Playing with the Apache
A review of the Apache trekk 14S CIX
I have owned the trekk 14 for a little over a year now and have had some time to get out in varied water conditions in it. It is my second apache canoe. I owned an early model of what became branded as the trekk 15 until about 18 months ago.
The service from Apache has always been excellent, with good communication about your order, and clear discussion about what you want and if it will suit you when you order your boat. The product you end up with is not off the shelf but adjusted to your requirements within a range of options.
I spoke to Mark to place this order, when Apache had their 2018 Black Friday offer. This obviously swelled their order books somewhat, so it wasn’t until March last year that I collected my boat, but I had told him that I wasn’t in a hurry, having two boats to sell to make some space on the rack.
My chosen option was a carbon/innegra lay-up which they refer to as their expedition lay-up – tough but lighter than the glass hulls of their standard boats. I opted for wooden gunnels and a bendy kneeling seat, with d-rings fitted but no other fitting out done. I have always enjoyed the process of fitting out a boat to suit my needs. It adds a sense of ownership and individuality to a boat.
On collection from Apache, the boat was well presented, no flaws or blemishes, and felt lighter than advertised (24kg according to their website.) With an ivory gel coat exterior and the black carbon interior it looked very smart, the ash woodwork nicely setting the whole thing off. So right away, it looked the business.
Out-fitting it took me a few days, but having done this for six boats now, I knew what I wanted and how to do it. The hull was drilled for bow and stern loops of 9mm climbing rope, and then laced from the bow to the yoke, and stern to behind the seat. 6mm holes took 5mm rope, loops being created with 6” lengths of clear tubing on 4” centres.
After some thought I fitted a 60” bow airbag and a 48” stern bag. This gave me a small space behind my feet and a larger space ahead of the yoke to secure gear. This was more than adequate to take gear for a weekend trip with the bags fully inflated, and with the D-rings fitted at 36” from the stems I can partially deflate either bag to make more room if needed.
1” webbing secured the bags to the lacing and to the D-rings and bow/stern loops.
A kneeling mat was cut to size from closed cell foam and held in place with exterior use self-adhesive Velcro strips. I used this system on my previous Apache and found the Velcro strips held up very well to being wet.
The final touch was to lark’s foot some short lengths of webbing to the bow and stern loops to act as swim tails. I find these very useful in all sorts of circumstances, not just after a capsize. They act as a short painter, handy to grab.
So, all was ready for the first trip. As I often do, I took my new boat to the Chesterfield Canal at Kiveton Park for its inaugural dip. This is a lovely stretch of quiet water, one of my favourite local trips.
The boat was certainly reactive. Even the weight of my camera on one gunnel tipped the boat. But it didn’t take long to get used to the feel of it. It is a boat meant to be paddled from kneeling and gives great feedback to the paddler. The rounded hull has excellent secondary stability, and within a few minutes of getting in, I wasn’t thinking about my balance, just trusting the boat to push back against a lean.
At 14’, with quite a lot of rocker, you’d expect the boat to spin easily, and it will turn on the spot with ease, but it also tracks well too. It gets up to hull speed quickly, and has good glide, though as you would expect it isn’t as fast as my longer touring boats.
I spent a pleasant couple of hours learning its feel, turning, heeling it over to the gunnels, side-slipping and generally messing around on the still water. Off the water it was easy to handle, being reasonably light, and 2’ shorter than I’m used to carrying. My only criticism, and this was true of the Apache Trekk 15 too, is the exposed gel coat edge on the top of the stems. There is a very sharp angle here, and it doesn’t take much to chip the corner. I had intended to glue on a thin strip of bicycle inner tube to protect it but forgot until it was too late. Chips here are of little consequence other than cosmetic, and a wooden deck looks much nicer than an end cap, so it really is a minor quibble.
My second trip was down to Matlock Bath to have a play on some moving water. Parking at Artist’s Corner, I put in at the play spot there, went upstream a way to the next drop, then back to the slalom course before tracking back up this and paddling to my starting point.
It was immediately obvious this was where the boat belonged. It just came alive in a current. What would have been a V-section along the bow and stern has been flattened a bit, creating sharpish edges which you can feel as they grip the water when you heel the boat in the flow. The secondary stability encourages you to use your weight as well as the paddle to turn the boat, and the stern and bow were easy to release with shifts of weight fore and aft. The high sheer at the bow gives a dry ride. It didn’t take long to feel at ease with the boat at all.
Inevitably, I came away from this trip with a few shallow scratches in the gel coat, but that is true of all new boats. Overall, it felt solid, well made and well finished.
Since those shake-down trips, I have used it mainly on easy river trips, but with some flat water involved as well. A coaching day on the Dee at Llangollen last summer with Ray Goodwin put me and the boat through our paces. On just my third outing in this boat I felt completely at home side-surfing below Mile End Mill and hitting eddies in fast flows. The following day, having stayed in North Wales overnight, I paddled from Llangollen over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct along the canal. Flat water all the way, but the boat proved fast and comfortable for a full day’s paddling with a light load in the front.
Despite its reactiveness, I feel confident in the boat’s stability and use it as a photographic platform just as I do my other boats. The only thing I don’t do is take my (large) dog with me in this boat. He enjoys standing on the prow barking at ducks and is big enough at 42kg to dip the bow of my 17-footer several inches while doing so. I don’t think he’d capsize this boat because its secondary stability is excellent but would probably end up over the side himself!
A planned trip to the Spey this Spring didn’t come off because of the Covid-19 lockdown, so I still haven’t taken it on a multi-day river trip, but I don’t doubt it would cope with a heavier load well.
Buying this boat, I was after a lively, responsive solo boat to paddle in moderate moving water, that had space for a tripping load. And that is what I’ve got. If you’re after a boat with reassuring, rock-solid primary stability then this probably isn’t the boat for you, but if you want a river-orientated traditional hull that reacts quickly and precisely to your input, with excellent and predictable secondary stability then it’s worth thinking about.