Results 1 to 21 of 21

Thread: Review of Fenland Paddles Beavertail - "The Ugly Duckling"

  1. #1

    Thumbs up Review of Fenland Paddles Beavertail - "The Ugly Duckling"

    I thought I would drop a quick post to review my new paddle.

    I have been paddling nine months and last August completed a week long descent of the Obra River in Poland. This trip has inspired me to start to collect some canoeing gear of my own. Most notable of my new acquisitions, is a new paddle. Kindly, the Ginger Paddlers have allowed me use of their boats and paddles in the past so this was the first step of many to collecting all the equipment I need. Importantly, the use of many different types of canoes, paddles and even pfd's is widely regarded as the best way to make informed choices of your purchases. I have used a number of grey owl paddles, wooden & plastic paddles and tried the various blade types. I plan to do a mixture of river touring and flat water paddling to facilitate my love for wild camping and bushcraft so I needed a good all-rounder, a beavertail.

    I had a look about on-line and the choice of paddles is daunting for a beginner. I stumbled upon the Fenland Paddles webpage but could only find some limited reviews on SOTP so thought I would share my experience. Against all good advice, I decided to take a punt and buy a Fenland paddles beavertail. I hadn't tried one of their paddles or even seen one in a shop but the paddles certainly looked nice, are made to specification and are competitively priced.

    I dropped an initial e-mail to Michael Kempster at Fenland Paddles and he provided me with a cost for the style of paddle I wanted. I think the paddles are normally 35 but weigh in at a hefty 1.25kgs. For 45 you can select a cedar paddle which is naturally lighter (mine is just under 900 grams) but being a softwood will need looking after. Fenland paddles can't put a polyurethane tip on your paddle but, if requested, will put a discrete hardwood tip at the end of the paddle blade. I sent a very rudimentary paddle design to Michael and the following spec:

    Dimensions are:
    Overall Length: 60"
    Blade Length: 27"
    Shaft length including handle: 33"
    Blade Width at widest point: 6"
    Blade profile: I like a thin blade profile. I am happy to be led by you on this but ask that the blade edges have a slim profile for a smooth paddle entry.
    Style: Beavertail
    Finish: Oiled
    Wood: Weight is a key factor so I would like the Cedar paddle with a stripe of Purple Heart and Iroko similar to the design below and previously sent to you. Furthermore, I would like a small tip of Iroko to protect the Cedar but would like this to be very small and discrete yet just enough to protect the of the very tip of the paddle.

    And this is the paddle I received. Please note that I added the whipping myself to protect the soft cedar shaft from damage cause by prying off the gunwales.



    Upon receiving the paddle I must admit to being a little disappointed. I never expected the finish of a mass produced paddle and I certainly never expected to receive a handmade masterpiece like the Edenwood paddles, but I did expect alittle more.

    The disappointment comes predominantly from the squared and rather graceless shaft and the finishing on the paddle, that led me to name her "The Ugly Duckling":

    Despite asking for a thin blade profile the blade is actually pretty thick (especially toward the throat of the paddle) and is bordering on agricultural. To be fair, the blade towards the tip does taper significantly to a pretty slim edge.


    The shaft is almost square (not round or oval) albeit with rounded edges and showed markings of where it has been clamped when worked upon.

    There are shallow gauge marks on the blade, caused by the plane, which simply needed sanding that little bit extra.

    The oil finish is tacky and slightly uneven.


    The selection of wood cuts that form the laminate could have been better. The Iroko stripes on the blade are very different in terms of colour (one is a beautiful bright yellow colour with the other a rather dull, dark brown) this gives the design a lopsided appearance and there is an unsightly knot in the cedar shaft, just below the handle.



    The handle is somewhat clumsily shaped.



    So after all these faults, you would think I don't like it? Wrong - I love it!

    The proof is definitely in the pudding: I took the "ugly duckling" out with Robbie Weir for a coast around Castle Semple. So what did I like?, the paddle's slightly squared shaft for a start!.I was completely surprised to like this feature but having a flat surface to pull against with your lower hand is actually very pleasant. It also lets you know the angle of the blade, when fully submerged, just by the feel on the shaft. The blade design (at the throat especially) is slightly thicker than I had liked aesthetically but I received nice feedback, flex and feel from the paddle when on the move. Furthermore, the paddle has a solid feel about it and the catch of a beavertail blade (with its rounded tip) is smooth, like an ottertail, but the extra blade width means you move a lot of water. I found that I could coast along, at good speed, with minimum effort and that surely is the mark of a good functional paddle?

    In conclusion "Would I buy from Fenland again?" The answer is "Yes" BUT I would stick to the basic models at 35 / 45. I paid extra for the lighter Cedar option with inlays of purple heart and Iroko taking the cost of my paddle to 68. For what I have received, I believe this to be slightly over-priced. If Fenland just took a little extra care on the finishing touches, then I suggest it would be money very well spent indeed!!!. The things that I dislike about the paddle are easily fixed and a matter of aesthetics but paddles are objects of function AND beauty, so more care needs to be taken in this respect. I can round the shaft (if I later choose), thin the blade closest the throat for a more pleasant looking profile, further smooth the handle and remove the scuffs and clamp marks with a little time and effort, but it begs the question: Why didn't Fenland do it in the first place? Regardless, I am genuinely looking forward to spending time with the "ugly duckling" and, with a little sand paper and fresh applications of Danish Oil, she will undoubted become a beautiful swan.
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  2. #2

    Default

    Thought I would just give everyone a wee heads up.

    After just a dozen or so uses, the shaft of my fenland paddle snapped clean in half. There was no warping of the shaft, no bending or splintering, it literally shattered in my hand pulling into an eddy. I was not using excessive force when this happened either and having sought various opinions believe I was sold a faulty paddle made with a section of Cedar not suitable for its intended purpose.

    I e-mailed Michael Kempster of Fenland Paddles 4 days ago but have yet to recieve any response. I also note that the Fenland Paddles website is no longer on-line. Not looking good.........:-(
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Northumberland
    Posts
    447

    Default

    looks like billy age 5 made it to me

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by InnerGimbal View Post
    looks like billy age 5 made it to me
    Think you might be right, LOL
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  5. #5

    Default

    For that kind of money, I would certainly expect a far more finely-crafted paddle than that. This RedTail ottertail cost me less than 1/2 of what you paid:








    It is very light, and has proved to be very durable. No signs of wear after 100's of miles of travel with it.

    Good luck with getting some kind of compensation from the maker.

  6. #6

    Default

    Thanks Sk8r,

    Are you based in canada / america? Not sure we have RedTail Paddles over here otherwise i would snap one up at the pricess you mentions. Your paddle looks great and the handle design looks well thought out..

    I kind of deserve the predicament I am in TBH. I went against my gut instinct and bought a paddle from someone I didn't know......you live and learn. Will go for another beavertail next time though, the shape seems to suit my requirements best.

    Andy

    Quote Originally Posted by sk8r View Post
    For that kind of money, I would certainly expect a far more finely-crafted paddle than that. This RedTail ottertail cost me less than 1/2 of what you paid:








    It is very light, and has proved to be very durable. No signs of wear after 100's of miles of travel with it.

    Good luck with getting some kind of compensation from the maker.
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Bucks
    Posts
    6,799

    Default

    Redtail paddles are available but you will have to hunt for them.

  8. #8

    Default

    OK, I will start the hunt this weekend!!!!

    Any recommendations yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    Redtail paddles are available but you will have to hunt for them.
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Central Scotland
    Posts
    4,336
    Journal Entries
    14

    Default

    The redtails are hard to come by over here, I cant recall ever seeing one in a shop or online UK retailer. I think I only know of another 2, Maz has/had one like Sk8r's but I think with a normal grip and I have a Redtail LBND which great. Some more paddle review info here.



    I think you should make one!
    Cheers,

    Alan


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Bucks
    Posts
    6,799

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaffinch View Post
    Any recommendations yourself?
    To be honest, the offerings from Grey Owl are pretty hard to beat if you are after a wooden paddle. I have a Voyager and a Cheiftan, one general purpose and one deep water. The Sugar Island is popular but I think the blade area is large for the average paddler. They have a beaver tail as well. You are much more likely to be able to find these in stores.

  11. #11

    Default

    I neither have the skill, tools or inclination to make my own paddle when so many could make a far better one than I ever could. I struggle to change a plug for god sake!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chainsaw View Post
    The redtails are hard to come by over here, I cant recall ever seeing one in a shop or online UK retailer. I think I only know of another 2, Maz has/had one like Sk8r's but I think with a normal grip and I have a Redtail LBND which great. Some more paddle review info here.



    I think you should make one!
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Bucks
    Posts
    6,799

    Default

    Does God need a plug?

  13. #13

    Default

    LOL. Found this Red Tail paddle but not the paddle shape I am after http://www.waterantics.co.uk/product...21&item_id=297


    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    Does God need a plug?
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Somerset
    Posts
    1,293

    Default

    These people say they import them:

    http://www.waterantics.co.uk/products.php?manf=21

    Might be somewhere to start.
    ​Change is inevitable; progress is optional.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Somerset
    Posts
    1,293

    Default

    Got there before me!
    ​Change is inevitable; progress is optional.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Central Scotland
    Posts
    4,336
    Journal Entries
    14

    Default

    The piccie doesn't match the description, they say "These paddles are the MSR-Beav model, with a resin tip." which doesn't match the redtail site here Worth a phone or mail to water antics to clear it up maybe?
    Cheers,

    Alan


  17. #17

    Default

    Definately, Is there anywhere within an hour of glasgow with a decent selection of paddles I can look at? Although recommendations are great, I am naturally feeling the need to see the paddle before buying, especially after the debacle with Fenland!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chainsaw View Post
    The piccie doesn't match the description, they say "These paddles are the MSR-Beav model, with a resin tip." which doesn't match the redtail site here Worth a phone or mail to water antics to clear it up maybe?
    "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Sunderland and Sudbury
    Posts
    825

    Default

    For Redtail paddles try Sue's Canoes. If they don't have what you want ask them for their supplier.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Bucks
    Posts
    6,799

    Default

    There used to be a store in Carlisle who did canoeing stuff, is that now Brookbank?

    These in Alston, maybe a bit far: Canadian Canoe Co Ltd but I can't find them on the 'net

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Central Scotland
    Posts
    4,336
    Journal Entries
    14

    Default

    Stirling canoes have some, grey owls in stock, not a huge amount last time I was in (about 2 months ago) Other option is brookbank in perth
    Cheers,

    Alan


  21. #21
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Northumberland
    Posts
    447

    Default

    I have a Red Tail think I payed 30 for it about 8 Years ago when George Thompson used to import them with boats its still going strong they are a great paddles and would love a few more of them if any one is thinking of importing some

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •