Grappling to get the boat out of the muddy Medway river at Yalding the other day put a light scrape on the hull. It reminded me that, along with fitting PRVs to the sidetubes, another winter job was to fit a protective strake under the bow where most scraping occurs. Better to get the protection in early while the boat is newish.
A 70 x 15cm Hypalon off-cut (close enough to Nitrilon) was 14 quid on ebay and once trimmed left enough for another strake or two. I had some Polymarine two-part adhesive (below) and glued the strip to the boat’s curved form with the floor inflated, even if that meant working the roller to press it all together was less effective. I then slathered some Seam Seal around the nose of the strake to protect it from unpeeling (less runny Aquaseal would have been better but a Seam Seal tube was open. More on glues here).
While the boat was filling the hallway and causing a hazard to domestic navigation I also bodged up a better system for the all-important footrest. A bit of inner tube now counter-tensions the footrest from the bow to keep it in position. It means the thing is now fully adjustable across a wide range of positions, can easily be fine-tuned from the water, removes in seconds for boat cleaning/drying and needed no extra fittings glued to the boat. Once great thing about the Seawave is the multitude of attachment points on the floor and sides.
While on the river my aged Mk1 Alpacka U-seat base went flat, split right in the U. This seat is part of a lighter and comfier system I brought over from my Amigo – an improvement on the one-piece Seawave seats. It’s currently unfixed to the boat and the thin nylon must have ripped while yanking it into position on the river after getting back in. Again, I’m trying to avoid gluing extra D-rings to the hull – they’d limit seat base adjustment options anyway.
Better then to attach the seat base to the base of the backrest (right) with a couple of zip ties. The whole backrest/seat base can then slide forward and back off the backrest side straps and it all unclips from the boat in less than 3.7 seconds. I glued up the punctured U-seat but it won’t last, so I’ve ordered MkII Alpacka seats (left) from Packrafting Store: €70 delivered for a pair. From Alpacka US the seats cost $25 but their auto-calculated international postage is nuts, let alone tax and VAT issues. These seats have the U filled in like a webbed foot: stronger and less floppy for just ~12g extra weight.
Since then I decided not to fit the seat base to the backrest, but simply attach it to the floor between a similar the same adjustable strap and elastic tension system used on the footrest. So far so good. Will add a photo next time the boat’s out. I’ve also ditched my old my SoT thigh straps (right). Nicely padded and effective though they were, the brass spring connectors and padding made them feel heavy and bulky at ~720g.
Instead I got some non-padded Anfibio packrafting straps from the Packrafting Store (without their biners or D-ring patches). With my biners they come in at 270g. The delta-straps dangling off the sides are a clever idea, designed to give a more direct pull when rolling a packraft for example. Can’t see myself doing that in any of my boats, but if there happens to be a handy attachment point on the Seawave’s hull I may give them a go (normally you’d have to glue on the D-ring patches supplied). Whether you’re rolling or just paddling, in rough water the more direct connection with the boat the better. I’m a big fan of these light but effective straps now. No need for paddling
A couple of years ago I did a speed test on my then-new Incept K40 over three and a bit miles from Old Dornie to Badentarbet beach via Tanera Mor island.
I recall setting out flat-out on a cool, calm evening, cruising hard close to 5mph at times, with a burst after a rest up to 5.2, after which my energy levels tailed right off because I was well and truly pooped. I recently decided to replicate that route in similarly calm conditions and see how my new Grabner compared.
Prior to that we were out yesterday in windier and choppier conditions when, with a 10-15mph back wind I averaged about 4mph with a burst up to 5.3. Coming back into the wind we decided to try the Amigo two-up, as it only requires the front backrest moving forward. Towing the Solar together we managed a steady and sustainable 3mph with a burst of 3.8 into the stiff breeze. And on a quick spell downwind we got up to 4.8mph. It’ll be interesting to see what we can manage two-up when not towing a kayak
Though twice the weight of the g’f, I sat in the front and got pretty wet from the chop, but up here found the Amigo’s narrowed beam and lack of annoying finger-snagging seat lugs made paddling easier, even without a footrest to brace off. We seemed to clash paddles less than the last time we did two-up in the Sunny on the Vezere in France. Perhaps there’s more space between the seats in the Amigo even though it’s overall 10cm shorter than a Sunny.
As it happens once back on the beach, a French couple in a motorhome were drying off their Gumotex Solar 410C. They’d also been put off from exploring the Summer Isles by the offshore wind. They set out this morning and I see that the two seats do look quite close (ropey photo at max zoom on the right). I mention this because, as a reminder, I rate my discontinued Grabner Amigo as very similar to Gumo’s Solar 410C (see table below). Main difference is more pressure in my Amigo make it a stiffer and probably faster boat – but at twice the price of the Solar while you can still buy it. Back to the speed comparison test. Today was a calm day with a light wind from the southwest and when I set off the tide just beginning to ebb.
I’m getting accustomed to the thigh straps and the homemade footrest is great. Pulling inwards with the knees to brace off the straps and so transmit more power in the stroke isn’t something I could do for too long, I decided. I think the straps are more useful for last-ditch bracing against tipping in rough seas or rapids. But even then, allied with the footrest they do help connect you as well as you can be in an open-decked IK. Yesterday I’d found the backrest made my back hurt, perhaps because I have those footrests to push off. I’m still not convinced by this rigid backrest arrangement anyway. The cut-down packraft seat is fine (while it lasts) but that bar keeps disengaging from the rubber lugs (since fixed) and I think I’ve already bent it just be leaning too hard while moving about. It won’t be too hard to either get a thicker-gauge backrest bar made or dispense with it altogether and fit something like an Incept blow-up seat using the current lugs (although I see from what I thought here that maybe that’s not the answer). And as mentioned, those forward lugs painfully snag my fingers every once in a while.
Anyway, with barely a break I belted across to Tanera as fast as I could, leaning on a bit of karrimat taped to the seat back which did the trick. I averaged just under 4mph where the Incept had managed about 4.6. That’s also the top speed I clocked in a flat-out burst in the Grabner just before reaching the island, although on both occasions this sort of effort was not sustainable.
On the second leg back to the beach I had a light wind behind me but as I neared the pier I thought I could feel the pull of the outgoing tide. Unlike in the Incept, my energy and speed didn’t drop off much as I approached the beach and I got across at what felt like an all-day sustainable 3.8, with some spells recorded at up to 4.5mph without trying.
What the heck does it all mean? Well, it’s the not-so-startling revelation that the slimmer and two-foot longer Incept K40 was indeed a faster IK than the Grabner (two tracks overlaid on the left). Overall the Grabner is around 20% slower than the Incept.
At times at sea or on near-still rivers I do feel like I’m pushing the wide-nosed Grabner like a packraft. That’s another benefit of twin-side tubes, I now realise: a sharper bow is formed, as found on Grabner’s Holiday models too. On the right you can see that’s more plough than bow and must add up to a more effort over a long day, limiting compatibility with hard-shells for full-day runs like this.
And look at that wake I recall forming a similar conjecture (picture) about how the Sunny ruffled the water when compared to a hardshell’s sculpted bow. Or indeed look again at the Incept’s moderate wake at the top of the page. But then this is all for flatwater operations. In a swift river like those of the <a class="wp-gallery mceItem" style="color: #000000;" title="Kayaking and packrafting in southern France Massif I’m sure the shorter Amigo will be easier to handle than a K40 and so the compromise stands. It’s just that up here the best paddling is in the sea. Surprisingly I don’t miss the Incept’s rudder, having spent years in skeg-only IKs before getting the Incept.
Unlike my previous new IKs, out of the bag you don’t get much with a Grabner Amigo. In fact you don’t even get a bag. With Grabner IKs just about everything except the repair kit and air you pump in is an extra which undermines the otherwise striking 14kg weight. To make up for this dearth of equipment, in the catalogue they even list the specification label (right) as among the boat’s standard features! So my Amigo added up to the bare boat with carry loops at each end and two backrest bars. No seat, skeg, pump, lashing points (D-rings). On purchase, I ordered half a dozen D-rings and a pressure gauge. The rest I’ll work out myself. Having learned what’s needed over the years, that suits me fine.
With the high pressures an Amigo runs it’s great to finally have a pressure gauge that’s easy to use (left). There are no pressure release valves (PRVs) to stop an Amigo splitting a seam if left out in the hot sun, so it’ll be a quick way of keeping tabs on the boat’s pressure or ascertain it’s at full charge. I’ve added a marker in pink to easily line up with the Grabner’s rating of 0.3 bar (4.3 psi) – not 4.3 bar as I mistakenly did once (the old eyes are going…).
Fitting a tracking fin
Before the Amigo even got wet I glued on a Gumotex skeg patch (left, £12) and thick plastic Gumo skeg (another £12). All up cheaper and stronger than Grabner’s similar slip-on €60 alloy version. I took a chance using MEK to wipe and one-part Aquasure to glue the Nitrilon patch to the Grabner EPDM hull as I didn’t have proper two-part adhesive to hand. I figured it would work OK as a skeg isn’t under great strain like thigh- or footrest D-rings, for example. Years later, no problems. Apply a thin film of Aquasure to both surfaces; wait half an hour, then press down with all you’ve got.
A skeg is a pain in the shallows or when dragging a heavy-laden boat over the heather; that’s one thing I liked about the Incept’s hinged rudder, but I can’t think how to make an effective hinged skeg except the way Feathercraft do it on their self-bailing Java (it slips up and down through a slot in the self-bailing floor).
A slip-in skeg can’t be slipped off a fully pumped up boat, at least one like a high-pressure Amigo, though actually after a couple of months it’s less tight and can be done. Being able to do that is very handy for portages or grass-dragging, though the skeg itself looks pretty tough. Of course, an IK works without a skeg, but on coastal waters they’re a good idea. More on that topic here.
The Amigo uses more secure bayonet inflation valves which with the right adaptor (see inset below left) don’t pop out at the high pressures (0.3 bar/4.3psi) this boat requires.). Pump hose-end bayonet adaptors are easily bought in the UK from RIB suppliers on ebay. Inset left, the black one is what Grabner sell with a fitted fibre sealing ring and steps in the bayonet to suit different valve depths. The ‘butterfly’ finger tabs make this easy to twist in place, too. The green one uses plastic spacers held in place behind a black rubber washer to get a good seal. You wouldn’t want to lose these push-on seals and it’s hard to twist in place, so for the moment I’d say the Grabner one is better. Write that down, quick!
A now almost extinct yellow-hosed Bravo foot pump that suits some Gumotex can’t manage Grabner pressures, at least not my aged Bravo which hisses from various leaks before you can get a full charge. I’m amazed it’s lasted as long as it has. I got myself a bulky 2-litre barrel pump (above left, £20) rated at over 11psi. As you can imagine, on a low-volume IK this works fast, not least because it pumps on up and down strokes. Like Bravo foot pumps, it also has a second port to suck out ever last dram of air – handy for compact packing at the end of a tour.
The Bravo barrel is bulky so I’ve got a K-PumpMini (right, review here) from i-canoe in Ireland who can import anything from the NRS catalog in the US, and without a huge mark up too (€80 delivered, not sold in the UK). My longer K-Pump 100 worked surprisingly well inflating the Incept; we’ll see how the Mini model performs on the Amigo. If nothing else it will be a handy top-up pump; Grabner cover themselves very comfortably by claiming that anything under a 20% pressure loss over a 24-hour period is not a warranty claim, though I’ve never owned an IK that lost that much air in weeks let alone a day. K-Pumps can’t suck out air like Bravo pumps, but using a loose hose with the bayonet fitting it can be done by lung.
Next, I glued on my half-dozen D-rings (left). Front and rear will hold down gear; the other four locate my cut down packraft seat as well as an adjustable footrest tube similar to what I made for the Solar last year. The seat and foot rings will also double up as thigh strap location points. I’ve not always been that successful at gluing on previous boats, so this time did it by the book: roughen with sandpaper, wipe clean with MEK or alcohol, apply glue to both surfaces thinly and wait half an hour, glue again and wait less, then apply and press down hard with the roller.
Doing this I had a feeling the two-part Polymarine 2990 adhesive (right) was more effective than whatever I used doing the same job on the slipperier PVC-U Incept a year or two ago. I suspect Hypalon/Nitrilon is easier to glue; ‘plastic’ PVC-U is more effectively heat welded.
Over the years I never really got into using the thigh straps on my Incept or Java – perhaps the need for ruddering the Incept made them more tricky to use, or perhaps I’m just an idle paddler. But with the Amigo, I want to have that option to help it shift. In any case, it’s worth persevering with thigh straps as this is one of the main things that separates IKs from hardshell kayaks in terms of boat control in rough conditions and optimal torso-centered paddling efficiency. Straps are not quite as effective as bracing your knees under the top deck of a hardshell, but they’re all you can do with an IK. Otherwise, you’re just sitting in a canoe or on a floating log. I’ve now got fully used to the straps on the Amigo and use them without thinking, just like I feel much more secure with the toe clips on my bike’s pedals.
In my opinion, you need some kind of footrest too, if a braced body is to make an efficient paddle sweep – it’s probably more important than thigh braces. Last year I improved this on the old Gumo Solar that’s occasionally used by the g-friend. The Gumotex footrest cushion (same as my old Sunny) was too far away for the 5-foot Mrs to use effectively and is squidgy at best. On the Amigo I was able to use the front thigh strap D-rings to hook up the 4-inch footrest pipe (above left) with an adjustable strap looped through. It works fine.
At the other end I’ve separated the toilet-like seat base of my old Alpacka Denali packraft from the backrest section. It clips to the rear thigh strap hardware with mini snaplinks (left). This ultralight seat has already been repaired once by re-heat sealing the flat seam and another hard bounce may pop it again. It’s lasted the summer but if that happens I’ll come up with something better; any inflatable pad or IK seat base will do. The Incept seat was pretty good, so was the firm-backed Feathercraft Java seat which didn’t fold under strain. Right now, at about 50 grams, the cut-down Alpacka seat base is about as light as a kayak seat can be.
The hard plastic Grabner backrest was comfortable enough to lean on once I added a bit of karrimat, though it kept coming adrift from the lug holes when the bar pivoted down, usually when manhandling the boat, but occasionally on the water too. At sea it’s quite awkward to refit the bar into the black rubber lugs as the hull sides push apart. The only way I found was to face backwards in the boat, swing the legs out into the water and squeeze them against the hulls to repeg the seat bar.
To keep the bar in place while retaining a tool-free, quick detach element I hammered out the outer brass peg and replaced it with an R clip (above left). But that didn’t last too long – one clip bent and fell out and, as expected with footrests, the alloy bar was bending against the strain. I tried a blue seat strap instead (right), but hooking that to the rubber seatrest lugs looked like it put too much strain and distort them. Ripping those lugs off would be a pain. No way round it but to glue on another two D-rings as I did on the Solar; a 4.5-inch patch has four or five times the glued surface area of the seatbar lugs so ought to take the strain. D-ring prices seem high so I settled on what I knew – chunky Grabner items at €15 each (right). Grabner deliver fast from Austria.
The seat strap was a crude solution so I figured I may as well try a proper, full-height backrest off an SoT. On ebay the ‘heavy-duty‘ item (left) with long adjustment straps and even a back pocket went for £24 – less than the two D-rings which hold it in place. As far as I can tell the rear straps’ only purpose is to hold the backrest upright, but it’s proved very comfortable – like a proper seat and with no inflation required. I’ll keep the original seat bar for less frequent two-up paddling where I don’t have a footrest to put a strain on it. So after a couple of months use I have optimised my Amigo by completing the adaptions listed here, making a comfortable and more practical boat for coast hopping and river touring. The cost has been six D-rings £80; seat £24, glue £15, seat base and straps already had; Gumo skeg and patch £24, and two pumps, gauge and adapters £110.
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.
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.