Steve And James from Tootega Kayaks recently decided to head off and take in a few sites around Scotland. It was also an excuse to check out the full potential Tootega’s Kinetic 100 siton can deliver. Check out how the duo’s trip panned out: over to Steve.
With the solar eclipse conveniently coinciding with the Spring Equinox and a need to deliver a van load of kayaks to the guys at Go Kayaking Scotland, James and I couldn’t resist the urge to go AWOL for a few days and see what adventures we could find.
A cheeky trip away just happened to serve a very useful second purpose for us too – we designed the Kinetic 100 to be as versatile as possible, and so far it hasn’t disappointed us, but could it be used for a completely self sufficient weekend of adventures? Would it still paddle efficiently fully loaded, would it still surf a wave with a weekend’s camping gear in it, and would it sink with my lard arse plus 30 kgs of camping and camera gear on it? I guess we were about to find out!
So with a firm plan in place that we were: “going to go somewhere and do stuff for three or four days”, we turned our attentions to what gear we were going to take with us.
The Kinetic 100 can take approximately 50 litres of kit in the front hatch, and 40 litres in the rear tankwell. It turns out this is more than enough space for a tent or bivi tarp and a bivi bag, a four season sleeping bag, a comfy extra thick thermarest, cooking utensils, food, spare clothes and the all important hipflask.
We decided to break our gear down into smaller drybags and split critical stuff between both our boats so as to avoid Armageddon if a drybag leaked or a boat was lost, somehow.
With two 20 litre drybags each in our bow hatches, and one 35 litre drybag in our rear tank well the boat remained well balanced and provided more than enough storage for all out essentials plus my camera kit.
We decided to head for Loch Tay in Scotland. Aside from the stunning scenery, the loch and river that flows from it are renowned for their touring – giving easy access to flat water, gently flowing water, and more challenging whitewater. It seemed like the ideal playground to put the Kinetic through it’s paces, but more importantly somewhere we could easily get away from the real world and have some fun!
It doesn’t matter how many times I go to Scotland, the scenery always blows me away and as luck would have it a sunny day in early spring just makes it all the more stunning.
As we pulled into Kenmore at the north east end of loch Tay we were greeted by unseasonably kind weather. With temperatures in the mid teens, not a breath of wind blowing, and snowcapped peaks all around it was t-shirt weather!
We parked up by a little beach and ten minutes later had our kayaks loaded and headed out into the loch. The perfect glassy conditions were ideal for checking the trim and glide of our fully loaded sitons. James had just over 100kg of paddler and gear on his boat and I had almost 130kgs. Amazingly James’ sit on kayak was still completely dry when stationary with his load on board, mine sat with a small amount of water at the furthest most scuppers when stationary, but this immediately drained when I started moving.
As we headed out along the north shore of the loch we played with the glide and stability of the kayak. The extra load had increased both the tracking and secondary stability by a noticeable margin, making the Kinetic feel very planted and secure in the water. Before we knew it we had paddled almost half way down the loch and were right out in the middle of it. The views of the mountains were absolutely stunning, but especially the biggest peak – Ben Lawyer.
As the sun began to dip the snowcapped summits all around began to glow orange. We decided this was a good time to head for our island campsite.
Immediately upon landing James got our bivi set up and I went in search of fire kindling. Luckily for both of us the island was heavily wooded so it was easy to get the tarp up in a matter of moments, and the kettle on not long after. With the basics covered there was nothing else to do but sit down and take in the incredible sunset and the peace and solitude of our own private island. It was hard to believe how easy it had been to get here, and yet how far removed we were from the bustle and chaos of everyday life
We decided to use the last of the dusky light to stoke our campfire further, and once it was we got a pan of water on the boil and started to cook dinner. I can honestly say, canned curry and plain rice has never tasted so good!
With food finished, washing up done, and the fire dying down we decided to get into our bivi bags, get the hip flask out, and smugly toast to an awesome day’s adventure and an even more awesome camp spot. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before we were both asleep!
I’m not too sure what woke us first in the morning, the howling westerly wind, the waves breaking on the beach, or the over friendly duck who had decided to gate crash our bivi to say hello. Either way it seemed like a good idea to get up and get a brew on.
Whilst James got the Ghilli kettle boiling and the bacon sandwiches sorted I checked the conditions. A solid force 6-7 wind was blowing down the length of the loch creating small to medium sized rolling waves. Whilst not as nice as the day before it looked like ideal conditions to check out how the Kinetic handled both upwind and downwind paddling whilst fully loaded.
Skegs are great! That was our conclusion within a few minutes of being on the water. A skeg isn’t just there to help a kayak track in a straight line, it can actually be used to manipulate a well designed kayak in the water; fully up and a kayak bow should naturally want to turn into the wind an amount – great for going upwind, and exactly what the laden Kinetic wanted to do. Fully down and the skeg helps the kayak turn to and hold a downwind line, perfect for ‘surfing’ the small waves back along the loch. Tuning the setting in between it can be a real aid to ferry gliding and cross wind paddling.
Armed with our new found skeg knowledge we paddled up the loch, alternating from the north shore to the south, paddling through mystery wooden ruins, watching birds of prey soaring over head, and having far too much fun punching through the choppy waves.
Our original plan was to paddle upwind just a kilometre or so to a salmon farm before heading back downwind and onto the river, but there were far too many interesting things to see, and bedsides the wind just kept getting stronger (and the waves bigger). We kept on going until eventually hitting a natural shingle beach, which looked like a perfect place to stop for a cuppa – about 5km further than we had originally intended on going. At least the down winding would be fun!
Back on the water, and we paddled about 100m off the shingle beach and then turned. With the skeg fully down it was easy to catch wind waves for short periods of time and just fly with the breeze on our backs. Progress was extremely rapid and before we knew it we had whizzed past the salmon farm, and were almost back in Kenmore.
Just before we got back to the put in we paddled past the Scottish Crannog Centre, which looked fascinating from the water. A crannog is an ancient Iron Age wood and thatch dwelling suspended above the water on stilts. They were commonplace along the loch over 2500 years ago and it was great to see this reconstruction up close.
As an added bonus the shore near the Crannog was littered with dug out canoes. Sadly the centre was closed; it would have been brilliant to take one out for a splash.
With our loch adventures behind us we headed for the 18th century stone bridge that marks the end of the loch and the start of the river. Ahead of us was 12km of fast flowing water with the occasional grade two rapid.
It was here we met up with two canoeists – Sharron and Iain. Drifting towards the end of the loch and they seemed keen to have some company so we set off down the river as a group, playing with waves, catching eddies, and chatting away as we drifted past Castles, an otter on the bank, more stunning scenery, and one or two crazy “Grand Designs” style homes.
On moving water the Kinetic’s double concave hull really comes into it’s own. It provides increased lift, gives loads of additional stability when you are bounced around by waves and eddy lines and also helps to give a drier ride by helping create additional lift at the bow.
During our trip we swapped around and gave Sharron a go on the Kinetic. Within ten minutes she was charging in and out of eddys and teasing the rest of us for being slow – not bad for her first time on a sit on, and great to see. In fact it took several kilometers to get the Kinetic back from her and by the time we had we were nearly at our get out.
Our exit section was Wade’s Bridge in Aberfeldy. The bridge was built in 1733 to help connect the highlands with the lowlands of Scotland and for years was the only crossing over the River Tay. It is still a road bridge today, making it one of the longest serving road bridges in the UK with over 250 year’s continuous service
This section of the Tay (Kenmore to Aberfeldy) is a perfect introduction to touring on gentle whitewater. It was such a good place to get to grips with paddling the Kinetic, and we would recommend it thoroughly to all sit on top kayakers.
All in all we had a great and got a real feel for what the Kinetic can do. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to head off on another paddling adventure. Stay tuned…
You can read the Sitons review of Tootega’s Kinetic 100 here – www.sitons.com/articles/kinetic-energy-tootega-kinetic-100-kayak-review/
For more info about Tootega’s range of siton kayaks head over to www.tootega.com/en-gb/