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Review of Composite Petrel Play

June 1, 2020 - Andy M.

First, to let you know of my paddling style:  I paddle at a very comfortable pace. I'm not a racer. However, I don't dawdle along either. I look at it as kind of paddling at a 'walking' pace.

Most of my paddling is done alone. I paddle with a club occasionally. A typical paddling week is: 5 days (weekdays) doing a 10 mile stretch on the St Johns (with (tide) current one way, against the current the other). Weekends: 1 long paddle (30 to 40 miles), 1 day goofing off: surf and/or rolling play. I really didn't need another kayak, but after hearing about the composite version of the Petrel Play, the thought got into the head and wouldn't leave. I eventually succumbed to the idea and ordered one.

What I was hoping of it:
* To be light enough to carry to & from the water for my daily paddle (1/4 mile round trip) and paddle at a decent pace.
* To be a good surf boat.
* To occasionally use on my 'long' paddles (not as important, but would be a bonus). 
I ordered a Petrel Play in the 'Carbon Lite' layup (and, indulged a bit by ordering it in a pretty 'Red Reflections' carbon; I already have 4 black carbon boats, that's quite enough). I picked up the Petrel Play in early May.  When paddling, depending on mood, weather, location, I normally switch off between kayaks (I've got a few to choose from). 
I dedicated the month of May (picked up the boat on the 2nd, so, paddled it from the 3rd to the 31st; 29 days) for getting to know the PP.

The 'daily stretch' paddle:
A delight to carry to & from the river. Quite a fun boat to paddle. It tracks quite well, considering it's a 14' kayak. I do use the skeg on the PP more than I do with my longer kayaks (probably about 15% of the time Vs about 5% for the longer boats), it's affected a little more to winds & currents. The daily paddle is on the St Johns river (near downtown Jacksonville). It is sort of a 'busy' river (from small motor boats to container ships). I often look behind me to make sure all is clear; with the PP, not only can I look behind, I can enhance this with a quick turn & return to get a better look behind me (I'm comparing this kayak more and more to a WW boat). Since I don't use this kayak exclusively for surf, I prefer to have the hip pads 'looser' for non-surf/rolling sessions. For now, I just take them out (I got them for a good fit for surf), but I may get another set that are a bit narrower.


Surf (and rolls):
The 1st few times in surf I was 'taking it easy', learning how the kayak reacted in waves, though, I will mention one thing that kind of stood out. On one particular wave that flipped me (this was in a moderate surf session, 4-5'), without really thinking (almost instinctive), the kayak (& I) rolled right over and continued surfing down the wave. Now, I know this might be expected, but it was quite natural with the PP. Today (the last day of May), it was warm, the water was warm, I wanted to get wet. I went to Hanna park. There wasn't much surf, so I thought I'd just be out there practicing various rolls. After a 'warmup' paddle over to the St Johns jetty and back, I noticed a mob of surfers at the poles catching some smallish, but smooth waves. After testing out the PP with a number of rolls, I played in the smooth, 2' waves. Wow, once again, the sea kayak turns into a WW kayak. It's kind of like Clark Kent turning into Superman after going into the phone booth (if you remember that superman). As soon as you give the PP a good lean on a wave, it reacts immediately, it does whatever you want, one side of the wave to the other. Looking forward to more surf sessions with this nimble Sea/WW kayak. Now, back to the rolls for a moment. Bottom line - it rolls quite easily. One 'quick' roll that I like (don't know if it has a name) is what I call the 'side of the pool' roll. No set up, just use the paddle (as the side of the pool) - punch down on it and 'hip flick' up. Works very well in the PP. I do need to become aware of how the chine affects this roll - just something to get used to (it's in the timing).
It hand rolls almost as easily as my (very low volume) Tahe Greenland and easier than my Sterling Ice Kap ( - I think. Note that this was the first time practicing rolls with the PP, to be accurate I should have all boats to compare at the same time).
I'll be using this kayak as my Sunday - take it easy day - often this summer (the Tahe Greenland will be getting less attention).

Long paddles:
I took the PP around Cumberland Island a couple of weeks ago. Conditions were benign, a light south wind. So no great help or hinderance. I judged the tides pretty good (not hard to do) and did the paddle around in 11 hours (47miles, 4.22mph avg). This mildly surprised me. I expected the 14ft 'rec/surf' boat to take me longer to go around.  Normally, the day after the Cumberland paddle (I do it roughly once a month), I 'feel' it a bit. I still 'felt' it the following morning, but no more that usual. I will use this kayak on future long paddles.

Nice features:
* I love the deck rigging ("Maroske Fittings"). Flush, good looking, no (stainless steel) deck hardware to rust (I paddle saltwater). (When I mentioned this to Joey, he said that's why they call it StainLESS)
* Day hatch - 1/2 the bulkhead area of most. At first I thought I would dislike the smaller hatch, being used to filling it up on my long paddling days. I have just become a little more efficient, and store items I won't need at sea in the rear hatch.
* Skeg - no jam, very easy slide control. I'm used to other kayak skegs jamming easily when launching from surfy beaches. The PP has a karitek skeg - installed offset from center a bit.
* WEIGHT: for me, this is #1. Several years ago, my back went out on me. Since then, I've only been using lightweight kayaks. Since I 'needed' it, I spent the extra bucks for a VERY lightweight (yet still strong) layup - 30lbs. (TurningPoint offers several layup options, 30-40lbs)

Stats for usage of Petrel Play May3 => May31 (29 consecutive days)
Trips: 30  (2 on one day was a club paddle & a 'surf' paddle on my own)
Long trips (over 40 miles): 4
Surf sessions: 3
(short) Day paddles: 24
Total Miles: 445 (465 for the month, but used different kayak 1st 2 days of month)
Avg Speed (May 3 to May31 (ie: Petrel Play only); not including club trip or surf sessions): 4.09

How it rates with my other kayaks (Tahe, Epic, Sterling):
Well, you know, it's a different kayak. However, if we ever get an 'evacuation notice' due to a hurricane, it will be one of the 2 kayaks on the roof of the car as I drive away.
It's a fun kayak that fits the 3 primary reasons I got it.

Needless to say (witness all other comments in the 'Review' section), the quality of the build is exceptional.
It seems to be a tough boat, even though I have the  lightest layup option.
I don't think I'll paddle it in a hurricane, but will need to determine with testing just how short of that I'll bring it out in. Hoping for some (well) offshore Tropical Storms this season bringing us some nice waves.

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