Puffin Swift Capabilities and Limitations Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 May 2010 09:34

Ralph Hoehn sent me copy of his correspondence with a paddler in Sweden, and I think this will give those of you who are interested a pretty good idea what to expect from a Puffin Swift. I have left out a few comments unrelated to Puffins, and for readers unfamiliar with the metric system, I have included conversions to pounds and inches in italics.

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Dear Alv:
I copied you on the correspondence with Erik Rask largely because I wanted you to be aware of the level of usage for which I've been describing the Puffin series as being appropriate. Since I've been stressing that I do not speak for Pakboats and that my comments are merely based on personal

experience, I reckon you should have sufficient leeway in any official discussions -- but I also reckon that I give a pretty accurate account of what can reasonably be expected of the boats, even if that might be considered beyond "recreational" level. Will have to get my Swift fitted with those lockable clips at either end of the carlings and try some inversion recoveries ...

Ralph

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Hello Ralph,
I am a devoted paddler since five or six years, but do not own a boat. I always rent my kayaks. This has increasingly led to less paddling, since the kayak centers around here either close for the winter, are out of rent boats, or other problems. So I want a boat of my own. I live in an apartment in the city, don't have a car, and options to store a hardshell kayak at the waterfront are hard to come by and quite expensive. This is why I've been looking into foldables for some time. The prices on the more established brands means I can't have a boat for another year or two.

My paddling generally consists of day paddling and weekend outings with one or two nights outside. I aim for relatively calm waters and have not yet developed the taste for surf and rough seas. I have had my share of it involuntarily, though. I welcome any recommendations for foldables you have based on your experience and my paddling profile.

Best regards,
Erik

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Dear Erik:
I have paddled the Pakboats 12' Puffin -- and was converted to the concept thereby. I purchased and paddle a 14' Swift, which remained convincing after four weeks of timed and documented trial runs (2-5 nautical miles per run at 4 to 4.5 knots average speeds). Neither boat is a high performance, sexy seakayak, of course -- they are purposely marketed as "recreational kayaks". However they are very able boats, handle well, are easy to use, set up and take apart, require minimal to no real maintenance and provide, in my opinion, excellent value for money. They are also light, which tends to set them apart from many other folders, especially, unfortunately, the beautiful wooden framed specimens.

Erik, I have come to realize that the "best" boats is the one that gets used most. There are many features that I love in many boats. There are very few boats that combine enough of these features to become "the boat that gets used most".

At this very busy stage in my life (a couple of pre-teen children, a pretty hectic "day-job", etc.), the Swift fits my bill; I weigh in at about 85kg (187 pounds) at 185cm (6' 1”) in height and am fairly fit, so I'd tend to overpower a 12-foot hull, the Swift is an excellent compromise for my day-paddles and occasional overnight runs. My son, about to turn 11 years old, paddles his own 10-foot Puffin.

One US government agency uses a small fleet of 10-foot Puffins ("Sport") when they fly their staff into remote areas for various types of wildlife- and geo-survey work; those rangers do their work, float down the next river, pack up the boats, attach them to their packs and cross the next range, then get back on the water -- all usually self-supported for a number of days.

Have you considered building your own folder?

Best regards,
Ralph

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Hello Ralph,
First of all, thank you for taking the time to share your experience, it is much appreciated.

I like to go out for weekend trips, and thus need to be able to load some gear into my boat. It is usually not long week expeditions, but overnight trips do amount to a little gear.

Do you know whether the Puffin Swift can take any load? I am concerned both about the deplacement capacity (in kilograms) and the possibility to get gear in there (in terms of openings etc.).

As for building one of my own, I do not think I have the knowledge required right now, and I definitely do not have the wallet to learn it by trial and error. Maybe when I have owned a boat or two and have some idea of their construction.

Best regards,
Erik

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Dear Erik:
Both the 12-foot and the 14-foot Puffins will readily take enough gear for weekend (or longer) paddles. (One of my notions was to develop the parts of the Puffin so as to double as camping equipment -- that idea was still born in the face of complete lack of appreciation for the realities of paddling and outdoor living on the part of the manufacturer.)

The Puffins are very forgiving about taking on payload. Both Puffin models have completely removable decks, held by circumferential velcro strips, which makes both assembly (disassembly) and access to cargo very easy. Those Puffin decks are extremely effective at keeping water out also, by the way -- even during inversion and recovery from inversion you take on more water through the sprayskirt than around the deck seams in my experience.

Does this answer your concerns?

Best regards,
Ralph

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Hello again Ralph,

Indeed you have managed to answer all of my questions very well. I am definitely leaning towards a Puffin Swift based on your advice. I do have some doubts about velcro and waterproofness, but I'll take your word for it and at least give it a try. A few rolls should sort out any questions I have :)

I do have one final question if you have the time:

The Swedish distributor describes the Puffins as intended mainly for lakes and rivers. Living on the Swedish west coast, my paddling is almost exclusively done on the ocean. I mostly stay in the relatively sheltered archipelagos, but occasionally need to make passages where the wind and waves from the North Atlantic come right down on me for up to half an hour of hard paddling. Also, the effects of salt water are ever present. Given that I have the skill to manouver in these conditions and make sure to get the salt off the boat after my trips, would you consider a Puffin Swift advisable? Have you used your Swift in the ocean?

I am sincerely grateful for your advice and help. I wish you the best of luck with getting some paddling time into a tight schedule in the future.

Best regards,
Erik

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Dear Erik:

The Swift was designed and is intended as a "recreational kayak". It is not a so-called "sea kayak". Personally I would not hesitate to use a Swift on saltwater -- indeed I have used 12-foot Puffins on saltwater quite happily, even under less than totally benign conditions. Certainly there are no worries about degradation due to saltwater: the skin is unaffected by saltwater (or even most chemicals), the frame is designed so that the components fit together intentionally loosely enough to obviate the need for much concern over pieces getting stuck together after corrosion or electrolysis. There is a nice account of one paddler touring Venice, Italy by Puffin a few years ago with no problems.

If you find yourself making open crossings (in predicted and predictably GOOD conditions, of course), you might want to think about following developments at Pakboats, where they seem to be implementing production of a strap-on skeg as an option. Having said that, paddling on lakes with a fetch of a good twenty miles in winds of up to 20 knots at times I had no problems with the Swift neither due to wind or waves. It has a rather shallow draft though, so you have to be aware of the fact that it does not run as true as a narrower, deeper draft kayak. No doubt you will be exploring the limits of the boat and your use of it under control and will soon discover how far you can go -- the "seaworthiness" of kayaks is always a function of the boat AND the paddler.

Velcro provides no type of seal at all, by the way. Nor is it intended to do so. Firstly very little water ever makes it onto the deck of the Swift in normal use (other than from rain from above). But secondly, and more importantly, what stops water ingress is the pretty tight fit between the underside of the deck and the hull material at the gunwales. You do, of course, have to make sure that you install the deck with at least minimal attention to tight fit without creases.

Ralph