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Trip report… by Jon Tobiassen

I went out with 6 other sea paddlers on a mild day this past weekend. We paddled out of Groton, CT over to Fishers Island, NY. The ocean is still and a bit chilly, perhaps 40F but the air was a respectable 50F. Not bad given the winter weather we have just made it through. The sun was strong and warm… reassuring us that spring is on the way. I love paddling in the late winter around here. There are lots of seals to be seen, if you know where to paddle and the waterfowl are all over the place. Loons, oldsquaws, buffleheads, mergansers, golden eyes and eiders are just a few that I saw on this trip. The water was super clear due to the cold temperature and there was barely a cloud to be found. As an added bonus, this time of year there is almost no boat traffic. To be precise, there were seven of us kayaking and one lobster boat in the distance. Not bad for 4 hours on the water near Long Island.

I was paddling my Journey 14 without a rudder and experimenting all the way. The crossing out to Fishers Island was an easy 2 mile paddle with 1-2 ft seas and breeze on beam. These were excellent conditions to practice trimming the boat by leaning forward and backward while paddling. I’m a big guy so I can really affect the boat this way. By leaning well forward I was able cause the boat to turn upwind and by leaning well back while paddling I was able to cause the boat to turn down wind. The boat also responds very well to edging and proper paddle technique. So I find the boat to be very manageable in all conditions.

At my weight, the Journey 14 handles almost neutrally in crosswinds and beam seas. This means I don’t need to invest precious energy on course corrective strokes or mucking about with rudders or skegs. Oops, that is not quite true. I spent a few minute trying to fix a skeg on a gorgeous Tahe Marine sea kayak. The skeg totally fell apart on the water while we were a mile offshore. We were unable to fix it on the crossing and I was very thankful to be wearing my new Glacier Gloves. As I said above… the water was really cold.

When we arrived at Fishers Island, we entered a rock garden (playground for roughwater paddlers) the waves weren’t remarkable but just paddling through the venue requires significant maneuverability. This is where the Journey really shines. By edging the Journey well over, it begins to maneuver more like a whitewater kayak than a touring kayak. The boat carves in and out narrow passages joyfully and slides easily over rocks when you over estimate the surge of the wave you are riding. Not that I would ever do something like that. ;o)

My boat was the shortest in the pod (a group of roughwater paddlers) by at least 2 feet and I was the heaviest paddler by at least 40 lbs. I was able to comfortably pace the group for our 10 mile paddle. An interesting note for your readers, though my Journey 14 has a shorter overall length than traditional sea kayaks the waterline length is comparably long as the Journey possesses no lengthy overhanging bow and stern.

I have to come clean about something. I am pleasantly surprised by your hatches. I was initially skeptical of their seals and expected them leak significantly in heavy water. I have only seen two or three hatch cover brands that I have been very happy with for the kind of roughwater paddling I like to do. The new hatches that you are using are very large and relatively light. Once caulked in correctly, they are very dry and easy to put on and take off, even with cold hands in cold conditions. All the hatches are attached to the boat with lanyards to prevent loss while at sea, a nice touch.

I am very happy with the boat. It paddles well and is remarkably comfortable. As we neared our take-out I found myself paddling more and more slowly. It was not because I was tired. It was because I wasn’t ready to get out of my boat yet. I looked over to my friend Ron and said bitter sweetly as I looked off to Watch Hill Lighthouse on the horizon some 12 miles away, “That’d be an easy paddle today.” “Yeah, it would be.” Ron replied as we paddled back to our real world responsibilities.

I can’t wait to get this boat back out on the water again.