A week or three ago I rounded the south end of the Isle of Bute in Stardust. That is a kayak not the immediate aftermath of intergalactic meltdown. A thing of beauty Stardust, my carbon Tiderace Xcite. She’s customised by three years of rough and tumble and a working life in Scottish waters. Stardust was about to meet a customised kayak of an altogether different dimension.
I explain. Off Garoch Head lighthouse I noticed a brightly coloured shape near the island of Little Cumbrae. At first glimpse I thought perhaps it was a sailing dinghy. But the scale and location were all wrong. Curiosity transferred to paddle and a course set for further investigation. The source of my interest proved to be this:
Let me introduce Rorqual, a Tiderace Xplore_X. Possibly the most heavily customized boat I have ever encountered. Customised by design and intent rather than use as in Stardust’s case. Rorqual’s keeper is one Peter Baker. I have had the privilege of paddling with Pete on a few occasions. The more I see man and the boat the more fascinated and admiring of both I become.
To understand the customisation of his boat you need to know about Peter. A life long mountaineer who a few years ago took a high velocity route down one. A lifetime of climbing over and a lifetime of sea kayaking begun. Peter is very considerably challenged by aspects of the standing up and walking about lark. But not by meeting such challenges. He has taken the high tech design platform, the Xplore_X and made it better. For him and his individual needs.
He has customised it with many additions. Straps for carrying and dragging. Keel strip for same. Tapes to aid rescue if necessary, lashings and stowage for walking poles. And a brilliantly designed and executed electric pump. And the sail.
All this to achieve the best possible independent launching, landing and handling. For him.
Kayaking coach speak refers to “points of connectivity” between body, boat and blade. Peter and Rorqual have more than most. Unique.
The Inuit built boats to the paddler’s dimensions. Peter did the next best thing. Connectivity the heart of the matter. Sometimes paddlers talk of boats as though they have a life of their own. They don’t. They come to life with us. And we with them.
So if you ever bump into them as you journey I invite you to ponder man and boat. Thanks for the reminder about connectivity Pete. What other unique solutions have paddlers customised into boats and onto decks over the years?