Submitted: 08-28-2003 by Eric M.
My experieince with this boat probably falls in line with what the others have said on this page. For a relatively inexpensive inflatable, this boat provides good value and noticeably improved performance for flatwater touring. What this boat is not, is a perfomance boat for either touring or whitewater. For someone looking for performance and portability, you will still need to go with something like a Feathercraft for touring, or an Aire for whitewater. The disadvantage with these, is of course the price.
I did a twist on the plywood floor thing as follows. Instead of the 3/8", I had a scrap of 1/4" handy and decided to experiment. I cut the plywood several inches larger than the floor. I then drilled a series of 8 holes along each side, rounded the edges with a sanding block, and finished it with varnish. I used the holes to thread nylon cord through. I then flexed the plywood, and tightened the cord to hold the sheet into a partial tube shape. I could then slip the inflatable floor underneath the cords, and inflate it. This design has the advantage of stiffening the sheet front to back, as well as providing a more rounded hull.
The jump in performance was noticeable. With the provided floor it took me some effort to maintain 3 mph as measured with my gps. With my modified floor I could average more like 3.5 mph in calm conditions and go over 4 mph leaning into the paddle a bit. I also noticed a difference in handling. Most noticeable was a slight decrease in initial stability vs an increase in final stability. Additionally, with the more rounded hull, I found that I could do modest edge and leaned turns, which the stock boat largely seems to resist.
My paddling experience so far has been on lakes, ranging from dead calm to 15-20 knot winds and 2-3' seas. The boat is plenty stable, but does show moderate weathercocking in following seas. With the floor modification, I found I could edge into the seas and generally maintain a fairly straight course in most conditions. I have found that I could do shorter trips with paddlers in hardshells and not feel like I was holding them up, but I did feel like I was working a bit harder, especially upwind. I also noticed that water tends to come in through the deck zipper if you have much water washing onto the deck.
I found the overall design to be quite clever and the setup to be straightforward. For inflation I got a Doublequick airmatress pump at REI for under 10 bucks that seems to work just fine. The skeg was a bit bent when I got the boat which gave me a slight tendency to veer right, but the skeg did seem to straighten out over time.
All in all I would congragulate the manufacturers on a successfull design and good value. The main way the boat could be improved in my opinion is with a stiffer and more hydrodynamic floor design. Perhaps the manufacturer could come up with a "performance kit" consisting of snap together plastic floor panels or such.
After a dozen days or so with the plywood floor I found that it corkscrewed slightly from end to end. I have since unlaced the plywood, left the board on the floor with several heavy pots on it to flatten it out, and then re-laced and bent the board from the opposite side. So far it seems to be holding. For someone who wants to give this floor technique a try, I would reccomend cutting the floor long enough to tuck under the inflateable tube just enough at the front and back to give the bottom a totally flat profile. I would also remove the floor after every use and store it in a way to keep it from warping. I would imagine that much could be done by adding ribs or stiffeners, or even designing a stich and glue style floor. I am keeping an eye out for an alternate material such as a sheet of lightweight plastic or fiberglass that could provide enough longitudinal stiffness when rolled into a semi-tube. If anybody out there comes up with some good ideas let us know.