve paddled were a Dagger Vesper - which was more like longer whitewater boat - and Seda Swift.

There is a strong marketing influence. One manufacturer admitted that the only reason he put in the contortionist required “day hatch” was because everyone else was doing it. When I’d take a class and see the majority of the people using Tide Racers, I’d wonder if, though the Mariner design was “top” in the ’80’s, perhaps it has been well surpassed by now.

But when I look at my intended use, NOT rock gardens, NOT surfing, NOT racing - just touring paddling and camping, the Mariner more than adequately fits the bill.
 
Personal view:
they seem out of balance: forward paddling necessary, more windage to bow so stopping in wind looks awkward, asymmetric [bow to stern] hull. Back paddling looks like a pain. Like a built in skeg approach - do you always want a deployed skeg? . . . how about a variable skeg, oh yeah all the others.

anyway, one viewpoint.
Have you paddled a Mariner Elan/Express/Max/XL in windy conditions?
 
no, hence the 'seem out of balance'. I'd even give it a semi-pass with lee-cocking only in really high winds as Andrew reports. semi.
 
I can hardly remember the times I’ve had to paddle backwards for any duration. I might go forward to peek at something then a few back strokes to get out; but that’s about it.

They're outlier situations, but when I'm the only guide on day tours, I often spend at least half the tour (so an hour or more) paddling backwards so I can lead the way while also keeping an eye on my herd of aquatic cats. Fortunately my Valley Etain does that quite well.
 
assuming a heavy paddler and a lightish kayak [comparitively], the cg will be roughly at the front of the seat, although in this case with such an 'overhang' it would possibly be slightly farther forward. It's a guess where the CLA is, but because of the asymm. rocker [comparatively deepish skeg feature] it'll likely be back a small bit, but the huge asymm topsides will override [CLA-air vs CLA-water] in wind and 3d [! - espec steep] waves. Guesswork as I've never been in one.

and the backwards situation comes into effect in with steep overtaking waves when trying to reduce surfing and burying - espec at night when you can't quite see what's coming - I like control.
 
Some of the Mariners had sliding seats so you could adjust trim on the fly. Could one compensate for lee cocking when/if that occurred?

Yeah, I should have mentioned that my Express had a foam seat, so there was no option to slide. I’m sure that would have helped, though I don’t know if it would have completely overcome the lee-cocking. Someone who has a sliding seat in a Mariner should chime in.

Certainly shifting load/trim is how you handle such matters in a canoe, and the local Clipper models tend to have sliding front seats — I’m bow paddler when I’m with my wife, so I’m quite used to sliding back and forth depending on water/wind conditions. It does take some awareness and experience, not something for beginners to intuitively understand. And the sliding seat on my canoe has more travel than a seat in a kayak would, I think, so the effect is more dramatic.

I solved the problem of lee-cocking by weighting the bow with heavy gear, food, water, etc. Unloaded it was harder to manage. Once when I was paddling my empty Delphin in 30 knot winds I had to stop and load up with rocks in the bow hatch — a trick I learned from my father 40+ years ago for solo canoeing on Quebec lakes. Thanks Dad!

Cheers,
Andrew
 
Some of the Mariners had sliding seats so you could adjust trim on the fly. Could one compensate for lee cocking when/if that occurred?
I've owned Mariners with sliding seats, but I don't paddle in 25-30 knot winds! (I'm impressed...both ways...)
IMO, the sliding seat works best with a heavy paddler and an empty boat. That said, even at 70kg I did notice a difference in handling with the seat slid forward. (It's also very nice to be able to slide the seat back when getting in and out of the boat, and to slide it forward when practicing rolls.)

If the boat has a lot of gear weight added, the paddler position doesn't make such a big difference.
Thinking carefully about weight distribution when packing the boat is important. (Rule of thumb from the Broze Bros.: 2/3 of the weight in the stern compartment.)
If the plan for the day included a lot of upwind paddling, I'd put some extra weight (Dromedary, or similar water bag) up front.
I paddled quite a few miles in my Mariner Express beside a friend who had a Seda Glider. We made a few stops to add rocks to the bow of the Glider when the Mariner was handling perfectly well. Every boat has its quirks. :)

BTW, I swapped out the sliding seat and installed a fixed seat in my Mariner Max. I use that boat for trips, and the benefits of a fixed bulkhead footrest - more 'freedom' for my feet and more stowage forward - outweighed the utility of the sliding seat when the boat was loaded.
 
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Uh, meh. My borderline recreational $600 Nifty 385 had no rudder or skeg and I never felt it needed one, in any conditions I have paddled it. My Chatham was also very neutral. I normally manage without even in my Stratos. Mariners are cool and were advanced in their day but time goes by.
 
When I look at those pics posted from above the first thing I think of is a Baidarka.

Rider, funny you mention the Stratos. The First time I saw a Mariner I was walking on a beach in Tofino. I saw an interesting looking kayak being unloaded at the boat launch so I walked over to take a closer. The stern looked very similar to the Stratos L I owned at the time but it was made of glass. I asked the owner if it was a Mariner and it was. We chatted for a bit and guess who sold it to him...
 
To give Mariner their due, the Coaster was one of the first purpose built ocean playboats put into production, the design was very influential.
 
The sliding seat in my Express does a good job of correcting in side winds, but I don't use it often. Mostly I just sit in, slide the seat a few inches forward and leave it at that. The boat is very neutral and even paddling it empty, I find it is both responsive to leans and great at keeping course. I am extremely pleased with its handling all in all. One of its best tricks is its extreme level of stability in chaotic waves and its ability to skud along, where it feels as if the waves are pushing it along. Like if I paddle along a solid pier, where the waves are going in all directions from reflection forces, the boat just wants to forwards. I weigh about 100kg (with neoprene etc), so I guess I fit the bill of being a heavy paddler in an empty boat in those situations. I also paddle backwards about once a year, and the Express does that very well. It was tested and designed to both paddle and surf well backwards.

The only thing that makes a Mariner "dated" or would allow us to claim that boat design has "moved on", is the code to the perfectly wind balanced boat, which the Broze brothers set out to crack. Their quest led them to build boats with more straight keel lines than what most rudderless kayaks have these days, and so they need to be leaned, to turn easily. They solved that "problem" by building them with above average secondary stability. Everyone else building boats just said; "fine - it is going to weathercock and then it gets a skeg to fix it." This take on design actually works well and makes it possible to build a boat that turns more readily without being leaned and a boat that might even pull off a cut-back when on a wave, which would be a tall order for even a Coaster.

So I enjoy my two Mariners and I surf them alot. But the other take on design, allowing more rocker and even easier maneuvering is a perfectly honourable way to go.
 
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