I've made some further changes to my Raptor over the last few weeks, mainly to allow me to accommodate a regular passenger. My outings on Ullswater in July 2011 proved that the Raptor is capable of carrying a passenger on the sidecar but I needed to provide her with a more comfortable seat, which wouldn't collect water and would be easier to dry out after use.
I bought a Skwoosh Ensign kayak seat last year (it's no longer available), which "combines the SKWOOSH™ lightweight gel paddling cushion with a battened, padded contoured back support". It cost me GBP103 (about US$166), including shipment and UK customs charges. The seat comes with front and rear straps, which allow the backrest angle to be varied, depending on whether your passenger prefers to sit upright or more reclined. My sidecar already had attachment points - 'D'-rings that I installed some years ago to allow easy attachment of my camping gear - so I used these to attach the Skwoosh seat. These 'D'-rings are simply attached to the sidecar rails with whipping twine so may not be strong enough, particularly the front two 'D'-rings, which will take most of the strain from the backrest straps. If I find that they start to slip along the rails, I'll need to consider riveting eye straps to them, or I may attach the straps instead to the front iako using a rope extension.
I placed the seat as far forward on the sidecar as possible, while still allowing my passenger to stretch out her legs, so as to move her weight as far forward as possible. I found that the rear of the ama was mostly submerged when carrying my passenger last year, when she was seated at the aft end of the sidecar (although in hindsight I probably should have used the foil more to help lift the ama). I was a little surprised to find that this left a fair amount of space behind the seat back, which could, in theory, be used to carry camping gear. Whether I can reduce my camping gear requirements enough to fit into this reduced space remains to be seen, but I would love to be able to carry a passenger on multi-day outings - something I never believed would be possible with the Raptor.
One consequence of the reduced storage space available on the sidecar when carrying a passenger was that I wanted to look for an alternative site to mount the larger (main hull) portage cart. I decided to mount it on the stern deck, something I had first considered after taking delivery of my new carts from Solway Dory in 2010. The smaller (ama) cart fits fine in the bag that I have attached to the main hull behind my seat. At my request, some years ago Solway Dory attached one 5mm plain saddle with ferrule to the starboard side stern deck of my main hull. I had always planned to use this to deploy a stern anchor but had never gotten round to it. I attached a further three 5mm plain saddles with ferrules to the stern deck, so that I now have four attachment points for the bungee cord that I made to attach the larger cart.
The deck in this area is not strong and is not suitable for load-carrying but the cart body is curved to fit the hull profile, so the body of the cart only touches the hull at the edge seams, where the deck meets the hull and where it should hopefully be a little stronger. The larger cart mounts just aft of the piece of heavy-duty stick-on Velcro tape that I use to attach a dry bag containing my coastal flare pack when on marine expeditions. This leaves a fairly large area of empty stern deck, which I think could be used to attach a bulky but lightweight load, such as a dry bag with a couple of full-size pillows. I have several 'camping' pillows (both foam and inflatable) and never found them very comfortable. I cut a piece of non-slip matting to cover the deck area between the four saddles and this can be unfolded to cover the deck area when a dry bag is mounted, or folded over the cart when no additional load is being carried. I'll be interested to see how much this load so far back on the stern upsets the trim of my Raptor.
Incidentally, I noticed that the bottom of my sidecar canvas is showing signs of wear. This seems to be in the area where the foil hits the fabric when fully retracted. No doubt the action of heavy camping gear rubbing against the foil through the fabric has caused this wear. I'm a little concerned that if the fabric starts to tear it could dump my passenger into the water but hopefully the seat will spread her weight over a large enough area of 'good' fabric for this not to happen. I'll need to start looking for some replacement fabric though, so that I can carry a spare with me.
Despite normally carrying both carts with me during outings, I found that I often wouldn't use them