Black Pearl – a kind of review...
My cooperation with Seabird Designs is over - our opinions about quality, customers and service differ too much.
May seem a bit odd and egocentric to review a kayak I designed myself. The model itself, I need not write any more about – it has been the subject of many posting on paddling here and there. And if some new reader had missed it: Yes, I am quite pleased with my Black Pearl, if I may say so ;-)
The real reason for this review is that it is my first real opportunity to examine the outcome of this Chinese adventure. Earlier encounters have been a couple of minutes between teachings and talks. But this Friday I left Kano og kajakværkstedet in Denmark with a brand new and shining Black Pearl LV. Today I spent several hours in and off the bay Salviken at the west coast near Lund.
Incredible finish for the money on hull and details! Nice with the Greenland style deck rigging. Nice paddle too, isn´t it?
I wanted to establish exactly how close the Seabird version came to my own prototype, and how well it suited me and my 185 cm /85 kg.
For a start: the feel and performance qualities (speed, maneuvering, rolling etc) are almost identical. I felt at home and at ease immediately – aside from the composite hull (and paddle) lacking the solid subdued sound scheme of wood).
At least as good-looking as the prototype (hmmm...)
Some things are much better: the finish of the rim means a dry cockpit – in my wooden kayak, small imperfections on the underside of the rim means a few drops of water after rolling.
The finish overall is very good, in class with a much more expensive kayak. Look at the hull-deck joint – invisible as if the kayak was made in one piece!
The seat is slightly more comfortable than mine: cushioned without getting too high. The cockpit is comfortable – no bolts or nuts protrude anywhere. The foot pedals are big and comfy, though hard to adjust under the low deck – but then you find the lock with your toes it is quite OK.
The skeg covers a wider range of conditions (on my prototype the skeg is sacrificed for simplicity) and increases the initial stability in speed.
The kayak is slightly more initially stable than the prototype (50 cm instead of 49 cm). It doesn't affect rolling, but may be appreciated by paddlers with limited experience.
I managed all rolls I do in my prototype, and failed with those I fail in my BP – but the rim is approx 1 cm higher at the sides so hand rolling was not quite as effortless as in my prototype. But it is mostly a matter of getting used to it.
A shiny deck...
Well, over to the things I wasn't quite happy with. I was expecting a few adjustments – it usually takes some time before everything is sorted out when the manufacturing is on the other side of the planet. But it was actually just minutiae. Seabird has been careful with the details – including the integrated deck hardware.
One important update, which I have notified Seabird about is that the aft bulkhead is a small distance aft of the rim instead of connecting to it. This means you can't empty the kayak entirely by turning it upside down. I guess the Chinese outfitter did not get the idea but found it easier to put the bulkhead under the flat aft deck.
I don't like screw-in hatches. They must be kept clean from sand and dirt, otherwise, they might jam. It is not uncommon that users of these hatches need a tool (a piece of wood with a couple of projections) to open jammed hatches. I would have preferred pry-out hatches.
There are a couple of things that the owner is recommended to do: Exchange the foremost deck line for a bungee cord The fixed line is a mistake by the outfitter and is unusable – I hope it will be corrected on the next shipment.
Round-over the lower forward edge of the rim with a sanding paper – so you don't get the legs shaved getting into the cockpit (probably applies only to those that, like me, is close to the upper weight/length limit of the kayak. A little sanding on the forward corner of the seat attaching flanges is also recommended – they can be uncomfortably sharp when rolling or bracing...
But apart from that, it has been a very positive experience, and I am impressed that Seabird has produced a real Greenland kayak with very few commercial concessions, with a finish – functional and visual – and a quality the is impressive for the price.