Tag Archives: Sunny IK

Gumotex Sunny 2020

Sunny Index Page

I sure do regret selling my Seawave. Lockdown-related production delays as well as travel-dodging staycations plus, in the UK at least, a hot summer, have seen Gumotex Rushs and a lot of other decent IKs become out of stock till the autumn. As a result, used prices have shot up. The other day a 20-year-old Sunny (below; in very good condition it must be said) went for £325 on eBay! If you have an old IK rotting in the shed, now is the time to flog it!

Chances are that old Sunny has another 20 summers in it. The Nitrilon from that era was more raft-like and one likes to think fewer corners were cut (as the 2007 LitePack Outrage proved). Something happened to Gumotex around this time: maybe someone new took over or got involved. Within a few years Gumotex prices soared as more sophisticated models were released. But not all of them: today you can still buy the Sunny’s lo-fi descendant, the Solar 3 (aka; Solar 019), a 0.2 bar, three-tube dinosaur, now 4.1m long.

I bought my 3.9-m Sunny from boatpark.cz in 2005. Stuck for a kayak in 2020, I asked the mate who I gave it to in 2011 whether he’d like to give it back. With his kids now young men and the boat unused, he was happy to oblige.

Unpacking, the Sunny was covered in damp sand and with the valves open. Some people just don’t know how to look after their boats! A quick hose down and it looks in great shape, less faded than my Seawave. Some of my old D-rings applied with crappy Gumotex glue have come adrift and there’s UV-discoloured factory glue at the seams, but the colours are still pretty bright and no seams are lifting.

I forgot about those annoying black twist-lock inflation valves with the annoyingly stiff dust caps. I blew the grit out and plugged in the aged Bravo bellows which is now so soggy it struggles to set off the PRV at 0.2bar with me putting my full weight on the pump. Was the PRV seized? I hooked up my new two-way barrel (with home-made manometer) and in seconds the PRV is spewing sand and spray. I keep going to blast any remaining crud out then give the sidetubes a taught 25%-over, 0.25 bar. Nothing rips or explodes.

I fall into the modification/improvement trap and consider replacing them with current Gumotex Push-Push valves, and even adding PRVs in the sides, as on my Seawave. But I remind myself valves can be tool-breakingly stiff and I’ll probably keep the Sunny until a Rush 2 becomes available, or maybe the rumoured DS-floored Seawave is released. That won’t be until autumn.

My clip-in Aire seat with crucial backrest supports glued on to the sidetube tops (as on the current Solar, above) works better than the crumby originals which folded in on themselves as you lent back (see the eBay Sunny, above). But with sidetube supports my Amigo / Seawave system: packraft seatbase + SoT backrest would be lighter, adjustably higher and more comfortable. Again, it’s not worth mixing the glue up unless I decide to keep the Sunny as a spare.

The long strap loop running clipped to the seat base via the second seat mounts used to clip to a small Peli box which doubled as a footrest. I remember now: to use solo you flipped the front seat to face the other way, replaced the back seat with a footrest pillow and moved the skeg to the other end. That’s why my boat unusually has the valve and PRV at the front. But for a good brace the reach was too great, even for my legs.
I prefer my plastic drainpipe idea but that needs a couple of added D-rings. As it is, the seat could probably go back a bit further for solo use, so it may have to be a box or some other bodge, as my legs definitely won’t reach. Or maybe I can just do without a footrest which only really matters on long or dynamic paddles. These days I prefer a Peli under my knees where I can actually get to it without having to do 45 minutes of hot yoga.

Underneath it has that crappy old Gumotex alloy skeg system – and at each end, too. Did I do that? The original oversized alloy skeg is deeply corroded along the smaller ones I got made, and even sold to fellow Gumotards.
A modern plastic skeg needs a different patch but I bet there’s a way to adapt the alloy patch to take a plastic skeg. Below, a picture of new and old skegs on our old Solar 300.

Other than that, the old dog is in good shape and would look better once I clean off the dried duct tape residue and stray glue. I weighed it off some suitcase scales: 12.7kg + another 1.5kg for the seat. First run I’m going to risk 0.25bar (3.6 psi) in the sides to see if it glides like a Seawave and stings like a bee. What’s the worst that can happen?

Adios to the Sunny ~ check out the Solar 410C

Sunny main page

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.

Nine years later he gave it back!

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.

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In 2013 I sold the Incept and went back to basics with a discontinued Grabner Amigo (above). Like the Incept, it’s rated at 5psi, but comes with no rudder, deck, PRVs, footrests or even seats to speak of. It’s what you might call a high-pressure (super rigid) Sunny or 410C.

Gumotex Sunny on Loch Linnhe

Sunny main page

A short slide show of an afternoon’s paddling we did a couple of years ago after the Spey. Jon in the Carolina found this route description in this book, winding in and out of a few islands and so never far from a shore which was fine by us. It’s hardly ‘out there’ but for us it was quite a step up, calculating the tides, wind, currents, UV refraction index and negotiating the swell that might have exceeded two feet at times – plus dealing with some dodgy rip on the way back that was there just where the route description said it would be.
After the castle, coming back in between Shuna island and the shore, the wind or tide or something was against me while Jon glided effortlessly forth in his hard plastic boat. That’s the good thing with an IK, you get a free work out!
All in all, a lovely October’s day on the Scottish west coast.

 

Kayaking and packrafting in southern France

Updated 2020
See also: Allier • Chassezac • Ardeche • Tarn • more Tarnbook review
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Just like their bikes and many other things, in southern France those Frenchies dig recreational paddling. Unlike the UK they don’t care if it’s an inflatable, a canoe, kayak, packraft or two bin bags and a stick, and unlike the UK, no permits or licenses are required; just adhere to sensible regs. Add the fresh food, good camping, inexpensive ‘creaky stair’ hotels, great weather, natural spectacle, easy access by rail or bus, plus beautiful medieval villages with weekly markets and you’ve got a great packboating holiday with as much easy white water action as you like.

Did I miss anything? Yes: the long-overdue second edition of Rivers Publishing’s guide which originally opened up this area’s potential to me. generally aimed at ‘family’ canoeing, Best Canoe Trips in the South of France (formerly White Water Massif Central2002) has river descriptions so you don’t have to worry too much about what’s downriver. As a serious guidebook it could be better, but it’s all there is in English.

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Extending south from the city of Clermont Ferrand 200km to the former Roman colony of Nimes, the Massif Central is an undeveloped and relatively unpopulated upland region of extinct volcanoes and 1000-metre limestone pleateaux or causses. About the size of Belgium, the highest peak is the 1885m (6184ft) Puy de Sancy in the Parc des Volcans near Clermont. Now you know where all that water comes down from.

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Getting there from the UK
The key airports to access the region include Clermont, Montpellier, Nimes, Lyon and Rodez with Easyjet, Ryanair and FlyBe, among others. Nimes is probably the most useful, but Easyjet (Lyon, Montpellier) has daily rather than weekly Ryanair flights with better prices when booked late.
There are also fast TGV trains to Nimes via Paris, taking just 6-7 hours from London (red lines, left) but elsewhere or beyond, things slow down considerably as you head for the Massif (blue area on map), so it’s unlikely you’ll get to a river on the same day as leaving the UK. And while fast or slow, a train is a much more agreeable prospect than flying, even in summer and once you pay for baggage, budget airlines work out much cheaper and as fast or faster, depending on where you start.

Rivers
Take your pick from the easy Dordogne and Vezere, more challenging but easily accessed Allier, a Herault day trip, Tarn, Ceze, Chassezac which joins the Ardeche. Then there’s the Gardon and little-known but slightly greasy Lardon. Come August the biggest danger on the Ardeche is getting nutted by an out-of-control plastic rental. In 2018 I did the Tarn again, from Florac all the way to Millau in a packraft, and a few weeks later the Allier too. Map below from the Best Canoe Trips… guidebook.

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They’re all fun in an IK provided the boat is not too long. With a long boat problems occur when the front noses into slower water or catches a rock, while the back is still in a fast current; the boat swings sideways, high sides and tips you out.
In a slightly slower but much more stable and agile packraft I’d pick the frothier rivers like the some of the Allier, the Tarn and Ardeche, because a packraft makes sub-Grade 3 whitewater so easy and safe. Packrafting the Tarn in 2018, I’m pretty sure I’d have struggled to control my 4.5-metre Seawave IK in some rapids.

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But then again, packrafting the Allier a few weeks later, I was pleased I decided to walk round an 8-km gorge section of relatively sustained WW3 rapids (left; a self-bailing Gumotex Scout) which would have swamped my Yak again and again. Here a decked or self-bailing packboat works better. And from what I’ve seen, two-up in a kayak or canoe makes things even more complicated unless both are experienced. If you do these rivers early in the season (June, July) there can be more flow, frothier rapids and certainly fewer crowds than early August. But summer storms can rise levels overnight.

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Maps and river levels
There’s a very good official 
website for live river levels here with more about it here. For general maps of France right down to 1:25k scale and beyond, IGN have an online portal to zoom in and view all their paper maps (right). As the Best Canoe Trips… guidebook says, they’re better than Google Maps. All that’s missing are markers identifying canoe chutes on the weirs.

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The rivers
The Allier is a good choice for packboating as you can get a train from
 Clermont via Brioude all the way to the village of Chapeauroux, where the easier section flows right back to Brioude. Note Alleyras to Monistrol is now open (see link) but beware the first 8km out of Monistrol to Prades through the gorge. Long version in the link, but you’ll see it from the train coming upstream and may be alarmed, as I was in 2018, even though I’m pretty sure I kayaked it 12 years ago.

Do-Vz-route

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The Ceze and Herault are car and shuttle-with-bike day trips. The classic Tarn Gorge starts from Florac (noon bus from Ales) and cuts 85km below the Causse Mejean to Millau with its famous viaduct just beyond. A great run with easy rapids, bar one or two not mentioned in the guidebook.
Being out of the Massif, the Dordogne-Vezere (map right) are easier paddles, but iirc took me a bit of bus and train’ing after a Ryanair to Rodez and out from Bergerac. Perfect for your first IK adventure, but could be slow, agricultural (lots of riverside irrigation pumps) and dull in a packraft.

And if you don’t have a packboat or can’t be bothered to bring yours, no worries. Get down to a river and rent an SoT for as long as you like. It’s all set up for you. Click the river links for more galleries.

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Eats, Chutes & Lodges
On any big Massif river there’s a well-established riverside campsite and canoe/kayak/SoT rental scene, so that by August flotillas of holidaymakers pack out popular rivers like the Ardeche and Tarn. Plus, at any time you can pull over to wander through a village which will very often have a basic hotel from 40 euros, like the one left on the Allier.

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Some of these rivers cut through spectacular gorges and are strung out with easy rapids up to Class III, weirs to portage round or tip over and which sometimes have a glissade or canoe chutes (left and right) which shoot you down the face of a weir without the need to get out and carry. Great fun and often easier than they look. There are no locks until you leave the Massif and enter the intensively farmed lowlands by which time the fun may be over.

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Below my gallery from many years packboating many of the lovely rivers of the Massif. Vive la France, Vive les gonflables!