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New and Exciting Adventures: Dubai!

I haven't posted in a while, because I wanted to post something new and interesting, but couldn't really come up with much. I've already done a gear list, a review, and a project so I was waiting until something interesting came up to write about. And now, something VERY interesting has.
In a week or so, I am leaving for Dubai. yes, that Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. I'll be working for two months as a sea kayaking, backpacking and ropes course instructor. I am extremely excited to have this opportunity to travel for free and experience a place that is so radically different from anything I've seen before. I'll be leading girls from local Dubai schools and working with my friend Jessi, who I met through a mutual friend, worked with at Great Outdoor Provision Company as well as Pamlico Sea Base. They needed another female guide so she called me. Without her, I wouldn't have this opportunity!
I'll be documenting my adventures here on my blog. I'm planning to take tons of photos and keep a journal. There is a small internet cafe down the road from where I'll be staying so I'll be able to keep in touch.
I have lots of ideas about what I would like to do while I'm there, most of which are very vague, but I do know that I want to ride a camel in the desert! Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to do that and much more.

Review: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 160 with rudder

I paddled this kayak on every trek I lead from 2009 to 2012. I racked up somewhere around 900+ miles in it, in all kinds of conditions. Here's what I liked, and what I hated.

A few things to note before you read- 
  • I paddled in the sound, where waves are more like chop and less like rolling swell. 
  • My review is from the perspective of a guide. As a guide, I look for things in a boat that many paddlers typically don't care about and may even look for opposite characteristics. 
  • I am 5'2" tall and weigh 130lbs.

The specs:
  • 16 feet long
  • 23.5" wide
  • 58lbs
  • 325lb carrying capacity
  • rudder, no skeg
  • 3 hatches and 3 foam bulkheads

What I Like
  • Storage Space - I packed all my gear, personal food and all the extra bits a guide has to have in this boat, and I had room for more. Unlike boats with skegs, you can put your stuff in larger dry bags instead of having to pack everything in tiny dry bags. I could pack and unpack my boat quickly and easily.

  • Comfort -
    Width: The width of this boat was a little wide for me, but it is made for a medium size paddler, not a little person like me. Adding hip pads gave me a snug enough fit to Eskimo roll, and the extra width allowed me to sit cross-legged when my legs cramped. The boat is narrow enough that I usually didn't hit my hands on the sides as I paddled.
    Deck Height: The height of the deck at the cockpit could have been lower but it rarely got in the way. Its height suited my low angle paddling style and was high enough out of the water even fully loaded.
    Cockpit Length: At the end of the season, I discovered I could take my feet off the pegs, scoot down in my boat and lay completely flat inside the cockpit! Add two paddle floats and I can have a nap!Seat:

  • Durability - This boat may be heavy for some, but I can still carry it by myself. A roto-molded plastic boat is durable and worth the extra weight. I loved not having to worry about bumping other boats, oyster shoals, or rocks. A composite boat would not have survived the constant abuse of weekly expeditions. Unless you burn a hole in it, the boat itself will last a long time, as long as you store it out of the sun. This boat is extremely sensitive to UV and the plastic is weakened dramatically by heat and sunlight. The rudder kit that was included rarely gave me problems and when it did I could easily fix it with my repair kit. 

  • Stability - Very high initial stability. Feels very stable  to beginner and intermediate paddlers.

  • Tracking -  This boat tracks extremely well in calm water. Tracking is not very good in wind or chop. You need a rudder to go straight in wind from any direction. 

  • Hatches -  I loved having a day hatch. The larger opening in the rear hatch enabled me to cram in all my bulky stuff. The opening in the front hatch is much smaller but still large enough that I never had any issues getting anything to fit through it.

What I Don't Like

  • Comfort- While this wasn't an issue for me, taller or larger men and women don't fit in this boat at all. If you are tall (over 5'9") or big boned this boat won't fit you.

  • Durability- Don't sit on the deck of this boat when it's on land and don't let anyone sit on the deck of your boat while you are sitting in it (in the water) unless absolutely necessary. Doing either of these things causes the bulkheads to leak. This is easily fixed with some marine sealant, but I've discovered wet things in my hatches that I would have rather stayed dry. I have gotten pretty annoyed having to reseal the bulkheads frequently, even when I take really good care of the boat. Other than this, my hatches stayed extremely dry. The plastic loses a TON of its rigidity when it sits in sunlight for prolonged periods of time.If you guy this boat, protect it with 303 and store it out of the sun. Also, the rudder has a tendency to work its bolts loose and spin, up and out of the water. This is easily fixed if you know how to do it and you have an Allen wrench handy. This happened so frequently (to participant boats with these rudders) that I got the hang of fixing them on the water.

  • Stability- This boat has little secondary stability. It doesn't edge very cleanly. Maybe because of my small size I had a hard time getting it up on its edge. Overall I didn't feel vulnerable unless I was in 3 foot following chop or broadside chop above 3 feet. This instability would be magnified for someone who doesn't pack the boat properly for conditions.

  • Tracking- This boat doesn't track well in chaotic seas or wind. It weathercocks pretty severely because there is a little too much rocker in the stern. It is somewhat solved by deploying the rudder. It's even harder to turn (even on its edge) in chaotic seas. I struggled frequently to keep my bow pointed where I wanted it to in such situations, even with the rudder. Sitting next to a fellow guide in chop (she was paddling a Wilderness System Cape Horn 15, with no skeg or rudder!) and her boat slid through the chop as mine bounced around in it. Both our boats were fully loaded and we weigh about the same. This has everything to do with hull design.

Overall, I wouldn't buy this boat. I enjoyed paddling it and it generally has everything I need in a guiding boat but I think I could buy a boat that handles better made from better plastic for around the same price. This boat is great for those just entering the multi-day sea kayaking world who want a boat that's easy to paddle and pack and will survive collisions with rocks and oyster beds. Those who enjoy or plan to paddle during not so nice weather should stay away. Well seasoned guides may want a more athletic, performance oriented boat. If I had to buy a Wilderness Systems sea kayak, I would buy a Tempest. It's only a couple hundred dollars more and much better suited to expedition sea kayaking. That being said, there are several other plastic sea kayaks of the same length, similar storage capacity, and similar price point, that shine in all areas a wider range of conditions; like the Scorpio by P&H, for example.

Shopping for a PFD? Check out my review of the Kitty PFD by Stohlquist