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I have taken it on a week long solo trip in Prince William Sound in Alaska and I was amazed by the comfort even after a few days of paddling, and the boat was still dry inside. The skin on frame lets you feel the water around you and somehow that feels more natural than a rigid hull.
This boat stands on it's own merits for ease of paddling and performance but when you think of the options for use it definitely shines. You can leave it assembled and car-top it, you can leave it packed and drive it to where you want to paddle and then set it up ( and you'll most definitely have a crowd of on-lookers), or you can put it on a plane and go anywhere. To me the flexibility of use is the clincher.
Storagewise: It has no internal bulkheads so you can stuff your stuff anywhere. The carrying capacity seemed fine. On my week long trip I never needed to strap anything on the deck.
Stability: The initial stability is excellent, perfect for photography or just sitting and relaxing. I don't really know about secondary stability because I have never tried to roll it or edge it, and I don't want to. It tracks really solidly and I have never felt like I had to fight it to get it to turn.
After ten years of use (granted not constant use) it has never needed any repairs and the hull seems like it's holding up excellently. Since I bought mine (in 1992) they have made lots of improvements, so I guess they're even better now. A great boat hands down!
One of the attractions of the K1 for me was its high initial stability as I often paddle alone, at least on sheltered waters. I have not been disappointed in this respect & when practising self-rescues have found the boat easy to re-enter from the water even in quite rough conditions. If necessary I've found a paddle float rescue also works very well. I've found that I can easily stand up in the boat & even paddle forwards whilst standing.
Leaning the K1 just a little makes it very easy to turn & I can turn it 360 degrees in 6 or 7 strokes.
However I do find that it very quickly reaches a point that feels very unstable & likely to flip & I find it hard to recover from this position using a brace, whereas I can get my old Valley Skerray right onto its side by sculling & still recover. I certainly wouldn't want to attempt that in the K1.
Having said that, I don't think it's likely that I'll ever need to get it over that far in the first place.
The boat tracks reasonably well although does weathercock a little. The rudder works well but does seem to have a quite significant effect on forward speed. In most conditions it keeps up quite well with skinny hardshells. However, in very rough water & strong headwinds (Force 7ish at right angles to two converging tidal streams) I really struggled to make forward progress at all whereas the hardshell paddlers I was with seemed to punch through it much easier. I suspect the boat may have been flexing to such an extent that it lost all ability to glide.
I tend to leave it assembled most of the time as the assembly is still a bit of a pain even after many goes. It takes me about 40 mins now, down from 1.5 hours at the start. Also I find the maintenance a bit of a pain. You can't just flush it out with a hose. A considerable amount of salt can crystallise inside the frames & has to be washed out after every trip. The boat has to be dismantled to do this.
Having said all that, it is a joy to paddle & particularly suits my leisurely, exploratory style whilst still being a very attractive boat.
It certainly can't do everything perfectly but is there a boat out there that can? I would probably choose it again as I don't think anything else has such a good all-round combination of traits.
My only ding -- I have the boat with the sailing modification. The assembly was a real pain in the a** -- more so than it should have been. Highly recommended.
I love sea kayaking mainly for the places it takes me, the closeness to the sea, the marvellous encounters with wildlife, the feeling of being able to go wherever I have the will, stamina and skill to go. The K-1 is the perfect boat for this. It handles beautifully in all conditions, it is a dream to pack and unpack gear with huge capacity yet paddles just as well when empty (with floatation bags). It is extremely well made and very well thought out.
One of the greatest pleasures from skin and frame boats is that you can feel the water beneath and around you; the boat flexes and moves with the sea rather than bashing its way through it.
I have had no trouble keeping up with hardshell boats of all types, and in rougher conditions I often seem to make better progress with less effort: don't believe any stories you may have heard that folding boats are slow. The rudder is useful at times, but can easily be flipped up or even just packed away inside the boat at the start of a paddle.
The K-1 is marveloously comfortable. The cockpit does seem huge at first (I am used to a very small ocean cockpit from my McNulty Huntsman), but you soon get used to it. I have fitted inflatable hip-pads which significantly improve the feel of the boat. Thigh braces are also available and I think these would be very useful if you envisaged doing much rolling in the K-1 (I am an unreliable roller at the best of times, and have not yet attempted to roll the K-1: I'm told it is doable but takes some working on, as everything happens rather slowly). The initial stability is awesome, and the secondary stability rock solid, but the boat doesn't feel lifeless or "barge-like": it responds well to leaned turns. Although the rear deck is quite high, the boat is easy to re-enter in case of a swim, and a paddle-float is unlikely to be needed.
The boat weighs in at about 52lbs. It is easy to shoulder-carry. I have only had it one season, so it is too early to give personal experience of its toughness, but most of the coast around here is rocky, and I have had to make a few rough landings with no visible wear at all to the hull. And I take comfort from the fact that if a tear does happen, it can be permanently fixed as easily and quickly as a bicycle tube, or temporarily with good old duct tape.
Downsides? Well, it is a big investment: but investment is the right word. And compared to a fancy car or a basic sailing or motorboat it's a bargain. Long after you've forgotten the financial shock you'll be getting huge enjoyment out of this boat - it is definitely excellent value for money.
As for assembly, well it's not as quick as some other makes, but it does get quicker both as a new boat takes up its shape and as the owner gets more savvy. Some people say they can get it assembled in about 25 minutes (that's the psot-1998 Sealskin version, which I have), but I take a good 40-45 without rushing, and including a couple of extra bits like the hip-pads. That said, I often leave it assembled for long periods and car-top it to destinations without any harm. I didn't buy the K-1 principally for its foldability: I regard that as a bonus.
Would I change or improve anything? I don't think so. It would be great if the K-1 would assemble in 10 minutes, but that couldn't happen without compromising it's superb dynamics. Like the original Ford, you can have the hull in any colour so long as it's black - white would be nice but presumably there are technical reasons why that's not possible; however the deck comes in, I believe, a choice of 5 very fetching colours. The rudder is first-rate, but it woudl be nice to have dual pedals, like the Cascade design, with a fixed section and a movable section. But these are the merest quibbles. The boat has evolved over the years into a true classic: 16'6" of pure joy.
In conclusion, I can't imagine any kayak suiting me better. Everyone who has tried mine has been hugely impressed. I have paddled my K-1 in some fairly hairy conditions (up to Force 7) in which I'd have been distinctly jittery in my beloved old hardshell, but in the K-1 I felt relaxed and completely in control, even when considerably better paddlers alongside me have looked rather nervous in their hardshells.
For really skillful paddlers the narrower and less stable Khatsalano might be a more exciting alternative, but it does lack the carrying capacity of the K-1. I have also tried the Kahuna, which is utterly delightful but really a day or week-end boat. For multi-day and night wildcamping trips over long distances in potentially big weather and seas, but with equal ability as an unladen day-boat, I think the K-1 is peerless.
The K-Light was stable but the K-1 is even more so. I suspect the 16'6" length has a lot to do with it. Amazingly, from a full speed paddle, I can stop paddling and it will still be moving 200 or more feet later (still water). I paddle with a Werner carbon fiber 230 CM 4 piece paddle which packs nicely.
Yes it is expensive, but so is a sports car and this is the sports car kayak. SealSkin is 840 deiner nylon urethane coated hull bonded to 420 denier nylon urethane coated deck and doesn't leak any water PERIOD. The urethane is slick and fast and TOUGH. I landed on a concrete launch ramp with the lake waves pushing me faster than I could get out and no damage or scratches! I don't recommend playing in sharp rocks though. I have run over some upthrust tree stumps with no problem.
My bright yellow deck with the black hull always begets comments like "that is a foldable?, I would never have thought" It takes about 20 min to assemble and is easier than the hypalon version of the K-Light. The dimensional stability of the urethane coated fabric which allows precise fitting is responsible I believe. Save up and get one, you won't be sorry.
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