Friday, May 23, 2014

A paddling "demo" day on a Loch named Tay...

By the gate to Taymouth Castle.
Loch Tay was the chosen destination for a "demo" day. Riding on the roof racks, and prepped (well, almost) for a test paddle, were a Valley Étaín and a P&H Scorpio LV. The Ford Focus, only recently converted to an authentic Kayak Transport Vehicle (KTV*), was grinning from bow to stern - in an "automotive" kind of way. Valley and P&H are two of the best known manufacturers of British sea kayaks and we were more than eager to launch.

Loch Tay is simply beautiful. Under blue skies and a fresh breeze, the waters glistened, and the gentle waves broke on the sandy beach by the village of Kenmore. The Loch is located in the central highlands, in the district of Perthshire. Just over fourteen miles long and a mile to a mile and a half wide, it's the 6th largest freshwater loch in Scotland with a depth to almost 500 feet in places. Despite the warm sun, it was reassuring to be wearing dry suits...the water was very cold! Loch Tay has a south-west to north-east alignment, and the prevailing winds were forecast to stiffen by mid-day to provide some nice "bumps" for the test paddle.

On the beach at Kenmore.
There are no less than seven Munros around the Loch! A couple of local paddlers we spoke with were training for the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon. The name itself is a mouthful, and the event is mighty impressive: a swim across Loch Tay, walk / run seven Munros, kayak back to Ardtainaig, and finish off by cycling around Loch Tay - and then you have to slice a melon in two with a sword, and eat it before they stop the clock! Now that would be a cool t-shirt to earn! Pretty impressive, indeed.

We'd looked forward to testing the Étaín (a composite) and the low-volume Scorpio (a roto-mold). En route to the Loch, we realised we had picked up the wrong Valley, the 17'7" model instead of the 17'5" one. It was going to be far too big but no worries, it would still be possible to get a sense of the boat.

We should have noted the "17.7" decal - a bit much volume for "short" paddlers!
The second issue was the fact that the spray skirts were both too small to fit on either cockpit. We should have paid careful attention to that too, and tried them out instead of rushing away to get on the water. So it was a wet ride with a couple of shore stops to remove water. (That, of course, was the third issue. We had purchased a pump...and left it in the "boot" of the car. Geesh, how embarrassing.)

The roto-mold P&H Scorpio LV.
My own plan was to paddle and then fall head-over-heels - not to be confused with executing a "roll" - with the red Étaín. It was, however, just too uncomfortably big. It was hard to feel any connection to the cockpit. Joan fit very nicely into the yellow Scorpio. Giving it a try, it did feel good for me too, but maybe a just a little tight for multiple hours on the water.

You don't get into a put it on.
The LV felt like a comfortable sock.
Having never paddled a roto-mold kayak, we both expected it to feel "heavy". It didn't. In fact, it felt quite quick. That may be why its composite cousin, the Cetus, is so highly regarded.

I loved the look of the Étaín, with its swept up bow and stern and despite its size, it was fun to paddle, as was the Scorpio. Hmm...seems every kayak is fun to paddle when your own boats are thousands of miles away!

A snow-capped Munro (one of seven) in the distance.
After the noon hour, the wind did pick up and there was a good opportunity to splash into the waves...

and then test the skeg with wind and waves abeam. Both boats felt great, again, despite one being way too big and neither having a spray skirt to keep the water out.

Checking the stats afterwards, I discovered that my own Atlantis Spartan VI (in Canada) is very similar in size to the Valley Étaín 17.5. That, of course, means another "demo" day to see just how closely related they are. The Valley will have a stiff challenge!

Simply lovely out there.
It was great to be on the water again, and the first time on fresh water for a very long time. All too soon it was time to get the boats back on the roof racks, and drive them back for their 1730 hrs curfew at the paddling store.

The loaded MTOPKTV and a fond last look at the Loch.
This is admittedly one of the most amateurish "reviews" you'll ever read...but it sure was fun doing the demo! Lessons learned? Lots - especially about paying attention to "detail" when heading out on the water with rented and unfamiliar kit. Had the plan been to spend the day (or multiple days) on the ocean - it just wouldn't have happened. Spray covers have to fit, and pumps can't be left back at the launch site in the KTV!

As my cousin MG Mike reminds us, "every day's a school day". And, well, that's a really good thing. :)

*What appears to be a 2003 Ford Focus is technically a Moderate Terrain Outdoor Pursuits and Kayak Transport Vehicle (MTOPKTV). ;)

There's a very beautiful video on the home page of the Taymouth Castle site. You can watch it here.


  1. This is the kind of review I can relate to. That car does look a little small for 17.5' boats. Great that you have found somewhere to "borrow" boats from. Do I sense an intent to keep a couple of boats stashed there "just in case"?

  2. Looks like a wonderful place to paddle, could almost be Lake Ciwichan!

  3. Haha! Thanks for that, Andy, not quite the quality of work that you're used to producing! And I'm sure you wouldn't be forgetting kit like that! The car is excellent, boats were very snug in J-cradles.. It was the Étaín's volume - just too much for "compact" folks like us! And, of course, being unloaded, it wasn't being paddled as designed. Those were rentals so boats are always available - just not particularly convenient, of course. Hope you're getting on the VI (or UK?) waters. Warm wishes from Joan and I.

  4. Hi L, there were a great many similarities, indeed, and Joan and I both noted that - even a lovely community that draws holidaymakers, similarly placed, at the eastern end of the lake. I forgot to ask Andy if the Quadrathlon appeals? I'm sure there will be others of "re-configuration" age! Haha! You too, L - you'd certainly get your quota of Munros in while you're here! :) D.