Hey. My name is Andrew. I am new here. I got a nice new inflatable recently and I paddle a few times a week. I am an addict. But there was a lot I needed to learn prior to getting my boat. I hope this post will help anyone else thinking about an inflatable. I wished I had a message like this to read before I got my boat. Instead I read everything I could, watched every video, and talked to every kayaker I met. This post may be helpful to you if you are considering an inflatable so read on!
First off I now have an inflatable that I am very happy with.
I live in Ft Lauderdale. I live in a condo.
Because I live in a condo and just don't have any storage space to speak of I could not get anything but an inflatable. Of course people will say that a hard boat is faster and easier to paddle, but that was not an option for me.
Prior to getting my new inflatable I had a Sevylor Tahiti inflatable... That's the inexpensive yellow pvc boat that many people have seen around for years and years. I've seen them in lakes, and in swimming pools and they always looked pretty cool. I got mine free as a prize in a carnival and never used it until I moved to Florida.
As a former New Yorker I knew more about riding the subway than the ocean waves and seeing so many people in kayaks out here I decided to hit the Everglades and paddle around with the gators.
The Sevylor Tahiti is a boat you can get for around $100.00 and I want to show you why it is worth while to spend a bit more.
First off the Sevylor Tahiti comes with plastic paddles. They looked very nice. It comes with a foot pump. Also looked very nice.
I drove down to a place called the Loxahatchee wilderness area. Just a little parking lot and a sandy boat ramp in the swamps. Lots of boats and kayakers out there so I figured I would give it a try.
Using a small bellows footpump to inflate the Sevylor Tahiti is no easy task in 95F degrees and 100 percent humidity. Florida in the summer is hot. The foot pump that is included with that boat is just not the right pump for a ten foot boat. The seats are inflatable and there are three air chambers. The valves on this boat are not the better professional valves you will find on modern better quality boats so you can't really get a good high level of pressure. By the time I was done pumping I needed oxygen.
Now that I was all pumped up I put the 4 piece plastic paddle together and jumped in and pushed off. I quickly paddled around 100 yards offshore and headed toward an alligator that was larger than my boat. He dove under the lilly pads and though I felt pretty safe, not being able to see him anymore after several minutes also made me a bit worried. So I turned the boat around and paddled in the direction I came from.... Which now happened to be upwind.
Paddling my little Tahiti upwind with a plastic paddle in 95 degree heat (with a 12 foot gator behind me) was one of the worst things I've ever had to do. I learned why a low pressure short boat and a plastic paddle don't work outside of a very small lake or swimming pool. The plastic paddle flexed so much I realized I had to paddle lightly or I risked bending it backward which would make it non functional. The boat itself bent and swayed with the force of my paddling. I paddled on the right side and the boat nosed to the left. When I paddled harder and the boat bent slightly in the middle. These flexes absorb much of your paddling force and therefore the force is not transferred to moving the boat forward. The best way to put it is it is kind of like digging yourself out of a hole in the sand. Everytime you throw a shovel full of sand out of the hole a half a shovel full falls back in. I hope that explains it.
I got rid of that boat and then I went on a quest to find a really high quality inflatable kayak.
After much leg work I chose another Sevylor. This one was a big step up. I got the Sevylor Sport SK200DS (Not the River version but the newer version).
It is a two man boat with a length of 13'8" - a big step up from the Tahiti's 9' something. It weighed only 35 pounds or so based on the description so that sounded good.
I have had the new boat for about 3 months now and overall I am really happy with it. I go out on it about 2 or 3 times per week. I am unemployed at the moment so the economic collapse of the world has just enabled me to have a lot of extra paddling time on my hands.
The 35 pound weight of the new boat sounds very light. But after the boat is fully loaded with seats, and the extra stuff I bring along it is probably more like 80 pounds. So I inflate the boat and carry it empty down to the water, then make a second trip to pick up the rest of my gear.
I use the carrying bag that came with the boat to hold all the seats and accessories and I purchased a $12.00 rubbermaid box from WalMart to store the boat in (Very cool). The rubbermaid box has wheels on one end when the boat is folded up it fits in with enough room for a fully loaded carrying bag beside it.
This boat comes with a dual action high pressure hand pump which I thought was a big step up from that little foot bellows pump I hated. However the Sport SK200DS is quite a bit larger in length and volume than the Tahiti and its inflated to a much higher pressure. Those factors combine to make inflating it at the beach in the sun in Miami in July a 15 minute workout that can easily cause a stroke. I am 43 years old and though I am not overweight I am also not in top shape (yet).
So after pumping it up once I decided to buy an electric pump for $20.00 with a car lighter plug. I figured the electric pump would be a piece of junk and would be in the trash the day after I bought it but the reverse was true. Best thing I ever bought.
With the electric pump each tube and the high pressure floor inflates in 5 seconds. Truly remarkable. You still need to use the hand pump to top off the air to the suggested pressure (3 pounds for the tubes and a whopping 7 pounds for the floor) but it only takes an extra 20 pumps for each section instead of a thousand or so had I used the hand pump from scratch.
So we are all pumped up and ready to go. I picked up a Werner Skagit 240 CM paddle for around $130.00 from Jeff at Jeff's Kayaks in Dania Beach Florida. Throw in a $20.00 leash and it comes in at around $150.00 but it is well worth it compared to the plastic paddle I had used with the Tahiti.
The high pressure floor (7 pounds) and the medium pressure side tubes (3 pounds) also makes for a much stiffer boat than the cheapo inflatables. Combined with the nice paddle you are in a much better position to out-run the gators.
Now don't get me wrong.... An inflatable boat is always going to be more wind resistant than a hard boat. No matter how stiff and how good your paddle you can't outrace a high quality touring boat. But 1-that wasn't an option for me, and 2-for my purposes I prefer my boat because I can fit it in a small rubermaid box and I can easily jump in and out on the water.
I have been snorkeling on various vaction destinations once or twice a year for the last 20 years. Now that I live in Florida I had been snorkeling from the shore many times until it got a bit boring. I also saw my first shark off of John U Lloyd state park. He was just a 4 footer and was sleeping under a coral ledge but nevertheless I thought it would have been nice to be able to climb up into a boat if I needed to. I often snorkel around 500 yards offshore and that's a pretty long swim back in especially if you only have one leg or one arm... or even if you just have a cramp or some other minor injury.
So a boat to climb into is quite nice. And a closed boat or even a hard sit on top kayak would be much harder to climb into from deep water than an inflatable.
Now I told you my inflatable is 13'8" and thats more than big enough to remain stable as you fly out of the water with sea creatures chasing you. In fact it is so stable you can stand in it though I haven't really tried that because I don't want to flip it over or take needless chances. Being out on the water is serious and though it's fun it is also something you should never take lightly.
So after I inflate the boat I carry it on one shoulder down to the water. I put it in the cool wet sand as once it is inflated to full pressure the sun can heat it enough to make it explode. Theres no shade in Florida in July on the beach or around the glades and in full sun the boat may blow so I dont take any chances. Then I walk back to the car and get the accessory bag. You may be wondering why I dont just wheel everything down to the water in the storage box. Two reasons; 1-I need to inflate next to the car because the electric inflator plugs into the car and using the hand pump on the sand is not as easy as in a parking lot on a firm surface, and 2-the wheels on the storage box would not work well on the sandy beaches. So I make two trips.
I throw the storage bag in the back of the boat which when empty has enough room to hold lots of gear. I take along my mask and fins, a weight belt, a folding anchor, the paddle, the seat, lunch, Pelican dry box, a few gallons of water and whatever else I need.
I paddle alone so although the boat is made for 2 people and comes with 2 seats, you can remove one seat and change the position of the remaining seat to a more centered point and paddle alone. That gives me around 10 feet of storage space. Enough room for a tent, sleeping bag, portable barbeque and whatever else I would need for a multi-day trip out to the keys.
The boat should have more lashing D rings and gear netting or bungee netting but I guess that you can add that stuff as needed - if needed. Thought these are touted as sit on top inflatable kayaks you are really sitting inside in a nested kind of position somewhere between a kayak and a canoe. So the side walls in the boat really hold my stuff well on anything but the big waves or whitewater which I do not really do here in Florida.
The wind still affects this boat but the longer length and the better Werner paddle as well as the stiffness from the high pressure makes it far better than you might think. It's still not a hard kayak but it is as close as you can come with an inflatable. There are also directional strakes on the bottom and you could add full skegs if you wish. You could also add a foot rudder system if you wish. It will also accept a sail kit from Sailboats To Go (which allows you to tack) or the smaller sails thats many of you guys have which can assist you in a down wind situation only.
I don't do extremely long tours yet, and can't keep up with a fast ocean paddler in a hard boat but let me tell you that in no way diminishes the fun I get out of this boat on my little expeditions or the serenity I get out of floating on the currents.
After an hour of snorkeling the keys and paddling around I throw the anchor and lay back on my floating air bed and soak up the rays. I am from New York City and I really love the peace and quiet I experience in my kayak. It's nice and quiet and very soothing when gentle waves and a warm breeze pass above and below. I know now why so many people love kayaking, and I believe the inflatable really enhances that feeling if you are interested in floating around and relaxing in the surf.
Every time I take my boat out I meet people. It's funny how people come over to me and ask me where I got it and all kinds of questions. Another plus because I love people.
Priceing: The boat cost around $550.00, paddles with leashes around $150.00 electric pump around $20.00 and anchor around $30.00.
I hope someone find this review helpful and I hope it spares you some of the anguish I went through at first. Anyone else in South Florida who wants to get together drop me a line. I will bring an extra paddle along if you don't have a boat and just want to go out in mine to try it out.
Last great tip I can give anyone paddling in hot climate. Another paddler gave me this tip: take a half gallon plastic jug from juice or whatever and fill it 2/3 with fresh water and freeze it overnight. Before you go out top it off with more water and you will have ice cold drinks all day. I usually take at least two of these in the boat everytime I go out.
Hey you're going to love this: For several days I was unable to bring the boat into my house after a day in the keys. I left it in the car for three days. The car gets to 160 degrees F every day. Thats as high as my thermometer goes. I figured for sure the seams would have melted and went to the water to see if I could still inflate it. Amazingly it does not leak air, and now I leave it in my car all the time. I know eventually I could destroy it but it has been a month now and it is still fine.
I keep everything I need in the back of my Nissan X-Terra so whenever I am out and see a nice lake or a river or a boat ramp in the evergaldes or by the sea I just blow it up and in ten minutes I am in the water.
I hope you guys all have as much fun as I do and more. and I hope maybe someday I can hook up with people from this web site and do some expeditions into the unknown.
Thanks for reading my stuff.
Edited by canvas42 (07/18/09 08:35 PM)