I know a lady who’s something to behold. She’s flawlessly outfitted with curves in all the right places. Lothar and I think she’s perfect. She’s a Seaward Passat G3, a lanky 22-foot double sea kayak; she’s a work of art, finely crafted for class and, more importantly, long distance touring. Quite simply, I’m under her spell.
Mostly, Lothar and I call our boat the Mother Ship (I was recently reminded that Jill Fredston in Rowing to Latitude: journey along the Arctic’s edge had the same name for her boat, long before we did). Sometimes, we lovingly call our boat the Scow. She was built in Ladysmith, British Columbia, the same small Vancouver Island town that I was born in.
It was inevitable that I write this post…
O.K. I’m a bit behind here. On the ninth anniversary of buying our Seaward Passat G3, I’m finally going to share a collection of thoughts about our boat. In part, my motivation comes from a friend who was recently looking to buy a double sea kayak. But more importantly, every time we’re on a trip, I marvel at how right our boat is for us and I think about sharing our discovery with others. The Seaward Passat G3 is awesome, in the true sense of the word.
In Like Paddler, Like Kayak, Tim Shuffle says:
Like pets, we choose boats that resemble us, and how we see ourselves. In my case: tall, skinny, serious, slow-twitch for long distances, but with idiosyncrasies—design quirks and bit of a playful side.
Follow these intuitions and they can guide us to a perfect fit. Ignore them at our peril. Some things are inevitable, and we inevitably orbit back to them.
Buying the Q-boat felt like this, like coming home.
Well for me, choosing the Seaward Passat G3 felt like finding home where it was meant to be: where the energies of our minds, our muscles, winds, and currents merged with our boat and all that it carried; home became the journey; the journey became home. This is my story about how we found our home on the sea.
Step 2: Buy a double sea kayak
In 2004, we set out on the 12-hour drive from Smithers, a small community in northwestern British Columbia (B.C.), to the overwhelming (to me) metropolis of Vancouver in southwestern B.C.; our mission, to buy a sea kayak. This was the second big step towards our dream of paddling from our house in Smithers to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. In the first step, over the previous winter, we resolved the great double sea kayak versus single sea kayak debate. Feeling confident that we had assessed the risk (of divorce) as best as possible, we embraced uncertainty and were finally on our way to shop for a double.
Step 3: Do we want a Necky Nootka Plus or Seaward Passat G3?
We found it easy to narrow down brands and makes of double kayaks to two choices, the Necky Nootka Plus or the Seaward Passat G3 but then the process got more challenging. The answer was definitely not clear, so we were keen to take both of them out for a spin.
First, we went to Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak to rent a Necky Nooka Plus.
We found the boat, geared up, and then paddled past tens of paddlers, many of them apparently out for their very first time in a kayak. We headed out to a quiet spot in the bay; I hugged the deck; Lothar executed a fluid roll. Wow, that was easy! We (or mostly he) pulled off a couple more. The boat felt wonderful. Excited, we arranged to take it out for an overnight trip into Indian Arm. We came back completely satisfied.
Next, we went to Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre on Granville Island to rent a Seaward Passat G3.
We packed up the boat and then head to Porteau Cove in Howe Sound for an overnight trip to Anvil Island. As we prepared to launch, I was forced to face another moment of truth. This was my third day in a kayak, ever; there were large white caps out there; and I knew there was no way that I was going to get Lothar, a passionate whitewater kayaker, to reconsider our options. I wanted to be with the kayakers in Deep Cove. Instead, I pushed down fear and off we paddled, a mere 4.5 km to solid ground. I survived!
Some people are missing innate responses that others have to some novel and potentially dangerous situations; I envy adventurous outliers in some ways, but in other ways I’m happy with a learning style that mixes incremental steps to building knowledge and skills with a hint of pushing my limits, progressing at my own pace.
When we arrived at camp, we prepared to roll in the quiet bay. This time we tried several rolls but we only executed one successfully. Scrutinizing the process, we thought that it must have been easier for Lothar to roll the Necky Nootka Plus because the cockpits were closer together; thereby, positioning him a bit closer to the centre of the boat. In the Passat G3, he was positioned where the boat starts to narrow at the stern. We concluded that if we were in a situation that was so rough that either of these boats get knocked over, not only have we screwed up but it would be unlikely that we could roll (and even if we did, the probability of getting knocked over again would be high). Best, focus on learning about weather and sea conditions that could potentially get us into trouble and focus on not putting ourselves in dangerous situations. With that discussion out of the way, we took this boat back completely satisfied too. Now, we needed some time to think about our options.
We head off to Mountain Equipment Co-op, a favourite haunt.
We talked to a enthusiastic young fellow about sea kayaking gear at Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). For the first time in a long time, I was entirely out of my element for gear selection. Lothar was busy trying to reconcile our assistant’s recommendations with what he knew about whitewater paddling. Even though I almost always get knowledgeable service at MEC, often by people who have used the gear extensively, things weren’t quite meshing this time. For example, a recommendation for paddle shaft length seemed far too long. We didn’t sweat it. Instead, we took mental notes (without buying a thing because we were clearly not ready yet) and we headed off to the next destination on our list.
Finally, we found what we were looking for but it wasn’t what we were expecting.
We arrived at a sea kayaking shop near the entrance to Granville Island. A cheery, unassuming fellow met us at a bookshelf near the entrance (books are magnets for Lothar and me). With box of sushi in one hand and chopsticks in the other, he asked if he could help us. From here, we found ourselves wandering through a series of conversations about most of the gear in the shop and more. Mostly, Lothar and I led the conversations: like a couple of kids scurrying from tide pool to tide pool. Our guide played along with us, a twinkle in his eye (yes, really). I started to feel like I found a long lost friend, a kindred spirit contagious with a bout of passion.
We were exploring new territory about paddle makes, styles, and lengths; and whether we should buy a Necky Nooka Plus or a Seaward Passat G3. Our guide asked us about our interests and needs; he talked about the similarities and differences among the options available; and he talked about what he saw as some of the pros and cons of each. He wouldn’t give us answers, one-way or another.
When we told him about our dream to paddle from Smithers to Glacier Bay, he was thrilled. He was beaming when he told us about paddling with his wife in a double sea kayak, highlighting her steady cadence, strength, and perseverance. I was captivated by wisdom (understated but obvious) and I felt relieved that we had finally found the knowledge, experience, and advice we were looking for.
A few hours flew by with no one in the store but us. Eventually, we bought a bunch of gear on our list. When the time came for good-byes, I said, “I’m sorry, we should have introduced ourselves a long time ago, I’m Deb Wellwood. Lothar followed with his introduction. In response, we got, “I’m John Dowd.” “John Dowd!” one of us said, “we’ve been reading your book!” John wrote the Sea-kayaking: a manual for long-distance touring, an outstanding resource for anyone dreaming up sea kayaking adventures. Suddenly, I was thinking what I was feeling earlier. We just experienced a full on immersion in preparation for long-distance sea kayak touring with the greatest mentor a couple of novices could wish for.
John: if you’re reading this, you’ve had a huge affect on our sea kayaking adventures. If you don’t remember us, that’s o.k. Thank you!
Now we’re set for making decisions.
From here the process got easier and we decided on a Seaward Passat G3.
Here’s some of what Seaward Kayaks has to say about it:
The Passat G3 has greater stability than most singles. It tracks well, with or without the rudder, edges easily and effortlessly tours at 5 knots. It is safe, strong and seaworthy even in challenging waters. It has become Seaward’s best selling composite kayak.
This kayak’s “Greenland” style bow, sleek graceful lines, solid feel and expedition capacity make a combination of speed, comfort and storage that is unrivalled in a touring double/triple.
Some key points that tipped us in favour of the Seaward Passat G3:
- Buy local: handcrafted in Ladysmith, B.C.
- Reputation: we talked to a few people that were extremely satisfied by the quality of workmanship of their Passat G3s.
- Price: we got a discount.
Kevlar or Fiberglass?
We chose Kevlar over Fiberglass because we were planning on long trips so minimizing weight was important, definitely the right choice for us. I can say now that I wouldn’t want to be carrying a boat, up and down rugged beaches, that was any heavier. I almost always notice when Lothar tries to leave gear in the boat for the carry (hoping I won’t notice).
On the Lazy Rando’s Blog, a commenter (that didn’t leave his real name) said,
In a double you want as much glass as you can handle without a forklift. The stiffer, stronger and heavier the better. Kevlar is for ladies who cannot lift a glass single boat over their head. Flexy kevlar hulls also make it more likely you will flex-damage the gelcoat.
To this, I say, “huh?” The weight of a boat is one element to consider where a lighter boat would be an asset for adolescents, women, and men who can’t or don’t want to be lifting heavier boats over their head or up and down a beach for that matter. A lighter boat also comes in handy for people who are challenged with reaching high boat racks. Some boat racks now have a rear cradle designed for one end of the kayak to be lifted into it and then the boat can be loaded by lifting the other end and fluidly sliding it into place. In my opinion, the Seaward Passat G3 is the boat of choice and Kevlar is the material of choice (considering strength to weight) for long distance sea kayaking trips. If you find that the cost is prohibitive (we thought about benefits versus costs over years, perhaps decades, of use) or you’re keen to press a heavy kayak, two times a day, for days on end, then fiberglass might be the material of choice for you.
Increasing the Size of the Front Hatch
We asked for a custom modification to move the front bulkhead aft, making the front hatch larger, while still leaving enough room so that either of us can fit in the front cockpit. This was a smart move on our part because it’s easier for us to use the space in the front hatch. This option won’t work or make sense for everyone; for example, if one or both of you are taller than 5′ 9″ (or so), you’d like to keep all of your options open for paddling partners, or you are planning to sell your boat at some point.
Picking custom colours.
The Lazy Rando definitely caught my attention when he said,
Now onto the really important stuff like what colour I’d get?…hahaha…=-) Sharon will get to pick the colour, but I’m leaning towards something simple and classic like the red/black/white scheme shown below.
Girl job or not, I knew what I wanted, something highly visible in wilderness bathed in shades of blue, green, grey, and white, for as far as the eye can see. How about yellow, orange, or red? Better yet, let’s try all three.
Here’s why: A pilot who I flew aerial telemetry with, Larry Frey, put me onto the idea. I flew with him for several years—clocking 100s of hours—searching for wolverines, fishers, and grizzly bears (and occasionally wolves and caribou) that were outfitted with radio-transmitters. Flying for four hours at a time (limited by fuel and my bladder), we covered massive areas of the interior of B.C. searching for the animals we were studying. Aerial telemetry is probably among the most dangerous activities that I have done for work (after driving on remote logging roads, running gauntlets of logging and ore trucks; and driving long distances on highways to get home from a shift of fieldwork, particularly on weekends, holidays, and late at night). A large part of the risk in doing aerial telemetry is associated with twirling around in tight circles, barely above the ground; one wing reaching for the sky and the other, for the ground; suddenly, switching from counter clockwise to clockwise and then back again. Negotiating G-forces (created by gravity and acceleration) and prop-wash (wind currents kicked up by the plane’s propeller), pilot and navigator work together to point the radio antenna mounted on the wing directly at the radio transmitter on the animal. We know that we’ve found our furry friend when we have the crispest, loudest radio signal…beep, beep, beep..pinging in our headsets (sometimes we even see them). I love flying, particularly for telemetry, but given the circumstances I enjoyed it even more when Larry was pilot. His flying skills were outstanding. He is one of a few pilots who I have flown with who become one with their craft, in a way that I can’t describe. I can feel it and when I do it comes a deep sense of freedom steeped in trust, admiration, and appreciation for their knowledge and skill.
When Larry and I were searching for animals, we had lots of time to talk about our respective passions, flying and wildlife ecology. On one of our flights, he told me that he picked yellow for the primary colour on his Cessna 182 so that if ever he was forced to land the plane or the plane crashed it would be easier for Search and Rescue to find him. And then he told me about how he was involved in a search for a white plane. As I recall, they never found it. The story stuck with me.
More rationale: The Royal Canadian Air Force Search and Rescue Helicopters are red and yellow. The Canadian Coast Guard ships are red and white. The take home point for me: if there’s any chance we might need help out there, why not make it easier for people to find us (for our safety and theirs)?
And then I found a nifty new seat.
In 2013, I ordered a new padded molded seat that Seaward was producing as a retrofit. In 2004, the stock seats were cushions that doubled as paddle floats. I had heard about the new seats in the eleventh hour of our preparation for our trip from Kitimat to Telegraph Cove. Barbara of Seaward Kayaks was keen to help. She pulled through and promptly delivered us one of the first seats off the line. My comfort level for continuous sitting time sky rocketed on that trip. I was so excited, I wrote back to tell her:
I don’t think I got back to you after out trip from Kitimat to Telegraph Cove last summer. I LOVE the new seat. It easily doubled or tripled the time I can spend comfortably in the boat (I think we did an uncivilized 6+ hours one day). I am thinking we have somewhere around 10 months in that boat and 8,000-ish km [perhaps many more…I have yet to tally them up]. Still going strong.
Summing It Up
Key Assets of the Passat G3 (from my perspective):
- Impeccable detail in boat form and function, without over doing it.
- Master craftsmanship.
- Hatches stay dry. The neoprene and Kevlar covers for hatches and nylon covers for cockpits fit and function perfectly.
- All deck lines and bungees work great. So far with more than 365 days of paddling time, only one cord has frayed (at the end of our last trip).
- Rudder works great and stores well.
- Lots of room for big adventures. Without too much fuss, we can get a month of food into the boat, and although much of our food is dehydrated, I don’t scrimp on details (herbs, spices, condiments etc.). We can even find room to jiggle a few bags of wine into spaces remaining.
- Cockpits are relatively far apart so we each have lots of space around us, even allowing us to paddle out of sync (but why would we want to do that…).
- The UHMW keel guard comes in handy for lifting a loaded or partially loaded boat at the bow and then pivoting or dragging it (gently!) on the stern on smooth, soft surfaces (for example, to wiggle it off a sandy beach and into the water).
- A relatively tough boat (within reason): we’ve hit at least 3 rocks, with a fair amount of force, only scraping the gel coat where we hit. The most noticeable damage (cosmetic) was at the bulkheads: the section of boat that doesn’t flex.
- For a 22 foot boat, it’s relatively light.
- We transport the empty boat sitting upright on a Thule Rack set-up for a Toyota Forerunner. We haven’t noticed any issues with the Kevlar being damaged due to flexing.
- We use a Wheeleez Tuff Tire Canoe/Kayak Cart to walk onto the ferry (in B.C. and Alaska). We always get a cheery greeting and lots of help from the ship’s crew to make sure that the boat is tucked in safe and sound for the journey. With two people, walking a kayak onto a ferry requires a relatively small amount of effort and it comes with major savings in cost and carbon footprint (an important consideration for us).
Now that I have a cushy seat, which Seaward Kayaks currently installs as a standard feature, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’ve spent months marveling at the simplicity, practicality, and beauty of our boat. She glows like the sun sitting ahead of me on cold, dark rainy days, warming my spirits. She cuts through glassy waters with barely a ripple. She dances on waves, chop, and chaotic water with incredible stability. I am delighted to report, we definitely picked the right boat for us.
Here are some more reviews for the Seaward Passat G3 that I found: