The Anas is a boat with a history - being based on a skin-on-frame boat brought back from Greenland by Ken Taylor in 1959. That boat was surveyed by Duncan Winning and the drawings widely circulated. From those, a plywood stitch-and-glue boat was derived, modified to fit a taller paddler and with the cockpit raked a little more (and the foredeck raised) to allow easier entry and bigger feet. From that boat, a mould was taken and fibreglass boats produced. Anas acuta is the latin name for the Pintail duck, and was adopted by Valley Canoe Products as the name for their first fibreglass sea kayak, on account of its turned-up stern.
Although that may make it sound like an old design and you'd perhaps think that it has been long superseded, VCP are still producing the boat today (albeit with a larger keyhole cockpit), and very similar boats are produced by a number of other manufacturers. Inuit boats had evolved over thousands of years in testing conditions in which a wet exit would invariably prove fatal, so for the type of sea conditions for which it was intended (in West Greenland) it was probably the best shape that could possibly be made with the materials available. Ultimately, pretty much all British kayak designs can trace their history back to this boat.
Club Anas Acuta - Arisaig
Incidentally, Sarah is paddling with a Greenland Paddle in that photo - more about that in What's that stick?
We have one of the early models, produced in the 1970's and still in remarkably good condition today. It had bulkheads, hatches and recessed deck fittings added a few years ago to bring it up to modern safety standards. The front bulkhead is positioned to allow for anyone to be able to fit inside, though shorter paddlers will need to add foam or other padding to get a place for their feet. The boat originally came with an adjustable footbar which is currently missing, but these are not regarded as the safest solution nowadays, so foam is probably best. It would be quite a bit of work to fit modern adjustable footrests (not so much to fit the new ones as to remove the brackets for the old bar).
A consequence of the large footroom is that the boat is a bit lacking in space for equipment in the forward compartment, whilst the low aft deck restricts storage aft, so the boat is best used for daytrips or trips no longer than a long weekend.
Club Anas Acuta showing very low aft deck
This is a hard-chined boat, with a V-bottom, and a beam narrower than many modern recreational kayaks which are typically designed to feel comfortable when sat in first time (accompanied by an enthusiastic salesman...). This means that it feels a little "tippy" at first, but don't be put off - she feels much more stable when moving, and has legendary secondary stabililty - you can lean the boat right over and she pushes back and doesn't want to capsize. This is the result of the flared shape above waterline, and the tremendous amount of rocker, which also makes her easy to roll. The low aft deck makes layback rolls particularly easy. With the boat leaned over, the bow and stern come clear of the water, and the boat turns very quickly, so she's a superb boat for playing in rock gardens and in the surf (see Surfing the SOC Anas Acuta). More modern and flatter bottomed boats feel very pedestrian in comparison and can actually be much harder to handle in steep waves.
Since the Anas is a fairly low volume boat, she doesn't catch the wind as much, and with her excellent manoeuvrability is easy to keep on track. The one situation when she can become more of a handful is in a strong beam or quartering wind on a small body of water (little fetch, therefore only small waves) when a drop skeg (which she doesn't have) might make her a little more comfortable.
You can probably tell that your author is particularly enthused about the boat - indeed I rate this as the finest commercially-made boat you can get for daytrips and hopping in and out of coves. Take her out to the Farnes through the tideraces or around the cliffs of St. Abbs and she's real fun once you get comfortable. Not everyone likes her though, and some folk do feel a little uncomfortable in the small "Ocean" style cockpit, so try her out in calmer waters before getting committed.
Statistics: Overall length 5.22m, beam 53.2 cm.