So this is not a boat for a 1st or 2nd year paddler, the initial tippy nature of the boat would put off a lot of folks. When I first started paddling the Nordkapp, I found testing how far I could edge the boat over would usually end up with the inevitable quick brace, or even the occasional capsize. Then quickly roll back up hopefully before anyone witnessed the untimely event. I was fortunate enough to be right next to Alex one afternoon while on one of the city lakes when I did a “quick roll”, only to see his puzzled look and “what was that?” The reward for learning the subtle edge control on the Nordkapp, is a very maneuverable boat, it turns very easily, and has the same good edging qualities either empty or loaded. Usually a maneuverable boat doesn’t track well with out using the skeg, but in calm conditions, the Nordkapp tracks well loaded or light without using the skeg.
We had a seasick paddler while on a weekend trip on Superior; he was having a hard time staying upright in the wind and waves. We stuck a paddle float on each end of his paddle, and tied on to him for a tow. I hooked up in the middle of a tandem tow, and the boat handled it beautifully. So far the biggest conditions I’ve gotten into with the Nordkapp were 3ft waves, and 20kt winds. The boat seems to be more comfortable in bigger waves than the choppy 1 to 2 footers or reflection waves off rocky shorelines. Here again, with the added weight of all the necessary gear for a weekend on the islands, the boat will settle into the water nicely. Add some wind, and the skeg becomes a real nice feature. I’ve found the boat to be sensitive to the slightest change in how much skeg is used. The boat can be paddled without, but the constant sweep strokes, and the subtle nature of edging the boat to control wind cocking, makes the skeg almost a necessity at my skill level. It is predictable in winds, and I’ve never felt I couldn’t control a heading as long as the skeg was working. The skeg adds quite a bit of stability while underway. If you reach down and quickly raise the skeg while at a good speed, you feel the skeg release the water as the boat quickly starts heading upwind.
When I first picked up the boat, the skeg was very stiff to operate. When I used it on an Apostle Island trip this spring, I forgot the skeg was down when I pulled the boat up on shore, and kinked the cable. I spent the rest of the trip with the skeg jammed at half way. What I should have done right away was remove the cable and lubricate it with some LPS 1 or a similar lubricant, I don’t know what Valley recommends, but LPS products have worked well for me on aircraft cables. I also now keep some repair tools, and hardware on trips, in case of another incident with the cable, even though it has worked flawlessly since I lubed it. The only problem I have with it now, is I tend to hit the control lever on occasion while paddling. If the lever were flush with the deck, this wouldn’t happen.
The Nordkapp is not the high volume boat like I thought an expedition boat would be. It is only slightly more than the Romany HV, but the real nice feature is the oval hatches. I will have to admit, I don’t have the backpacker mentality. I like to bring along things that make the trip comfortable … my Dutch oven comes to mind. A Dutch oven just will not fit in a Romany. The rear hatch skeg area is very long and narrow, perfect for a rolled up tarp, and some tent poles. I usually stow a folding saw there also. The day hatch is quite a bit smaller than the Romany’s, that’s ok; the main rear hatch is bigger because of it.
All the hatch covers are absolutely watertight. Never have I had a drop of water leak in, even when the covers are not pushed on tight with the secondary seal. I added some rope to attach the covers to the boat just in case I forget to fasten one correctly; these are great for grabbing hold of for removal, because with the secondary seal they can be tough to get off, especially with cold fingers. For engaging the secondary seal, I’ve found the end of my paddle works much better than trying to push it down with my fingers. The bulkheads came vented on this boat; a small hole is drilled through each bulkhead to allow the air to equalize on hot, or cold days. This was something I had to do to the Romany to keep the hatch covers from bulging in or out, as the case may be.
The Nordkapp is fast; keeping up with a group is not a workout. I haven’t used a gps for any speed checks, but paddling comfortably in a group with similar skill levels is as good a speed check as any. I did try a wing paddle one Saturday morning, I found it great fun, if I wasn’t so pleased with the Greenland style paddle, I would try switching to a wing paddle. The Nordkapp with an Epic wing blade could be a good match. A Werner Ikelos is another great paddle for getting the boat up to speed quickly, then with a relaxed pace, the Nordkapp is easily kept at a nice cruising speed. Most of my paddling has been with a lightweight carbon Greenland paddle made here in the Twin Cities by my friend Ron Stienwall at Novorca paddles. I’ve never felt at a disadvantage with the Nordkapp and a Greenland paddle, while last year on an eight-day trip with the fully loaded Romany and a Greenland paddle, I had a real hard time keeping up with the group.
The Nordkapp has challenged me this first season, and will continue to make me work to be a better paddler for some time to come. When I paddled Alex’s Nordkapp LV; I found it to be a great boat. In fact right after I paddled it, I made the comment “I may have to sell the Nordkapp, in favor of the LV”. The jury is still out on that one, the Romany HV I’d sell and go for the LV for sure. But I may have to hang onto the Nordkapp. I would like to see how the LV would perform with me, and 50lbs of gear. I’m not an expedition paddler, and don’t need an expedition boat. But I do spend a good deal of time taking long weekends on Lake Superior, and the occasional six to eight day trips. For me, the Nordkapp is a better choice for that job. Besides, it’s really a pretty boat!
I found so very little information on the Valley Nordkapp when I was making my own decisions on a new boat, and it is next to impossible to find one to demo. This isn’t so much a kayak review, as it is my own impressions on the boat, hopefully this will add something positive to the information that’s out there on Valley’s Nordkapp.