Last Sunday, we went down to Osprey Sea Kayak to get some work done on H’s kayak and Big Red. H needed her backband fixed and her deck lines tightened. Bug Red needed to get the rudder lines attached so that they stop falling off. Carl and Sam are our go to kayak repair people.
They also sell P&H kayaks, but that wasn’t part of the plan. I think P&H and I think Cetus and I was not keen on a Cetus. I really had my brain set on the Tiderace kayaks. Getting to New York was a hurdle I was prepared to jump.
When we pulled up I saw that Osprey had a used Nigel Foster Legend for sale. The Legend is a classic sea kayak and has always intrigued me, so I wanted to give it a try.
The Legend was fine. It fit me well. It turned OK for a touring kayak. The hull was in good shape. There was nothing about the Legend that made me change my mind about trying out the Tiderace kayaks.
As I got out of the Legend Carl slid an Aries 155 onto the boat ramp and told me to try it out. As soon as I backed into the river and turned the kayak, I knew it was a play boat. It spun around like a white water kayak. I paddled it around the river by the shop for awhile and was increasingly impressed. It not only turned like a dream, it went pretty straight when needed. According to H I was smiling the whole time I was paddling it.
After I dragged myself out of the kayak, I asked the obvious question: "Do you have any in stock?" They did have one: orange over orange with yellow trim.
Before I plopped down the plastic and gave up on the Tideraces, I had questions. The Aries is under 16 feet long; can it keep up with a pod of Ceti? Can it be packed up for a weekend of camping? I had read a few reviews, and knew that the reviewers thought the answers were yes. However, I wanted to hear it first hand from an actual Aries paddler. Carl uses an Aries 150 as his primary kayak. Carl and Sam both assured me that the Aries could keep up with a Cetus for most paddles and could carry enough gear for a weekend with some creative packing.
Like all kayaks, the Aries is about trade offs. The Aries is optimized for playing on the ocean and not for expeditions. It is at its best on bouncy water, surf, and dodging rocks. As an ocean play kayak, it is designed to have decent speed to get to the play spots and carry some extra gear. On an expedition, it is not at its best, but still OK.
So I pulled the trigger. It needed a keep strip and a compass, which was good since our car couldn’t carry three kayaks home...
I picked it today and took it for a break-in paddle on the Charles River in Waltham; it is the section of the Charles known as the lake district. The river is not the optimal place to paddle an Aries-the water is flat and there is not much to dodge-but that was sort of the point. I wanted to know that I hadn’t boxed myself into a corner with a kayak that was only good for the extreme stuff.
It was a nice paddle along this route. I did take time to play with turning and finding the edges. The Aries is a very turny kayak; I had fun just spinning it around a few times…. The straight line performance was good. The Aries didn’t feel particularly slow, nor did it feel fast. I spent most of the time trying to find issues and I could not really come up with one. The paddle was a nice confirmation that I made a solid purchase. I cannot wait to get it out on some real water….