Submitted: 07-27-2011 by RT
After owning a Necky Manitou tandem for two years we decided to look for a Yak we could pack into the RV as mounting a rigid Yak on an RV is a BIG pain unless you tow something to mount it on. After reading the reviews it looked like the AE Convertible was a contender. Went to the local REI and of course couldn't try it or even see it set up so bought it to see what it was considering the no risk factor REI offers, thanks for that. We bought the boat with the back bone option.
No doubt that this Yak and it's siblings are the best of the inflatables. Our reaction to the experience is based on an apples and oranges comparison to a rigid Yak but that considered there are several things that would greatly improve this good product and make it better.
Build of the boat and the components
My first impression was very positive. The decking is rock solid double stitched, thick walls, good looking and performing valves (although confusing) and a bright color for visibility on the water.
-Now the reality-
- First set up was in the back yard and was relatively easy but found that installing the optional back bone conflicted with the inflatable floor, we had to curl up the ends to make the floor fit.
- The main valves are confusing as they have an inflate and deflate setting and have to be set in the deflate position to inflate or air will not pass into the chamber(what???).
- The carry bag is JUST big enough but only zippered 1/2 way down the sides so re-inserting the Yak is not easy. It would be a lot better if the zips went to the bottom of the bag allowing it to open like a suitcase.
- Once it was all put together it looked and, in our opinion, it's missing a main and very important component, a top deck! These are listed as options but paddling the Yak w/out a deck is not advised for 3 big reasons: 1) you get very wet (least important) 2) the boat spreads open wider than is comfortable as you have to paddle around the sides and 3) the zipper for attaching the deck sits in the outer edge where your arm passes on each stroke with teeth standing up like saw teeth. Both my wife and I hit them several times while paddling, OK so buy one of the decks when you buy the boat but why not simply supply one AE? Or at least something to fill the open zipper teeth with a material bridge in the center of the cockpit to hold the sides of the boat together. REI needs to have the decks on the shelf and strongly recommend using one of them (they come in single or tandem).
- I did buy the optional back bone, another option that should be standard for an IK unless you like the folding feel of an inflatable and even poorer tracking. After an hour of sitting on the padded 1" rod it got very uncomfortable, (like sleeping on a fold out sofa). By simply adding some padding to the seat you'd never feel a thing and you'd have the badly needed rigidity the back bone gives.
- The seats, well if they were any thinner - - -. AE will sell you a "quality" air seat that probably is nice.
- The inflatable floor, it's low end air mattress quality. AE will sell you an optional "quality" drop stitch floor for another up-charge (am I feelin' nickel and dimed here? Not at what they charge for these "options")
OK, it is an inflatable but I have to wonder;
-Tracking is almost there, better than I expected. There are chines and a skeg welded to the hull but the chines are only 14" long. The yaks got to fold to get into the bag but making the chines full length of the boat may be the answer to the poor tracking and the weathercocking.
Our first (and maybe our last) outing was just OK. we did not expect it to have the tracking and glide our Necky has but due to the factors mentioned I consider this boat an unfinished product. You can, at your expense, make it a lot better buy adding the things AE should build into the boat in the first place and some things AE needs to consider improving in the design would make this yak a much better boat.
I would recommend this boat to a friend with BIG qualifications and add that you almost have to add several expensive options to make it work.