Tag Archives: inflatable sea kayak

Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Part 3 ~ Skye to Ullapool

Part 1 2010 • Part 2 2011

g32glafIn 2011 I met Gael after he ran out of time and weather to complete the second stage of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail he started in 2010 in his Grabner H2. According to the guy who wrote the guidebook, the SSKT is a 500-km run through the Inner Hebrides from the Isle of Gigha off the Kintyre peninsula to the Summer Isles, but with no shoreside  infrastructure as such, most just follow their nose with the book’s help.
jetstreamIn 2012 Gael returned to Skye for another go, now in the ex-demo Incept K40 be picked up from Sea Kayak Oban. In March that year Scotland experienced some very fine weather while England got the converse – a result of a misplaced jet stream (right). And so it was for Gael who managed a comparatively trouble-free run all the way to Ullapool where he rolled up his boat and bussed back to his car on Skye.

Day 1 – Kyleakin to Uags
J1 - Kyleakin to UagsThe trip began rather badly. I arrived around midnight in Kyleakin after an interminable drive from Paris with an exhausting final crossing through the Highlands mostly in the rain. I set up my tent quickly on the grass by the hostel’s backyard. Once in my sleeping bag, I fell asleep right away, lulled by the pounding of rain on the canvas and the rustle of leaves in the wind gusts.
Early next morning I woke up with my feet feeling cold and wet; during my deep slumber I’d pushed them under the edge of the tent. Fortunately my sleeping bag fill is synthetic and the nylon shell water repellent enough and with relief I found it was still dry inside. The ground all around was drenched and I could now test the effectiveness of my new Seal Skinz socks.
It was still raining, so I donned my foul weather gear right away before proceeding with the usual pre-launch routine (inflate kayak, rig the accessories, sort food and equipment before closing the bags). Like last year I went to Kyle of Lochalsh Police Station to report my departure, then to the Co-op to stock up on McEwans in case I got ship wrecked.
P1000022TEarly in the afternoon, after a quick snack, I launched in Otter Pond by the Skye bridge. A fresh easterly was blowing out of the Loch against the flowing tide, raising the inevitable chop. I crossed the channel towards Kyle, then let myself be blown under the Skye bridge, leaving Eilean Ban to port. I paddled to Erbusaig Bay through the relatively sheltered Black Islands but decided not to proceed directly to Uags under the current crosswinds. Instead I hugged the coast upwind towards An Dubh Aird from which the crossing would be much shorter.
After vain attempts to take a picture of the two little otters which turned around me, I left the lee of An Dubh Aird and rushed towards the south coast of the Applecross peninsula. Two thirds of the distance into the crossing I bore away and took a direct course to Uags, pushed at speed down the wind blowing along the axis of Loch Carron. Sadly I couldn’t surf the best waves though because the stern was too heavy with the beer. I landed around 6pm in Uags, and moved into the empty bothy.

j1caron

Once installed, I hung my tent and sleeping bag to dry, then I rewarded myself this interesting first step with a hot tea and a thick slice of chocolate cake. Outside rain was still pounding.

Day 2 – Uags to Red Point
J2-1 - Uags to Rubha na FearnaI woke up at dawn feeling numb as my old foam sleeping pad had been of little comfort on the floorboards. The temperature was 5°C; so much for this jet stream. I went out to stretch my body and surprised a little doe grazing in the meadow below the ruined Uags hamlet. It scampered away before I could fetch my camera (this is a double entrendre called ‘lacking reflex’). But – it had stopped raining, the air was clear and visibility was excellent. The snow-capped peaks of the Cuillins stood out beautifully against the sky (below left) but the chill air from the northeast soon sent me back inside.

j2snowy
Once on the way from Uags an unexpected SE tailwind pushed me gently toward Sgeir Shalash but the breeze then turned NE, as expected. In the protected lee of the shore I paddled on north without difficulty, up to Camusteel, but when I reached the mouth of Applecross Bay, I had to fight against the wind. It funneled unhindered along the valley, whipping up the waters and raising an uncomfortable chop, until I reached some shelter in the lee of Rubha na Guailne.
From there the long way north to Loch Torridon seemed a never-ending trudge. The wind had picked up to the point of pushing me hard offshore whenever I got 50 meters from the shore. I kept hugging the coast, despite the uncomfortable chop and the occasional breakers, because the wind was shifting SE, thus pushing me northward. When I eventually passed Rubha na Fearna I found myself facing the wind blowing right out of the Loch.
j2bootLoch Torridon greeted me with one of its customary gusts of which I’d had the humiliating experience the year before. I took shelter as soon as I could in a tiny cove hidden behind a natural breakwater. I badly needed a feed.
After a snack and some rest I pushed off to cross the Loch. I paddled a mile inland to gain an upwind margin of safety then I headed north. j2windWedged into the seat, with my legs holding tight on the thigh straps and squeezing the foot rest, I blithely crossed the choppy zone, kept an eye on the most threatening peaking waves and checked off some landmarks in transit which I used to control my leeward drift with the other eye while admiring the spectacular scenery of the mountains towering over Loch Torridon (yes, all at once).
j2 swilI returned to quiet water in the lee of the north shore, laid the paddle across the boat and started bailing. My open decked Incept kayak had ridden well on the waves but had shipped a fair share of water which was now swashing in the bilge. I pulled ashore in the early evening on a beautiful beach near Red Point.

j2beacher

The j2campebbing tide had just retreated beyond the tombolo that connects Eilean Tioram islet to the mainland, thus forming a placid lagoon. Some cows and sheep were grazing in the dunes undulating behind the beach. I pitched my tent in a hollow, barely sheltered from the chill NE breeze and crashed out.

Day 3 – Red Point to Slaggan Bay
J3-1 - Red Point to Seana ChamasThe night had been cold but the clear morning sky made me hope for a warmer day. When I shoved off I didn’t know that I was about to enjoy one of the most beautiful days of my paddling life.
Passing Red Point I noticed with satisfaction there was almost no swell. For once I wouldn’t be shaken by the rebounding waves and could explore the nooks and crannies of this craggy coast.
j3-dThe sky became overcast and the NE wind picked up as I approached Loch Gairloch. The temperature dropped rapidly and I paddled more vigorously towards Carn Deag in an attempt to stay warm. I made a brief stop on the beach at Big Sand (left) but the chill breeze urged me on. I passed downwind along Longa Island with the hope of discovering a sheltered cove for lunch but found none.
I then went on across Caol Beag, passed Rubha Ban and kept paddling north with my stomach gurgling. The beauty of the coast was worth the inconvenience of being cold, numb and hungry;  huge sections of sandstone cliffs that had fallen in the sea provided an extraordinary maze of narrow passages that I enjoyed threading through. Erosion had also cut multiple geos and caves also worth exploring (I didn’t know what a geo was before reading the SSKT j3-fguidebook). I eventually reached Seana Chamas beach, largely uncovered by the outgoing tide and where I landed and dragged my kayak a few yards on a carpet of seaweed.
The sea was empty except for birds and a view that stretched westward to the Outer Hebrides. The Shiant Islands were clearly visible, standing out like a motionless line of battleships. I finished my lunch just as the tide returned up to my boat. The sky began clearing as I left and when I got past Melvaig all around me glistened under the sun.
j3-gAfter half a mile of boulders the coast turned to sandstone crumbling cliffs again and I could resume prowling in and out of caves and geos under the bright light of this sunny afternoon. Quite suddenly behind another headland appeared – the dreaded Rubha Reidh and its striking white lighthouse.
J3-2 - Seana Chamas to Slaggan BayI felt the mid-tide current pick up as it dragged me over to the other side of the promontory. The whitecaps of a faster tide rip were visible out to sea but right under the lighthouse the sea was rippling gently against the reddish rocks. One of the most exposed stages on this route passed without event.
The NE wind that had been blowing since I left Kyleakin had dropped too, but there was still some swell from the north, preventing me from sneaking through the rocky labyrinth that stretched between Rubha Reidh and the beautiful beach of Camas Mor.
j3-zBeyond Rubha Reid to the east the extraordinary snow-capped skyline of the Wester Ross mountain range rose from the horizon (left). Put in a trance by this sight, I carried on on an eastward course and arrived at Caolas an Fhuraidh. I took stock at the mouth of Loch Ewe before an exposed 4km crossing over to Slaggan Bay.
To the SE lay Rubha nan Sasan still with it’s WWII bunkers and gun emplacements. At that time Loch Ewe had been the starting point for many Russia-bound convoys and a haven for Allied shipping. There’s still a NATO base there today. As I paddled to Ploc an t-Slagain I hoped I’d not be rammed by a nuclear submarine entering or leaving Loch Ewe; I’d read reports elsewhere in the Hebrides of these subs rising so fast the resulting wash tipped sea kayaks bow over stern. I reached Slaggan Bay at 7pm finding another perfect landing place, a crescent of fine sand surrounded by empty dunes.

j3-h

Day 4 – Slaggan Bay to Isle Ristol
J4-1 - Slaggan Bay to Priest IslandUnder ideal paddling conditions I hugged the coast towards Greenstone Point, the last critical passage of the SSKT. The Point was flat and bare and proved even less dramatic than Rubha Reidh, although its rocky shoreline was wild and beautiful.
From Greenstone I paddled on to Rubha Beag. In the distance the conspicuous peak of Ben Mor Coigach was towering over the horizon and to the NW lay a scattering of islets; the long-expected Summer Isles.

j4sum

I headed towards the closest, Priest Island some 5km away. Halfway through the passage, the wind died off and the sea glassed over. The uncanny cries of the guillemots emphasized the eerie atmosphere; I felt like I was entering an unearthly space. From the SE tip of the Priest Island I carried on around the west side. It was another paddling paradise with endless features to explore  in the good company of seabirds and seals.
j4beeOnce I completed this circumnavigation I paddled back to a cove called Acairseid Eilean a Chleirich (it’s quite a challenge to try to explain to other people the places I visited) where I pulled ashore onto a tiny uninviting boulder beach (left).
As the afternoon progressed I uneventfully hopped through the convenient chain of islets lying between Priest Island and Tanera Mor, the biggest of the Summer Isles. I had intended to land near Althandu J4-2 - Priest Island to Ristolas I needed some of the facilities of the Port a Bhaigh campground, mostly their electrical hook ups to charge the batteries, fresh water and even a shower, why not? There was also a pub close by.
But as I paddled through Old Dornie harbour I came within sight of the campground and within earshot too. The place looked packed and was definitely too noisy. After four days of solitude with no other sounds than the sea and the birds, I couldn’t stand it. So much for the camera, shower and a beer. I swung my boat south towards the lovely nearby beach of Traigh an t-Sean Bhaile on Ristol. I pitched my tent on thick grass which promised a comfortable night and the chilly cold kept any irksome midges from hatching.

j4-z

Day 5 – Exploring the Summer Isles
J5 - Summer Isles-1I devoted this day to exploring the archipelago as all these islands offer the type of craggy shore most sea paddlers are looking for. The sea conditions were again at their best for squeezing through narrow channels between rocks, under arches or into caves with almost no swell and light winds. I proceeded anti-clockwise around Ristol, paddling along its west coast then circumnavigated Eilean Glas Mullagrach and Glas Leach Mor.
j5slotShags had built their nests in the crevices of the cliffs overlooking the sea. They were not easy to spot as their colour merged with the cliff but their unmistakable angry squawks betrayed their presence above me whenever I got too close. From Glas Leach Mor (the ‘large green stone’ a good description actually) I crossed to Tanera Beag. Here I gave a wide berth to a skerry occupied by a large group of singing seals that I didn’t want to disturb. The haunting sound suited the scenery perfectly.
j5caveTanera Beag is considered the most beautiful of the Summer Isles by the experts. Close to its SW corner is a cave deep enough for a the tourist boat to get in and with a very high ceiling after which it’s called Cathedral Cave. Its SE corner is adorned with an elegant j5archarch, which is another place of pilgrimage by all paddlers visiting the isles.
After completing the circumnavigation of Tanera Beag I pulled ashore for an overdue snack and a nap in a pretty little cove where the outgoing tide had left a broad sandy beach. Between Tanera Beag j5beedand Mor Eilean Fada I entered a kind of shallow lagoon of clear water. The tide was low and I saw my kayak’s shadow skip along the sandy bottom.
Later I landed  in the Anchorage on Tanera Mor, a sheltered bay that opens to the east and filled with salmon pens. There is a floating dock for the tourist boat but the tea shop/post office where I’d intended to indulge in a brew and some piece of cake was closed. j5gpoTanera Mor (currently for sale) enjoys an offshore status which allows this tiny post office to issue its own stamps but no brew, no cake and no stamps for me today.
I hopped back in the boat and crossed the Anchorage diagonally and skirted Rubha Dubh, the east corner of the island. Here I entered a narrow cove choked with seaweed and backed with a pebble and boulder beach. High spring tides and gales had filled the depression beyond the beach thus forming a lovely pond, An Lochanach.
I pulled ashore soon after two other kayakers. The guy didn’t look very happy to see me and curtly turned down my offer to help them to carry their heavily loaded sea kayaks. So I minded my own business, as I had just been advised to do. His wife came and offered remorsefully to give a hand, but I declined politely.

j5z

It had been a hot afternoon and I’d paddled without cag and without cap for the first time in five days. But cold came back after 7pm and the Franco-Welsh relationships in the cove did not improve. Although our respective pitches were located 300 meters apart, each on one side of the beach, no invitation to share dinner was exchanged. It nice to be alone of course, but I like chatting with other paddlers too. Another time perhaps.

Day 6 – Tanera Mor to Ullapool
J6-1 - Tanera Mor - Camas MorOn a beautiful sunny morning I headed SE towards Loch Broom and Ullapool. Sunny but cold, chilly indeed, so chilly that I had my breakfast in my sleeping bag.
In the meantime the wind had shifted SE so I slogged against it all the way to Horse Island. I paddled through the tidal gap which divides this island from its northern tip, Meall nan Gabhar. Once through I pulled ashore and found a very convenient pitching spot.
I regretted not having carried on to this place yesterday, instead of staying next to unsympathetic paddlers. So seemed to say the half-dozen seals romping about behind me. The sky was promising some fair weather j6grathat had been a long time coming. As the breeze didn’t abate I took shelter in the lee of Acheninver. But as soon as I got past Rubha Dubh Ard I fought the headwind again until I reached the base of Ben Mor Coigach.
Then I paddled below the sheer slope of the mountain, until I got to what looked like the white sands of Camas Mor beach. Actually it’s a pebble beach facing Isle Martin and the guidebook said amethysts can be found here, but I didn’t find any. By 2 o’clock clouds covered the sky and some chill air forced me back into my cold weather gear.
j6ulaI shoved off shortly after lunch and enjoyed passing the last natural monuments of the Trail. I rounded Rubha Cadail, addressed a last salute to Ben Mor Coigach and entered Loch Broom. The wind unexpectedly veered NW and pushed me gently towards Ullapool.
Once ashore I pitched my tent under the stares of some motorcyclists wondering where the hell I’d come from. A leather-clad fellow told me the owner was already gone and would return early next morning to J6-2 - Camas Mor - Ullapoolcollect the fee. Meanwhile I washed the Incept to remove the grit scattered in the bilge, wiped it dry, deflated it, rolled it and pushed it into my huge 160-l Ortlieb Kanurucksack. The K40 doesn’t fold as compactly as my good old hypalon H2 but I was relieved it crammed into the bag.
I enjoyed  dinner at the water’s edge overlooking at the now placid waters of Loch Broom, glowing in the satisfaction of my achievement. It has taken three years and two different boats, but I’d completed the SSKT in an inflatable sea kayak along one of the Europe’s most striking shorelines. Celebrations continued at the Ferry Boat Inn where I e-mailed friends and family, sipping some good beer, the sound of music replacing the soothing sound of the sea lapping the shore.

Ullapool to Kyleakin 
g32The weather was set to improve in the following days and I wondered whether to paddle north and round the Point of Stoer, take the ferry to Stornoway for a glimpse of the Outer Hebrides, or complete the exploration of Raasay and Rona that I’d started the year before. The first two options required maps that I was not sure to find in Ullapool. and I was also missing sailing directions.
j6motSo I packed all my gear in my three-bag travelling arrangement: boat and paddling gear in the 160l Kanurucksack, camping gear and clothes in the 59l XPlorer bag, food, cooking gear, books, maps, tools and all the rest in the 49l Rackpack.
The result was portable but heavy and I had a half mile walk to the bus station by the ferry terminal. Luckily the owner came by for the fee and gave me a lift. Soon we were en route to Inverness by bus; an alternative would have been leaving the bus at Garve railway station, halfway to Inverness and hopping on a train to Kyle of Lochalsh.
J9-2 - Around RonaEventually I decided to park up in Kyleakin on Skye and undertook a very enjoyable three-day tour around Raasay and Rona. The year before I’d experienced the charms of these islands despite the unsettled weather – this time conditions were ideal.
Back at the pier three days later, I was giving the Incept a wash on the slipway when a Land Rover towing a trailer full of sea kayaks turned in. A party of men got out of the truck, unloaded the kayaks and started putting paddling gear on. As they carried the boat to water they came over to say hello and asked about my boat and my trip. They were attending a kayak class beginning this very day. Their first day program was a shakedown paddle in sheltered waters before a guided multi-day run to Sandaig. The guide joined the conversation and yet again I endured the usual hardsheller’s drivel about IKs. Ten minutes later I watched the student awkwardly clambering in their kayaks; for some of the clumsier it took quite a while. I told them they were lucky modern kayaks had such larger cockpit coamings – but not as big as mine!
By the time I got to my car the temperature inside was like an oven, despite the screen I’d fixed over the windshield. My chocolate bars had melted. In northwest Scotland? Whatever next.

jr

Boat People Trinity IK and Sevy Colorado in Manhattan

Pierre B has just sent me a link to his gallery about a recent paddle around Manhatten in his Boat People Trinity II inflatable, along with a mate in a Sevy Colorado.

Until I clocked the bladder-free Incept, the BP Trinity II was a boat I considered once as a replacement for my Sunny. It’s like an Aire Sawtooth but no less than two feet longer and just an inch or two wider than a Sunny. And best of all it bails so the wash off the Staten Island ferry need hold no worries.

The full gallery is here

Another Trinity post

Incept K40 Tasman inflatable kayak review

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

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; looks like a nylon tunnel/neoprene deck ‘n’ braces jobbie which go for around half that price in the UK. Never needed a deck before and doing a bit of research it seems nylon looks cheap, but is more comfy and versatile for rec touring; and also for a touring boat the K40 has a relatively small but otherwise normal hatch – it’s more or less the ‘Low Volume’ profile. I may end up with one of those ChillCheater Aquatherms if the cheapie I just bought and gave a quick 8-inch Caesarian (above left) proves to be crap. It’s actually not badly made for 19 quid, with taped seams and a decent coated material; it’s just way too long.
As it is, a K40’s sides sit 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 size by the way 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.
Also, no thigh straps which are standard on a Gumotex Safari and Feathercraft Java, but are another €66 option. Fair enough, but my boat has no D-rings patches (left, Incept’s pic) glued to the inside for the straps, although my hull has markings where to fix them. Some boats get patches, some don’t I was informed, so if ordering make sure your boat has some in place (probably welded, as in the red pic above 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 (half that price being postage!?). Or you can spend hours on the internet looking for alternatives with more reasonable postage rates. I fretted for a while 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 this place. 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 (as pictured above right) 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. Could have been 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 much 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 in Australia. Unfortunately, though it’s made by Bostik, you can only buy tins of it in NZ or Australia, as far as I can tell, and shiiping by air seems a problem (as it is with some glues sold in the US). 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 something called 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. It includes the tiny green overpriced tubes for Soft Plastics (left) that’s also water resistant, but you can’t help thinking it’s just the same old stuff in a different packet.
The Seakayakoban test boat I tried had thigh straps (it had a spray deck too, but I didn’t bother even looking at it as it was so calm that day) and although these straps are straight and not as comfortable as the pre-curved ones I recall having on a Java or Safari, they’re a great idea in principle. Pre-curved straps hook better over the knees, so I got a pair off amazon for £33 as recommended for any SoT kayak (above right). With those brass-plated clippy things they’re heavy, but seeing as they’re so fat they may well double up as cushier backpacking straps on the Watershed UDB or a boat hauling packframe. Or the other way round – the thin but light UDB straps can double up as thigh straps to save weight on tour. It gets better; it’s just occurred to me that the adjustable holdall straps off my smaller Watershed Chattooga (right) or any big holdall for that matter, would make adequate and much lighter thigh straps.
One more annoyance – I was expecting to get the cheapo Bravo pump (as comes with Gumboats) which the shop I bought it from pictured and confirmed by email, but I actually received the better K-Pump after I went out of my way and bought another for $70 in the US. This inconsistency with Incept’s info (including images of models with old colour schemes, velcro decks and talk of ’25 D-ring attachment points’ in current brochures) gets frustrating. You get the feeling Incept aren’t fully focussing on promoting these IKs (they make a tandem K50 too) 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.

Dimensions
According to my measuring instruments, the boat alone weighs 14.8kg + 2.2kg for rudder, seat, repair kit and pump. And it’s 4.3m long, up to 69cm beam and up to 45cm wide inside (32.6lb + 4.8lb; 14′ 1″; 27″; 18″). I have seen claimed weights as low as 15kg, as well as greater length and less width listed on other sources.
The table from this post compares actual dimensions (where known) or official stats on similar IKs, including the Tasman. At 17kg it 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 to and from the water.

Quality of construction is pretty poor; not as good as a Gumotex or Grabner. Most of the boat is heat-welded. Closer inspection of mine found a lifted seam at the glued-on rudder patch (above 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. 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 an 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 round 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 rather than rubber-like Hypalon or Nitrilon. It’s notably less thick than an old-style Gumotex, but some might say they were a bit over the top anyway in terms of durability. Stiffer is harder to glue in tight forms (as proved above) but makes a much faster boat on the water. It’s also a bit more awkward to pack down well, especially when it’s 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 as always, theboatpeople speak sagely about Incept sea kayaks here, though it’s unclear if they’ve actually seen one in the raw (never stopped me on this blog!). Note what TBP say about Incept’s PVC-urethane alloy being better than straight PVC.
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 more expensive 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 pushed into 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 too thin, 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 regular 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 like getting on transportation 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 from the one pictured. 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. Looking again at the Bravo pump I’ve used for years with my Gumboats, it’s not such a bad or heavy pump at less than half the price of a K-Pump (where you can buy it). But I know it won’t be long before first the hose and then the bellows splits (though both are easily repairable with duct tape). The ABS K-Pump is heavier and as bulky in its own way, 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 (not a spare valve core as I thought). Pop that on a short length of hose and you have a manual – or oral – sucking tube (above  right) 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 mountain (left). I’ve been back since in the packraft and this place may indeed be a bit of a wind trap, though it sure looks good. Who knows what was up, but I doddered around like a beginner, then parked up on another beach (left) for a walkabout, and on the way back paddled with the deck unrolled which was fun, just like a Sunny, but faster and much yellower. Just as it is on an Alpacka, 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 (above right; the inset shows it closed up). It’s designed to be removable for compact packing, but for paddling it means you can pull out the flexy rod with the black string loop, remove the four chunky GRP deck-forming battens, roll the deck back to the right side (clip the seat mount through the hatch hole, with another easily fitted tape will help to keep it off your feet) and hey presto the legs can breath, you can get in and out gracefully and maybe even carry a light passenger sitting behind you facing backwards. 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. Looks to me like the battens are just there to give the deck some convex profile to stop pooling. If one broke or got lost I imagine you could trim a branch or some such.
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 strings and elastic. 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. One thing I’ve learned is 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 easier and 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. To be fair, 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 chunky 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 – good for fishing perhaps.
nk4-carBy 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 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 here then, 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 (left), and it seemed a bit less gust prone out in the open water. After dicking about for a bit, I dared myself to head out to a pink buoy and once there and still breathing thought heck, let’s go right across to Tanera Mor island, about two miles across the long reach. I 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, even though in the conditions that day it would have been technically easy. 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, or a paddle float or a short hook stick. 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 as I wasn’t sure how the wide, flat Tasman might react to side waves. Later a bigger fishing boat came across my bows leaving a bigger wake which of course was no bother if not rather fun 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.
The gallery below includes some other images from the day, including a mod I’ve made to my Kokatat pfd to carry a 2.5-litre bladder (spotted something similar in a shop). So much handier than having a water bottle knocking about between your legs.