Slackraft Sea Trials

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Chopping down my Sevy pooltoy into a slackraft lost too much buoyancy to take my gross weight, but it works fine for the Mrs who’s about half my weight. So on a very calm, sunny morning – realistically, it’s inshore limits – we took the Sevy out to the Bay for a swim. I’d glued on an extra outer covering of ballistic nylon to save the vulnerable floor, as we had planned to take it down the Escalante river in Utah a couple months back, but it was way too hot for that when we got there and since then, as you may know, much of the US has been suffering a terrible drought.

As often, the first paddle in a short boat like this sees the operator yawing from left to right like a crowd watching a ping pong final. After a while, though the paddling technique adapts to reduce this effect, but even then the boat is still much slower than an Alpacka. This Slackie is only 28″ wide by 56″ long – 2:1 – (my Yak is 88″ x 36″; 2.44:1) and the Mrs found the best trim was sitting in the middle, even if this meant nothing to lean back on and was not sustainable. Next time out we’ll take a fishing buoy or something to lean against, although I do wonder if some sort of trailing skeg – a board sticking out the back rather than an under hull skeg like on an IK– might help subdue the yawing and so direct the effort in a straight line rather than zigzags.

My Alpacka skims along just like it always does; what a great boat it is. Annoyingly the backrest is leaking again from the twist valve base, even though it’s been glued up once. I find you do need that backrest to sit correctly in the boat, so another repair is due.
We dipped about, followed the river channel and out to sea and on to the rocks. As the tide turned we headed back up the river, against the flow the slackboat soon slowed to a near stop and it was faster led on its string through the shallows until a tailwind helped blow us back to our shoes, by now stranded some 200m from the water’s edge in just an hour.

A post-sea trail inspection showed that my carefully glued floor was coming away from the Sevy’s PVC hull like damp wallpaper; that may have explained why the boat got so slow coming back. The Evo Stik didn’t take to the hull at all, or if it did, seawater soon dissolved it. At the time I was trying to save on my nice Bostik 1782 which I used elsewhere on the slack boat with no problems. Anyway, it’s not worth wasting any more glue on this boat. And who knows, perhaps the ribbed floor which has been exposed again may help restore some tracking. We’ll see next time. We’ve half a mind to repeat last year’s fabulous Suilven triathlon, but this time in a boat each.

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