Submitted: 07-07-2007 by Pango
I like to paddle along the shorelines of lakes and slow rivers when I go on vacation, visit family out-of-town, or when I have a couple of morning hours to kill at home. I decided last year that I wanted an inflatable kayak to serve this purpose.
I purchased a Sevylor Tahiti last year but found several problems with it (see my Sevylor Tahiti review for more information):
* I hate to say it, but it's embarrassing to be seen in a big yellow plastic blow-up boat.
* I punctured the floor in three places the first time I took it in a shallow creek. It patched up just fine, but I was very disappointed.
* It's too heavy, bulky and slow to inflate for my needs.
I decided I wanted a nicer boat. After reading many reviews (most from this site), I decided on the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame. However, it was actually bulkier and heavier than the Tahiti it was going to replace, so I rethought what I wanted. I decided the Dragonfly would fit my needs better than the AF. Unfortunately, I could find no pictures of the underside of the Dragonfly, so I was concerned the 'landing plate' and skeg would be disappointing.
I kept looking at pictures of the Dragonfly and was afraid it was going to be too small and, well, 'funny looking'. It finally arrived in the mail and I found my fears were unjustified. The boat is very attractive, both in color and style. I wasn't sure how I would like the bottom fabric, but their 'PVC tarpaulin' appears to be strong and slick enough to withstand an occasional rock scrape. The 'landing plate' is really just a thin rubbery strip down the front center, but it looks like it will serve its purpose. The skeg was bent (as I was warned in other reviews) and never really straightened out, even after two hours on the water.
I'm 6'0", 110# and fit in it perfectly. My feet touch the end of the interior space if I slouch, but not if I'm sitting in 'paddling position'. I found that it worked best when I bent my knees up into the coaming to stretch out the deck, keeping water from pooling there. The deck has just enough room for a water bottle, sponge, provided dry bag and a pair of Crocs (laced through the sponge's cord). It has enough room between my legs, underneath the deck, to put a small bag containing a hat, GPS, and a waterproofed camera.
The valves are a little confusing. The twist-loc ones are easy, but the big valve doesn't seem to work quite right when using a car-powered blower. The big valve has three positions, according to the instructions:
* Left to inflate (keeps air in but allows more air through when pumping
* Center to lock (no air in or out)
* Right to deflate (wide open for either direction of airflow)
I tried to pump it with the car pump to no avail. I finally put it in the deflate position and pumped it mostly with the car pump, then centered it to close. I moved it to the left position and was able to pump it the rest of the way with a hand pump. I assume the problem is with the operator, not the boat, but I tried three separate times and was unable to inflate it using just the car pump. I could easily use the car pump for the floor, just topped it off with the hand pump. Deflating worked as expected, and it was easy to suck out all of the air with the car pump's intake.
The construction isn't as nice as the AF, but this is almost 1/2 the price and 1/2 the weight, so I'll forgive that. The floor is welded to the main tube. Both are bare PVC with no fabric covering, so there is not an extra layer of protection from punctures. In addition, there is only one main inflation tube, unlike the top-and-bottom ones in the AF, so there's more of a risk of catastrophic failure if it does puncture. I'll keep a life jacket under my seat, just-in-case. Otherwise, the valves, fabrics and other materials appear to be very high quality.
FIRST TIME OUT
I took it to the nearest lake as soon as I could. It was a county fishing lake that only allowed human- and electric-powered boats. I pumped it up and carried my stuff to the boat ramp. I arranged everything on the boat and pushed it into the water. I threw my shoes on the deck, waded in and sat in the boat with my wet feet dangling in the air for a few seconds, then tucked myself in. The first few strokes make a lot of noise and make the boat twirl, but it soon straightened out and was very easy to track. I stopped paddling and it coasted better than I expected. I followed the coastline and hit a shallow area. The landing plate and my butt went over just fine, but the skeg dragged the bottom (it was a long flat rock) and pinned me down for a bit. I had a hard time backing myself out of the shallows because I couldn't find a good way to get the pressure off the skeg, but I was eventually freed and stayed away from shallows as best I could.
After a while I decided to paddle straight for a few minutes at a reasonable speed to get some exercise. It was very easy to control, but my paddling technique caused the deck to get soaked. As I stated earlier, I found that bending my knees helped somewhat, but there still isn't enough slope to keep everything drained. After my sprint, I untucked my legs, sprawled them over the deck, slouched and leaned back enough to relax a minute--very comfy! However, when I tried to tuck myself back in I almost filled the boat with lake water. I have to be careful putting pressure on the sides of the opening with my hands while trying to adjust myself in the boat--it's too easy to bend the boat with my hands and lower that part to the water level. The paddle holding velcro straps on the side are a nice feature.
The deck, while soaked above, was dry below. The top fabric appears to be waterproof. Except for the occasional drip from the paddle, the interior remained dry the entire trip, so everything seems to be watertight.
I was on the other side of the long skinny lake when I decided I needed to get back. I paddled as hard as I could for a few minutes and noticed that my knuckles were scraping on the fabric. I took care to prevent that after I noticed it, but I now have a scab on my left ring finger because of it. My hands are also sore from the paddle, so I might consider some paddling gloves for the next time out. I now understand why some inflatables have knuckle guards!
I finished navigating the lake after a couple of hours and headed back to the ramp. I paddled quickly to perch the 'landing plate' on the concrete, then stepped out of the boat and carried it back to the car. It deflated quickly, and dried easily with my sponge, except for the top fabric. I sucked out the rest of the air and easily fit it into the bag along with my collapsible paddle, life jacket and hand pump. I could cram a few more things in there if I had to.
I laid it out at home and let the top cover dry, which took about an hour in the sun. It spreads out perfectly flat so it was easy to dry.
I am very happy with this boat. It fits my needs exactly, and is a great price compared to its bigger brother. I'm taking it to Mexico in a couple of weeks to paddle around the protected beach at our resort to see how it handles small waves.