No doubt about it, the K40 is fast enough for an IK. Last night was a calm but chilly evening, not very inviting so I settled on some effort and endurance rather than relaxed fun, nosing along the coast. Alone and without my usual dry suit, the initial agoraphobia certainly helped with the digging. But for goodness sake, the sea was barely stirring apart from an eerie swell, so I dared myself a dash over to Tanera Mor (left). It’s only a 25-minute crossing.
The day before a kayaker fell in heading in the other direction back to Old Dornie and ended up being rescued by the coast guard (one press version here with a few small errors). I was told only one of the two kayakers actually fell in and although experienced, couldn’t roll or exit instantly, possibly as a result of cold shock? I presume it was that effort along with, like me, not being ‘dressed for the swim’, that brought on the reported hypothermia and associated helplessness. There were several other kayak rescues reported around Britain last weekend. Certainly up here it was the first sunny and calm couple of days in ages which must have brought paddlers out, even if sea temps haven’t caught up and may never do so.
I kept upright and sustained a sweat-inducing 4mph plus for half an hour, peaking with the aid of some unnoticed surge at just over 5mph (8.5kph or 4.6 knots). I suspect that in similar conditions, a slick fiberglass sea kayak that’s six inches narrower and six inches less high can cruise at around 4–4.5mph all day, and I’m also told that at sea you should bank on an average of 3 knots (3.5mph, 5.5kph) when estimating distances. On the last leg, going east against the ebb and a light breeze didn’t make much difference to my speed. Until I was spent, that is. In the absence of sunny vistas and a warm breeze to linger over, it was a good work out. See also a similar test with my Grabner. This was my first proper outing with the thigh straps. It wasn’t rough enough to test them, but I’m sure they enabled me to keep the speed up. This is partly due to the fact that, like so many IK seats, the Incept backrest collapses as you lean on it as it’s far from rigid, no matter how much you inflate it. It’s why I got an Aire Cheetah seat for my Sunny years ago, and why, along with its mushy footrest, the g-friend can’t get the most out of her Solar (top left; I fixed it later). When you lean back on an inflatable seat – even attached to the hull tops (the highest point) – it still just folds down from the arch of the lower back. This leaning from the middle-lower back rather than pushing from the lower back/hips is partly to do with a lack of solid footrests in the Incept and Solar (before mods). All this squishy inflation certainly creates comfort but is also the biggest performance drawback compared to hardshells – even if you do read of SinK Sit in Kayak hardshellers complaining of numb limbs until they find their ideal boat/set up. One reason a sea kayak can manage to be just 22 inches wide is that you can jam yourself into it – hip, thighs/knees and feet – so it fits and responds on the move like a running shoe, not a woolly slipper – a nifty analogy for SinKs vs IKs. Without a solid seat or footrests, the thigh straps on the Incept do their best to replicate a hardshell’s underdeck thigh pads, enabling me to sit upright because the backrest as it is can’t provide that support. If that means more strain on my abdominal muscles, bring it on! As I mention elsewhere, with the deck zipped up there’s normal back support off the coaming that’s still mushy enough not to make you sore as it would do on a SinK. Open deck, one solution would be to incorporate some rigid sticks or a board into the backrest to stop it scrunching down – like a Cheetah in fact. At one point on the Sunny, before I got the Aire seat I had a board jammed in behind me to help push off the box I used as a footrest. And so I conclude: seatback with the top down, not so good no matter how you adjust it; thigh straps good any day of the week.
One thing you lack in open deck mode on a K40 or any open IK is flat space for any sort of secure storage or fitting points. It’s the same story on a packraft. Trying to emulate a professional, I went out with my new large SealLine ziplock map case which lay at my feet. Gael turned me on to these. Unlike some walking map cases that I’ve seen over the years, it’s clear on both sides and best of all is big enough to give you a whole day of map on view if you fold the map right, so avoiding unnecessary fiddly openings on the water or in the rain. Online walkers’ reviews seemed to rate the Ortlieb roll-top equivalent, and claimed the Seal Line will split at the ziplock, but even if it’s simpler, I can’t see roll-top anything being as bomb-proof on the water as a ziplock, and Gael’s had his still-unyellowed SealLine for years before it developed a tiny hole on his last trip.
Back to stashing; of course you can attach everything to some point on the boat, Gael managed fine in his H2, but bits of string around your legs doesn’t seem such a good idea unless you’re really organised. I tried paddling with my Peli 1400 box (left, with a lid-net I plan to fix on – bought here) under my knees the other day, but handy though it was, that wasn’t going to work. It would be better fixed behind me. A Peli is easier to open and close quickly and reliably than my yellow Watershed bag (also ziplock closure), but I think it’s shape will make it a much better ‘day hatch’ bag on an open IK and a packraft, even if closing it securely as a hazard looms may take some luck. Of course in zippy deck mode you have quite a lot of flat space, even if the Incept’s deck stretchies are almost over my feet (the thin shock cord is indeed too flimsy as Gael mentions). But top on there’s enough flat deck space by the hatch at 10- and 2 o’clock to stick a D-ring or velcro. One way I’ve got round this so far is packing it all on the pfd. Certain things belong there sure, but you can end up feeling like some special forces dude, waiting the the signal.
You can attach things to your thigh tops which are within reach and sight. The SealLine map case will clip around a thigh. I’ve tried doing the same with an Aquapac GPS case strapped round the leg; it’s OK and can hook to my drysuit’s relief zip tab to stop it slipping down when walking, but it’s all more junk hanging off you. Compass excepted, a GPS isn’t really a vital gadget in clear conditions. On the sea a legible and accessible map is handier. Still here? Then there’s a good page of improvised deck tech on ukrivers – but of course it’s all oriented towards hardshell SinKs.
Normally on a decent weekend up here (as pictured left) there’ll be half a dozen vans with their distinctive kayak racks parked down at the beach. This weekend they’d all clearly read the forecast, but keen to get some hours in for an upcoming plan, kayaking chum Jon took a chance on the long drive up. The good thing with the lie of the land hereabouts is there’s usually somewhere sheltered to go wherever the wind’s coming from. Except perhaps during a northwesterly as predicted for Saturday and which bowls straight up the skirts of the prevailing lochs and valleys.
With it all laid out on my doorstep, Saturday afternoon we put in at sheltered Old Dornie harbour (left) and tried to head out round the adjacent isles, but I lost my nerve at the sight of the oncoming swell and increasing wind. Eager though we were, we reverted to Plan A, turned round as if on a tight rope and settled for a couple of hours solo re-entry practice, something I’d yet to try in my Incept K40.
Being a hardsheller, Jon works on his roll from time to time, but hasn’t quite got it nailed yet. He’s got a good alternative though, re-entry and roll, they call it – getting himself into the semi-submerged kayak on its side and then once in and braced, doing the hip flick and paddle float lift to get himself upright, at which point he pumps out the hatch compartment.
Me, I tried lunging onto the deck from the water, as I would on my former Sunny or my packraft. But the K40 bobs quite high when empty, so I was surprised I managed it, perhaps aided by the added buoyancy of my dry suit.
The problem is, once slumped belly down over the hatch (above), what next? You fall back in, that’s what next, because trying to turn onto your back tips you off long before you get your legs securely down the hatch. Perhaps with a bit more practice and finesse it could be done, but this was pretty calm water so realistically, just as on a hardshell sea kayak, it’s usually too tricky to pull off unaided. I then tried with my new paddle float as an outrigger. Would you believe it, re-entry was much easier and also pulls less water in as the boat remains more upright. Hook a leg over the floating paddle shaft and scuttle aboard. From this position I found it was fairly easy to flip round and drop bum first into the hatch and then stuff the legs in.
On that day I was carrying my two Watershed dry bags full of camping gear to see how it handled, so they helped reduce the boat’s possible swamped water volume, but even then any deckless IK conveniently self-drains when flipped back over – no awkward, X-rescue hauling over another kayak’s glossy fibreglass deck to drain. Once in the K40, there were only a few inches of water to bilge out, certainly not enough to cause sloshing instability (the true reason why you need to drain a kayak fast following a deepwater re-entry – not because you’ll get your pants wet). One thing I noticed was a rope knife attached to my pfd got caught on the hatch coaming, and also all this grovelling around over my wet kayak’s deck pulled the bite valve off my new CamelBak/pfd set up which then drained away. That will be £4.99 please. Now I know to reposition one and tuck in the other to avoid any snags. Spraydeck newsflash! The massively oversize cheapo spray deck I bought and modified (left) still required a lot of scrunching. But having actually used it, my feeling is the K40 sits so high it’s not going to be needed unless it gets cold or I’m heading for river rapids. At other times it’s just more clobber to carry around, wash and dry. Maybe I’ll get to see the value of it as my experience in the Incept extends. On a much lower sea kayak like Jon’s P&H, a deck is pretty essential.
The other way to get back into an Incept from deep water would be to simply unzip the decks and haul yourself on. No paddle float needed, although it occurred to me yet another use of the Watershed bags, particularly the smaller yellow Chattooga, could be as a paddle float (left). Any dry bag will do, but you know the Watershed’s won’t so much as seep a drop like a roll-top will after a few minutes, and the Chattooga even has some clips which can be used to secure a paddle blade.
If not using any type of outrigger float, a bit more water will swill into the K40 as you pull over the side to get back in. Ideally you then want to crawl up through the unzipped hatch hole as you got aboard, ease around and take your seat. But now you have the fairly tricky manoeuvre of trying to zip up the decks, all while hanging onto your paddle and not tipping back in. As I found first time out, without the support of another boat or a float, reaching the fully opened zip pulls on the Tasman is quite an unstable stretch from the seat, even with the grab loops I’ve tied to them. Longer loops might get in the way so some sort of a hook stick is needed if no one is around to do it for you. Regarding the K40’s zippy deck, as long as I wear a dry suit I can see even less need for it at sea in the conditions I’m every likely to go out in. Only on a WW 2 or 3 river would it be handy (with the spray deck) to save the boat swamping and the need to find a bank to drain it. If you’re paddling undecked, getting in from deep water all so much simpler, just like an SoT, and if not there’s a good section on the informative Kayarchy website illustrating all sorts of deep-water rescues.
Next day we set off to try and actually paddle somewhere, but off the beach it still looked horrible (left and right); 15-20mph winds but now from the SW. We paddled towards the Isles anyway, but after 15 minutes I didn’t like what I’d guess you’d call a boat-stalling ‘short chop’ which would only get worse further out. While hacking away warily, it occurred to me that focussed as you are in such conditions, it takes some effort to think of others or even keep track of them, and should they flip while you’re barely coping yourself, it can all go horribly Pete Tong. After all, no one usually capsizes is calm, wind-free conditions. That’s why we wanted to get some practice time together out here. The plan had been to go as far as camp the previous night, but the miserable weather and a fully fitted house just a mile away nixed that idea.
It wasn’t actually that gnarly, just not much fun and possibly about to get less so. As we did a U-ey I was encouraged to observe my Incept that morning felt less intimidating to turn than Jon’s slinky P&H. Again, no great surprise; his boat is floating stick insect with the turning circle of a stretched limo. The K40 is wide, has a rudder and – now that I’ve seen pics of me in it – the ends sit out of the water even with my weight and a 10-15 kilo load aboard. Is that a lot of ‘rocker’ or a little, I forget, but it turns easily with rudder + paddle strokes, and with the rudder up can spin on its axis with a lot fewer paddle strokes than Jon’s Scorpio. And with fewer edgy moments too. I was getting the feel for the Incept in rougher water.
So we sailed ourselves back to the beach, fighting to steer with the tailwind. Once there we settled for messing about closer to the shore, practising more turns out on the swell or paddling parallel to waves to gauge tippiness, secure in the fact that we were constantly getting blown inshore.
I was open deck that day, but noticed where the Sunny would have flexed and swamped over the rounded sides where I sat, the more rigid and higher-sided K40 stayed mostly dry. I was also conscious that even though they are also more clobber and something to catch your foot on, the thigh straps I’m waiting to glue in would surely help control in rough water. Either that or I see them as the only possible explanation for my lame kayaking skills! With the deck off we also tried paddling the Incept two-up – me sitting in the back facing backwards. That’s a total weight of at least 180kg in our gear, 20kg over what the Tasman is rated for. Jon reported the boat was tippier like this and had it been a serious requirement, I could have laid down to improve stability. One thing I noticed open deck is that there’s less back support from the low seat – a common problem with IKs using inflatable seats, and one reason I went for a Aire Cheetah seat on my Sunny. Clearly with the deck on the flexible coaming helps as a back rest and by the end of that day I felt the tops of my legs straining a bit in a bid to maintain upright. The problem is there is nothing solid to brace the feet against either, but I imagine this is another benefit of fitting thigh straps.
Having mastered many new skills, we had a quick scoot in the packraft (above); fun and very stable in the conditions, but also so slow you’d run out of puff before getting anywhere. The initial instinct in the chop was to try and jump it like a BMX bike; it sure would be fun to try surfing it on bigger waves one time.
Suddenly a glassy calm befell the bay, just as a private weather station near Ullapool recorded accurately in the graph on the right. Great we thought, let’s make a dash to the Tanera Mor about a mile and a half away, so we can say we got off the mainland – an ‘open water’ crossing! In this way many foolhardy newbs sail off to their doom, I suspect, because little did we know it was just the wind clearing its throat and refilling its lungs before coming back from new direction and harder than ever. But not before we’d managed to cross over and nudge the island’s sandstone cliffs (left) with our bows.
The previous day and that morning I’d been put off in similar- or even easier conditions but now, after a few hours playing around we were more tuned into our boats and even headed back diagonally across the stiff back wind and swell to make it a bit more difficult. Me of course with the aid of my rudder; without it I’d be correcting all over the place and need to stern-rudder, as Jon occasionally did. With backwind ruddering, I noticed it’s not a simple matter of holding the rudder at a certain angle because the tracking continually goes off, presumably as a quartering wave rises and drops behind you. A constant pedalling of the rudder controls was required to keep on the track. Don’t know if that’s normal, but I’d hate to wear out my rudder lines prematurely. So not a totally wasted weekend. Now we know we can get back into our boats alone one way or another, and can actually handle F4 conditions within sight of the shore, even if next time we go out, initially we may not feel that way.
I’ve been watching a range of weather forecasts in a bid to try and get a feel for things around here. With no hurricanes predicted, last night I went out for a paddle along the shore. Even now it’s light here till 10pm. On a quiet beach I came across a strange installation – an abandoned Wasp Factory or maybe just some kids’ flotsam beach house. In some places the masses of washed-up fishing industry junk is depressing in the otherwise unpolluted surroundings, but it’s also part of what makes beachcombing so intriguing. Whose chopped down wellies were they (different sizes, made in Holland)? When was Calmac man’s (Hebridean ferry service) hard hat blown overboard and did he go with it? All messages without a bottle. If nothing else, as Gael observed last year along the SSKT, there’s always plenty of rope, netting and more usefully, firewood to be found on less visited beaches.
Eight years later it finally succumbed to the Hebridean gales.
Spade or shovel? I paddled open deck that evening and along the way attempted to compare my good old, bent-shaft Werner Camano with my newer Corrywrecken (both discussed in more detail here). In short, over a couple of hours I could hardly tell the difference in operational terms except that the Corry initially felts amazingly light and taught after using the Camano, but going back to the Camano doesn’t exactly feel like falling headfirst down a well. Both are great paddles when compared to a spade tied to a shovel with duct tape. Can’t say the bigger Corry made the boat go any faster, but perhaps the lighter pull of the more ergonomically bent, low-angle Camano felt more natural and sustainable. It’s hard to tell if that’s a genuine impression or just a pre-conditioned response to what sea kayak paddle lore suggests. I think in the Incept I’ll stick with the Camano, only because it continues to work so unobtrusively plus I don’t want to mash or lose the newer Corry any sooner than necessary. Despite being named after a famous tidal whirlpool off Jura, I’d say the Corry is a great white water blade, where you want to pull fast pivots and brisk acceleration to navigate complex rapids.
No rudder I paddled back 2 miles or so with the rudder up under a very light wind and with perhaps a bit of back tide and swell. I’m getting the knack of tracking the K40 a lot quicker than in the Sunny without a skeg – but then I only discovered the Sunny worked skeglessly by mistake after a few weeks. My conclusion in the Incept is that you’re maybe 1kph down on a typical 6.5kph cruise (I had a GPS) because of the correcting finesse and concentration required. Maybe that will subside, but it all takes a little more out of you physically, as your hands are doing the steering/tracking as well as the pulling. Just like in the Sunny, every few minutes you spin offline for no reason you can fathom. So then either you pull hard to bring the front back, or you just spin right out and check out the view behind, then paddle backwards for a bit as if you were planning to turn all along. After a bit of that you lose it anyway, let it swing back around pointing forward and carry on your way.
What’s in the bag? The other night I tipped out the contents of the blue bag and unrolled the boat from a factory-packed volume which, like a new Alpacka, it’s never likely to regain (see below in red). It all added up to:
Blue roll top dry bag Boat with deck lines and all rudder controls/lines Rudder assembly Flexible hatch coaming rod Inflatable seat Four GRP battens which slip into the deck to give it form K-Pump in a bag with adaptors and grease Boat repair kit (glue, a dozen patches and a valve adaptor, see red) Basic instructions and an NZ leaflet on safe sea kayaking
Dimensions According to my atomically calibrated measuring instruments, the boat alone weighs 14.8kg + 2.2kg for rudder, seat, repair kit and pump. It’s 4.3m long, 69cm wide and 45cm wide inside (32.6lb + 4.8lb; 14′ 1″; 27″; 18″). The table from this post compares dimensions on similar IKs. At 17kg the K40 actually feels pretty light and as long as it’s empty, not too windy and the path is easy, I can carry the kayak on my head or the back of my shoulders.
What’s not in the bag – a spray deck. You get the impression that it’s a special shape/item and so ought to be included, but I’m told it’s €103 euros for the one Incept recommend. It’s hard to ascertain exactly what you’re buying from the small image buried on their website but similar skirts go for around half that price in the UK. I bought a nylon cheapie to be getting on with. It’s actually not badly made for 19 quid, with taped seams and a decent coated material; it’s just way too long, so i had to cut it down.
Aa K40 sits a lot higher than a regular hardshell kayak, so I imagine a skirt would only be necessary when it gets really rough (by which time you probably have other issues) or cold, or you confidently expect to be able to extract yourself from capsizing with one smooth swipe of your blade. It would be nice to master a roll, but I suspect that crawling back into a K40 with decks unzipped is less difficult, especially with a paddle float. More on that here.
Hatch is 71cm long, 41cm wide and 186cm circumference (28″ x 16″ x 73″), if that helps you select a spray deck. Although it’s statistically small, I’ve sat in worse and as it’s not rigid, even I can pull my legs up to get out while still seated.
Thigh straps are a €66 option. Fair enough, but my boat has no D-rings (left, Incept’s pic) for the straps, just markings where to fix them. Some boats get patches, some don’t I was informed (probably heat-welded, left). Otherwise it’s a lot messy work glueing some on (below left), which will either cost you over £50 for four Incept patches sent over from NZ. Or you can spend hours on the internet looking for alternatives. I fretted, thinking I must buy actual Incept ones which are made from the same PVC-urethane material as the hull. As well as clean surfaces and a good roller, on inflatables the adhesive/material combination is critical for a good, permanent seal.
The actual Incept PVC patches cost $NZ12, similar to the UK from places like PolyMarine. Or good old NRS have all sorts of patches here and among other places, they now have an outlet in Ireland (so all import taxes paid).
I bought a dozen #2097s (left) which are a bit big at nearly 5″ (120mm) but can be trimmed. NRS said that Aquaseal (aka: Aquasure in Europe) will do the job on PVC-to-PVC as well as anything, but actually one D-ring stuck on with Aquaseal came off three times. Probably my bad application so eventually I tried the small unbranded tube of Ultraseal 777 which came with the boat’s repair kit. It’s a much thinner and runnier than Aquaseal and smells like classic Bostik, and because it was not ‘filling’ but just adhering, I thought it made a better, more pliant seal and it cured quickly too. I’ll find out for sure how the 777 patches worked in comparison with the Aquaseal. Unfortunately, though it’s made by Bostik, I couldn’t divine whether 777 has a magical formula that perfectly suits Incepts polyurethane alloy fabric, but in future I’ll clean off with MEK solvent and use Bostik 1782 – the nearest I could guess and found cheap on ebay. While my back was turned Bostik seem to have diversified into scores of glues from my youth when the classic, pink-tubed all-purpose glue did it all. Now they sell a glue for scores of uses which the cynical consumer can’t help thinking is marketing- rather than function led.
The SeakayakOban test boat I tried had thigh straps – straight, not as comfortable as pre-curved ones I recall having on other IKs. Pre-curved straps hook better over the knees, so I got a pair for an SoT off amazon for £33 (left). With those brass-plated clippy things they’re heavy, but seeing as they’re so fat they could double up as cushier backpacking straps on a boat-hauling packframe.
One more annoyance: I was expecting to get the Bravo footpump which the shop I bought it from pictured and confirmed by email. I received the better, hard plastic K-Pump after I went out of my way and bought one. This inconsistency with Incept’s info (including images of models with old colour schemes, velcro decks and talk of ’25 D-rings…’ in current brochures) gets frustrating. You get the feeling Incept aren’t focussed on promoting these IKs, as if they’re a sideline to the raft business. But as long as the people on the factory floor with the scissors and heat guns are on the ball, I’m sure I’ll get over it.
Sadly, quality of construction is also inconsistent. Most of the boat is heat-welded but closer inspection revealed a lifted seam at the glued-on rudder patch (below left). The cavity here was an inch deep and took repeated injections of Aquaseal to fill, but I presume this is a patch glued on the hull, otherwise I’d have a pretty flaccid boat by now. Nearby, a couple of hull seams had also lifted a mil or two (middle pic). It’s hard to think these would have slipped past any inspection (assuming there is one), so I presume they lifted after that point. These are the only manufacturing flaws I’ve spotted on an otherwise clean job. And to be fair the rudder patch glues around a curve where two other layers meet, so it’s a difficult join. I’ve laddled the whole area with Aquaseal (last pic) and it’s now sealed for good.
Incepts are made from 1100 dtex Polyester fabric coated in a PVC-urethane blend. It’s notably less thick than an old-style Gumotex. Stiffer is harder to glue into tight forms (as proved above) but makes a faster boat on the water. It’s also more awkward to pack, especially when cold. I can’t see me ever rolling it up as compact as the image at the top of the page (see red text , below). I go on further about IK materials here and once, theboatpeople spoke sagely about Incepts, though it’s unclear if they’ve actually seen one in the raw (never stopped me!).
As the enclosed instructions say, the biggest risk to damaging a PVC craft is when a sharp and stiff corner of a rolled up boat scrapes on concrete or tarmac; it grinds off the coating real quick. Must remember never to do that. It’s unlikely that the PVC-U is as durable as synthetic rubbers like Nitrilon or Grabner’s EPDM, but with care, regular rinsing, squirts of 303 and the odd dab of glue, it should last. In fact the K40 is the only IK I’ve ever punctured – just a tiny thorn tip picked up when pumping up. The second owners similarly punctured the side while pushing past a thorn three on a river and again at sea later. Knowing all this in retrospect I would say Incept’s choice of fabric for the K40 may have been not durable enough, but the only other owner of an older red and yellow boat has had no problems at all.
Out of the bag I pumped it up for the night and fitted and adjusted the rudder which was dead easy. Next morning all was still pleasingly firm, so off to one of the local lochs. Down on a small beach near a road, again I was surprised how effortlessly the K-Pump inflated the K’s three chambers until the PRVs start hissing at 5 psi or 0.34 bar – has high as any non-DS IK. I like the idea that on the water you’re able to top up the pump from inside the cockpit as all the valves are located accessibly by your lap, though over the course of that warm day – leaving it in the sun here, there and on the car’s roof – it wasn’t necessary. And I sure like the fact that the Halkey Roberts’ valve caps (left) twist off easily and back on securely, unlike my old Sunny’s horribly stiff and awkward items which never relented in all years or use.
Packing up a Tasman As mentioned, the stiff PVC which responds so well on the water makes rolling and packing a K40 a bit of a challenge, especially if space is important and it’s not warm. After a few weeks of ownership I finally gave it a go. First thing to do is the suck all the air out that you can’t do by just rolling; this is something a K-Pump does not claim to do (despite what you may read), but I’ve only lately discovered a Bravo pump (left) can do once you switch the hose to the other port. With the Halkey valve opened (pressed down) the spring in the Bravo’s bellows sucks stoically until you can hear the PVC creaking. All you have to do then is yank off the push-fit hose and close the valve quick against the boat’s partial vacuum – tricky with fingers; you may need pliers.
The ABS K-Pump is heavier and as bulky as a Bravo footpump, but it’s more robust and for a hand pump is amazingly effortless. The K is the pump to use even if it doesn’t suck, but the boat comes with a bayonet valve adaptor in the spares kit. Pop that on a short length of hose and you have a manual – or oral – sucking tube to compact the K40 for transit. If this is all TMI, just say ;-).
First impressions on the water were a bit shaky compared to the test day a few weeks back when conditions were about the same if not even calmer. Maybe because I was alone, ill-dressed for the very cold water, and the valley caught the odd gust off the big mountains. Who knows what was up, but I doddered around like a beginner, then parked up on another beach for a walkabout, and on the way back paddled with the deck unrolled which was fun. This convertible deck arrangement is such a great idea. It’s like owning a brolly or a mac: you don’t always want it but sometimes you need it.
Part of the reason deck-free is possible is that the K uses a removable bendy nylon rod for the hatch rim or coaming (left). Remove the four chunky GRP deck-supporting battens, roll the deck back to the right side and hey presto, the legs can breath, you can get in and out gracefully and maybe even carry a light passenger. Though thick and strong, the battens don’t seem to have any influence on pushing the boat’s sides out as far as I could tell, it’s more likely a zipped up deck holds the sides in if anything, so inhibiting longitudinal flex of the hull in rough conditions with a heavy paddler.
The rudder mounts easily and looks like a well made unit, though again, I’m no expert. Foot control is off some flaps on an adjustable air bag footrest using string and elastic. Not surprisingly it’s all a bit mushy, but I don’t think any IK or even any K will have a system as solid as the Amoco Cadiz. It centres naturally and so works fine as a simple straight tracking skeg which is all you want most of the time. For an impression of rudder free paddling, read this. Lift the rudder in the shallows to save damaging the mount. If you want to slide forward down the boat (perhaps to pull the deck on or have a snooze) you can easily slip your feet under the semi-inflated footrest/rudder pedal air bag. Turning circle on full rudder lock is about 10 metres, same as our Nissan, and I also observed that you can do a 360 in this boat on the spot with 5 back strokes; in other words: less strokes than you’d imagine. Backing up is also easy with the rudder up and the rudder lift thing works fine. A rudder of course came into it’s own to correct tracking when paddling downwind or at 45° to the wind in either direction, though here is where the mushiness was noticeable. A bit more experimentation with the footrest/rudder pedal air bag pressures and seating/footrest positions may tighten things up. So far the seat is fine and I’ve had no complaints since. It’s light and simple, but made from thick nylon (compared to an Alpacka) with two elbow valves – and it clips out in seconds, just like the modified seat in my old Sunny. But like on my old Alpacka Llama, you sometimes sit on the squashed down backrest when getting in with the deck on, which could be a pain if the situation was choppy or awkward. There is more back support with the deck on I’ve found, as you lean on the back coaming a bit. I’ve also since found even at sea it’s safe and stable to sit sideways on the seat with your feet in the water.
By the time I got back a couple of hours later I was in the mood for more so I strapped the boat onto the car (another great aspect of frameless IKs) and scooted over to the main beach opposite the Summer Isles. That morning there’d been no less than nine cars or vans with kayak racks heading out for the day. Quite right too as it was amazing weather, so much so that the blooming gorse in the hills caught fire. As I came back, the village fire engine dashed past me, trailing cobwebs and heading for the smoke palling over the Assynt to the north. Out in the bay a pair of late hardshellers were heading out and it seemed a bit less gust prone out in the open water. After dicking about for a bit, I dared myself to head across to Tanera Mor island, about two miles across the reach. We look over to Tanera all day from our place, and on many previous occasions in the Sunny I’ve thought about it but never dared. I suspect the relative speed and higher sides of the Incept gave me the edge and the confidence. In the island’s anchorage, flushed with the success of my monumental traverse from the mainland of Britain, I pulled over by a salmon pen and watched the caged fish flit across the surface, I presume enacting their instinctive upstream spawning surge, but here destined only for the slicer and the smokehouse. On the way back I decided to deck up for no other reason than I could, noting that when fully unzipped, I can just about reach the zip ends fore and aft to pull them closed, as long as I used the fishpen side for stability. Out at sea if it was rough a boat alongside would be needed. I’ve since lengthened the tabs on the zip ends to make them more reachable. A small island ferry left the nearby jetty at the same time as me, and mid-crossing its parallel wake crept ever closer until at the last minute I panicked a bit and turned into it to be on the safe side. Later, a bigger fishing boat came across my bows leaving a bigger wake which was no bother taken side on. I’ve since found the K40 is fine in side waves that can make a slinky hardshell a little nervous. No GPS but I timed myself; 25 mins to cover 2 miles which were a bit choppier than on the way out. That’s 7.2kph or 4.5mph or 3.9 knots if you must. Not bad at all and it all rather neatly validates exactly what I ruminated on earlier about getting a better boat for my time up here: dashing alone across what I would classify as ‘open’ water was one of the main reasons I wanted a faster, decked IK. The Incept has delivered on Day 1.
With three months on the coast of northwest Scotland lined up for 2011 I was looking for a more seaworthy boat than the Sunny or making the Sunny faster (see this and this). Two weeks watching the weather blow through September 2010 showed it changes a lot up there. First from the east then the west, it blew at up to 50mph so when it’s good you’ve got to drop everything and get out there. But if it changes on the water while most probably paddling alone you want to be sure you can get back fast and not have to jeopardise making progress by either bailing in a frenzy or struggling to re-board. Well, that’s the way I see it. In Shark Bay, it didn’t take much of a swell – maybe a metre – to fill the Sunny up every 20 minutes or so. I’d hook onto Jeff’s tandem and they paddled while I pumped. And that was the warm Indian Ocean not The Minch, off the North Atlantic. It’s not like I’ll be setting off for St Kilda every weekend to pick up half a dozen gannet eggs, but either a deck or self-bailage is needed to be able to paddle alone around there with security. As you do, over the previous months I gone through periodic frenzies of internet research. A hardshell SinK was never in the running. I don’t like being jammed in those things, they’re awkward to transport and would need getting rid of after. Plus I can rent a decent sea kayak locally. Instead, I wondered about the other extreme, an SoT; very popular with the rec paddling masses who may not know a hard chine from a Chinese burn, but have a whole lot of inshore fun nevertheless. Most SoTs are wide enough to do the Can-Can while wearing flippers and come in awful ‘explosion-in-a-paint-factory’ colour schemes.
The angler-oriented models are less hideous and I narrowed it down to an Ocean Kayak Prowler 15 (above left) or OK’s slimmer Scupper Pro (above). One went on ebay for just 300 quid while I was thinking about where I could store it. They say an SP is from the same mould as an RTM Tempo (left; 24kg 4.5, on 67cm) and their Disco (below right; 23kg 4.3, on 65cm) looks pretty good too for a plastic sea clog (the shape I mean – not the colour). Fast I imagine, easy as a bike to get on and off, but might require suiting up too often to be fun without getting chilled. Either of these would be a lot of fun if I lived in Florida or the Aegean. Not so sure about northwest Scotland.
So according to my calculations that left a folder, and for me the pick of the bunch has always been Feathercraft’s Big Kahuna (left; 4.5m x 64cm; 16kg – 14′ 9″ x 25″; 35lbs) featuring an extra big cockpit for creaky old men who can’t bend like they used to could. Feathercrafts are expensive and the marked up price new in the UK is so far beyond the pale to give them an admiring cachet among paddlers. I missed one in the UK for £1800 then tracked down another in Hawaii with every last option plus a few extras for £2200. I could have brought it back and then sold it in the UK for what it cost after 3 months paddling.
It then turned out matey down the road had a Big K so we went out for a spin on the local, freezing river this week. Moreaboutthat here. Short version: the BK would be a flaming good yak that could be left assembled for the duration and wouldn’t get turned away by security at the Sea Kayak Christmas Ball. On the scungy Medway it took a bit of turning in my clumsy hands but tracked fine, glided smoothly and weighs only 16kg; easy enough to portage on the shoulder. But it still has that unnerving SinKiness I don’t like and is a bit awkward to get out of – well for a spaz like me with a dodgy shin and who’s used to IKs you can fall into drunk. The Feathercraft would have been a lovely boat up in the Isles, but has the same re-entry issues as any SinK. The way I see it, if it’s bad enough that you tip over, getting back in and staying upright long enough to pump it out is going to take some luck alone. Until I learn how to roll a kayak I don’t fancy that at all. Nevertheless, I was all set on buying the slinky BK as it would cost me nothing once sold on and doubtless have been a pleasure to behold. Then Gael from SSKT slapped me out of it and pointed out that Incept from NZ will be selling their decked K40 IK in the UK next year – and without a usual horrendous UK mark up (Knoydart take note…). UK distributors Seakayakoban tell me they have a demo in stock now with the next delivery in March for around £1500.
The K40 is similar to the Grabner Holiday II which might be classed as one of the original twin-side beam IKs which begat the Gumotex Seakers I and II. The solo Seaker 1 (left; 4.8m x 75cm – 18 inches more than a K40 and 3 inches wider) is officially as expensive as the K40, though has been going at half price ($1500) from Innova in the US. A fellow IK blogger recently got one. At just £1000 that’s a great price, but the problem is the deck is fixed (packing and drying issues, IMO) and it manages to weigh no less than 33 kilos/73lbs according to the Gumo.cz website (US distributors Innova claim 60lbs/27kg). Whatever it is, I had a chance to buy a used Seaker from Czecho a year or two back for just £800, but pulled out when I appreciated you can’t take a boat that heavy on a plane too easily, nor haul it too far.
Readers have occasionally emailed me about decking a Sunny. It could be done I suppose by gluing velcro or a zip onto the sides or maybe some understraps, or even an elastic-edged canopy, like fitted bed sheets. How good will that look if I was left to do it?
It’s actually something that might be a little easier to achieve with a semi-decked Gumo Helios II (above left) were it not for those ghastly sewn-in seats they have. In fact I see Grabner offer such a thing with their Helios-like Explorer II (right; 5m x 75cm) as part of the €600 accessory package. Nein danke.
So, the Incept K40 Tasman Like Gumotex, Aire, NRS and the rest, Incept seems to be an established raft manufacturer who’s turned to IKs. The Incept K40 Tasman (4.3m x 69cm; 17kg. 14′ 3″ x 27; 37lbs) seems to have been refined since I last looked at their website at which time there was no UK distribution that I could see. There seem to have been at least two other versions but this one looks the most complete by far and following this investigation I bought a K40. I don’t know about you but for an IK, that picture below is of a pretty good looking boat. I do wonder about the 27-inch width, being used to the 30-inch Sunny, but at 30-inches I cannot imagine ever tipping out of a Sunny short of getting crossed up against a rock or branch a couple of times. If I measure 27 inches across my lap, it looks just right as long as you’re sat low. The simple answer is of course to go up to Oban for a demo.
Just like the Alpacka the K40 has a deck that zips across to one side to roll up for sunny, calm days. We like that about IKs; it keeps the legs tanned and makes packing, drying and, if necessary, draining the boat mid-water so much easier.
The hull is composed of three I-beamed chambers with twin-beam sides to help give its 14 feet better rigidity. The Sunny had round, single chamber sides which, although they get nice and taut on a hot day, the boat still flexes with the swell or even just with my weight in it. With I-beam chambers the K40 features pressure-relief valves on all three chambers including the sides rated at 5psi which are out of the water. This reduces the strain on the welded I-beam seams but it’s possible that some air will be purged through the valves as it expands in the course of a hot day. For this reason I see that Incept recommends carrying a small, top-up pump (right) as can be seen on the deck of the kayak pictured above. With it, you can re-pressurise the boat for maximum performance, and this can be done on the move as the valves (grey) are right there in the cockpit (the sidewall PRVs are behind the seat). The twin beams also add up to less width (69cm or 27 inches – 3-4 inches less than my Sunny) and so more speed – although re-entry may be harder and all without – I hope – making it too tippy. It’s got a rudder because those high sides may catch a crosswind at times. Scoffed at by Brit sea kayakers who use boats that have hull profiles designed to turn when leaning out (very odd if you’re a motorbiker!), with a rudder you can paddle normally across the wind and use the rudder to correct the tracking.
A rudder will be good for sailing too. The boat also comes with a neoprene spray deck, a handy K-Pump and even thigh straps to enable control across a swell, better core muscle work-outs I reckon, and even eskimo rolling. In fact my boat came with no spray deck, no straps, no strap fittings (though there are markers), but it did have a K-Pump. Thigh straps are one thing I missed on a Sunny, more for the efficiency of paddling effort against the torso, than balance and control of tippiness (not a problem with that boat outside of hurricane conditions). While getting the drum on the K40 I came across this videoof a Kiwi guy who did an NZ South Island coast-to-coast over a fortnight. That is, upstream from the Tasman Sea, tough portage to a pass, then paddling down to the Pacific. (Ain’t these guys heard of packrafts!) His less driven mate came along in a 100-year old wooden replica boat – they were engaged in a historic C2C re-enactment using old and new craft.
It’s actually three, short videos of two guys having a little Kiwi back country adventure. Have a look at the K40 in action on vid II at 2:20. Many times on the rivers and seas you’ll see how a relatively modest waves wash over the deck of the K40 – a Gumo Sunny would be a brimming paddling pool at this point. And again the vid reminds me of the advantages of an IK when it comes to bouncing off rocks and general abuse that would hurt a hardshell or loosen the joints of a taut folder like a Big Kahuna.
Some observations made here have been corrected once I actually bought and used a K40.
A couple of months ago I speculated that the Incept K40 may well be the long-sought successor to my ageing Gumotex Sunny, a great IK which I feel I’ve taken to the limit over the years. You may want to read the bottom half of that page first to get the drum on the Incept, but now I’ve actually spent an afternoon paddling a K40 around Shuna Island north of Oban and can conclude that apart from price, the Incept K40 ticks all the boxes. The other boat you see in the pictures is Jon’s P&H Scorpio LV – or SinK to you and me.
Weight in dimensions I didn’t get a chance to measure and weigh the boat. The K40 is said to be 4-6 inches narrower than a Sunny and a foot and a half longer. It’s nowhere near as narrow as that sounds, as you can see on the left (Jon’s P&H Scorpio LV is only 21″ wide – cripes!) but the twin side tube construction gives higher, swamp-proof sides and more internal storage space. And it certainly looks higher in the water than a Sunny which is both good and bad.
Material and construction According to the brochure the K40 is heat-welded from “a heavy-duty but light weight high-tech Polyurethane alloy [with PVC coating] … with 1100 dernier Polyester reinforcing [which is] exceptionally strong and hard wearing and is UV protected…”. Handling the deflated boat out of the water my impression was that it felt no heavier than my 14-kilo Sunny, while the fabric felt harder, stiffer, less elastic and possibly a tad thinner than Sunny-era Nitrilon; a bit more like lino compared to a Sunny’s rafting fabric. That means when you deflate it it doesn’t collapse flat like a Sunny and it may take some effort to get it into the holdall supplied. On the Incept website they admit the material they use is less foldable than Hypalon. The stiffness (good thing for performance – less good for packing) shows when you inflate it using the supplied K-Pump K100 hand pump. I was expecting many minutes and a sore arm, but before I knew it and with very little effort the three chambers were purging their pressure release valves (PRVs) and the boat was suddenly as stiff as a board. Yes, the K40 has PRVs on all three chambers, probably because there are I-beams in the sidetubes.
It’s notable that the K40 has it’s inflation valves set in the cockpit. Should you lose pressure via the PRVs over the course of a hot day (and so lose some rigidity and performance) you could top-up on the water. One valve on the test boat was a bit stiff to release for pumping (left). The seat and footrest pump up quickly by mouth with elbow valves, like an Alpacka, but with notably thicker fabric than Alpacka uses for its seat. Once set up for your size and with the rudder attached, I imagine the boat takes no longer to get on the water than a Sunny, that’s about 10 minutes. I can’t say I scrutinised it very closely, but the quality of construction on this example looked pretty good; at least as good as a Gumo. They say heat welding means no glue to deteriorate over the years and maybe less weight too (though some parts of the boat are glued).
Getting in and out Before I saw the boat I feared the cockpit was on the small side, but it’s not. With one leg down in the boat and sat in the seat, I can bend the other leg and slide it inside; and this with full dry suit and other clobber on. No real need to sit on the back deck like on a hardshell or a Big Kahuna and best of all, while doing so the boat remains pretty stable. For getting out you can just pull out a leg, put it on the ground/seabed and stand up. Knowing this, my idea of stepping into the boat with the deck unzipped, pulling the hatch over me and then zipping up wasn’t necessary, except perhaps when you’ve unzipped to crawl back aboard after capsizing – something we tried later.
This zip-off deck really is a great idea for access, cooked up they say by IK pioneer Audrey Sutherland. How many folders and hard-shellers struggle cramming little bags through awkward deck hatches and then squeeze gingerly into their boats? I watched Jon doing just this after lunch on Shuna island. It’s the price you pay for speed on the water. With the Incept I can bung my Watershed UDB in the back, lash the other bag or a lunch box to the front deck and put more in front of my feet so I can easily see a week’s worth of supplies fitting with room to spare. I don’t recall seeing any lashing points, easily glued on one imagines, and not strictly necessary with a deck, anyway, but then again spec sheets say there are 25 of them somewhere [not on this boat]. As for paddling undecked, it can be easily achieved by removing the stiff hatch coaming road. The deck also features four curved GRP batons which slip into sleeves and are very chunky while not being bulky like Gumo Seawave alloy frames. It would still be desirable to be able to ride the K40 with the top down on a sunny summertime river in France.
I didn’t get fully to grips with the thigh straps and anyway didn’t really need them in the calm conditions, but it sure is nice to have them there as standard [they’re not], with easy-to-hand micro adjusters. I had a feeling the Java or some boat I had (the Safari?) had curved straps which sat over the knee better. It did take a conscious effort to brace against them and power on, but with the unusual stiffness of the Tasman that all helped achieve the surprisingly high speeds I recorded. In choppier conditions I’d imagine you’d use them to brace against tipping, or of course for rolling the boat, a trick I may yet learn one day.
Speed, stability and tracking The weather conditions for the test day in early March were very calm with a high pressure, white cloud and some mist, all clearing by the afternoon. On the water we headed out southwest against an incoming tide backed by a wind said to be 4mph (6kph), about as calm as it gets out on Loch Linnhe. In a couple of days it was forecast for 30mph+ out of Oban and was much calmer than our previous visit here. In these conditions stability was hardly tested but felt fine which was a relief considering the boat is 4-6 inches narrower than a Sunny and less even than the Java which was less confidence inspiring for me.
Although I took it pretty easy I never had ‘a moment’ in the K40, not even getting in and out. So with stability not an issue, next test was to see what this baby will do flat out! Jon had already cranked up 9kph on his Scorpio while I was faffing about, and hammering away with the 220-cm paddle the shop lent me (20cm shorter than I’m used to) I clocked 9.8kph (6mph) at some point against the breeze and tide, with a more readily sustainable 6-7kph (4mph).
This boat is definitely faster than my Sunny and these are about the same speeds I recorded in my Feathercraft Java a few years ago, also in calm conditions. The Incept is about 15% narrower and longer than the Sunny and a foot (30cm) shorter than the Java which is apparently wider but I very much doubt it. It has to be said that after less than 10km on the water that day I was worn out and aching, but I hadn’t paddled for nearly two months. Out with a speedy hardshell, I was sometimes ahead, not because I was faster than Jon’s P&H, but because compared to previous runs in my Sunny with him, it took him more time than he expected to catch me up when I was ahead. We had a bit of a race as you do, and he certainly pulled away faster, but I had a feeling I caught up and if I’d had my normal paddle and spandex ski jumping suit I’d have had him! One day soon we’ll do a race round two points on a loch somewhere to see how our speed and turning match up, boat for boat. We did a similar test once in the desert, jump starting a loaded Honda XR650L. I lost that one and it’s gnawed at me for years.
Speaking of which, I’ve never owned a boat with a rudder before, though I’ve tried others here and there and it was fun, especially when engaged in ramming (above). Initially I didn’t bother with steering and just used it as a trailing skeg. Foot pedal actuation seemed a bit vague as you press flaps on top of the inflatable footrest thwart to move the rudder lines, but by the end of my session I’d got the knack and with the wind and tide behind us, I was ruddering a lot more and finding it useful. A bit more experimentation with positioning and tension would pin it down. Early on I tried paddling with the rudder up, and into the wind the K40 did spin out after a few strokes if I didn’t correct hard, but then so did my Sunny before I got the knack of skeg-free paddling. Jon in his Scorpio was also deploying his retractable skeg in the same conditions and explained that in a proper Brit-style sea kayak you’d edge a bit to counteract the deflection of the wind on the front; the skeg is there to balance the defelction more than aid racking. Anyway, with the rudder always there and not vulnerable to fouling like a fixed skeg, why would you not use it except when paddling backwards, in which case it’s dead easy to flip it up and reverse all engines.
So there it is… What in Neptune’s name is there not to like about the K40 apart from the hefty price and I suppose the IK’s bete noir: appearance? Looks like a sort of over-buoyant torpedo to me, sat high in the water, but I can get over that if it takes me to more places than my Sunny.
2020: The K40 is hard to find new other than direct from Incept in NZ. Prices are high but you get a lot for your money. The rudder is not an extra and they should come with an K-Pump and a big dry bag and repair kit, but spray deck and thigh straps may be extra. The ’25 D-rings and attachment points’ you read about were not present on the test boat or the one I eventually bought. More on this post. It’s worth noting with boats like the similar Grabners, many of these basic items are expensive extras.
After nearly six years of splashing about, this week I gave my sun-faded Gumotex Sunny away to a mate and his kids. It was probably only worth £100. Coincidentally, Gumotex confirmed they’ve stopped selling the Sunny in Europe while introducing the new and near-identical Solar 410C.
In North America Innova (Gumotex importers) continue to sell the Sunny, although theboatpeople in California have taken it upon themselves to import the 410C direct from Gumotex alongside the slightly cheaper Sunny. There are stats on that model right here and a comparison with vaguely similar IKs here. I can confidently say I got my £220-worth out of my Sunny Gumboat since I bought it in 2006. It has at least as many years of use left in it and never failed in any way other than filling with water when the going got too rough. It’s a tough old boat and like your first decent car or motorbike, I’ll always have a soft spot for the Sunny for introducing me to packboat touring.
My only regret is I didn’t get a chance to try it out with my home made sail. Or keep it long enough to try out the hull-stiffening rods to see if they made any difference whatsoever. It’s an idea that may need doing on a Solar 410C. The Incept K40 is notably stiffer and in the pics and vid doesn’t appear to sag at all with me in it. Much of what I liked and disliked about my old Mk1 Sunny or the much-improved final Mk3 Sunny, will apply to the new Solar 410C. Be warned though, at 4.1m it might sag if you’re a solo bloater like me. The hull is covered in ‘Max 0.2 bar’ stamps but you can try giving it 5psi/0.3bar (50% more than recommended) to make it stiffer.
In 2013 I sold the Incept and went back to basics with a discontinued Grabner Amigo (above). Like the Incept, it’s rated at 5psi, but comes with no rudder, deck, PRVs, footrests or even seats to speak of. It’s what you might call a high-pressure (super rigid) Sunny or 410C.