Filmmaker and founder of Dubside.net, Tom Sharp, happened to call me just as I was approaching Bellingham. I had mentioned to him that I would be heading to the San Juans for the weekend. We decided to meet in Washington Park in Anacortes and go paddling from there. We were making things up as we went along, taking into account the currents and prepared to camp out, but not committing to anything until we saw how busy the campgrounds were. I suggested we paddle clockwise around Cypress Island. It didn't seem to matter to Tom where we went I think because he had paddled around all of the islands this summer already.
Tom brought along a Mariner Coaster
, borrowed from George Gronseth
. Apparently George once had an entire fleet of Mariner Coasters
that he would use for his classes, and this was the sole survivor. The Coaster
is no longer being produced and is now a much sought after classic sea kayak. Brian Schulz
has built a skin-on-frame version of the Coaster
, which he calls the SC-1.
This kayak later evolved into his latest design, the F1.
I'll just quote what he has written about it here:
"The original Coaster was designed by Cam Broze of Mariner Kayaks in 1985. This 23" wide 13'5" kayak quickly gained cult status as a superior kayak in the surf. Surprisingly it went on to prove itself as a remarkably versatile sea kayak for smaller paddlers as well. Whereas the Coaster won’t win a sprint against a longer narrower kayak it is very fast for its length, it draws no penalty at cruising speeds and is actually more efficient than much longer kayaks at speeds up to 4 mph because of its reduced wetted surface. Every sea kayak is a compromise but the Coaster seems to get away with a bit more than it's fair share. Some sprint speed in exchange for better cruising efficiency, maneuverability, portability, and large usable cargo space, a pretty good trade. This kayak is very stable, swift, turns especially quickly yet tracks well even in difficult cross-wind and following sea conditions. And it screams in the surf zone without pearling. A great boat for kamikaze surfing AND peaceful flat water exploring."
Tom had tried it on the coast and said the handling really is fantastic in the surf. This particular boat had been retrofitted with fore and aft bulkheads and rubber hatches (the original was manufactured with only small deckplates fore and aft, and no bulkheads) Of course Sterling Donalson
did the retrofit. And while I was struggling to get all my gear into the IceKap
, Tom put all his camping gear including 8 liters of water into that short stubby Coaster
, and still had plenty of room for his kayak wheels. In the end I was able to pack everything into the IceKap
I wanted for an overnight trip except for my wheels, but had to put my sleeping bag into the cockpit. So I was really depending on that compression drybag to not leak.
Lesson#1: The IceKap is not the best choice for multiday camping trips. No big surprise there. Someone would have an even tougher time packing for a simple overnight trip with a low volume IceKap equipped with a day hatch compartment.
On the water the IceKap
felt very comfortable. As soon as I sat in it I immediately felt that finally someone has made a kayak for paddlers my size. I thought the primary stability was excellent. It felt much beamier than a 19.5 inch boat -- not twitchy or tender at all. The Redfish
closed minicell foam kayak seat acted like a true lumbosacral support, discouraging the bad habit I have of slouching in my seat. This was a cockpit I could paddle all day in. I stuck my bilge sponge along one side of the seat and there was room enough for a bilge pump along the other side. I had forgotten to adjust the footrests on land but was able to adjust them easily on the water by simply unlocking them by twisting a red tab and sliding the foot rest forward or backward with my toes, then twisting the tab to lock them again. The underside of the deck around the knees was lined with minicell foam which acted as an effective thigh brace.
Lesson#2: This is exactly how to outfit the cockpit of a kayak.
So off I went, paddling after Tom into Rosario Strait on a sunny August afternoon.
[to be continued]