Rene's seakayakblog

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intro review Silhouette

Review
Silhouette (Nigel Foster)

Currently I am reviewing the Silhouette. To keep you informed I will publish my views and thoughts, after each session, underneath.
When ready, although this might take some time, I will produce the final report for publishing in this website.



Silhouette; how fast can you go? (Continued 10)
Although I got the impression of the Silhouette being quite fast, I did not look in detail yet to the speed-aspect of the kayak.
Last week, being in the mood for a workout, I took her along on Wednesday-evening for a trip to the club planning to paddle 18 km's.
Being fresh, I started my warming up and measured 9- 9,5km/h; being easy. I tried also to paddle at 7- and 8 km/h but that was difficult to maintain, as this was too slow for me at that moment.

Being "on steam" after 4 km's, I started varying my speed:
- Paddling 8,5 km/h felt as a very natural speed in this kayak: being a speed that I could just maintain forever.
- A good exercise-speed was 9,5-10km/h: Creating sweat on my head. But I must say that the 10km/h is not something I could go on with for longer periods.
- Going for a full sprint I reached 11,8km/h with the first attempt. But this was something I could not reach again with the second and third attempt; it stopped than at 10,5km/h.
- Paddling on the lake against a 3Bft-wind I reached, as exercise pace, an 8,5/km/h, sometimes increasing to 9km/h.

On my way back my energy level was going down (beginning of the season wink) and after 15km I was just tired and had to work for it. I found it interesting that I ended up at the 8-8,5km/h, which felt so natural for this kayak. I could speed-up to 9km/h though: but only by using more trunk-rotation. However this rotation did nog feel very comfortable anymore because my back started being a bit irritated. I did improve the backsupport-block in the seat quit a lot already, but the customising was apparently not yet enough for my back.

As I paddled the Silhouette with improved knee-contact on flat water tonight, I noticed the benefits as I had much more control, better manoeuvrable and better stability while edging.
I should have done that earlier.

Summarising:
In flatwater-conditions and light winds a good cruising speed is 8-8,5 km/h
But also 9,5 km/h can be maintained for some time while paddling at exercise-pace.
Going above 10km/h felt if going above the maximum speed of the hull-shape, Clearly this can not be maintained for longer periods.
With these figures I think you may conclude that the Silhouette is not a slow kayak.

I would like to comment that the speeds as mentioned, depends of course on your fitness-level and technique, but I think they apply to an average, trained paddler.
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Posted on 19 Apr 2009 by René
The silhouette improved. (continued 9)
Arnold inspired me to customize his cockpit better. And so I did. I used foam to make the backrest more fluent without the rim pressing my tail-bone anymore. And for my knees I made some foamblocks as kneegrips and attached them with doublesided tape.



Today, the 29th of march, I had to choose between Hans' coldwater-workshop and playing in surf with Chris and Anoushka from the club. As it was rather late yesterday-evening and because Arnold did not go for the workshop, I chose for surfing. Anyway I did not subscribe for the workshop last monday.

The sea was perfect for paddling the Silhouette and to experience if the customizing makes a difference. And yes, it does!

At first we paddled north for 45minutes between two sandbanks.This was due to the angling competition on the beach which was planned to end at 12.00h. So we kept outside of their lines and ugly hooks.
At out left side, on the outerbank, there were towering, intimidating waves up to 2 meters and to our rigth the surging of steep breaking waves. As the tide was going down the waves were hungry, steep beasts looking for a lonely paddler to eat.

Between the banks the waves were rather irregular and I noticed that the Silhouette was more manouevrable thanks to the kneegrips.
I think it makes a difference what the size of your upperlegs is. As mine are not too thick I need kneegrips to prevent my knees to slip away at the moment you need grip.

The waves between the two banks were also handy for learning to trust the secundairy stability as back-up for the low initial stability. After a while this worked out very well: just relax and grip the kneegrips only when needed. Still the Silhouette is not a very stable platform. But I guess she was not ment to be so by her designer ;-)

When the anglers were gone we started surfing. Because of the speed of the Silhouette I could easily pickup a wave before it starts cresting. I had some very nice rides and managed even to carve them in a semicircle.

The low primary stability made it sometimes necessary to make a very quick low brace in the soup after passing a steep, cresting wave.
When the waves were so steep that I ended up in a bongoslide, it was pleasing that the Silhouette is so easily edged into the waves with a high brace. The new kneebraces were also helpfull there.

The backrest was also much better and did not hurt anymore. The only issue was a numb feeling near my tail-bone. It's just that the shape of the backrest and foam must fit exactly against your back. When sitting with my back a bit rounded the backrest fits much better. But that's not the way I paddle. This indicates however that more improvement is still possible.
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Posted on 29 Mar 2009 by René
Silhouette; Leecocking? Or should I call it wavecocking? (continued 8)
Last weekend I spoke with Arnold and Stef; both paddling a Silhouet themselves. I asked them about their experiences regarding leecocking with the Silhouette.

Interesting to get the same answer in both occasions: "No, I don't have problems with that!"
Amazing, because I certainly noticed leecocking under certain conditions.

I experienced such answers before when asking owners for experiences with their kayaks. I guess this has something to do with being experienced, as well as having found ways to handle the certain behaviours of their kayaks.

That's of course another approach in looking at a kayak:
- Owners look at their kayaks like how they actually can paddle her under conditions they normally paddle.
- I, when testing kayaks, look at kayaks from the perspective HOW they behave and if a novice could possibly handle that or not.

Of course I could handle the Silhouette as you can read on my post from 25 january. But I noticed that I had to work for that. And having paddled a lot of kayaks, I know that there are kayaks that are easier to handle on this aspect.
Therefor I think that, although a nice kayak, the Silhouette is for more experienced paddlers because a novice could get into trouble if he or she is not able to steer the course they want.

Thinking about weather- and leecocking now, a realise that it is maybe a better idea to split up the characteristic, called leecocking, into 2 different issues:

- a) When a kayak turns away from the wind because of the balance in the wind: the bow offering more lateral surface to the wind in combination with a stern offering more lateral surface under water compared to the bow.

- b) when the bow is blown away by the wind at the moment that the kayak glides over a wave temporarily offering more surface of the bow to the wind.

Ad. a) This issue has to do with the design of a particular kayak, regarding the balance between the shape of the bow and stern under water as well as above the water surface.

Ad. b) Under certain conditions this way of leecocking can occur with every kayak. It only depends on other characteristics of the kayak how well you can handle a kayak under these conditions. In general I can say that a very manouevrable kayak and/or a kayak that weathercocks normally, is easily being brought back on the correct course in between 2 waves. It is often the case that the paddler even is not aware that the kayak leecockes and steers the kayak back on course automatically without noticing.
On the other hand, if the kayak is NOT very manoeuvrable or features an integral skeg in the stern, it could be difficult to bring her back on course in between 2 waves. In that case you have to work hard with extreem edging away from the waves as an extra handicap.


Having thought it over, I think it is not fair to call the behaviour, as described under b), also leecocking because this is not the real leecocking as being caused by the balance of kayakdesign and because it happens to all kayakdesigns.

Maybe it is a better idea to call this behaviour "WAVECOCKING", describing what happens actually: a wave causing the bow being blown aside.


Starting to use this new word directly, I think there is another reason why some kayak-owners notice less about "wavecocking", simply because they are fast paddlers.
This certainly is the case with Arnold.
Because of higher speed, the kayak has a greater forward impact, making it more difficult to change the kayak's course. Besides this it could well be that the side plane of the bow creates a certain "wing"-or wedge-effect, because of which the water is pressing the bow back harder against the wind.
For the Silhouette this turns out very good as she certainly is a kayak that can be paddled fast in waves.
When testing kayaks I mostly are not doing a total work-out, so I am not paddling at maximum speed. Beside this, I paddle a test-kayak not alone at sea thus having to make my speed to match with that of my companion's.
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Posted on 16 Mar 2009 by René
Silhouette : Cold and wet exercises (continued 7)
For today I asked Tiny to shoot pictures when rolling the Silhouette. I did let go two invitations for a paddle tour and for paddling in surf. But the weather was perfect for making pictures. Yeah, sometime you have to make choices.

The wind was blowing at 5 or 6 bft. and gave some additional information when paddling to our exercise spot. Because I was paddling in shallow water there were no significant waves and now the Silhouette started to weathercock a bit. But she was easy to correct. Tiny, paddling an AnasAcuta, did have much more weathercocking and used the skeg.

So I think the conclusion might be that the Silhouette weathercocks only slightly and can be easily controlled with paddlestrokes. Using the skeg will make correction even easier. When paddling in waves at sea the waves influence the weathercock-behaviour in a way that the balance between weather- and leecocking will move and change the performance of the Silhouette to a neutral behaviour or in strong winds into leecocking.

About the wet exercises I can not add much text, as I described this already after the swimming pool exercises.

I rolled coming up on the afterdeck


as well as bent forward.


I sculled


I did re-entries:






And do you know what was so very pleasant: I could roll and roll for ever without getting cold in my drysuit.
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Posted on 08 Mar 2009 by René
Silhouette: yet paddled in quiet weather (continued 6)
Thinking about what kayak to take with me on the club outing to the IJsselmeer (Durgerdam - Marken vv.) on 1 march didn't take long because I didn't paddle the Silhouette in quiet weather yet.

So no exciting stories today!
When starting in the morning the sea, or should I say lake, was oily-flat and mysterious. I felt completely at home in the kayak and when I discovered that I could shoot a nice picture of Durgerdam with kayaks in front I sprinted ahead of our group. Paddling the Silhouette fast was a nice experience; splicing the surface of the water.
But I think I wrote before she is not a slow kayak.
I also took a sprint at the end of the tour; the participants felt a bit apart and while paddling at the end I started paddling fast to meet the front-paddlers a km ahead already. Nice experience while the kayak didn't slow me down.

When the wind picked up a bit to approx. 2-3 Bft and in the waves produced than, as well coming from some ships, I felt very comfortable with the stability.
But the trick finding my hat in the day-compartment and closing the hatch again didn't feel simple and the kayak started to shake a bit uncontrolled. Don't think I can reproduce this act in heavier weather.

On the first part of this double trip the wind came from aside; a bit from the front. To my experience the Silhouette paddled neutral without any sign of weathercocking. Comparing other kayaks I noticed the were or making sweepstrokes or dropped the skeg a bit.
And on our way back when the wind picked up a bit, blowing from aside and a bit from backwards, she did weathercock started to weathercock a bit. Not very seriously because it was easy to correct for this. Yet it was necessary to edge during every stroke. When it had been possible to use the skeg, I would have dropped it a bit. But I must say that the other kayaks weathercocked much more because most of them dropped the skeg almost completely.

Paddling in such quiet weather results for me in less concentrated coursekeeping. When paddling a manoeuvrable kayak this will certainly not result in a straight course. But with the Silhouette a didn't suffer this disease as she kept course very accurately. On the other hand, when wanting to turn 180 degrees, I had to work for it.

Although I did roll the Silhouette before, it seemed a nice exercise to roll during the lunch break, now wearing kayak clothes. Several rolls conformed that she still was easy to roll.

About the comfort I am more and more frustrated by the impact that the backrest behind the seat has on my back. As not all backbones are the same I assume that not everybody will experience this burden, but in my case my lower back started again being tired an aching. Probably it is possible to improve on this by tailorfitting the cockpit completely. As this kayak is not my property, it's to complicated to apply these changes in the present setting. I am thinking about to resume my testresults and not taking the Silhouette for a longer trip anymore. I will finish with photo-sessions of "cold water-rolls" en speed-measuring with the GPS

Taking into account my comfort-experience I would advise anyone, who likes to buy this kayak, to paddle her for 1,5 hour and experience if the kayak feels comfortable.
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Posted on 03 Mar 2009 by René
The Silhouette tested on a windy day at sea
I attended a tour at the 25th of January, organized by Hans Heupink for the NKB (Dutch kayak Association). We entered the area around the Hinderplaat (near Stellendam) that has been closed since this year. But in wintertime entering is allowed after consulting the authorities and with the restriction that the event is organized by one of the Dutch kayak-associations..

The weather conditions were not encouraging with a SE-wind of (6 to) 7Bft and a temp 1-5¢ªC. But since I wanted to test the Silhouette in real conditions, I am motivated to withstand the cold. As I used today a dry-suit for the first time, I really felt comfortably under these circumstances. These dry-suits should have existed 20 years before; thinking of all those days while changing clothes in bad weather.

Underneath I describe my observations and thoughts of today:

Surfing wind-waves.
In the beginning of the trip we were just blown away at 11km/h; the wind pushing at our backs!
When the waves built up I tried surfing them; of course! The kayak easily picks up speed starting to surf. The fact that the skeg in this kayak was broken down, meant I had to steer intensely to stay on course. But using the paddle rudder while bending backwards gave me quit a lot of surfing fun. Quite fast really. I assume that when you can drop the skeg in this kayak you can make perfect surfing-runs: super.

While surfing the bow, stays on top and has a dry ride. OK, for today the surf waves were about 50cm and not very steep. Surfing higher waves is something I would like to do as well, but I am confident that the bow has enough volume to perform well under rougher conditions. This makes me think of the first session in surf where the steeper waves were no problem.

Paddling in wind
Honestly , thinking about to paddle a kayak without a variable skeg today, I had some doubts on forehand if the Silhouette could be controlled easily in the strong winds of today. I therefor specially mentioned this fact on forehand to Hans.
But talking about weathercocking I was surprised: We paddled a few directions relative to the wind. Wind from backwards as described above was a bit difficult but would have been much better if the skeg was functioning.
Next condition was a 6Bft-wind and waves coming from my left and left-backwards: These are not the easiest directions for a kayak to paddle in wind, but the Silhouette did not really weathercock . In fact she was quite neutral in behavior and I did not miss the skeg at all.
While paddling against a 6Bft-wind at an angle of approx. 15degrees in shallow water and thus in low waves, the Silhouette performed at that moment very neutral without weather- or leecocking.
Maintaining this course became at a certain moment, when the wave-height increased en wind started to blow at 7Bft (with peaks up to 8), much more difficult as the Silhouette started to leecock. This was really hard work because the kayak is not a highly maneuverable kayak (which is on the other hand of course also an advantage for better tracking) and although the Silhouette reacts very good on sweepstrokes and edging, this was not enough today for compensating on leecocking. I even had to paddle with an extended paddle. This leecocking was partly caused by our low speed: approx. 2-3 km/h against the wind. I tried at a certain moment to sprint and while doing so the kayak did not leecock as bad any more. I was also astonished about the speed my fellow paddlers disappeared in the distance behind me. But for maintaining this speed (I guess 8km/h) for longer periods in this wind I am not strong enough and besides that I liked to join my fellow-paddlers.
After a pause it was, because of the leecocking, even more difficult to start paddling in the right direction. I solved this to make some speed in another direction, parallel to the waves, and then gradually I turned the kayak.
Today I greatly missed some knee-support on the inside of my knees with which it is possible to give more turning power to sweepstrokes.

Finally I would like to relativate these comments about leecocking: although leecocking is not pleasant it must be said that conditions of today were challenging because of the strength of the wind. Normally paddle tours will be held in lesser wind at a maximum of 6Bft. and paddling the Silhouette will be much more comfortable than because she is almost not influenced by the wind and follows a neutral course. The only issue is that I would certainly NOT recommend this kayak for beginners: if they come unforeseen in such winds they will be in trouble.
Another issue to take into account is if another person, heavier than my 70kg's , would experience the same leecocking.

Finally I can comment that the other kayaks did not show any signs of leecocking. Only when turning into the wind after a pause they had to work hard as well.

Behavior in waves
The Silhouette paddles quite dry. Even when sprinting against wind and waves, I got only a small amount of water on the deck and only a bit of spray from the bow.

Stability
Paddling on the waves today, whether they came from aft, from front or from aside, gave a confident feeling while paddling. The waves were quite regular which gave the kayak the time to find the secondary stability angle on passing each wave. Only a few times when waves were crossing each other and influenced the aftership, this gave a short itching feeling.
In fact paddling with the waves coming from aside was the most pleasant paddling; it felt like a gracious ballet on waves.
Crossing the shipping lane the waves increased and showed incidentally some cresting, and although I had to stay alert, stability was not a real problem to me nor did it feel uncomfortable.
Still the stability of the Silhouette is not very high and I was in these winds and waves not confident enough to eat something without leaning on the deck of a fellow paddler. Yes, taking something to eat out of my PDF was possible with my paddle still in the other hand. Also my waterproof notebook & pencil , to write notes on deck, was of no use to me today.

Comfort.
I wrote in earlier posts about the Silhouette in a very positive way about the bulb in the back of the seat; replacing the backband.
Today I discovered another aspect of this bulb: Paddling hard against the wind, performing sweepstrokes, edging and pushing with my feet against the bulkhead to support the paddlestrokes, results in that I pushed my lower backbone, every paddlestroke again, against the foam-covered-bulb. After an hour or so my back started hurting because my lower back became irritated. May be such a high pressure on such a small spot is not a good idea. It should be investigated if you get a better result with a more ergonomically formed block that does not press against the backbone but only against the hipbones in the back.
Additionally I can say that I expect that it should not have been so necessary to press myself against the backrest-bulb if I had the knee-support on the inside of my knees as described.
But it would be nice to investigate if such backrest-bulbs could be improved because they give you the possibility for more trunk-rotation thus realizing a better propulsion-efficiency.

Speed
I have the impression that the Silhouette is quite a fast kayak. Certainly at the moment I sprinted away, as described above. But I find it difficult to compare speed to fellow paddlers as I don't know the effect of technique and power. So in a later stage I will paddle the Silhouette alone on flat water and readout the speed on a GPS.

The kayak
It should also be mentioned that it was in the compartments still bone-dry after the tour

Advice
This is a kayak for an advanced paddler with good technique and stability. But I would say this paddler should be in his younger years, with a flexible back, to overcome the inconveniences of the lower stability during extended periods.

In general
My experiences of today confirms to me again that I personally like most a highly maneuverable low-volume kayak that basically weathercocks and can be trimmed with the skeg between lee- and weathercocking..
Why choose a high volume kayak if you don't need the volume in 95% of the tours in a year.

Tourdetails: distance 18 km; area Stellendam - Hinderplaat vv.; max speed 11km/h; Average speed 3km/h


To be continued
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Posted on 31 Jan 2009 by René
A Silhouette in the swimming-pool
Saturday a week ago I practised wet exercises with the Silhouette (Nigel Foster's) in the pool. I preferred, taking into account this time of the year, not to play around at sea but use a warmer environment . wink

Underneath I would like to share my experiences:

Rolling.
Although the kayak did not have the foam-blocks for knee-support (of which I am a fan), I could roll easily.

I rolled in 2 ways: rolling while bending forward on coming up and using the hipflick and, the other way, rolling up while bending to the afterdeck.
Both methods worked fine, but especially while coming up on the afterdeck I was happy with the seat-construction featuring a bulb as back-support instead of the usual backband. This way of back-support was very pleasant for my lower-back, as my backbone was not punctured by the cockpit-rim anymore.

Rolling with the paddle extended is not my strongest technique, but in the pool I managed to come up without any effort.

In general you can say that the Silhouette can be rolled normally. I only know of a few other kayaks that are easier to roll.

Sculling
I found sculling a bit difficult at first. After some exercise however I could perform the sculling better. But I trust that with a dedicated knee-grip in the cockpit, I could be able to scull for longer periods.
Rolling with sculling strokes at the end of a roll, while surfacing, works also fine.

Next exercise was the re-entry&roll. The re-entry was super as the was no interfering backband. Rolling up was also a piece of cake without any notion that the waterlogged cockpit counteracted with rolling up.

The X-rescue benefits from sloped bulkhead just aft of the seat: you only have to lift the bow a bit to empty the kayak almost completely. Entering the cockpit was no problem as the perimeter-lines were at the places were you need them.
To enter the kayak I also tried the heel-hook-method for the first time, but I think I will have to practise this method more often to be able to trust it out at sea in waves. Climbing on the afterdeck was no problem but while turning around to enter the cockpit, I felt a bit vulnerable. Imaging waves around, I have my doubts!

High braces can be carried out normally.

I did not perform any low braces as I did plenty of them out at sea.

Transporting a person on the afterdeck: I forgot to try this in the pool. So this will have to be done at sea later or at another pool session.

To be continued.
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Posted on 26 Jan 2009 by René
Silhouette in surf with Arnold.
Arnold sent me this beautifull picture showing him paddling in surf at the beach near Parnassia in 2006.

Picture by: Alex van de Werf


It seems that in these steep waves the bow does not bury itself too much. Which fits with my experiences before.

Thx Arnold.
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Posted on 23 Dec 2008 by René
Silhouette at sea (continued 2) dd.:20 dec.
When Hans phoned me if I was available for a tour, this turned out to be a win-win-situation as he was looking for an alternative for his deleted weekend-camp-kayak-tour and I was looking for an one-day opportunity to continue testing the Silhouette. I would like to mention that the pictures below were made by Hans Heupink: thx again Hans.

We thought that the weather&sea could be interesting as the wind had been blowing hard the night before.

We started at Springersdiep in Zeeland and we had a nice paddling day. Hans paddling his AnasAcuta being of the same hard-chine kayak-family as the Silhouette.

We expected a sea being rough, but at the moment we made our first paddlestrokes, the wind started "dying" till approx. 4-5Bft. sad

How does the sea look like today? :
well at first we had a regular sea with waves up to 30cm. After reaching the buoys, marking the new restricted nature-reserve area, we paddled in the direction of the Lighthouse at Ouddorp where we entered an area with crossing, irregular waves of approx. 40cm gradually increasing to the north.
There was an interesting area with Clapotis up to 1meter at the end of the sandplate Aardappelenbult. Probably this is the result of waves from opposite directions and waves starting to crest on shallow water. But it seems logical that the increasing current at that spot helps also to build up an interesting sea. We explored this area for about an hour (at approx. 5hrs after the high tide) and even found a kind of tidal rapid, complete with a (small) frontwave.

And how does the Silhouette perform in these waters?

Well, underneath I will write down my notes of today on stability, skeg function, manoeuvrability and a bit of miscellaneous remarks.

About the stability I wrote before that the initial stability is not very high. Today it worked out like Arnold said, that you have to rely on the secondary stability at sea. This worked very well in the waves at the beginning of our tour when the waves were not coming from several directions. However when we were exploring the area with the crossing waves and clapotis, I noticed that my hips were very much at work while compensating for the irregular waves. No problem as I was able to paddle quite relaxed. But I must confess that I was not able to make photos like Hans did from his AnasAcuta because I didn't like to put away my paddle for a second. With a paddle in my hands I could rest, while not paddling, letting one blade floating lightly on the water as a stabiliser; a technique you also use with a K1-racer when not paddling.
It seems that under these sea-conditions the theory that the secondary stability takes over in case of low initial stability, does not work always like that and you must be able to keep your balance. Anyhow, after paddling for about an hour under these conditions, I noticed that my hips and lower back had become tired, resulting in a stiff back; not a pleasant feeling. Interesting is that I only once before had a experience like this: during the test of the Vestvika a few years ago. This was at the very same spot with similar waves and also in a kayak with a low stability. I guess and hope this is not caused by my back; although this would be rare as I paddled last September a week long in the waters around Anglesea, also not a very quiet spot, without any similar experiences.

About the way the Silhouette reacts on the variable skeg I can not tell much as I paddled the Silhouette without it. The spare cable Arnold gave me to replace the kinked one, was too thick and did not fit. But the good news is that I did not miss the skeg at all. With the 4-5 Bft. SW-wind the kayak reacted quite neutral to the wind without any sign of weathercocking.
Although I would have like to use the skeg when paddling downwind.

Manoeuvrability. In the moderate waves in which I paddled with the Silhouette today, I experienced her as a lively kayak that responded very well to edging and sweepstrokes when I wanted to change or correct my direction. Probably this has something to do with the timing of the sweepstroke because turning is easier on top of a wave. Last time in surf the Silhouette was more difficult to turn unless I could do it on to of a cresting wave. Later I will have to experience this in heavier winds.

Looking at the profile of the Silhouette it is not a surprise to conclude that this kayak will have a good directional stability, as the rocker is almost zero.
Comparing with the AnasAcuta it again is not a surprise that the AnasAcuta is much more manoeuvrable in heavy seas because she has a rocker like a banana.

Further I would like to make the remark that I highly appreciated the seat construction without the usual backband but using a bulb in the bulkhead behind the seat: It is just like you glide into the cockpit using a shoe-lift.
And while paddling, without a backband I felt very free to use much trunk-rotation when paddling fast. This certainly helps paddling faster.

About the speed I can tell that she certainly is much faster than an AnasAcuta. When I started to sprint it did not cost much time to come 100 meter ahead. Even when Hans started sprinting at 9,5km/h in the Anas, I ran out on him fast .
Paddling fast with the Silhouette is a delight for my soul as she splices the waves silkily without much spray.smile

Summarising, my thoughts about this kayak are that I, for the time being, think that this is not a kayak for the complete beginner unless having a perfect balance feeling in waves. And, I would like to say, being able to brace with the paddle.

To be continued
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Posted on 22 Dec 2008 by René
The Silhouette (Nigel Foster) in surf. (at: 6 december 2008)
A website is sometimes a nice communication medium. This time Arnold contacted me last week and offered me to try his Silhouette before he was going to sell it.
The Silhouette looks like she had an active paddling life yet, but seems to be in very good condition. She was built by John Van Leeuwen of Watermark, a company existing till approximately 1999 in the Netherlands. Watermark produced the NigelFoster kayaks at the time. As I heard strange stories about the construction and watertightness of these Watermark-kayaks, this one seems an exception, being well built.
Today some clubmembers were going to sea for surfing at the beach near Bakkum and I happily joined them with the Silhouette.
Normally I try a kayak first at flat water before entering more turbulent situations. Oh but yes, I did paddle on flat water; 1,5 km from Bloem, where I met Arnold, to my home.
The contact for hips and knees in the cockpit was pretty good and gave me confidence enough for entering surf conditions.

Circumstances at sea were quite friendly with some sunshine, a NW 3 Bft. wind and waves up to 1 meter. As the tide was going down, the waves curled steeply down on us.

And how performs the Silhouette?

Well, her primary stability is not very high. But the secondary stability is much better. I think you can get used to that while learning to rely on the secondary stability. Today I was happy with the stability, although I didn’t try leaning back while eating an apple.

The Silhouette nicely sliced through the waves but not submerged into them. Instead she silkily came down after having hit a wave.
The design of the bow seems balanced; being sharp but with enough volume.
This volume in the bow helps also while surfing down a wave. And in the conditions today the Silhouette did not give any indication that she would like to loop on a steep wave.
I will have to find out later what happens in heavier surf. As the stern seems to have somewhat less volume, may be she could loop backwards. More on this will follow later.

I only capsized once while trying to push another kayak, floating around, to shore. Floating in shallow waters, I was not able to roll up. And as Anoushka was standing there, she simply turned me upright. Not a strange feeling as waves sometimes do the same: turn you upright before you even started to roll.
After this capsize, I tried at least 10 rolls, each of them very successful as the Silhouette rolls very quick and easy.

When not bending forward (while upside down) you can roll op bending more backwards, laying on the afterdeck when coming up. Or, when you do bend while rolling, you come up easily while doing the hipflick.

The layback in this kayak is very good as a result of a unique bulkhead and seat. The bulkhead is profiled for easy drainage of the cockpit. In this bulkhead profile a “bulb” is modelled which supports your lower back. Perfect: because now you don’t need a backband.

Exploring the stability of the Silhouette, I paddled for some time, more close to shore, parallel to the breaking waves. Most waves nicely passed underneath and only the strongest waves required some low-bracing: not too bad for such a nimble kayak.

Most seakayaks are not very manoeuvrable in waves. The Silhouette is no exception in this. Although the Silhouette is quite manoeuvrable, while edging strongly. On flat water this is shown clearly. But in the waves at the surfzone I was not yet familiar enough with this kayak to do so. And also because I need better knee-contact to do so. As Arnold nicely added a comfortable foam layer to the complete underside of the foredeck, it will not be easy to customise this deck to my knees.

About surfing I can tell that I made some very nice and fast rides, while still being able to control the kayak and change course.
Surfing parallel to the waves, in a bongo-slide, is also easy because it is easy to edge the kayak into the waves.

So these were my notes on the Silhouette in surf.

More will follow later. (I will also add in a short time pictures to this post)
To be continued.
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Posted on 19 Dec 2008 by René

© - René van der Zwan

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