I had a visit from former Olympic slalom trainer and canoeist Jim the other day. He bought a Solar 410C after browsing IK&P and declares it one of his favourite boats. I ran the previous version Sunny for years before I felt I’d squeezed all the potential from it and started changing IKs every year. The Sunny was a tough do-it-all boat and the 410 is the same, but 20cm longer. It was more space but also the greater rigidity of higher-pressure boats I was after. We were hoping to go out for splish-splosh but for the last few days a cold offshore F4-5 northerly has been spinning off a North Atlantic High and bearing down on the Summers so games are off. Right now the chilling drizzle is nearly horizontal as it blows past the window. Oh hold on, it’s gone sunny now. Is it autumn already? The 3-seat, 410cm Solar went for as little as £550 in the UK or up to £100 less from Boatpark in Czech when on special. Both do free delivery anywhere. The Seawave costs about half as much again. The 410 is a foot shorter than my Seawave, an inch wider maybe, less slim and pointy at the ends and runs 0.2 bar/3 psi compared to my Seawave’s 0.25 (I run my Seawave sides at 0.33/4.8psi). The old style Nitrilon is thicker so the weight’s the same at 17kg, maybe less with one seat. The Seawave has a bit of a more pronounced keel rib along the middle too, but neither struggle to track without a skeg. It’s just that a skeg enables you to spend less time and effort correcting and so you can power on. Handy at sea, less essential in flowing rivers. Jim showed me an interesting mod to make his skeg into a rudder to enable paddling into steady winds. By simply not fitting the back of the skeg into the sleeve, he’s able to pivot it off the front and modify the angle with a bit of string attached to the back of his seat (right). No probs with the skeg sliding out and if it does on a rock, chances are you’ll be close to shore and the boat won’t exactly become suddenly uncontrollable anyway. I usually deal with quartering – ’10 or 2 o’clock’ – headwinds by just pulling harder on one arm, leaning into the wind or repositioning the paddle in my hands longer on the leeward side. I rather lost faith in rudders on the Incept in Australia when it was maddeningly ineffective in controlling the boat in strong backwinds, although I fitted one on the Seawave in the end. But without all the foot control faffery this could be a simple, non-permanent mod to any Gumboat which runs the robust, slip-in black skeg. And unlike my Incept rudder, it won’t come out of the water and be ineffective on steep backwaves. He also showed me a way of simply rigging up his roof rack tie-downs into thin knee braces (left). Like me, Jim agrees they’re a great benefit to paddling efficiency in an otherwise unbraced IK. I have some Packrafting Store ones on the Seawave – a lot lighter than my old SoT braces. And he also said he’s successfully tried an idea I though of in my Sunny days, but never tried: hull rigidity rods to make the long but low pressure boat flex less. Either two on the sides which requires gluing fixtures to work best, or as he’s found, simply putting a thick broom stick or whatever under the seat in the middle of the boat.
In other news, I’ve been persuaded to cough up 25 quid a year to dump the automated ads on IK&P. I never see them as I’m always logged in, but they sure are tacky.
Paddling the Haute Allier in France in a Sunny required frequent visits to the bank. Not to get money out of the ATM but to drain the swamped boat. And on Shark Bay in Western Australia one crossing of a very windy bay required frequent pumping out. The water came in over the sides as the boat flexed over the swell (right). On a river turning the boat upside down is the quickest way of doing this, but can make a mess of the packing. Tipping it up on end works less well because of a triangular patch of material on each end. It’s a handle of sorts but also keeps some water in. I cut a small hole in the back so I could drag it up a steep bank to drain itself (see little fountain left).
Making the Sunny a bailer? I’ve considered drilling bailing holes (easily and reliably reversible with duct tape I found on the old Safari, left) but am pretty sure the floor of the Sunny is below the water line with me in it. Loads at either end help, as would the hull sticks or plank described below, along with a thicker seat pad. It could be something worth trying to not end up sitting in water. Lighter solo paddlers in a Sunny may get away with cutting bailing holes without doing all these bodges because the boat won’t sink so low in the water (see graphic below).
In the end I decided I didn’t really need self-bailing for the sort of tame touring I did in the Sunny. If I was more into white water I’d get something like a self-bailing Safari. I never used my Java IK long enough to appreciate the benefits of its self-bailing feature and some later IKs (and packrafts) I’ve owned had zip on decks which are an alternative way to avoid water in the boat, although I used them even less. Away from flat water, a bit of splash gets in the boat most of the time but it takes a while before it’s sloshing about. The stiff and high-sided Incept was much less prone to swamping and the similar-to-Sunny Grabner seems the same. Longitudinal hull flex was the problem.
Making the Sunny/Solar 410C hull more rigid The Sunny is 3.85-m long but runs 0.2 bar (2.9psi). The replacement Solar 410C is even longer at 4.1metres but runs the same pressure. Since I originally wrote this I’ve realised that higher pressure IKs are indeed more rigid. I have read of people running a Solar 410 at 0.3 bar. I thin this would take more than a regular Bravo foot pump could manage (or at least, my old example) and the push-fit valves (as opposed to more secure bayonet fitting) may pop the hose off. A way round that would be to use a push-fit hand pump like a K-Pump. I never tried it, but I have to say my experience with Gumotex IKs suggests that they feel sufficiently well built to take 50% more pressure. But to blow a seam in a tubeless IK like a Solar or a Sunny would be hard to repair. Can you see any difference whatsoever in the pictures on the right? It’s supposed to show the Sunny with no load (top) – quite bent; the boat equalised with a heavy load – low and relatively level (middle); and at the bottom with a light load with some straight branches jammed in the sides (see below) – less bent than it would be. No you probably can’t, they all look the same. While paddling the Tarn Gorge in 2007 I tried ways to help stop the hull on my 13-foot Sunny sagging with my weight. The handy gap where the side tube meets the floor tube was just right for jamming a stick in. Up to that point I had found that leaning far back on the seat and taking the weight off your butt and onto your heels and shoulders was a way to unsag the middle of the Sunny and could mean the difference between scraping through a shallow shingle rapid without punting or walking the boat through. I was going to buy a pair of broom handles in France one time but forgot, so later by the Tarn river I found a couple of branches that were pretty straight over 5 feet and jammed them in between the floor and the side tubes more or less in the middle of the boat. My unscientific impression was that the Sunny was indeed more rigid, responsive and faster, leveling the boat out in the water. Later I found some light metal tubes (right) but never did anything about it. The fact that the river sticks popped out through some rapids shows how much the Sunny flexed in rough water. A year or two later I was reminded what a good idea a pair of stiffening side floor poles could be on a Sunny and how easily that can be achieved. Of course the poles will be more junk to carry around, but as I was considering using the old Sunny more in the sea it felt worth doing. I cannibalised an old TNP paddle and with a saw and a hot knife trimmed off the blades. Now I had two 1.55-metre long sticks although 1.75 would have been better as this is the distance where the starts to taper in to each end.
A series of attachment points needed to be glued to the 3-inch wide flat strip where floor meets the side tubes. I got as far as this (right) but then someone told about the Incept K40 which seemed a more seaworthy boat so I gave the Sunny away. But – if I owned a Solar 410C and paddled solo and out at sea, it’s something I’d consider trying. It’s easy to do and harmless to try. There’s more on hull flexing here.
After nearly six years of splashing about, this week I gave my sun-faded Gumotex Sunny away to a mate and his kids. It was probably only worth £100. Coincidentally, Gumotex confirmed they’ve stopped selling the Sunny in Europe while introducing the new and near-identical Solar 410C.
In North America Innova (Gumotex importers) continue to sell the Sunny, although theboatpeople in California have taken it upon themselves to import the 410C direct from Gumotex alongside the slightly cheaper Sunny. There are stats on that model right here and a comparison with vaguely similar IKs here. I can confidently say I got my £220-worth out of my Sunny Gumboat since I bought it in 2006. It has at least as many years of use left in it and never failed in any way other than filling with water when the going got too rough. It’s a tough old boat and like your first decent car or motorbike, I’ll always have a soft spot for the Sunny for introducing me to packboat touring.
My only regret is I didn’t get a chance to try it out with my home made sail. Or keep it long enough to try out the hull-stiffening rods to see if they made any difference whatsoever. It’s an idea that may need doing on a Solar 410C. The Incept K40 is notably stiffer and in the pics and vid doesn’t appear to sag at all with me in it. Much of what I liked and disliked about my old Mk1 Sunny or the much-improved final Mk3 Sunny, will apply to the new Solar 410C. Be warned though, at 4.1m it might sag if you’re a solo bloater like me. The hull is covered in ‘Max 0.2 bar’ stamps but you can try giving it 5psi/0.3bar (50% more than recommended) to make it stiffer. In 2013 I sold the Incept and went back to basics with a discontinued Grabner Amigo (left). Like the Incept, it’s rated at 5psi, but comes with no rudder, deck, PRVs, footrests or even seats to speak of. It’s what you might call a high-pressure (super rigid) Sunny or 410C.