I love this kayak! Her Majesty was made in Nottingham, England by Valley Sea Kayaks, one of the most world-renowned sea kayak makers for performance in rough seas, expeditions, and long standing quality. As a larger paddler, the key thing that I wanted was assurance of a wet reentry in rough conditions which the spacious cockpit of the Aquanaut HV kayak has. Second to that, I wanted high storage capacity and as much speed as could still be got given the first two needs. After sitting in one at Jen Kleck’s Aqua Adventures shop, I knew it was a good fit. It fits three bear cans if need be and I’ve been able to bring all the miscellaneous items of gear simply because they fit and I can still keep 4 knots on flat water.
Her name is now Her Majesty Turtle for many personal reasons. Since I’m living out of this vessel for almost six months and have left my apartment, she is like my turtle shell. And since she is made with a high strength Kevlar-carbon layup she is as strong as a turtle shell, built for rough treatment and speeds about the same as a sea turtle, 3-5 knots. It was recommended by a friend named Trish to have a gender neutral name to avoid the bad ju ju that comes from a maritime history of lady named boats that have shipwrecked or sank. Therefore “Turtle” appeals. Yet the commanding respect of “Her Majesty” was too funny to ignore and fits with my laptop, which I called “My Precious” throughout grad school. While deciding between them, Kim asked, ‘why not have both names?’ And that did it, hence, she will be known as Her Majesty Turtle.
I had a few typical modifications made to my kayak although this already superb expedition kayak already had excellent features that I’ll discuss as well.
Aquanaut HV Features That I Admire
- Curved bulkhead behind seat for quick and complete emptying of flooded cockpit.
- British style sea kayak – skeg, good rocker, and fish-shaped design for stability. Very sporty and responsive giving me lots to continue learning from as I progress as paddler.
- The skeg cable has an extra 3-4 inches near the hand deploy slide that can be utilized in the field if the cable kinks in the exposed section between skeg and hull. Therefore you only need a replacement skeg kit if the described extension option isn’t adequate or the skeg blade is lost.
- The details like strength building lamination under all the fasteners for deck rigging make it easy to change out the deck rigging many times without incurring leakage or damage to the holes.
For most fiberglass or carbon kayaks, the keel is still the area that will be impacted the most from launching and landing and scrapes to the hull because it is often the first and last in contact. This is really a materials problem where the gel coat above these materials doesn’t deal well with abrasion. So I decided to add more layers to the keel which is frequently done for expeditions where a lot of damage is expected.
I went with Sterling in Bellingham, WA, based on a good recommendation. As a kayak designer and repair guy for the best kayakers in the world, Sterling gets a firsthand view at failure modes for boats and can improve on them with his designs. Some of the insights I liked were the off center skeg to reduce damage, ideas about flooding day hatches, and reducing cable kinks for skegs, which I personally dislike after replacing Solveig’s skeg cable (my plastic kayak). An impressively, Sterling was able to color match the red trim color perfectly.
A quick job, this thru hole and rope loop help me clear the skeg of those nuisance rocks that bind the skeg from deploying instead of having to pull out a knife and clear it. It is very useful when a friend is nearby and can pull on the loop to deploy the skeg while on the water.
A permanent compass at the fore deck is very valuable for tracking and navigation. In Ryan’s back yard, I confirmed its calibration at 0 and 270 degrees magnetic against my other marine compass to be sure that it worked properly. I should have done 4 directions, but the other compass hadn’t even been checked that well. I did it by putting the 2nd ‘good’ compass far out along a 0 degree line made using other measurements and ensuring that the new Brunton 70P also read o degrees. Then I aligned the lubber lines with the kayak and some distant points that I added. Finally I fastened it to the boat with a little help of 3M sealant. I used ¼ inch stainless screws instead of the ½ inch screws provided with the 70P Brunton compass on the recommendation of Rob Avery, and that was a very valuable recommendation because as it happens, the screws did come all the way through the Kevlar layer and if they were another ¼ inch long, they would certainly scrape me or gear at some point.