Submitted: 12-03-1998 by Tim Mattson
The Khatsalano isn't a boat, its a dream come true.
First, lets get the hard numbers our of the way. It weighs 43 pounds, has a 22" beam, a depth of 11.5" and is 17'9" long. It has a hard chine greenland style hull plan. These numbers put it solidly in the category of a high performance, advanced kayak. The amazing thing is, the whole boat folds into a sinlge backpack that you can check onto an airplane.
This is so important when you think about the Khatsalano that I want to repeat it. This is a high performance greenland style kayak that will hold its own with any hard body kayak -- but it is a folding boat.
The engineering is marvelous and even if you don't plan to buy one, its worth checking one out to enjoy the ingenuity that went into its design.
But what is it like to paddle? Well, they mean it when they call this an advanced boat. Its primary stability is very low. I love putting people in my boat and watch their faces when they see how tippy it is. The secondary stability, however, is dream-like in its quality. This is a sea kayak that loves to be up on its side carving turns and "getting frisky". I have never been in a sea kayak that was so playful. Yes you need skill to handle it, but if you have the skills (and a roll for when the skills let you down), this boat is incredible.
This boat is great for all around paddling. It really shines in rough water where it playful character comes into play. On the other hand, long paddles in rough water get exhausting as it does take active bracing to keep it up. For this reason, I use my tamer and more stable boats on long open ocean trips.
There is a down side to this boat. It costs a fortune. Mine was just under $4000 dollars! Yes, they are supposed to last a long time, but still, I could almost buy a couple fiberglass boats for that price.
Also, at my weight (225 pounds), the boat doesn't have enough volume to manage the surf. I have had it sink like a squirt boat in the breaking surf --- a lot of fun, but not exactly what you're looking for when kayak surfing. On the other hand, this low volume also lets it slice right though big nastey waves making it great for surf launch and landings.
The other downside is the setup time. The feathercraft web site lists setup time as 30 minutes. I don't know what they were smoking when they came up with that number! I have practiced hard and if I realy push it, I can get the boat together in 45 minutes. I usually give myself an hour. Take down is also non-trivial.
Also, the backpack that comes with the boat is usless. For a boat that was so carefully designed and lovingly constructed, the absurd backpack is a real surprise. This isn't a big deal, though, as I find it much easier to move the paced boat throught the airport on a collapsable luggage cart.
I could go on for hours about my Khatsalano, I love it that much. But let me close with one last, little understood aspect of this boat. Like many folding kayaks, it has small internal sponsons. These are like long condoms that are incorporated into the upper thrid on each side of the hull. You can leave the sponson's uninflated to get the full benefits of the boats hard chine. If you want to increase primary stbility and soften the chine, you only need to inlfate the sponsons.
This is wonderful since it gives you two boats in one. If the water gets too rough and I want to have an easier time staying upright, I blow up the sponsons and have my stable cruser. If I want to get a bit crazy and fool around, I leave them deflated. All this in one boat. If you want a folding boat without compromising on performance, there is only one boat to buy --- the Khatsalano.