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.
gumoneeight2sionDown 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.
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 gumoneeight1into 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.
ROVAFLEX‘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.

gumofacIn my opinion the long-established Czech Gumotex rubber gumoldefactory in Břeclav make the best-value, proper IKs in Europe (in North America they’re branded ‘Innova’). All you have to do is pick the best one for your needs. To see the latest catalog, click this.
Gumotex also made some expensive, high-pressure, super-tough models, such as these raft-wide Ks.
In 2011 they stopped selling the Sunny in Europe. The 25cm longer, but similar Solar 410C took its place – and in 2017 it became the near-identical Solar 3.
Compared to some IKs, Gumotex are simple, robust and gimmick free, and over the years the design has been refined: better skeg fitment, better removable seats (but still heavy), lighter material options while keeping gumomanuPRVs in the floors. Better push-push valves, a new suppler and lighter Nitrilon, and now with fitted or removable decked boats like the Seawave or Framura.
The sporty Safari (with a 330XL version) the Solar 3 as well as the Swings and the versatile Seawave are all great boats, and the Nitrilon Twists are light. Some might add the old, semi-decked Helios 1 and 2 to that list as well.
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’ (this definition has since been adopted by Innova). There’s more here but in short this is the European way of making IKs: simply gluing all the sections into a sealed inflatable vessel, like a packraft. It’s expensive but has advantages over the bladder ‘inner tube’ boats more common in the US.
Most Gumotex IKs are made out of Nitrilon, their version of DuPont’s hypalon: the original tough, EDPM-like synthetic rubber-coated fabric as used on white water rafts that lasts forever but has now been superseded by similar but lighter fabrics.
gumotexfabrics18You might have thought that full-coat Nitrilon over a bit OTT so a few years ago Gumotex introduced LitePack (later called Nitrilon Lite) on low-end IKs like the Twist, with the rubber coating only on the outside. It saved weight but the 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 years ago. Maybe it’s not as tough but I bet it’s lighter.
One thing you should know with Gumboats is that all except the Seawave (and the Ks) are rated at 0.2 bar or 2.9psi, something for which a Bravo footpump is fine. This is better pressure than many other IKs, but not like the 0.3 bar boats from Incept and Grabner. 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 out of the water. Running at the recommended pressure can mean that when a boat gets over 3.5m long – like the Solar 3 – it will flex in the swell or rough water. This was a nuisance with my Sunny in roughish seas because it seawavebadenswamped over the sides.
But even 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, but in the end settled on a discontinued Grabner Amigo, a basic boat best described as a ‘high pressure’ Solar 3. It was solid as a brick but expensive. I sold the Amigo and since 2014 have run a Seawave which I have adapted in various ways, including running over-pressure side tubes with added PRVs.
For waterside holiday fun to longer touring expeditions, you can’t go wrong with a Gumotex IK.

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Inflatable kayaks – do you need a skeg?

Revised summer 2018
See also this about rudders
And read this about decks

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ami-skegwayShort answer: Yes. It’s easier to go straight while paddling as hard as you like, and since 2014 all Gumotex come with them, as do many others. Some can be mounted or removed by hand even from an inflated boat, and it’s easy to glue a kit to any IK (left and right).

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gumlowskegA few years ago Gumotex IKs came with a horrible optional bolt-on alloy skeg (right) that was way too big and bent easily. After testing a smaller home-made version (left), I got some stronger low-profile alloy skegs made (behind the black one, right) and even sold a few to fellow Gumboaters. Then Gumotex introduced gumonewskega skeg near identical in shape, but in tough plastic and with clever tool-less mounting (right). I’ve fitted these plastic skegs to older Gumotex IKs and other IKs. The kit (right) is under £20 + glue, and the skeg is very tough. Just make sure you glue it on really well; it helps if your boat is made from a matching rubber fabric.

spey1304If 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 drag. A little more paddling finesse and occasional correction is required, especially if powering on – for that a skeg is definitely better. grabgumskegI fitted the tough Gumotex skeg to my Grabner Amigo IK (right) and at sea used it all the time. But on the shallow Spey (left) that boat didn’t handle well without a skeg, possibly a tailwind pushed the back around. It was really quite annoying as a few years earlier my broadly similar Sunny managed the Spey fine, so it clearly varies from boat to boat.
fitskegrazorskegIt’s good to learn the technique of going straight without a skeg. 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). cezesolar
I even found I could paddle a ten-foot Solar cezesolarportwithout 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 deflection 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.
frogfishI’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. Seems SUPs also have this problem and in the US, FrogFish have made such a thing for boards, but they say the spring can be a weak point. I’ve envisaged something more normal skeg size as I can imagine in rapids drifting sideways into a rock or something might put quite a lot of leverage on such 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.

Packrafts

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On a packraft the consensus seems to be skegs make little difference. I can believe it before I knew it and now I know it. The bow still yaws or bobs a little left to right as you paddle; less so with a load mounted on the bow. Tracking – actually 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 considered it. Since 2011 we have the more pointy Alpackas where the extended stern has the same effect as a skeg. The idea has been widely copied by other manufacturers and it definitely works.

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