Tag Archives: Gumotex skeg

Loch Sionascaig and Eilean Mòr

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First paddle of the year and it’s nearly May! I need to get out more. It was a calm day but as we’d not been there for ages, we decided to go inland to the ever-reliable Loch ‘Sion’, spread below a cirque of dramatic Assynt peaks. From the lay-by on the WMR it’s a half-a-mile’s trudge down to the west shore at Boat Bay, dipping through the hazel woods then tip-toeing over rotting walkways spanning slimy quagmires.

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Down at the bay – bother! The skeg – clipped to hull through a zip tie was MIA. The zip tie had probably succumbed to the UV, as they do. Oh well, I claimed years ago these IKs are controllable without a skeg, let’s see if that’s still true.

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On a flowing river, finessing the paddle strokes while solo, it works well at the cost of some flat-out speed. But two-up and with a tail breeze – that aeolian nemesis of paddlecraft – we scratched a scruffy traverse out to the mouth of Boat Bay where it was quicker to let the funnelled wind push us out into the main loch. Suilven sat to the north, Cul Mor was straight ahead and the ever-popular Stac Polly was to the south where panting lines of day-trekkers were eyeing us right now, some with what I liked to think was mild envy.
By and by we reach Eilean Dudh, the islet just north of Eilean Mòr, where I went for a solo spin to see if the boat was easier to track solo. It was a bit, especially once off a tailwind.

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That done, we paddled over to Eilean Mòr, parked up on the east side out of the breeze and found a flatish, dryish patch where some woodsman had made a rudimentary camp. I went off for an explore through the mossy-barked woodlands, like something from a fairy tale, then up to the unusually bald summit which in a month or two will be waist-deep in thick, green ferns. All around the heather-clad hills still clung to the tawny hues of late winter and the branches of gaunt, leafless trees, deformed by the prevailing winds, reached northeast like some toga-clad heroine in a Romantic painting. May’s reliably sunny spells will soon put an end to all this drabness.

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When the time came to paddle back, set against the wind the skegless Seawave was much easier to handle and satisfying to paddle. In fact I got so engrossed in the effort that amid the perspectiveless blur of yellows and browns I missed the small entrance back into Boat Bay and was steering us west towards the Polly Lochs.

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‘This doesn’t look right’. And I was right, it wasn’t. A quick glance at the map and a turn to the northwest delivered us back to the right shore. Back home, the skeg lay in the gravel by the wall alongside a broken zip tie. Have I mentioned tough, TPU RovaFlex reusuables yet?

A fortnight later (that’s the frequency of sunny days up here) we looked down on a new perspective of Suilven and Eilean Mòr island from the windless 2800-foot summit of Canisp mountain, still clinging to the last of the winter snows.

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Gumotex (Innova) inflatable kayaks

“My solution: Gumotex Solar 410C … the difference is ludicrous!”
Happy Gumotex owner after running a Sevylor Hudson for a few years.

Great website – what a wealth of information. I wish I had read it before buying my Sevylor Pointer K2, I would have bought a Gumotex. Never too late; it just costs you more. Anna M.

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The Gumotex kayak above looks similar to the Austrian Semperit Forelle from around that era.

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For my sort of paddling the Czech-based Gumotex make the best-value, proper IKs (in North America they’re branded ‘Innova’). Starting in the 1950s and capitalising on new, rubber-coated fabrics, along with Semperit, they were among the early innovators of IKs (Zodiac, in the 1930s, made the very first).
Now all you have to do is see if Gumotex have an Ik for your needs. Gumotex also made some expensive, high-pressure, white water models, such as these raft-wide Ks.

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In 2011 they stopped selling the Sunny in Europe. The 25cm longer, but otherwise similar Solar 410C took its place and in 2017 that became the near-identical Solar 3. In 2019 it got renamed the Solar 019 alongside a similar new model called the Thaya with a rigid dropstitch floor.
Hybrid dropstitch hulls using their rubber-based Nitrilon fabric looks like the new direction for Gumotex IKs. The same durability but better performing boats which glide like hardshells but roll into a bag. The Rush models of 2020 took this a step further.

Compared to some IKs, Gumotex are simple, robust, slim like a kayak not wide as a raft, and are gimmick free. Over the years the design and fittings have been refined: better skeg fitment, better removable seats (but still heavy), better valves, while in most cases keeping PRVs in the floors. The current Nitrilon feels lighter and more pliable and now there are fitted or removable decked boats like the SeawaveFramura and Rush.
The sporty Safari (with a 330XL version) the Solar 3/019 as well as the Framura and the versatile Seawave are all great touring boats, while the Nitrilon Twists are light rec boats.
I haven’t owned or tried every Gumotex IK mentioned here, but in most cases know people who do- or have. The video below shows what sort of whitewater fun you can have with Gumotex IKs and even canoes.

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Gumotex IKs are what I call ‘tubeless’. There’s more here but in short this is the ‘European’ way of making IKs with no ‘inner tube ‘bladders’ supporting a hull shell. Instead all the sections are vulcanised in an autoclave and glued up to make a sealed inflatable vessel, like a packraft. (In the US, Sea Eagle make their Explorer IKs the same way, but use PVC). It’s expensive but has advantages over the the more common bladder ‘inner tube’ boats, principally in quick and easy cleaning and drying.
Gumotex IKs are made from Nitrilon, their own version of DuPont’s hypalon: the original tough, EDPM-like synthetic rubber-coated fabric as used on white water rafts and
which lasts for decades. (Grabner, by comparison, buy in their EDPM from Germany). In 2007 Gumotex introduced LitePack (later called Nitrilon Lite) on lower-end IKs like the Twists, with the rubber coating only on the outside of the hull. It saved weight but boats proved to be less durable and Nitrilon Lite was quietly dropped in 2018. (A mate of mine has many failures with his Lite Twists).
As mentioned, the current Nitrilon (as on my Seawave) feels thinner and more supple than the original less shiny and stiffer Nitrilon of the Sunny era.

One thing you should know with Gumotex IKs is that all except the Seawave, Rush (and the Ks) are rated at 0.2 bar or 2.9psi, something for which a Bravo footpump can just about manage. This is more than cheaper bladder IKs which run just 1psi before they blow apart. However, Incept and Grabner run super-stiff 0.3 bar and of course dropstitch technology is changing all this.

I’ve read of Gumboaters running more than the recommended pressure in the side tubes to make the boats stiffer and more responsive. I suspect they could take it, as long as they don’t get too hot when left out of the water. Running at the recommended 0.2 bar pressure can mean that when a boat is over 3.5m long – like the Solar – it will flex in the swell or on rough water. This was a nuisance with my Sunny in roughish seas because it swamped over the sides. Fwiw, I ran my Seawave side tubes for years at 0.33 bar – 50% more than the recommended 0.25. I had no problems but importantly, I added 0.33-rated PRVs so that the sides would purge air if they got too hot.

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On flat water, long boat flexing can mean reduced speeds if you’re heavy like me. Apart from going on a diet, I considered various ideas to fix that in my old Sunny (which I took back in 2020), but in the end settled on a Grabner Amigo, a basic boat best described as a ‘high pressure’ Sunny. It was solid as a brick, but expensive. I sold the Amigo and from 2014 ran a Seawave which I adapted in various ways, including running over-pressure side tubes, as mentioned.

For waterside holiday fun to longer touring expeditions, you can’t go wrong with a Gumotex IK. Prices have got high and used boats are very rare, but I much prefer the tubeless design and durable rubber fabrics to anything in PVC, let alone bladders, as well as the solid improvements they’ve made over the years.

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Inflatable kayaks: Do you Need a Skeg (Tracking Fin)?

Updated Summer 2020

See also this about rudders
And read this about decks

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Short answer: Yes.
It’s easier to go straight while paddling as hard as you like, and most IKs come with one, some flat-floored models have up to three. Just about all can be easily removed by hand, because in shallow rivers you might want to remove it to avoid grounding.
If you’re IK does not have one it’s easy to glue a skeg kit (see below).

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Gumotex skeg fitted to a Grabner Amigo.

Old bolt-on Gumotex sksgs. A faff.

A few years ago Gumotex introduced a slip-on, black plastic tracking fin (skeg, above) which was near identical in shape to one I’d had made in the oversized, alloy skeg days (left). Smaller made better clearance still worked fine, but metal does bent.
I’ve fitted these plastic skegs to older Gumotex IKs and other IKs. The kit is under £20 + glue, and the plastic skeg is tough. Just make sure you glue the patch on really well; it helps if your boat is made from a matching rubber fabric as the supplied Nitrilon patch. or make your own patch from same fabric.

I fitted the tough Gumotex skeg to my Grabner Amigo IK (above) and at sea used it all the time. But on the shallow River Spey (below) this boat didn’t handle at all well without a skeg, possibly because the the tailwind pushed the high stern around. It was really quite annoying as a few years earlier my broadly similar Sunny managed the Spey fine, so skeg-free tracking clearly varies from boat to boat.

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If you’re an experienced paddler you’ll have acquired the knack of going straight without a skeg – handy for paddling shallow rivers where the skeg would ground. A little more paddling finesse and constant small corrections are required, especially if powering on.
It’s good to learn the technique before you need to: fix your eyes on a tree or marker on a distant bank and paddle as gently as you like towards it, not looking away and keeping the nose of the boat in line with the marker. By using very light strokes you’ll see it can be done if it’s not too windy when again, a skeg helps with tracking (going straight).

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I even found I could paddle a ten-foot Solar 300 (below) without a skeg. Once you know you can go straight without a skeg, it’s just a matter of adopting the same finesse but with a bit more power. Only when you attempt the speeds of a Maori war party will the bow deflection or yawing get too much because you can paddle faster and still go straight with a skeg. Out at sea or on busier rivers, I always use a skeg.

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I’ve often thought a hinged retractable skeg with a spring or just weight could be a good idea: it would pivot backwards when dragging in shallows, then drop back down when there’s enough depth.
It seems SUPs need skegs and in the US, FrogFish have made such a thing for boards, but you hear the spring can be a weak point. I’ve envisaged something more normal skeg size. I can imagine in rapids drifting sideways into a rock and snaping a long skeg. SUPs don’t normally do rapids. Especially if your kayak has a rudder mount, I think it would be quite easy to make one, if you think it’s worthwhile.

IK&P Tip: drill a small hole in your plastic skeg and attach a ring or zip tie, or find some other means of attaching it directly to you boat during storage, not chucked in the bottom of a bag. It’s annoying to turn up and find you forgot your skeg.

Packrafts

On a shorter, wider, slower packraft the consensus seems to be that skegs make little difference. I can believe it before I knew it and now I know it. The bow still yaws or pivots a little left to right as you paddle; less so with a load mounted on the bow.
Tracking – going straight – is not the same thing and not a problem on a packraft because you can’t go that fast. You move along with a moderate left-right bow shuffle which it’s true, does limit your speed, but speed is limited by a packraft’s hull shape anyway. Or is it?
If anything, a packraft skeg fitted under the bow rather than the stern might limit this yawing, but I imagine you’ll destroy the instant turning ability for little actual benefit. Good for crossing a long lake in a hurry maybe. Can’t say I’ve seen this idea mentioned, though I am sure someone’s tried it. 

In 2011 Alpacka invented the extended stern (right; bottom) which has the same effect as a skeg. It’s been widely copied by other manufacturers and it definitely works.

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Clip-on skeg on my MRS Nomad. Tried it once but seems to make little difference; the Nomad tracks well for a packraft.