Testing of Seabird Designs Expedition LV in polyethylene

Successful scale-down

Seabird may offer the fully adult polyethylene kayak in a diminished version. Medium-sized paddlers or those who don't need a huge loading capacity may thus enjoy a more suitable boat.

Text and photos: Jan Fjelde

The test sample has gone through an interesting history.

In the starting point, the hull is based on the more than fifteen years old tramp kayak VKV Seagull Offshore. The Swedish glass fiber boat was at its time developed by the proprietor of VKV, Ingvar Ankervik. «Offshore» has since then participated in many well-known expeditions, among others in «Sveriges Blå Band» ("The blue band of Sweden"). It is certainly not without reason that Seabird has elected to name its interpretation of the boat precisely «Expedition». The clients may choose if they want it built in plastic or compounded. In cooperation with Ankervik, SeaBird manufacturer has set both versions on a low carbon diet. In the slimmed down version the compounded product is called "480", whereas the twin sister has got the designation Expedition LV.

For whom

The object is a coastal skerry kayak, where the cockpit and the total layout are fitted for medium-sized paddlers. In spite of the fact that the test boat does not have a typical sea kayak outlines with a lot of spring, it can take a lot of sea. Demands to carving response are not required, as the boat right out from the design table is designed for the use of the rudder. The group of clients will mainly span from beginners to normal experienced touring paddlers.

Swedish shape

test expeditionLV_kayak_2The kayak is manufactured in three layers of polyethylene. The technology creates a stiff hull where at the same time the weight is kept within acceptable limits. Finish and quality of the casting create a good quality impression. The rig and loose details are properly fixed by screws. The fully adult-sized Expedition is shortened with about half a meter of the LV design. Width and height are also reduced. The grips are defined as sectioning. Less volume makes it better fitted for small and medium-sized paddlers. Recommended body weights are between 45 and 85 kilos. As the widest point is situated right behind the cockpit, we are talking about a "Swedish shape". The bottom and hull sides are rounded. Most part of the keel has extremely modest spring.

In practice, playful and sharp carving response gives way to increased direction stability. The kayak at the same time objects to sitting down on the stern when the speed increases. Our GPS measurements indicate that the energy efficiency of the hull is highest between 3.5 and 3.7 knots. Our standard procedures cover an average speed of 4.4 knots. The top speed ended at 5.9 knots. As on the Offshore, the stern has a small steering fin. The self-produced rudder has a good efficiency in spite of the integrated fin. Via liner, the rudder may be continuously locked from the cockpit over an area of up to 270 degrees.

Favorable center of gravity

test expeditionLV_kayak_3The stability experience is of such a type that it fits most people. Beginners quickly establish a confident relation to «LV». Our technical heeling tests disclose that we are dealing with a stable construction. The relation between the low position of the seat and the width in the water line leads to a favorably positioned center of gravity. The primary stability is medium-plus and has a tendency towards high. On calm days most people may enjoy a cup of coffee on board or make snapshots without caring too much about the balance.

The secondary stability is high and has an early point of impact. The feeling of self-raising is increasing through the whole of the first and second level of stability. The secondary stability culminates in a strong and marked final rigidity. The round design of the hull with the shape of concave surfaces responds especially positively to load/ ballast. Contrary to hulls with completely straight sides, the width in the water line increases as the kayak is pressed down in the water. The stability parameters are distributed in a way that conserves the feeling of safety without letting the paddling characteristics suffer unnecessarily.

Has a function

The deck has somewhat more spring than the keel. Compared to many British designed kayaks, the freeboard at the cockpit is placed high. The deck rig may at a first glance seem somewhat exaggerated. To be on a reasonable sixteen footer, the level of equipment facilities is surprisingly high. Both sterns are equipped with carrying handles. At the bow, there is a fixation for a spare paddle and along the boat rim boards, safety lines are running. The hatch ahead has ten inches. As usually, rubber bands for lighter equipment are placed ahead of the cockpit. Here you find at the same time, a very practical daily hatch. The plastic cover with quick threads opens access to a flexible reservoir of neoprene. It is completely water tight and is secured with a thin line. "The sack" has more room than one should imagine. Shape and function are excellent!

Between the boat rim board and the daily hatch, the deck has become a discreet swing into the surface. Thereby, the paddle may be placed closer to the hull. In the professional language this is referred to as a "tighter setting of the paddle". Just behind the cockpit, on the star board side, you will find the other daily hatch on the kayak. The opening is scarcely six inches and gives access to a loading room of about forty liters. The after deck is also equipped with a large and oval loading hatch. Ahead of and behind the hatch, you will find solid rubber bands as fixations for a split spare paddle. Since the kayak is equipped with a rudder, the large loading room is of course without a space consuming sink cooling box. Along the after rim board, also security lines are mounted. The self-produced rudder may be locked with a transport trap.

All three rubber covers are easily mountable and demountable thanks to their soft consistency. They also keep the loading rooms dry in all kinds of weather. Splashing sea waves are no threat to the luggage. A couple of "rollers" of the deck do not provoke any water penetration. The loading room on the foredeck is even gas tight. The cover expanded strongly outwards after some hours in the sun. Unfortunately, none of them are secured with lines. Since the integrated hatch chassis do not have any natural fixing points, maybe the lines could be led through the bulkheads? One washer and a knot on each side could do the job. The holes will not be tighter than that they will permit warm and expanded air to evacuate from the loading rooms.

Deep and safe

test expeditionLV_kayak_4The cockpit opening has sufficient dimensions for uncomplicated entering of the boat. The factory has placed functional supports for the thighs that may be moved in longitudinal direction. Even if the kayak is scarcely calculated for the Eskimo roll, the exercise may be carried out when the supports are put in place. The thought is, however, that they should ensure a generally tighter contact to the boat during paddling. Large performers would probably feel that the supports are stealing needed space. Four screws make them easy to remove.

Expedition LV is equipped with last generation of the Seabirds self-adjusting pedals. They may be moved forwards and backwards with the feet and are in addition fitted with two locking arms that may be reached from the cockpit. The height below the deck has certain limitations and paddle shoes above size 44 must be angled to avoid touching the underside of the deck. In the longitudinal direction there is on the contrary more space. I myself had several centimeters at large on the pedal rails. The upholstered seat with its free and slightly concave shape would fit most persons. The back support may seem at first glance somewhat high. Soft materials fortunately do not give a support that appears dominating.

Realistic picture

The test has been carried out by a person (92 kilos) who is situated in the upper layer of what is recommended with respect to the weight of the paddler.

The total displacement may also be read as if a person of 70 kilos weight is carrying 22 kilos luggage. The test therefore reflects a realistic picture of the behavior of the boat in a slightly loaded mode. The hull is, as earlier described, based on VKV Offshore. Kåre Ankervik designed the boat with the intent that the boat should have good performance also (!) when carrying load. In spite of the scaling down of the factory, the four loading rooms in the kayak offer good luggage space. Including the paddler, the hull supports 130 kilos load.

Calculated for rudder

After a few paddle strokes, the feeling of treating a good and harmonic hull arises. The new pedals at the same time convey a feeling of direct and concise conducting. During calm circumstances the boat has a relaxed, easy paddling and extremely confident character. With the rudder set down, it is going straight to the place you want. In this case demands to carving response will not be required. The harmony between hull and rudder is such as it should and ought to be. With the maximal rudder deflection, the swing radius is modest.

Of course it is possible to test the carving response of the kayak when the rudder is turned up. During calm circumstances, the boat may modestly be steered only by moving the hips. Such a sedate and non-pretentious response is hidden in the considerable straight keel. Combined with the rounded transition (lack of chine) between bottom and hull sides. In case the wind blows up, kayaks with such a hull shape are dependent on rudder to be able to function satisfactorily.

Within the frame

It should not seem surprising that there are great differences in sea qualities of boats in such a low price class. The hull of Expedition LV must be characterized as successful. Touring with luggage is definitively on the top of the menu. Additionally, it is excellently fitted for recreational paddling. On the other hand, the hull offers more than other typical recreational boats. Dramatic events when a storm blows up hardly occur. Naturally the result will depend on the paddlers' experience, but in the hands of a routine performer the boat may take a lot of sea and wind. The behavior is cultivated in waves with a height just below one meter. Here it is difficult to detect objective failures and defects. Breaking waves are tackled with great calm. A fresh breeze of ten second meter is clearly within the frame defendable for the test object. According to the opinion of a lot of people, tougher circumstances ought to be handled with sea kayaks with greater contact in the cockpit and better rolling qualities.

The journey of the boat is in any case dry and the paddler is only exceptionally exposed to sea splashes. The volume of the bow and the buoyancy provide the boat a tendency to try to climb over the waves rather than breaking through them. On the top of the waves the fore ship falls into the next wave valley without any hard splashes or other dramatics. The rounded hull also treats side waves in a nearly disarming manner. Sea waves from the back are generally tackled without mentionable problems. Wind coming in after across will try to force the kayak out of course. When the wind is not too strong, a counter steering with the rudder is sufficient for an «LV» to move where it should. The surf willingness of the boat is of enjoyable type. The Ankervik hulls are recognized in their fine quality in the mentioned discipline, something that the biggest boat in the Expedition series has confirmed earlier. Even if the test boat was not meant to be a "stormy weather" boat for the routine paddlers, it is still does an unexpectedly safe and decent job when the fjord is going white outside.

Conclusion

Only a few years ago it would have been impossible to get a touring kayak with good paddle qualities at such a reasonable price. The size appeals especially to those who are not looking for an unnecessarily big vessel. The well tested hull has a behavior completely free of uncomfortable misconducts. Among the rich content of equipment, the daily hatch ahead of the cockpit is our absolute favorite! The test boat would without doubt assert itself well in the price class below ten thousand krone.

Technical data

  • Length 480 cm.
  • Width 56 cm.
  • Cockpit 39 x 80 cm.
  • Loading cap (incl. padl) 130 kilo
  • Numeral weight 26 kilo
  • Our control weight 26.9 kilo
  • Price NOK 8500,-

 

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