I first paddled the Valley Gemini as a prototype at Alder Creek’s Paddlefest in April 2013. For those who don’t know, the Gemini comes in two varieties, SP or Sport Play, and ST or Sport Touring.
Valley Gemini SP Poly; Photo by David Dalbey
My current boat was a hoot. With it’s flat bottom and lots of rocker, it loved to surf. It was also relatively efficient, so I had no problem keeping up on day trips. The problem was that it was a bulletproof composite layup that weighed a ton! When I tweaked my back getting it on my truck solo, I decided it was time to make a change.
The Gemini I demo’ed at Paddlefest was composite, but I was drawn to the new triple-layer polyethylene version partly due to economics, but also because it would be durable for rock-garden play, and I just wouldn’t have to perseverate over gel coat chips and the cosmetic stuff. I knew I needed a lighter weight boat and I was pleasantly surprised to find the poly Gemini was about 15 lbs lighter than the composite boat it would replace. I had no problem throwing this one up on the truck by myself!
I was never worried about the Gemini’s ability to excel in dynamic water. With its fairly flat hull in the mid-section and decent volume in the bow, it surfs easily. It has quite a bit of rocker and defined edges, which keeps it pretty loose for a sea kayak.
More concerning was that this would be my every-day boat. How would it feel to paddle it 10-15 miles with my friends on flat water? Would it be a dog in flat water, like some of the other rough water play boats?
Even though my Gemini was the Sport Play variety, I was very pleasantly surprised by it’s performance on benign water. Its first test was an OOPS club trip to the San Juan’s. We’d be camping at San Juan County Park and day touring, so no need to bring my full on touring boat, so brought the Gemini. Day one we paddled about 15 miles down to False Bay and back. This boat was easy to paddle at cruising speed. Day two was 12 miles from Griffin Bay, across Cattle Pass to Lopez Island & back. Again, no problem keeping up and it was a hoot when we had the opportunity to play on eddy lines and in current.
I’ve owned the boat for about 4 months now and found that it works well for just about any kind of paddling I’ve done. I’ve had it in the ocean & surf, in the Columbia River gorge on wind waves, on small rapids in rivers, and paddled it on flat-water trips on the Willamette.
Many people have noticed that the cockpit in the poly version is tighter than the glass prototype. I originally planned to pull the stock seat out and put in a Valley foam seat, however, I found that quite un-necessary. What I did do was lower the stock seat about 1/2″ by shaving the foam on the under side of the seat pan and adding spacers between the seat pan and where it attaches to the under side of the deck. It would be easy to lower it up to an inch. I also moved the thigh hooks into the forward position and added some very thin foam at the thigh hooks to make it easier to grip the boat.
All in all, my Gemini has proved to be an entertaining all-around day paddling boat!
How I lowered the seat:
Step 1 – Remove the seat pan from the boat.
Seat-less cockpit; Photo by David Dalbey
Step 2 – Mark the amount of foam to trim and cut it with a hand saw.
Seat pan marked for trimming; Photo by David Dalbey
Trimmed seat; Photo by David Dalbey
Step 3 – Cut 1″ wide and 1/2″ thick blocks out of polyethelene and drilled holes to correspond to the holes in the top flange of the seat pan
Seat shims; Photo by David Dalbey
Step 4 – Matched the blocks up on top of the seat pan and bolted it all back together again!
Bolt it all back together! Photo by David Dalbey