Launching the Raven TK-1

Posted by Robert N Pruden on Sep 19, 2004

I had a very successful launch today. The Raven: (a) didn't immediately blow apart on contact with the water and sink; (b) didn't tip me over into the stinky duck-poopy water; (c) seemed to track fine although it kept wanting to veer to the right in the direction the wind was blowing (coincidence?); (d) ran very quickly, although I couldn't really judge that one for sure since I was too paranoid to take my eyes off the water right in front of the bow but I did get across the lake very quickly; (e) sliced through the chop as if it wasn't there but did not deflect the chop when it washed over the deck, so I got my lap cooled down a few degrees once or twice; (f) ran very well with the cheapo footpegs I installed temporarily because I didn't have enough time to rig up a footbrace; and (g) liked the simple piece of foam I was sitting on instead of a full-blown racing seat.

The Raven is a very fast design that has no apparent stability. To be honest, I never once attempted to test the stability since I could not get any sense of any primary stability that matched that of the VJ (now called my barge). Who cares about the secondary stability; if I can't find the primary then I'll prolly be swimming after attempting to locate some secondary. It IS a racing shell so if I'm going to risk sitting in it I guess I'd better know what I'm doing. I had to keep paddling the thing to stay upright, at least that's what I had to do. Bear in mind, today's break-in was my first ever attempt to paddle something not related to a barge so it probably felt much worse today than it will next time.

After my first loop around the area near the floating dock I did head off for another much longer jaunt. I ran most of the length of the lake then and had a relatively easier time of it; it didn't take long to do the run.

The larger cockpit opening was a necessity. My knees were always above the deck and I would not have had it any other way: such a postion offered me the best stability for this type of kayak. To help with stability I pressed my knees on the sides of the cockpit rim otherwise I know I would have tipped.

I did take on water when one wave washed over the deck and got me in the lap, the Raven was not designed to shed water well. Then again, it is not a foul weather kayak: it's a racer. I'll have to decide whether or no to add a riser and coaming so I can fit it with a spray skirt. At this point I am not in favour of the idea because my knees would press against the skirt. The cockpit location seems to be good. Looking at the pictures it looks like I have good balance between the bow and stern. I cut the cockpit opening roughly 2" in front of the middle bulkhead. That offered me tons of room for my legs and for seat adjustment.

The kayak stayed level throughout the test run. It did not heave up and down through the chop. It sliced the chop open and glided through level and straight and sent higher chop overtop and onto my lap.

I wish I had remembered to bring my GPS, would have been interesting to see how much speed easy paddling created. I did not at any time pull hard on the paddle, I have to learn how to walk this baby first. I am sure of one thing: once I learn to balance the Raven without thinking, I'll really be able to make her move. It made very little wake that I could see in front, just small ripples.

On the subject of paddle type and length I have a few things to day related to this boat. The Raven requires a shorter loomed paddle. My 230 cm long Grey Owl was way too long. I was dipping my blades in too deeply due to the long loom. The blades were not wide enough either, so I could not get the kind of acceleration that I would expect from the Raven. I'm considering buying a shorter fat-bladed WW paddle for now. I can't afford a good wing paddle right now but I know I can get a cheapo WW that should be effective.

The weather was 8 C with a constant blow of somewhere around 30-35 km/h creating constant chop of roughly 8"'s, enough to mess around with my psyche while learning to turn so unstable a kayak. I worried too much about tipping and at one point I was thinking about tipping on purpose just to get it over with. That was when I finally told myself to get over it and just paddle and if I tip, so be it. I didn't tip and I managed to paddle a little harder but not nearly at an all out racing pace.

Incidently, I have no hatches cut into it nor will I do so. I'll drill a hole into the bulkheads to let air pass through but hatches should be unnecessary since I will never use this boat to do a day trip in. This is strictly an exercise machine.

All in all, I am pleased with Han's design. It is a very different feel and requires a much more refined paddling technique. As I take it out more I am sure I will come to like it even more. In time I am sure I will be able to honestly recommend it to anyone who wants to try something faster and more challenging. I cost me very little to build, maybe $3-400 CDN but I didn't keep close track on the $$$.

Robert N Pruden

Raven Launched Successfully