Carbonology Feather Review

11 months 1 day ago - 11 months 9 hours ago #35333 by zachhandler
Carbonology Feather Sit-On-Top K1 Review

Three months ago I accepted delivery of a used Carbonology Feather. It is the fiberglass "sprint" model with understern rudder. I have wanted a sit-on-top K1 for a long time, mostly to extend how far into the cold water season I can safely paddle a K1. I have also been looking for a boat that would make surfing small wind chop both fun and safe. There seems to be almost no information about any of the sit-on-top K1s on the web, so I decided to write up my impressions. For point of reference I am 160 pounds, 5’11”, and a competent k1 paddler. I am faster in K1 than ski if there is less than 4”/10cm of chop, and on my best days I can hold 8 mph/13kph for a one hour time trial.

Flat Water
On the flat the Feather is full-on K1 in terms of stability. I think that the hull is a hair more stable but also a touch slower than other stability 1 K1s I have used.  But it is nowhere near “trainer K1" stability and is not even a stability 2 K1 by any stretch of the imagination. The Feather has a deep snug traditional surfski bucket that reminds me of the Fenn elite S I used to own. This is good and bad. The good is that when it gets choppy, the increased contact between body and boat creates much more control and stability than I find in an open K1. The bad is that when I try to go through a fully extended and rotated K1 stroke, my leg contacts the bucket. In a ski this would cause no problems, but in the tippy Feather this contact tilts the boat and creates instability.

Remounting is a challenge, even on the flat, and needs to be practiced. The bucket is deep and the ski is narrow. I have to “nail” the landing when attempting side saddle remount or I am going right back in.  I have never fallen out of the Feather, but I do practice remounts every time I go out. I feel I have a very strong remount because I learned to downwind on a ski that was too tippy for me. While I can usually get back into the Feather on the first try, there have been a couple of episodes in which for no apparent reason it took me many flailing attempts to get back in. Fear of a difficult remount has affected my risk tolerance in cold rough water.

The Drain
I have to talk about the venturi before I explain the downwind performance. My Feather has a single scupper with a “bullet” behind it and a one way snorkel-type flap valve inside. The valve does staunch inflow of water quite effectively; at the start of a workout you sit in a dry ski, and as long as you keep the speed up, there will never be any water in the bucket. The downside is that the venturi simply does not drain well. At 6mph it takes 10 minutes to empty a full bucket. At 7.5 mph it takes about 3 minutes to drain fully. If any fragments of sea weed get in the bucket they get caught on the valve and slow things even further. I have read elsewhere that many K1-style skis suffer poor drainage, so maybe this is an inherent property of this hull type. I have seen some pics of Feathers with dual scuppers - maybe those are later models that remedied this problem, or maybe those are the “river” models that are intended for use in rough water. I should remove the snorkel valve and see if that helps, and I have contemplated installing a DeBritto Bailer.

For my purposes this is where the Feather really shines. It is not that it is a great downwind ski; it most certainly is not. Rather, the Feather is a tool that allows me to have fun and be challenged on small waves. Where I live proper downwind is at least 90 minutes away but within 20 minutes is a deep lake with 2.5 miles of fetch. With a 25+ mph wind this produces steep breaking 2-3 ft waves. The Feather fits into these little bumps in a way that bigger skis never have for me. In a proper ski I call paddling in these conditions “fake surfing” because I have to slow down, position the boat just right, and use a bit of imagination to convince myself that it is the real thing. In the Feather by contrast these little waves are the real thing: proper paddles-down hoot-out-loud surf conditions. The Feather's lack of stability and limited directional control force me to go back to the basic fundamentals of downwind paddling. Proper bracing is needed 100% of the time when on a wave. Even with the larger 4” DK weedless rudder I installed, the Feather needs to be kept perched at the top of the wave to have much chance of turning. Most of the time I need to lean on the bace and twist my body to eke out the turn. Trying to turn while too far forward on the wave predictably results in a broach. I have gotten lots of practice riding out a broach on a low brace and then sprinting out of it at just the right moment. Downwind the Feather commands 100% of my attention because even a momentary lapse of concentration results in a near swim. I am confident that paddling the Feather in these small conditions will translate into improved skills when I get back in a big ski in big waves. Downwind is not all sweat and terror in this boat, and if paddled well the Feather can be surfed beautifully. I have had some amazingly long paddles-down rides, carving back and forth multiple times on a single wave face. Linking small runs in a K1 is as exhilarating as most of the ocean paddling I have done. 

Going into the waves also requires exacting technique. I need to take the bigger waves at an angle and stab the blade directly into the crest as it passes under. The removable cockpit cover usually deflects water off to the sides, but with bigger waves shoots it right up my nose.  Upwind is slow, probably because I sacrifice power for stability. Against a 25 mph wind and 2 ft waves I go about 3 mph, nowhere near what is needed to get any drainage from the scupper.  As such the water level in the bucket rises until it reaches equilibrium with the lake. Turning the Feather around to head downwind is a sphincter-puckering endeavor. In my typical 0.5 - 1 mile run back to shore I can only get the bucket to drain fully if I surf really well with no wallowing or broaching. 

Construction Quality
This ski seems strong and stiff and feels about like the advertised 26 pounds. The only real quality problem was an obscenely crooked foot plate that was ugly and very difficult to adjust. The problem was that the aluminum track that holds the footplate was mounted into the ski a centimeter higher on one side than the other.  I fixed this by drilling new lop-sided holes in the foot plate. Why someone would install hardware in a ski without measuring or using a jig baffles me.

Hypothetical Comparisons
I have not paddled an epic K1T, but I have paddled the v14 with which it shares a cockpit. I suspect the K1T is a better flat water boat than the Feather because of its higher seat and less restrictive bucket. I also suspect that for the same reasons the K1T would take a more skilled pilot in rough water. The epic bailer must be an improvement over my single scupper, though that is only an issue for rough water use. The epic K1T does not have a cockpit cover, so it would certainly need a wave deflector downwind, and that probably slows the boat more than the Feather’s cockpit cover does. I do wonder if one of the short Nelo skis (520, 550, 560, or 46) would be better for me. The 520 and 46 are the same length as the Feather but offer more control, stability, versatility, and safety. On the other hand, those wider boats would not sharpen my skills nor exercise my adrenal glands as much as the Feather does. 

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11 months 1 day ago #35334 by manta
Replied by manta on topic Carbonology Feather Review
Nice review and props for being able to paddle that thing in anything but the flat.


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11 months 10 hours ago #35344 by tve
Replied by tve on topic Carbonology Feather Review
Thanks for a very entertaining review! Stability wise, is the V14 a barge in comparison?
I really like the Nelo boats from a paddling feeling point of view. I don't think you would want to consider anything but a 560 (or perhaps a 46, I have not tried that).

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10 months 4 weeks ago #35348 by zachhandler
Thanks Manta. I am proud of the progress I have made in this sport, though I am still a hack compared to those river paddlers in South Africa running weirs and rapids!

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10 months 4 weeks ago #35349 by zachhandler
tve - I have not paddles a v14 in a few years, but I think a v14 feels very planted compared to a K1. A 17 ft long v14 would be really nice for what I am trying to do. 

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