Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pyranha Burn Update

After 4 months and 3 days of life my newly purchased medium Burn bit the dust. On a medium-low water Chilliwack canyon run at the end of November I finished the run to find my boat full of water and cracked along the hull under the seat.

The worst news is that Pyranha offered little to no support in the way of warranty or subsidization towards a new craft. Maybe they ought to look at the great customer support companies like Confluence (Dagger/Wavesport/AT paddles) offer to their customers, even after prolonged use, something like this really sways a new boat buyer like myself as to where to spend my money.

The bottom line for me is that I can't afford to shell out cash for a new boat that will last through only 4 months of moderate class III to IV+ boating. If that's the case I'd stick to used boats, as my main motivation in buying a new boat is some level of expected period of regular use for the price, it shouldn't be a gamble like when a person buys used and you never know how much use is left. When this boat broke, I had it passively up for sale, it would have been bad for everybody involved if I'd sold it only to have it break 2 runs into life with it's new owner.

The warning labels and warranties on boats as they are generally written are like insurance policies, with loopholes for most cases of breakage, basically leaving it up to the manufacturer whether they decide it's worth it and in their interests to cover or not cover warranties at any given time using a cost based analysis, but part of maximizing profit is keeping a good reputation and happy customers that will keep coming back for service or products, especially with a mega-depreciable asset like a boat meant to hit rocks on a regular basis to some extent.

I understand there is the issue of abuse, misuse and also just plain wear and tear vs. manufacturer defect. My last boat (a Prijon Pure), got destroyed on the river without me in it because I swam, I don't expect a warranty to cover this. At least 4 people I know personally have bought new Burn's and had them break from wear and tear(or can we call this manufacturer defect?) within the first year, cracks on the underside of the hull, not smashed in noses or anything. Usually it ends up falling on the retailer to keep a customer happy. Maybe Pyranha needs to review their warranty procedure, and/or look at their plastics. Also, after these 4 months, the hip pads had already started wearing through the first layer of fabric!

I've never heard a good story about a Pyranha boat warranty. On the other hand, I've heard only good stories about Dagger, Wavesport and Prijon warranties. I've yet to hear anything from people I know about Jackson and I've heard mixed stories of Liquidlogic.

I will never buy another new Pyranha creeker unless they change their plastic and outfitting to last under normal creeking conditions for some period of reasonably expected time. I'm beginning to wonder how much use my Molan playboat has left in it...being 6 months old!

Luckily Western Canoeing and Kayaking has come to the rescue and offered to credit me back the purchase price towards a new creeker, and whatever it won't be Pyranha.

Maybe that new Stomper...or a Nomad or Mamba, or back to the Pure?...gotta think on this one...

...and I ended up going with a Dagger Nomad 8.5. There are a couple factors in going with it instead of the runner up (if it's even fair to compare like that) in my opinion, Liquidlogic Stomper 80. Though I prefer the hull design of the Stomper slightly, I simply could not get enough foot room with the centre pillar that runs through the entire length of the boat, and wasn't partial to the rubber backband. Whereas the Nomad has a nice cloth backband that adjusts to my back and a space at the bottom of the centre pillar for my heels, besides being a hull design I already know I love from trying it out on numerous occasions, falling short of the Prijon Pure this is the most comfortable boat I've used.

Another driving factor is the warranty, Dagger has that amazing 3 year 'step down' warranty that I've heard only good things about, and the Nomad has a rep for having good hull integrity as well.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Outdoor Camera

When I started kayaking I didn't have a waterproof camera...or any camera for that matter besides my iPhone I progressed one of the main goals of my kayaking became to capture the beautiful places a person can go that without pictures or film, most other people would not be able to see.

Eventually I plan to have a good SLR setup that I can take with me in my boat, but in the meantime I wanted at least a waterproof camera that I could carry on my person to get some quick, decent shots of friends as they styled lines and our beautiful surroundings.

I decided to wait until the new crop of 'outdoor proof' cameras came out and in May, got my brand new Pentax camera, when the new model was first released. Main features include 14 megapixels, 5 x optical zoom, good 16x9 shots, 780p or 1080i video, waterproof 33 ft., coldproof -10 degrees C, shockproof 4.9 ft, and crushproof. Also GPS pictures tracking, which I have never been able to make work. Like all newer waterproof cameras, it seems to have a myriad of customizable options, even more than most of the newer models, which is nice for people who know how to use them.

The reason I went with a Pentax is because it came the most recommended from people I talked to, followed closely by the Olympus.

Almost all of the pictures on my blog and video taken by me, and sometimes others, were taken with it.

It delivers very good quality pictures for the kind of camera it is, better than average of what I'd expect. I love the high quality 16x9 shots, which is the default setting I use. It is easy to switch between photo and video with the quick use customizable button on the back. Reasonable image stabilization when you use it. Most importantly, it seems to reload quickly to take pictures in quick succession. The flash also works very well for pictures at night.

Two major drawbacks, it does not have a lens cover or enclosure of any kind, I remedy this by storing it in a glasses sleeve. Also I have never been able to get a GPS fix, I thought maybe it didn't work just in Canada, but could not get it to work, even in open spaces, in Washington State, I think it worked one time I tried to use it, though at this point I haven't tried in a long time.

In October, the rear display on the camera shattered, I sent it back to Pentax with a letter and my invoice from original purchase after briefly talking to their customer service on the phone and they sent me back a new or the repaired unit promptly. For this reason chiefly I am very happy with my purchase and highly recommend it. I just wish they would put some kind of lens cover on these.

I'm not a great, probably not even a good, photographer. A great place to start for tips on paddling photography from some of the better people out there is the Vol. 13 No. 3 issue of Rapid magazine from Summer/Fall 2011 which has some amazing pointers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Liquidlogic Stomper Test Drive

As a non-affiliated boater, over the last couple weeks it was awesome to try out the new Liquidlogic semi-planing hull creeker, The Stomper, in both the 80 and 90 gallon variants!

Not only was I excited to check it out being as it seems a logical boat to like as I currently run a Pyranha Burn M 2010, but also gave me an opportunity for my first try at Liquidlogics outfitting, of which I've always heard so much about and has looked so inviting to me. Western Canoe and Kayak has, for the first time, brought in Liquidlogic boats just as of September, giving me my first exposure to the brand.

In the past I've heard or seen bad things about their plastic quality, but after seeing some of the people I heard that from either purchase or become extremely interested and even intent on purchasing these boats, it signals that something has potentially improved.

First off there's the commonalities between the 2 sizes, that being the outfitting. I simply loved the way the couch seat was formed for comfort and to hold a person in. It felt great. I'm not sure the rubbery backband, as opposed to cloth behind the cushioning was as good, it seemed to want to form less to the shape of my back a little bit. The hip and thigh pads, once properly adjusted were awesome and gripped me right in. The padding between your knees and the boat is the best I've ever experienced. I'd heard some issues regarding the new backband system, where it would pop up and not be properly held in place, however on the boats I tried this had been remedied.

The one issue I did have with the outfitting ended up being a big one unfortunately, I might be able to overcome it, but I'm not totally sure. I wear size 11 Teva Gnarkozi creek shoes in my boat, which take up a good amount of space. My Burn has a centre pillar that leaves a large gap of space between it and the toeblock allowing room for me to stick my heels together (while still having ingenious foam attached in the nose for security and some boyancy), I even encounter issues with this sometimes. The Stomper's centre pillar ran all the way down the centre of the boat, maybe adding more rigidity and security, but at the sacrifice of a couple inches of space for my heels. In the 80 this was an issue for me, in the 90 there was enough room that is wasn't. I know...I'm finnicky when it comes to comfort, that's the way it is, lots of boaters are.

The boat was a thrill to take down the river! First to the 80, very comfortable for the most part, boofs like nothing I've ever boofed before, the perfect rocker it seemed like! Felt a lot smaller than it is...very stable, little edge grabiness. Seemed to self propel out of holes at the bottom of drops instead of sticking around, surfs well. A bit harder to keep on line than the Burn...though this may be because the seat was all the way forward in the 80, the 90 seemed much better off in this regard. Very stable on edge as well, and not as fast as the Burn but more maneuverable.

As for the 90...a sometimes wise man once told me if you can handle a big boat well, there's lots of advantages to one. Considering that, the 90 was great, more stable than the 80...felt like it could just float through anything with ease. It was harder to boof and get the nose up than the 80 for me which I really didn't like. Overall I'd definately go for the 80 for my 170 lbs if I could get comfortable in it.

Final observation I'd say it's a well rounded boat that marries the gap between the Burn and Nomad in a good way, though maybe not as groundbreaking to the point that I expected. If I had to pick a boat tomorrow for the next year at this point besides a Burn this would be a front runner...though I still haven't tried that new Mamba...

I recommend the Stomper, but not sure there's other boats I wouldn't recommend more. For lots of people this will be the perfect boat!


Ryan Bayes, Stompin'