Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kruger Sea Wind Canoe

My most recent boat acquisition is a Kruger Sea Wind canoe. While at first glance it may look like a kayak or hybrid of some type with its fore and aft decks and foot-controlled rudder, it is in fact a solo canoe and is paddled with a single blade paddle from the middle of the boat.

The Kruger Sea Wind was designed by the late Verlen Kruger - a product of more than a 100.000 miles of paddling experience (more than any other man in history) and was his ultimate expedition boat after more than 40 prototypes.

Unlike a sea kayak, the Kruger Sea Wind has a long, open cockpit and a comfortable seat that adjusts up and down to suit conditions and type and length of paddle being used.  With its high peaked decks and raised coaming, it's a dry ride in all but the worst conditions and when needed there is a custom fitted waterproof fabric spray deck to seal the cockpit completely.  At 17'2" long with 28" of beam, the boat has a lot more volume than the typical touring sea kayak as well.  With no bulkheads or hatches, gear can be shoved fore and aft under the decks in large dry bags.  The seat can be quickly removed to clear the cockpit floor for sleeping aboard, if necessary.

I've always wanted to try one of these Kruger-designed canoes since back in the 1980's when I was planning my own big kayak trips that were partly inspired by Verlen Kruger's exploits, particularly his 28,000-mile Ultimate Canoe Challenge and his 20,000-mile Two-Continent Canoe Expedition:

While I still like sea kayaks and feel that they are the most seaworthy small boats available, particularly for nasty surf conditions and the like, the Kruger Sea Wind would have many advantages on trips like my journey from the lakes of Canada down the Mississippi River.  For one, it's much easier to portage than a kayak, with a special portage yoke built into the bottom of the seat, that can be quickly deployed by flipping it upside down in it's rack.  Then, it's easier to quickly get in and out of than a kayak, useful for pulling over shoals, logs and other obstacles and landing on muddy riverbanks.  It can carry much more in the way of gear and supplies, allowing you to easily travel a month between resupply.  And finally, it's more comfortable than a kayak, with room to move around and change position, rather than being shoehorned into a narrow cockpit with no options.   The long cockpit also allows for setting up a camera tripod in front of the paddling position - great for wildlife photography - especially from a stable platform like this boat is.  It's also easier to access camera gear, change lenses, etc. than in a kayak.  Most of the video clip at the end of this post was filmed with my Nikon V1 on the tripod in front of me as I paddled.

The main reason I waited so long to try one of these boats was price and availability.  All Kruger Sea Winds are custom-built one at a time by Mark Przedwojewski, who learned the craft directly from Verlen.  And all are super-strong lay-ups of 10 layers of Kevlar, making for a lightweight, yet almost indestructible boat.  A new Sea Wind will set you back around $5500 with no accessories such as the spray deck.  Every once in awhile, a used one does show up, but most owners keep their Krugers for life.  Mine recently came up for sale by a friend of the prior owner, after she passed away last year.  I snatched it up as soon as I found the ad on a paddling classified site, then drove to Minneapolis, Minnesota to pick it up.  Getting it used, I saved a good deal and got the spray deck, bimini top and cockpit cover.  It's got a few character scratches and dings, but it's Kruger and these boats are built to be paddled, not looked at.  Still, it does look good to my eyes anyway, even if it's not perfect.  I really love the lines of the hull and decks.  It is certainly one slippery boat, and moves through the water with less effort than any canoe I've paddled.

Here's a short video I put together from a recent three-day paddling and camping trip with Ernest Herndon on Bay Springs Lake, which is part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in north Mississippi.  Ernest was paddling my Necky Tesla sea kayak most of the time while I put the Kruger through its paces.  He shot the scenes of me paddling the Kruger from the bank during a short break, while the rest was shot from the cockpit while I paddled:

To learn more about these fantastic boats, visit Kruger Canoes.  To read the Verlen Kruger story, check out the book:  All Things Are Possible: The Verlen Kruger Story: 100,000 Miles by Canoe.   Look for updates here too as I try this boat out in a variety of conditions and environments.  I'm still in the process of getting it set up for travel and thinking about where I might like to take it.
"A boat is freedom, not just a way to reach a goal."
Bernard Moitessier - A Sea Vagabond's World


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