Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hybrid 550 1 year on

A lot can happen during the first year of a relationship. Initial attractions give way to more meaningful and deeper characteristics.

Even little nuances are now no more than a distant memory. Things like a balanced carry - the Hybrid balances perfectly on the shoulder and is easy to solo carry. Initially I had issues keeping the boat straight in following seas and down waves but I suspect that was because the Mirage 530 has such an efficient rudder that I relied on it far too much. With the Hybrid the rudder is only for fine tuning slight directional changes when underway, its not for turning or manoeuvring over close quarters. For this its big fat edge is brought into service to edge and lean into incredibly tight turns. I have no problem doing 360 degree on the spot turns.

The Hybrid is strong and well built. I mounted a sail on it and even when a 40 knot wind bent my mast and mangled the stainless steel universal joint bolted to the deck the laminate was unaffected apart from a few hairline cracks in the gelcoat.

The boat is incredibly stable. In really rough conditions I feel comfortable and the boat is predictable and secure. Even with a sail reefing violently it still doesn’t go over. In flat water I can paddle it like a stand up paddle board! Impressive for a boat only 53cm wide.

I regularly do a 40 km paddle and have always made it a rule not to plan anything on those nights as I’ll most likely nod off. I am simply less fatigued than I used to be in my previous boat. When loaded with overnight camping gear it maintains its liveliness and manoeuvrability. I have now done four overnighters with the Hybrid and on one trip purposely overloaded the boat just to see how it would feel if I had three weeks worth of gear. I finished a 35 km day into a 15 knot headwind feeling only slightly more tired than I would have in an empty boat. I still maintain the Mirage 530 is a great sea kayak but it behaves very differently when loaded. The significantly increased volume of the Hybrid probably has something to do with its load carrying advantage.

Skills that I always struggled with have now come easy. I can roll better than before and can do a high brace recovery with ease. For a flexible person layback rolls should be no problem as the rear deck is nice and low. I’ve been told that the Hybrid has made me a better paddler.

The deck layout is functional and the front day hatch useful. I did change the ergonomic toggles because although they looked great and may have been revolutionary most people complained of them slipping through the hand and I find regular toggles are simply more comfortable.

Other points worth considering are its epoxy construction. As this is primarily an expedition boat I like the idea that a tube of araldite is all I need to effect a repair or mount saddles etc.

I’m looking forward to the next 12 months and beyond and dreaming of a big trip which will be great in the Hybrid 550.
Happy paddling the Hybrid 550
The only benefit I got from Andre when I purchased the boat was a free spraydeck, which I believe everyone else who bought one got as well! See the HYBRiD website to arrange a test paddle.