Tag Archives: mull

Tested: 2020 Kokopelli Moki II inflatable kayak review

See also :
More about Hybrid IKs
Moki II preview
Aquaglide Chelan 155
Advanced Elements AirFusion

Link to video (or click picture)

In a line
Good-looking, roomy and high-pressure package that’s as wide as a packraft but turns like a tanker.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kokomok.jpg
everything in the bag except a cheap paddle
Removable floor for easier rinsing and DRYing
Adjustable footrest tubes PLUS paddle holders
Massive 12-inch tubes mean payload is probably as big as claimed

Good colours and design, as IKs go

Slow to turn and unresponsive to steer
Nearly a metre wide
Thin, hard seat bases
Too bulky and heavy for easy travelling
Massive 12-inch tubes mean not that much room inside at either end
Error-laden Kokopelli online specs [at time of review]

What They Say
The innovative [2020] Moki II two-person inflatable kayak offers an option removable spraydeck and sprayskirt. Giving you even more paddling options, seamlessly convert from a one-person to a two-person boat by simply adjusting the seats. Weighing 53lbs, the Moki II features a 2 person spraydeck removable spraydeck and 2 Alpine Lake Sprayskirts, high pressure rigid drop-stitch floor, user friendly push-push valves, 9” removable tracking fin and packs down seamlessly to fit into the included full-size premium carry bag. It’s ideal for flat open waters, touring, and ocean paddling. 

The 2021 model no longer includes the spray deck, but you might get two 4-part paddles

Out of the bag

Your ‘premium carry bag’ is a giant roller suitcase with a rather optimistic backpack harness which, on this unused boat, the pulling handle had already ripped away. The bag weighs 27 kilos with everything in it and once you start unpacking, stuff just keeps coming out: hull, floor, pump, footrest, tandem deck, spray skirts and coaming rods, a skeg and a repair kit.

Weight: 24kg (53lbs) • Full kit in bag 27kg (59.5lbs); boat with seats 21.5kg (47.4lbs)
Length: 4.3m (14 feet)
Width: 91cm (36″) • undecked 99cm (39″); with deck 96.5cm (38″)
Sidetube ø: 21.8cm (8.6″) • 30.5cm (12″)
Payload: 272kg (600lbs)
Pressures: Sides 0.17bar (2.5psi); DS floor 0.27bar; (4 psi) • Set-up leaflet says: sides 0.27bar (3-4psi), floor 0.69bar (8-10psi)
Construction: 840D nylon inner/top; PVC tube undersides and floor skin; PVC bladders; 1000D removable PVC DS floor.
Price: U$ 999; UK £950

Based purely on online photos and specs, my Moki II preview a few months ago brought up anomalies with the boat width. Getting an actual boat allowed some of these specs to be verified in red, above. Some are out by 50% and the claimed packed size of 29″ x 14″ x 13″ is more like twice as wide. You can tell from the rambling, repetitive ‘What they Say…’ quoted from the same page above that it was hastily put together. That’s a shame as from first appearances, this cannot be said of the boat itself. And from the exceedingly low psi figures quoted, it’s not like it’s the usual ‘tactical exaggeration’ to make the Moki II look better than it is. You’d hope someone at Kokopelli might find ten minutes to correct the online specs.

Enough moaning: time to man the pump and straight away I really liked the compact black Nano barrel pump. The feet clip down, T-handle extensions screw on, there’s a lever to switch from two-way pumping (up and down) to down-stroke-only (less effort), plus a pressure gauge on top and a suction port for full deflating. It’s one of the best compact IK pumps I’ve seen. Kokopelli don’t list it but if you can find it online (the Aqua Marina looks similar), get one.
I was easily able to inflate the DS floor to 8-10psi on the up-and-down setting but later, topping up on the water with the pump on the boat’s DS floor, found one-way easier to do one-handed. Being a small volume pump of about a litre, the 12-inch side tubes took at least 100 strokes to reach 3-4psi. The inflated boat now looks pretty massive so the 270-kilo payload rating does not look like a mistake or exaggeration.

It was here I realised I should have RTFM, but then again I like to follow my intuition and see if it pans out. I had to deflate the sides to allow the pumped-up floor to centre correctly. Unlike with Full DS IKs, the Moki’s round side tubes hold the floor firmly in place without the need for any clamps or tabs.

The top/inner parts of the hull (mostly yellow, grey at the back) are woven 840-D nylon, possibly backed with a PU coating for waterproofness, and certainly with a water repelling DWR coating on the outside. This stops the fabric ‘wetting-out’, although from jackets and tents I know DWR needs reproofing and curing with an iron once in a while. Without it, the nylon will soak up water and take forever to dry. Full PVC (or rubber) tubes are better in this respect, but nylon makes it easy/cheap to sew on fittings like the velcro paddle-holders, footrest daisy chains, carry handles and D-rings for the seat backs, plus short access zips at each end to get to the PVC bladders, if needed.

The yellow sides are stitched to the grey PVC underside of the tubes and the PVC floor sheet is heat welded to the tubes: all very neatly done. This is the nifty thing with PVC: surgically clean heat welds rather than the laborious, messy and vapourous glue needed by rubber-based IKs.

Apart from the crinkles at the bow and stern (which have thin plastic shells inside to help tidy the form), it’s all a very neat job. On the underside is the slot-in mount for the tracking fin (skeg), a stern drain plug accessible via a zip from the inside, and up front a shallow keel strip: more about that later.

Next are seats and footrests – no loose item escapes ‘Kokopelli’ branding. The firm EVA foam seats are common on many IKs these days, but stiffness is best suited to a backrest, not a 4cm-thick seat base which, sat on a firm DS floor may be too low for a an efficient paddling stance and too thin for all-day comfort. It’s something easily fixed with an inflatable cushion like a packraft seat base. More seat ideas here. The generous width of the Moki II means raising the seat is unlikely to affect stability.
The seat bases adhere to velcro strips sewn then welded to the DS floor. It’s an easy way of doing it while the velcro lasts. I found when sat in the front I was right at the end of the velcro; another foot would be handy, then you could fit a third kiddy seat in there.
A non weight-bearing backrest is a better use of stiff foam. They’re tensioned from the front and rear to stay upright; a floppy seat base is very annoying when getting in is awkward. Wide adjustment helps you fine tune them and on the back you get a handy zipped pocket and bottle holder.

The footrests are thick foam tubes commonly found on cheaper Sevys the like, and are threaded with a strap which clips to daisy chain loops stitched to the hull sides. Unused loops could also be used for securing gear because mounting anything under the bungie laces at either end of the boat is not such a good idea for forward visibility, accessibility, security, dryness and windage. These bungies are more useful as a quick way to stash a paddle.

Set up like this, the boat is a brawny 39 inches wide (99cm) but adding the zip-on deck and coaming rods pulls the boat in to 38 inches. Including a deck is a nice touch, so is the option to use it. On IKs I find them rather less useful than they seem: they make access, loading and getting in and out more awkward and if you’re worried about getting wet, paddling may not be for you. Once you pull on the also-included spray skirts you will be snugly encased in your Moki and ready to hit the rapids or surf. I’d have sooner had these items offered as optional extras, as most others do, and seen a cheaper boat.

On the Water

Initially the Moki 2 looked huge, but it’s actually a foot shorter than my Seawave and so didn’t look too out of place on the car roof. We set off in search of a accessible fresh water and after a while found a trio of co-joined lochs off the B8073 feeding the steam which soon drops into Tobermory.

Topping up the Moki II on the water (all inflatables benefit from a top-up once put into cold water), the barrel pump stood on the firm floor and with one handed, one-way down-pumping, it was easy to attain the 4/10psi (0.27/0.69 bar) maximum pressures. This is Scotland in late August so there was no risk of the blazing sun bursting out and ripping the boat asunder.

I set off without the tracking in and, as expected, found my front load on the keel strip make for tricky tracking. The deck was easy to manage but to me is a nuisance. It zipped off in seconds and got left on the bank.

It may be a metre-wide bladder boat but it’s still a kayak and so feels great once gliding out over the water. The Moki II needs a bit more propulsion to what I’m used to, but the mattress-like stability will be reassuring to beginners.

It was only flat water so the apparent stiffness from the DS floor and high-psi side tubes didn’t feel any greater than my 2.5/4psi Seawave. Unless you’re braced properly to the boat (the problem with just about all IKs) there is little actual benefit to be had in paddling efficiency, just the longer glide. In rougher water you imagine it might come down with a slap as it drops into wave troughs. According to the GPS the two of us could sustain about 5-6kph which is pretty good, but an all-out burst only recorded 8.4kph (5.2mph) when I’ve got 10kph alone in similarly long but less-wide IKs.

It soon became apparent that the Moki II tracks rather too well; something I’ve heard of other DS IKs with frontal keels or fins. Turning it even a few degrees was a huge effort. In the end we had to resort to digging the paddles in and drawing them forward to force the boat round. The problem with this technique is it kills momentum, though it’s possible you’d get used to working the boat in a less drastic manner.

You also notice that two-up there’s not much room for gear because the side tubes are so fat. The last foot or two at each end can’t be used much – again a common story with big-tubed IKs, if not any pointy ended kayak.

We scooted through the reeds which whined like sirens against the PVC hull, then passed under a rickety wooden bridge to the middle loch. This led to another reedy strait into the last loch above Tobermory and a view towards what was probably the 528-m flat cone of Ben Hiant over on Ardnamurchan. The sun came out, the sun went in and eventually the little camera’s batteries died after too much videoing.

Next evening promised to be sunny too, but it wasn’t. I wanted to explore the slim sea loch at Dervaig and had timed our put-in at least an hour after low tide so if the narrows leading out to sea turned into the Falls of Lora we’d get swept back in, not out into the Minch. The 10-minute portage over the tidal slime raised some grumbles from the crew not used to lugging 25-odd kilos of packboat across the mire.

I managed to wade through some shoe-sucking, shin-deep sludge to reach enough water to float on without the 9-inch fin, then paddled over to somewhere deeper where the crew could hop in and the fin get fitted. First thing I’d do with this boat is cut that fin down. Another issue I noted is that the woven yellow hull fabric may shed water readily, but picks up any smeared muck rather well. More cleaning before returning to the rental place tomorrow.
We headed out towards the narrows in the grim, grey light, feeling altogether uninspired.

‘The tide is going out, we’re all going to drown!’

‘It’s just the breeze over the surface. There are no times for Dervaig but Calgary to the south and Tobermory to the north were at low water nearly 2 hours ago.’

‘I’m telling you, the tide is going out!’

As we neared the malignant, 80-metre wide cleft on Loch An Chumhainn, ominous whorls bubbled up from the silty abyss and on entering the chasm the flow was clearly on the ebb.

‘I told you it was going out. Idiot!’

‘You watch, any minute now it’ll miraculously reverse, like it did on the Adur last week.’

I know tide times are only predictions but this was indeed odd and yes, I checked against BST/GMT and checked again I’d not misread 16.46 as 6.46pm. The tide should have been coming in for 90 minutes. I’d expect a constricted sea loch like this one to be a slow to fill and fast to drain, like Chichester Harbour in Hampshire. But that is a massive pool; Loch Chum is tiny.

We were now being swept down the Narrows of Chum at a slow walking pace and it was time to make a decision. Carrying on would take us two clicks to a jetty at Criog which we’d recce’d that morning on the bikes. That would be a long walk back to the car, so we dug in for a handbrake turn and escaped from the imminent maelstrom at a reassuring clip.
I recently read a review of a Sea Eagle with a frontal keel lobe which the owner said made the boat very hard to control against a current (as you’d expect). With the Moki II we had no such issues. There is not so much to explore in the inner bay but the tide would now be even lower with even more seaweed-draped, ankle-twisting shite to traipse over before getting onto to the ankle-twisting, midge-infested peat bogs above.
Wading in after the fin started grounding, in the end we found an easier take-out, followed by a 10-minute portage back to the car. I need to ask a Dervagian about these tides.

That evening I rinsed and washed the boat, but with little chance of it drying off any day soon. The removable floor made the task easier and the muddy smudges on the yellow fabric lightened up with a bit of brushing. I couldn’t be bothered to check if the inner bladders were dry as there was little I could so about it.

The Moki II isn’t an IK I’d choose to own: too wide, too bulky and heavy, probably too slow solo, too bladdered and too pricey with the unneeded accessories. But it’s roomy, stiff, yellow and like any IK, is fun to paddle.

Kayaking Mull & Iona

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Intrepid Scottish sea kayakeur Gael of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail was taking it to Mull this year. I invited myself along for part of the tour. His plan: Oban > Kerrera > Mull then along the Ross of Mull to Iona, back east then north for Ardmeanach, Inch K and Ulva. Then maybe Staffa, maybe the Treshnish, then handbrake turn and round the top to surf the tide back to Oban like the cats in Big Wednesday. He of course knew well that achieving half of that would be good going, but the forecast at least was for a sunny week with easterly winds. In the end, he ferried the car over the Firth of Lorn to Craignure on Mull (we had a full-blown gale up here on that day) then gonflated his K40 and set off clockwise round Mull from Grass Point.


I Know Where We’re Going
Hopefully he’d manage the 27km to Carsaig Bay, as that’s where we planned to meet up that evening, far beyond the reach of any mobile signal. As we drew into the rendezvous the steep bumpy single track road passed the quaintly isolated Carsaig phone box. It looked so picturesque, right by a waterfall surrounded by dense forest – I wish I’d taken a photo. Seems I wasn’t the first to notice it’s photogenic qualities: it featured in the 1945 Powell/Pressburger Hebridean romance I Know Where I’m Going. It was down on the old jetty that Wendy Hiller (left) looked out towards a fictional ‘Kilkoan’ (Colonsay) where she thought her destiny lay before the spirit of the isles got the better of her. A more recent film is also set in the Bay: The Silent Storm refers we’re told to repressed resentments in an island preacher’s mission and marriage, but by all accounts is a turkey.


Carsaig is just a few scattered houses clinging to the wooded slopes, and some bothies by the jetty not built, we’re told, by French Napoleonic PoWs.
Twenty odd clicks to the southeast lay the Slate islands where Gael and I pulled off a successful tour two years ago. This time round I’d be happy to tick off Iona, Inch Kenneth and Ulva before scarpering, while Gael set out for the Treshnish. For my liking they were a bit too close to Tiree, home of the Hebrides’ most persistent winds.



West with the Wind
Came the day, all was overcast with a stiff easterly and rains in the air. Full cags and batten down the hat. It’s not often you get an easterly up here and they can be a mixed blessing. They are of course offshore winds but as Gael explained, because they don’t kick up much of a fetch, they blow over invitingly flat seas. Warm, sunny, dry weather from the continent is also a feature, but in passing over fast-warming landmasses they get gusty and variable, swinging between NE to SE several times over a day while stuck in this barometric rut for days. Your prevailing, raid-sodden southwesterly is generally much more consistent. A gusting offshore wind from an unexpected direction isn’t what you want when trying to get back to shore at the end of a tough day.


Out on the bay I was initially freaked out by the backwind, swell and exposure; it seems the 1000-foot mass of Beinn Chreagach was amplifying the rush. My loaded Seawave was far more composed, and together we bobbed and yawed towards the cave at Malcolm’s Point (actually an arch, left) with definite Staffaesque influences.

It’s almost certainly the same basaltic formation that makes up Staffa’s famous Fingals Cave. Alongside is a more obvious arch that from the sea looks like the front edifice of a bombed-out building (great shoreside pic of both here). Moving into the adjacent bay, high above a herd of deer swept across the steep slope – descended perhaps from the mythical doudou of French folklore, according to Gael a mountain beast with two shorter legs on one side. The deer ran towards a flock of wild goats tiptoeing for the shore. They’re pictured here in the nearby Nun’s Cave, a Medieval ‘Naughty Step’ accessible along a coastal path from Carsaig.


The huge waterfall at the back of Traigh Cadh an Easa (‘Waterfall at Ravine Beach’, or some such) reminded me I’d needed to fill up. On the stony beach the usual flotsam suspects lay strewn at the high water line: rope, plastic, wood and the occasional fisherman’s Croc.


Round the point the winds dropped, but murk prevailed; further falls tumbling from the cliffs, as well as basaltic intrusions, gave the scenery a distinctly Icelandic feel. We were now passing towards a flatter ragged shoreline of skerries and periodic beaches where I grabbed a snack on a cushy fishing net sofa.
It would have been a good day to have a sail up – I should have packed my compact  cheapo disc sail which I’ve not bothered trying on the Seawave. I have experimented with the whole business and, certainly without a rudder, managing the lines on the disc would have resulted in the usual unsatisfying spurts.

West towards Uisken and through the skerries leading to the few dwellings at Ardalanish, the only car-accessible take-out before Fionnphort. Occasional showers rinsed the salt from our cags and after one stop my Seawave seemed to be pulling right, even though it’d handled fine in stronger backwinds earlier. I made do offsetting the paddle until the sandy isthmus by Eilean Mor where I hopped out and pulled off the kelp caught in the skeg. That’s more like it.


How far had we come? Who knew, but this being my first full-day’s paddle this year, by now I was counting the miles to the turning point at Erraid on my newish Montana GPS with OS mapping. As I’d found using it in the States on a moto a few months back, you can’t beat the big picture of a paper map. But here, when it came to threading passages between the skerries, seeing your precise position on a proper OS map made it easier to find a way through and avoid dead ends.


As we crossed Port nan Ron bay the winds kicked up hard to the NNE. We were aiming to turn north up the narrow, tidal channel in the Sound of Erraid (also the title of one of Enya’s unreleased albums from her mordant ‘Scottish Widows’ phase), but the tide was only just turning back in and the wind would have been on us.


So we parked up for the night inside a lovely clamshell cove hemmed in by pink granite crags below a broad grassy amphitheatre. As the predicted evening rain fell, we cooked up some delicious seawater pasta then roamed to a high point overlooking the Sound where Gael picked up a detailed forecast from his mate: warming up, drying up but still blowing up from the east.
Strong winds woke me in the night and I lay there wincing as the tent shook and flapped violently. This was its first stormy outing and it took me a while to just accept it, plug up the ears and fall back to sleep.



The Sound of Erraid
The morning blew in from the northeast and after breakfast behind a knoll, Gael set out towing my yak while I fired off some shots from the headlands above and caught him up in the Sound.
It was an hour or two after high tide so we only just managed to scrape over the Shallows of Erraid and out into a wind-blasted bay.


As we crept northwest, Erraid island seemed to be developed out of proportion to its size. Turns out it was a quarry for the nearby Torran Rocks lighthouse in the Stevenson era, and Stevenson fils set Kidnapped here. Now the former quarrymen’s cottages house a satellite community of the Findhorn Foundation, offering their alternative to the ecumenical retreats over the water on Iona.


Gael’s big Ortlieb water bag had gone rogue, exuding a pungent iodine tang, so we put in near Fidden campsite to fill everything else with lovely sweet water. (I noted a 1.5L plastic bottle slotted neatly into my footrest tube). Out in the Sound it was way too windy to aim for the southern end of Iona as planned, but we figured with our added ballast we could work our way north between the skerries for a shorter, less exposed crossing of the mile-wide Iona Sound. From there set off for an anticlockwise loop instead.


Crossing to Iona
Somewhere just after Lalte Mor we made our dash for Iona, aiming for a beach just south of the ferry jetty, with two big buoys in between as markers. The wind had now veered to the southeast and mid-channel it was all getting a bit lumpy but manageable but the Seawave tracked true. The quicker I paddled the sooner it’d be over. Gael yelled to err north towards the ferry line where we were being blown anyway. He realised the spring tide was in full retreat down the sound and we needed to compensate. With the green and yellow buoys and the beach, I was sure my track was good, but on the far side Gael explained my trajectory resembled a washing line due to the strong southerly ebb. Sure, I was pointed at the beach and the buoys remained to my left, but the sea was moving southwards beneath me.


His tip on such crossings was to line two points (a buoy and the beach for example) to better monitor and compensate for any deflection. A day or two later I tried this while hacking into Arisaig Bay, lining up a distant tree and a gully, and was surprised how the unseen current or wind deflected me within seconds, while still making good headway.

It was a good lesson from the seamaster. Had we let the tide take us, our Iona Sound crossing might merely have ended up more westerly than northwesterly, but we’d still have reached the shore OK. But had we been aiming for Iona’s southern tip (as originally planned from Fidden), the stream may have pushed us out into the open sea, or at the very least extended the transit to reach the island. Add in the wind swinging back to the northeast and that’s how sea kayakers get in trouble.


Little did we know that my Mrs, who’d spent the night on Iona in solemn retreat after dropping me off at Carsaig, was recording our progress from the ferry chugging back to Fionnphort. And even as the odd wave broke alongside me, I too was able to grab a few shots: clearly a sign that conditions were less epic than they felt.


The Treasures of Iona
We beached the boats and went for a wander through Baile Mor towards the abbey. While backtracking, up ahead it seemed like the village idiot was bounding along towards us, waving enthusiastically. We reserved our judgments until it turned out to be the g-friend who’d hopped back onto the ferry to present me a chocolate doubloon (it was my birthday). What a nice surprise. Soon we were swept away in a whirlwind of anniversarian revelry and all headed to the village cafe for a slap-up haddock, salad and chips (with a backup ice cream. And cake).


Back in the boats, it was a short sidewind struggle up to Iona’s northern beaches before a calmer paddle on the island’s lee. With the weather warming up, post-lunch lethargy plus the fatigue from the nervy crossing and the interrupted night, we lost our momentum a bit.


At the back of our minds, neither was keen on the idea of shortly rounding Iona’s southern tip into the wind and then edging back up the windward side. We crossed the big bay and nosed ambivalently past Sprouting Cave as far as Port Beul-Mhoe, a steep stony cove with an onerous portage before any tentable grass. I plucked a superb granite birthday egg from the shingle, then we backtracked to the big Camas ‘Bay at the Back of the Ocean’ and made an early camp to enjoy a warm, sunny evening. Next morning we’d see how we and the winds blew.


Outrun by the wind
The plan had been to complete the Iona circuit, cross back to the Ross and head east into the mouth of Loch Scridain for the mountainous Ardmeanach peninsula where Gael has got windbound last year.
A glance out of the tent at 6.30 revealed blue skies, but an offshore breeze was already ruffling the sea – and this was the lee side of Iona. It didn’t bode well for the south end, let alone the 13-km leg into Loch Scridain and the exposed crossing to Ardmeanach, with gusts tearing down off the 3000-foot slopes of Ben Mor. I was all set to roll up my boat, stagger across the island and meet Gael at the ferry, but he agreed the weather had outpaced our plans on Mull. We’d head back the way we’d come, cross to Fionnphort by paddle or ferry, then he’d retrieve his car from Craignure to deploy Plan B.


We set off at the top of the tide. With the newfound sunshine and warmth it was a relief to forgo the sweaty, salt-caked cagwear. Back through the skerries and into the wind round the top of Iona. Ten clicks to the north, Staffa and Dutchman’s Cap hovered on the horizon, but any trippers heading there today may well come back with faces the colour of warm guacamole.


The narrowest crossing back to Mull is near Eilean nam Ban, and when the time came it turned out to be a lot easier than yesterday, even contending with another southerly stream (left). Gael decided later we must have caught a fortuitous lull in the wind-bashing, and once in the sheltered Bull Hole channel, we let the strongly ebbing tide swish us down towards Fionnphort.


Unloading on the jetty, hoards of tourist-pilgrims from the world over were making their way to Iona. Having spent a day there, the Mrs had confessed she’d been a bit disappointed. The recently rebuilt abbey lacked much Medieval aura, and the achievements of Saint Columba and the significance of Iona’s post-Druidic heyday were rather embellished compared to more objective sources.

For centuries the Lords of the Isles and Scottish kings (including Macbeth) had been buried here; the nearer the abbey the better, it was thought. I noticed the decorated headstone (right) of former Labour party leader John Smith who’d managed to squeeze in, though it turns out he’d no connection with Iona other than being raised in Argyll. Maybe there’s more to it, but as even some Iona-born fail get a plot here, it seemed a post-mortal vanity inconsistent with what I recall of Smith’s public image.


Anyway – I stretched out with my Kindle on the old jetty and let the warming kayaks gently purge through their PRVs, while Gael strode boldly east up the A849. After a while I went up the road to make sure he wasn’t skiving behind some shed having a quick nap. The strong winds I met underlined the fact that we were doing the right thing. Kayaking anywhere east of here would have been hard, paddle-creaking yakka.
Three hours later Gael returned to find me surrounded by empty crisp packets, ice cream wrappers and a succulent Curly Wurly embedded in my gob. We strapped the yaks to the roof and went to find somewhere else to play.