So… Long story short. I was helping a friend pick a kayak for his upcoming expedition along the Finnish coast summer 2016. He got his kayak.. and so did I! I really had no real need for a new kayak.. seriously! 😉 But it is a NICE kayak! So what the hell, there went my retirement emergency funds! My fleet had space for a shortish sea kayak that had a very nice speed-to-agility ratio…
Skim kayaks is a Finnish base company that has several seakayak models to offer. The Beaufort doesnt have very much visibility on the web, probably due to the smallish manufacturing numbers..? Who knows? A couple German paddlers, Eike Köhler and his friend Basti have used the Beaufort on long sea expeditions; Gothenburg to Helsinki and more recently a trip along the Norwegian Coast. So the Beaufort cannot be all that bad?
At the writing of this, I have logged less that 50 kms with it, so I will not dwell too much about how it goes on the water, suffice to say; If I’m confident that enough to paddle the finnish coast in one, it can’t be bad? For now I will do a short review on the initial impressions.
These are the spec’s , as copied off the manufacturers website:
"Length: 513 cm Width: 53.1 cm Hullshape: Shallow/medium V, Strong chines Cockpit depth front: (inner) 32 cm Seat depth: 20,5 cm Volume: Forward: 88 liters Cockpit: 147 liters Day hatch aft: 71 liters Day hatch bow: 5.2 liters Aft: 47 liters Total: 358,2 liters Optimal paddler weight: 70-100 kilos Material: TR: glass fiber/diolen/polyester RH: Hull: vacuum infused Kevlar, directional glass and Carbon sandwich/vinylester Deck: Kelar reinforced glass/vinylester CL: hull: infused carbon fiber sandwich/ vinylester, deck: vacuum infused carbon fiber sandwich/vinylester Hatches: 44/26 cm Dayhatch aft: 20 cm Dayhatch bow: 15 cm Manufactured in: Finland"
We ordered our kayaks thru North-West Import, located in Espoo, Finland. The service was top-notch. The icing on the cake was that we were able request certain modifications made for our kayaks! This was something new and pretty darn cool to boot! I requested that my Rockhopper version would have a Kevlar rubstrip installed along the keel. This is serviced offered at an extra fee of 150€. Also I really liked the KajakSport Flexjoint-footpads on the footrests. I Don’t recall how much they cost.. but they are quite nice! Time will tell how long lasting they will be. Initially I thought these were .. umm yuppy posh extra luxury items that no real seakayaker would use !… but after trying them out.. oh well, I guess I’m getting old or sumthing.
Being a short Hobbit sized paddler I wanted the forward bulkhead moved back some – to minimize extra space in the cockpit and maximize “dry space” up front.
Normally the cockpit aft bulkhead is installed slanted and right up-to the lip of the cockpit. This is to facilitate easyish emptying of kayak in case of wet exit, rescue situations. Personally I prefer to have some extra space behind the seat for an anorak, waterbag, thermos etc. So I requested that the aft bulkhead was to be installed vertical and approx. 40mm more aft of its standard located.
Since it is my intention to use a sail on the Beaufort whenever possible, my last request was to add an reinforcing layer of Fiberglass under the deck for about 350mm just forward of the fore-hatch.
Initially my intention was to buy the “Traditional” layup version but I envisioned that I may wander off to more rockier waters in the future, so I ordered the Kevlar re-inforced “Rockhopper” (RH) version.
Finishing quality was good-to-excellent. It is comparable with more expensive british made kayaks. finishing of the interior was smooth and clean. The only minor flaw that I found was a tiny blob of dried adhesive along the cockpit rim, under the lip. A small annoyance that would probably caused the spray deck edge to wear thru on the long run. However a couple gentle swipes on the offending blob with 320 grit sandpaper smoothed things out.
All hatch lips were installed smoothly flush to the deck. Kayaksport hard rings with the soft/hard variety of hatch lids. No fault there! All installations were neat and clean.
Among the immediately visible peculiarities on the Beaufort are: The reverse slanted stern, a largish semi-circle groove along the center-line of the deck, a paddle attachment, and the cam-cleat attachment point for possible tow-line.
My immediate guess for the reasoning of the stern shape would be to increase waterline length and thus possibly increase speed? I cannot say whether this actually works but for a kayak thats overall length is a modest 513 cms , she does paddle very easily at a rates 7.5-8.5 km/h even with a load of 20 kgs! So there might be something to it? I will get back to this later when I have more experience on the matter.
The paddle “park” , or attachment point (not sure what its called?) was another quirky looking standard option. At first I was going to go without it, but then I decided it may be useful on extra uber long crossings. If need be I could use it to make an out-rigger, for a lunch break or sumthing. Not sure if the manufacturer had that in mind when designing it or how they feel about my idea of its possible use.. but thats what I thought.
Being a short hobbit sized paddler I quickly found that having a belt towline on while paddling got to be a little stuffy. There really isnt much space between the lower edge of my PFD and the spray skirt. Wearing a belt pack-towline would very quickly wear a hole thru my neoprene spray skirt.. which is a no-no to my budget. The installed cam-cleat with re-inforcing bar on the aft deck were features that I’m hoping would ease matters a tad.
The final immediately visible oddity on the Beaufort is the half-circle groove along the center of the deck running front-to-back.
The grooves purpose is to make the deck more rigid. as an extra bonus it offers a nice spot to stow stuff like water bottle, water pump etc. Also it makes the installation of a compass and kayak sail slightly more challenging, but more about those at a later post.
SO initial impression on the Beaufort is that it is a very well made kayak, that has several promising features that I eagerly await to test out properly on a long, very loooong trip! Sofar, Very good!
More to follow…