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Recension: Black Pearl

John March, ägare till en av de Black Pearl som Dan Caouette byggt under vintern, har samlat sig till en recension för – återgiven här:

Reviews for Black Pearl by Bjorn Thomasson Design

Submitted by: John March

The Black Pearl is a strip built East Greenland kayak designed by Bjorn Thomason as a low volume rough water and rolling day trip kayak:

My BP (painted white to reflect the NC summer sun) was built by Dan Caouette of Clear Stream Fine Woodworking: Bjorn´s website has extensive information on the genesis of the BP and Dan´s website will take you through it´s construction step-by-step. My experience with Bjorn and Dan during the building process was extremely positive. Highly recommended.

I´ve now had the BP for several months, enough time to get it outfitted properly and to paddle on inland lakes in both calm water and winds up to 20 knots, and to take it into lumpy water off Emerald/Bear Island in North Carolina. By lumpy water I mean shore break, confused seas and clapotis to 4 feet and surf to 6 feet, winds to 20 knots. By way of comparison, my other kayaks include a P&H Quest (camping), Outer Island (day tripping), Pintail (surfing) and Mark Rogers Artic Hawk (general paddling).

The BP simply is the most amazing rough water boat I have ever paddled. Given a fair bit of rocker and long stems, it requires a bit of attention to keep going in a straight line in 7-10 knot winds and short period chop. Probably 20% of builders add an internal skeg or straighten out the keel a bit. If I were doing 20+ mile paddles, I´d take the OI rather than modifying the original BP plans. On the other hand, when in swells and lumpy water or at higher speeds the water rides up the stems and the boat tracks very well and it is amazingly fast in these conditions. I can easily hold 4.5 knots and with low windage do this when others are having wind troubles. The BP is a bit tippy at rest, but not excessively so though I wouldn´t use it for birding. However, put it in lumpy water and it almost miraculously seems unaffected. A little lean and an abbreviated sweep is all it takes to adjust position even in very confused seas. It´s like a fine sports car: goes exactly where you want it to with little effort, but it must be worked or you´ll be off the road. Once I got used to it, I found it very reassuring, way more than the Pintail, which is a great surf and lumpy water long boat. Given quick acceleration, the BP surfs very well and is easy to maneuver once on a wave. Like all low volume boats with narrow ends, the bow will pearl a little, but this proved easy to manage just by leaning back a bit. I had mine built for rolling, and it rolls easily: no surprise given its heritage. It does not have a particularly positive ”pop” or ”up” like some dedicated rolling boats, but it does go round and round effortlessly.

Someone used to the typical composite or plastic boat paddling position (legs splayed, knees up) will have a tough time in the BP at the beginning. I paddle sitting on 1/8" foam with legs straight and flat on the hull and finally arrived (tip from Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson) at a M shaped rather than flat foam masik. BTW, a slight shift in one leg to one side is usually enough to handle weathercocking. That said, once your hamstrings stretch and your hip flexors get used to it, the BP is plenty comfortable.

Things I´d do differently: (1) I like the Anas Acuta style cockpit, but I´d recess the aft coaming to facilitate layback rolls – not a big issue, but easy to do; (2) I´d use Kajak Sport hatches – blew off a Beckson pryout surfing, not fun; (3) I´d leave off the end tips – one fractured the first week; (4) I´d put on a keel strip; and (5), I´d use only Maroske or recessed deck fittings.

For someone who wants a rolling and rough water play boat and likes Greenland style paddling, the BP is beyond fun. It´s become my go to boat for everything but very long paddles and camping.

Rating: 10 of 10


John, thank you for this review of the Pearl. I am really happy that your experience with the kayak is so positive and can add that it was a rewarding experience to be part of this project with Dan and yourself.

I would like to add my views to your last five points:

(1) When asked I advice against a recessed aft rim on kayaks with flat decks, the reason being that the recess creates a "gutter" that have to be drained by tilting the kayak before removing the tuiliq or akuilisaq (if the recess is not extended through the sheer, but that is a complication of doubtful value). Many paddlers sit to close to the aft rim - an inch further forward buys the same comfort as would a recessed rim.

(2) This have not yet happened to me, but there is a risk - evidenced fx by Betsy Bay Kayaks putting a couple of locking handles over the plates.

(3) The best end protection is a couple of squash balls drilled and glued over the tips.

(4) Yes, a small play kayak is bound to get some wear along the keel. I have tried a narrow strip of kevlar - it protected the keel allright, but it did not look pretty when worn. A keel strip must be very low and unobtrusive not to increase tracking at the expense of manoevering. Maybe a strip of diolene like the one you can get on fx Valley as keel reinforcements.

(5) Amen to that.

Björn Thomasson

Hej Björn.

Det var en flot anmeldelse, og meget passende til Black Pearl syntes jeg.

Min egen Pearl er, så vidt jeg ved, den smalleste og længste endnu bygget, men er alligevel overraskende stabil og en fantastisk kajak i alle forhold. Jeg bliver hele tiden gladere for den, og mere positivt overrasket over den.

Jeg er helt enig med John Marsh i hans vurdering. Flot arbejde.

Mvh. Peter Madsen, Kajakklubben Malik, Faaborg

Hi Bjorn, I now use the BBK fix with window screen plastic bits from Home Depot. Seems to work OK. Do you slit the squash ball? Pics? Thanks, John

I cut a hole with a sharp knife and attach it on the stem with marine goo. Pics here

I am not familiar with the BBK fix?

Thanks Bjorn.

My end tips are a bit knobby for the squash balls.

Betsy Bay Kayaks are often see with window screen plastic clips (check any home repair website) to hold the pryout hatches in place. Others will have custom wood clips that serve the same purpose.

I appreciated your post on the curve of the coaming. Mine has less that 1/2" (overall is 20 x 16) curve, but I still take on a fair bit of water in when rolling or even paddling in rough water. Seems to be independent of spraysquirt type. I can't seem to figure out where it is coming from. How would you systematically investigate this problem?

Aah, those BBK-clips. I thought you were referring to some kind of end knobs! My mistake.

I have had leaks from time to time at the rim, and I believe that in my case it is that Chillcheater tuiliq and akuilisaq, that comes with double elastic chords in the hem. It has proven crucial that these chords are not twisted to seal properly, and thus it takes a while sorting them out. I have mentioned this to Reeds, as have probably others, since I believe this is an option now.

When using an akuilisaq or sprayskirt I always get a little water coming in at the top edge. Only the tuiliq is leak free. Some of my colleagues with dry cags with double bottom seal and a neoprene sprayskirt claim dry rolling.

I have no other proven ideas on seeking leaks, but I would perhaps try fitting a narrow strip of toilet paper round the rim, attaching the tuiliq and hosing the rim, and thus perhaps see where it leaks and look for finish imperfections at the rim there. Or attaching a bicycle inner tube round the rim over the tuiliq hem to see if more tension in the chord would help, and – though not very likely given Dans professionalism – check if there is a leakage somewhere in the rim itself. But that is pure speculation – I work intuitively when problems arise...

The seal on my Chillcheater deck improved when I replaced the double bungee cords with a single 8 mm cord. As a bonus, the deck is much easier to attach to the rim.

I invested in a Chillcheater "Stealth Cag Deck" a few months ago. Very comfortable, but the slimmed design causes a low pressure in the cockpit when I am leaning back.

In order to minimize the seepage of water into the cockpit when rolling, I use to start my exercises by leaning back and wait for a few seconds until the pressure is equalized

The low pressure is very noticeable. See picture at the link below.

Hi Bjorn, I am sureit is the seal--am using a Brooks akuilisaq--as the problem is much reduced if I maximally tiighten the skirt. Don't want to make the perfect the enemy of the merely good enough, so maybe I'd best just expect a bit of water when surfing or rolling. Think I'll also give Chilcheater a try. Kayak is terrific. Thanks, John

Hi guys,

Just browsing with regard to BP. I may be able to help with leaks problem however. I paddle a Tahe Greenland semi carbon. I will not compare the boats but have had leaks around cockpit rim for the following reason.

I use a spraydeck too but still feel this might help.

The seal made around the cockpit and around my midriff is tight. Really tight as I would wish. However I found that leaning forward in following and rough seas forces air out around the cockpit rim. When I lean back water is drawn up and into the boat as the air pressure is now somewhat lower and water enters due to this differential. The cause is the flexible nature of the carbon hull. It took some while for me to figure this out and a small breather tube eliminates the problem. Maybe, just maybe this in formation will be useful.

I have built and paddled wooden angmagssaliks in the past (20yrs gosh) without this problem and with standard glass layup no problem. But the flexible nature of the skin...


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