Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hybrid 550 Update

I bought the Hybrid 550 as I see it as a serious expedition boat that can carry a big load but at the same time can be used for everyday paddling. Its manouverable, nimble and easy to do 360 degree on the spot turns. It edges well and rolls nicely.

I have only paddled it three times and am still getting used to it but on Tuesday in a 15 knot NE wind it went well between Watsons Bay and Frenchmans Bay. It seems to get onto waves easily and the rudder, whilst nothing like a Mirage rudder, is effective if its "turned on" at precisly the right time. It doesn't work if you simply push the pedals, it has to be engaged with the sea and the body in unison. I wouldn't bother using the rudder at all in flat water.

The Hybrid 550 is fast but stable. It's exceptionally well behaved in rough water and the big edge creates an effective platform on which to turn quickly, important when in rock gardens or when you find you need to face off fast to an oncoming wave. I found this out today when Rob Mercer, Tsunami Ranger Jim Kakuk and I spent some time bouncing around The Gap near South Head.

The fittings are all solid and well thought out. I especially like the front day hatch and feel the centre located "second" day hatch behind the seat would be less prone to flooding than the offset hatch. The toggles are neat and comfortable to hold. I don't think they would be effective tow points as a lot of tow ropes use large karabiners which would slip over them. I suppose you could always just use a deck line or tie a loop under the "golf ball" on which to clip on to.

The seat is hand carved and is really comfortable (Andre tells me it takes him 3 hours to fit one seat!). Whilst a lot lighter than my old boat I did find it harder to shoulder carry but if you hold it from the day hatch and cockpit its easy to do the old clean & jerk lift to shoulder height and then place onto the car (even if your short).

I get the feeling the boat might actually be better suited to a bigger person as its light on the water with only me in it. Today I tried it with a few dry bags full of sand and it sat much better (I'm 64 kg). This is good as its the expeditions that I most look forward to doing with this boat so the improvement in handling with extra weight would be an advantage.

the round hatches are actually larger than oval hatches


Eastern Horizon said...

What is the spherical lifting / grab toggle like to hold?

Will it perform well under the weight of a loaded kayak?

Matt said...

For short carries there fine. For long carries or for laden boats I would always carry from the hull. I've seen heaps of deck fittings get ripped out by people lifting boats by deck lines - especially ones that get used a lot as the plastic cleats get UV damage and snap easily.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Queensland and have been looking at this boat. I'm the same weight as you. Am I too light? Your review is so positive, it sounds great, but it costs a lot of money and I won't be able to test paddle it first. Please comment.
Islander Joe.

Matt said...

Anonymous, After using the boat all weekend at an instructors course all I can say is the more I get used to the H550 the more I am enjoying it and the better it gets!

The big test will be following seas - It's going to be hard to beat the Mirage 530 in those conditions, time will tell!

Anonymous said...

Will you be posting a review on the following sea performance? Maybe I should just get a mirage?

Anonymous said...

Any further reviews on the sea performance Matt?

Matt said...

The H550 is growing on me more every time I paddle it. I still can't go as fast downwind as I could with the M530 but I'm told this is more to do with me than the boat. I admit to having serious rudder dependancy issues from only ever having paddled a Mirage 530 (which I estimate I paddled over 10,000 km)

Next chance for a decent sea is Saturday so will post a report on this trip next week.