A little bit of paddling history
Like many people I guess, we started paddling with a bomb proof Discovery 158 Canadian canoe. Although the weight makes it a bit of an effort to put on a roof rack, we've had many happy hours padding on estuaries like the Exe, Fal and Helford.
While the Disco 158 was great, it was a little limiting in what we'd do in it because "self rescue", if it flooded in a capsize, seemed like a bit of risk. Sure, we'd practised capsize drill on a canoe course (fling yourself out before it goes over and then get back in while it's still upright seemed to work well!). We'd also fitted large foam buoyancy front and aft so it was never going to sink. But realistically we were never going to do a "Capistrano flip" in the middle of the estuary with a wuss dog in tow.
We still love the Disco 158. While it now spends most of its time out of the way on a pulley system in the roof of the garage, we won't be getting rid of it anytime soon.
Next up was a Waveport Scooter Gemini (previously known as Perception Gemini I believe). The thinking went that if we were worried about the canoe flooding, why not get a "sit on top" that, by definition, can't flood. Or so we thought. Actually the first one we got we got had an invisible hairline crack around one of the scupper holes meaning that it did start to flood. Full marks and many thanks to AW Watersports for getting that swapped out so quickly under guarantee.
But there were still a couple of flaws in the plan. First up, the hull material was too shiny for Scooby Hound to get a grip and stand up properly meaning he couldn't act as the ship's figurehead and balance things out when it was just me and him. Secondly, we didn't do our homework properly and the weight of me, the wife and Scooby (he's a big dog - honest) was too close to the maximum design weight for the kayak. It meant that it "tracked" like a pig with all three of us aboard - especially when going downwind for some reason.
For the right crew, it'll make a fine boat when we get round to selling it.
Sea Eagle 465 "Fast Track"
And so on to our current kayak of choice - an inflatable Sea Eagle 465 Fast Track.
The thinking this time was that
- we wanted a boat that was relatively easy to take with us on our camper van travels
- one that would take the three of us with ease (and get Scooby Hound's seal of approval)
- conversely, it also had to be good with just me aboard or me and the dog
- and one where it wouldn't be that much of a problem if we ever capsized
So how did it work out?
Here's a list of things that we like about the Sea Eagle 465
- it has a drop stitch floor - the same technology as used by Stand Up Paddleboards. That means that the floor is rigid - we can stand up on it if so inclined! While the side chambers are inflated to 3 PSI, the floor can be inflated up to 10 PSI.
That makes for a really rigid boat which handles really well.
- The handling is really very good - helped by an inflatable "keel" at the front (which makes up the fourth independent air chamber) and a detachable skeg at the back.
Stop paddling and the Sea Eagle continues in a straight line for quite a way (strength of side winds permitting)
- It is affected by winds - unsurprisingly. However, it is less affected by them than our Disco 158 which presents a bigger "slab sided" hull to the winds
- It packs down pretty small. It comes with its own "carry case" that wraps around the deflated rolled up kayak. Its probably about the size of a large back pack. Covid lockdowns mean we haven't yet done the travelling with the kayak we were planning on but we expect all the "peripherals" (wet suits, buoyancy aids, paddles etc) to cause us more problems than the kayak itself.
- It is made from a single skin material than doesn't absorb water. So a simple rub down with an old towel at the end of a paddle means that don't have a soggy kayak going mouldy
- Inflation is quick and easy - maybe about 5 to 8 minutes. However, I'll admit that I treated us to an electric pump. We bought a Bravo GE 20-2 Electric Inflatable Pump which we like because
- it has a rechargeable and user replaceable battery
- it can do way more PSI than we need (22PSI)
- it has an "auto shut off" mechanism - so we dial in the pressure we want and then leave it to do its thing while we potter around doing other preparations
- it can be re-charged (whilst not in use) from a car cigarette lighter
- We haven't capsized it yet. As can be seen in the photo below, it could fill up with water but we expect this to be manageable - the volume is so much less than a Canadian canoe.
This isn't a white water boat. It only has two "scupper holes" which we keep closed. It is rated for up to class II waters. However, we think it handles waves better than the Disco 158 - it doesn't seem to "slam" into them but rides them better. We're talking large wakes from ignorant power boat drivers here and wind blown waves over a few miles of estuary - not breaking waves on the sea shore!
Scooby Hound agrees that it is better in waves and prefers the feel of the floor and the slightly enclosed seating position. He's just hoping his mum's paddling technique improves so he doesn't get dripped on so much...
- Happily it performs very well with just me aboard. The (nice and low) seats can be moved to just about anywhere in the boat meaning the trim can be got just right.
- Oh - and it can carry up to 794 pounds so I don't think we have anything to worry about there
So what don't we like
- the product assembly by Sea Eagle (and hence via the UK importer - SpinDrift) seems very odd. This isn't a cheap boat so it must be likely that a fair few of its purchasers will already have various bits of canoe / kayak kit. However, every version of the product package comes with paddles. The ones with package we bought (the Pro - 2 Person) are OK but are a teensy bit heavy and clunky compared to the carbon fibre ones we already had.
- It doesn't come with any foot rests / braces and the pricing for Sea Eagle accessories seems exorbitant.
A bit of large white plastic pipe from Screwfix, some webbing that we pass under the rigid floor and a couple of plastic buckles sorted that for less than a fiver each. You can just about see them in place in the picture at the top of this article.
So overall, some very happy paddlers. It was a toss up between this Sea Eagle 465 and the Acquaglide Chelan 155 HB tandem. We went for the Sea Eagle mainly because they have the confidence to give a three year guarantee. There's a video on Youtube of the Chellean 155 - the cute doggie in the video almost swung Liz's vote towards the Chellan.