Alv's Blog
Paddling the XT-15 in Maine Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 16:43

I don't get out paddling as much as I would like, so it is really nice when we get a note from somebody who has had a good experience with one of our boats. It is even nicer when an experienced kayaker has glowing things to say, and I am happy to share with you all:

Hi Alv,
We just purchased two XT-15's from Seascape Kayak in Wells, ME. Last week we took them Mt Desert Island in ME to tryxt-15-in-maine them in some different situations. They performed in a exemplary manner. We currently paddle 17 foot Current Design and Perception kayaks with rudders so we were anxious to see and feel how the XT-15's responded and performed. We were delighted. The XT-15's handled great in wind, currents, very choppy white caps and gentle rolling seas. By the time we xt-and-rvassembled them a couple of times, took them apart and packed them a couple of times we had it down. We very much enjoyed our new Pakboat XT-15's. By the end of the week we were very comfortable with them. They are wonderfully stable, track beautifully, and are amazingly responsive. Packed in the duffle they both comfortably fit under the couch in the back of our Roadtrek RV.


The only suggestion I would have is that the straps in the bow and stern that secure the hull to the frame could be set up so that when you pull on them to tighten the straps you would be pulling up and not down. As they are set up you are pulling down into a small restricted space. This is not a complaint , just a suggestion. The entire construction and the way it easily assembles to provide a solid kayak is brilliant. We are singing the phrases of the XT-15 to anyone who will listen.

Thank You Alv for a great kayak that is fun to paddle.

Chuck Irose
Chatham NY

PS. The test paddles went so well we are going to not order the rudders now. If we change our mind later we can order them then.
 

 
Sailing Rig Print E-mail
Friday, 02 October 2009 12:07

sailing-the-xt-15Over the years, we have often been asked about sailing rigs for Pakboats. We are happy to report that a sailing rig is now available. In fact, the rig is available in two sizes (1.4 and 1.6 sq. meters). For detail information, please see www.kayaksailor.com.

We have used both sizes on a variety of our boats, and we are extremely pleased at how well the rigs perform on the various Pakboats. The sailing rigs strap securely on top of the deck (or across the gunwales) and can easily be installed in five minutes. The rig stays flat on the deck and is deployed in seconds by pulling two cords. The two leeboards are controlled by a handle on each side of the cockpit. Once up, the sail is controlled by a single cord.sailing-the-pakcanoe

The sails are sized to work well on a kayak without the use of outriggers. In a brisk breeze you will have a very sporty time – and a lot of fun!

We have used the rigs successfully on XT models (the rudder is an obvious plus) as well as Puffins and PakCanoes. We feel the main difference was in the need to steer Puffins and PakCanoes with a paddle vs the rudder outfitted XT kayaks.

Each sailing rig weighs about 11 pounds, complete with its convenient storage bag, and at $449 it is an incredible bargain.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 17:20
 
Rudders and Foot Pegs Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 October 2009 15:39

 

rudder-control-and-foot-bracesSince the introduction of XT touring kayaks, many of you have asked us about foot pegs and a rudder. We looked at all the options we could find and decided that the SmartTrack system is a very good fit for us.

Foot Pegs.
The foot pegs are easily adjustable from the seat while under way, and they clamp securely to the braces on the frame sides. They can be installed to span a cross rib or fit between two cross ribs, so foot pegs can be placed anywhere they may be needed. Once installed, the attachments can be left in place. Only the foot peg rails with the pedals need to be removed when the boat is disassembled.



rudder-deployedrudder-uoRudder.
Foot controls for the rudder are added as additional pedals on the foot pegs, and the pedal position can be adjusted freely without affecting the rudder control wires.

The SmartTrack rudder housing can be installed with a simple bracket that is screwed to the end of the kayak skin. Due to a very low pivot point, the rudder blade is small and minimizes effects of any cross winds. For sailing or any other application requiring more rudder surface, a larger rudder blade is available. Changing rudder blades is very quick and easy.

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 October 2009 16:00
 
Transporting Canoes on Bush Planes Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 14:01
loaded-pakcanoeCliff Jacobson (author of 'Expedition Canoeing'and many other canoeing books) used a PakCanoe 170 this summer for a trip on the Noatak river in Alaska. After the trip he had some observations about the cost of flying canoes on bush planes. His comments relate to using "Beavers", but I think what Cliff had to say is relevant to almost all canoe trips where a bush plane is involved:

Alv,
On the flight out, the pilot put four people and their gear (sans folding canoes) into the Beaver.  And it was a long (2 hours) flight out.  On the flight in, we had 3 plus two folding canoes and half the gear in the first flight—1.5 hours.  The second flight with 3 aboard and the remaining gear was pretty light.  Each flight (round trip) cost $2100.  We originally figured three flights in and out for the six of us—that’s always been the plan when we used hard boats.  Turned out that “three and three” was no big deal with the folding canoes.  That means we saved $2100 by eliminating one flight.  We were all very surprised at the savings, but it was real.  What’s interesting is that in Alaska they won’t fly hard boats (external loads) on airplanes.  Why?  I don’t know.  They’ve been doing it in Canada for decades.  That’s the main reason we used the folding canoes — most people who do the Noatak use inflatables (rafts or SOAR boats).  The few folding canoes available for rent were all Ally’s.  Why? I don’t know because the Pakboats are clearly better on all counts.  This is not an idle call.  I would encourage anyone who doubts this to simply compare the boats side-by-side.  The Ally’s are flatly primitive compared to the Pakboats.

We were loaded for a 14 day trip.  Indeed, we had one “bear barrel” (required in Gates of the Arctic Natl.Park) just filled with whiskey.  Really!  We also had a huge (15 foot square netted tundra tarp  and everyone had the new Eureka! Tundraline tents which are bulky and heavy (12 pounds).  Still, there was plenty of room in the Beaver.  I would have sworn that two folding canoes and two people would have maxed out the load.  No way.  And remember, it was a long flight in and out, with climbs over mountain peaks.  We were all very impressed.

I might also add that the Pakboats seemed just as quick as Royalex hard boats.  They turned every bit as well and frankly, took less water in the rapids.  The Noatak offered just one long day of Class II rapids, nothing serious, but enough to keep you focused. The big surprise was the micro-burst which sent one canoe about 50 feet into the air and kept it airborne for at least 200 yards before dropping it into the river.  And there was NO damage.  Not even a scratch.  Yeah, Alv, we’re way impressed.  For years, I’ve told people how neat these canoes are, but this trip drove the point home.  They are quite exceptional.

loaded-bush-planeSince the pilots generally halve the useful load when an external load is carried on a float plane, it should follow that paddlers who choose folding canoes over hard boats should be able to save on flight in and out on just about any trip.  That’s a lot of money saved.  Given this scenario, six people could easily use a Single Otter and three PakCanoes and save a second flight in.  On a long trip we’re talking real big bucks here using a big plane like that.

With a crew of four people you would probably need two flights on a Beaver whether you use hard boats or PakCanoes.  The savings come when you go with six — here you can eliminate the third flight.  For flights up to about 1.5 hours, 3 people, a folding canoe and all their gear for a two week trip will work.  The problem with putting four people, 2 folding canoes and gear in a Beaver is that you will bulk out (run out of space) before you exceed the maximum load of the aircraft.

Cheers,
Cliff Jacobson
Outdoors Writer and Canoeing & Camping Consultant
 
Adventures in US customs Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 13:54
The last few weeks at Pakboats have been frustrating. We had a container full of PakCanoes and kayaks arrive in Boston a few days late on June 11. And then US Customs decided they wanted to have a look. After what seemed like a long delay the container was x-rayed and released, but that was not the end of the story. Another Customs department wanted to take a closer look, so the container was "un-released" - and placed back in line for more intensive inspection.

On July 7 the container was finally released and delivered to our warehouse - after almost 4 weeks in the custody of customs! So, why am I upset? - sometimes customs clearance takes much longer. That is true, but this time customs had no issue with the shipment - at least nothing serious enough to bring it to my attention. The shipment came from a factory that I am pretty sure there has not been a problem with, and I know for sure that customs has never had an issue with Pakboats.

We understand that customs has an important role in checking stuff that is imported to this country, and I am sure we were due for an inspection. But x-raying a container does not take 2 weeks, and looking inside should not take an additional two weeks. The vast majority of the time, the shipment just sat there with countless other shipments, waiting for customs to work through their backlog. That part does not make anybody safer. It is just unproductive disruption.

The good news is that we finally have boats to ship - at least for now. The other good news is that people have been buying boats, and we have started running out of stuff. That is why the delay was so frustrating this time. The next time one of our shipments gets inspected, I hope it will not be in June!

We wish you a great summer with lots of fun on the water.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 July 2009 13:59
 
End of the PakCanoe 140 Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 11:41

The first canoe made by Pakboats in 1994 was 14 ft long, and in somewhat revised form it became the PakCanoe 140. The 140 has been part of our lineup ever since. And we just sold the last one. It feels a bit strange not to have any more of them to sell, but the 140 simply did not have a large enough market to make it possible for us to keep it. When you do your production in a real factory, there are some constraints that we simply have to live with, and one of the constraints is that there is a minimum order size for any model we make. In the case of the 140, the minimum order was about 5 times what we sell in a year.

It is sad because I really like the 140 - and I have kept one for my own use. I even have one stashed in Norway for solo trips over there. Fortunately, the 150 is a very good alternative to the 140. It is larger, but still a very manageable solo canoe. And it is large enough for much longer trips. The exit of the PakCanoe 140 will not leave you high and dr, but some of us will surely miss it.

 
Arrow Update Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 June 2009 11:59

The Pakboats Arrow series was supposed to be upgraded Puffins with fancier materials and graphics. That may still happen, but our first effort hit a snag. While the boats looked sharp, the polyurethane hull fabric had problems. In the end, we had to return to the factory most of the Arrows we received. The intent was to get the material problem corrected and get the boats back here with new hull material.

Unfortunately, the fabric issue is still not solved, and it became clear that with the recent improvements to the Puffin line, the original Arrows were in danger of becoming obsolete. So we decided to have the returned Arrows refurbished with new PVC skins. Unfortunately, the story does not end there. The Arrow replacements were made with a hull fabric that shrinks a little with time, and the hulls have more wrinkles than they should have.

At this point, we will simply sell the boats as factory seconds. The two models available are the Arrow A12 (size and shape like the Puffin Kayak 12) and the Arrow Double (like the Puffin II). They are completely functional boats, but not quite as pretty as we would like. Because the sides tend to shink a little, the bottoms develop some wrinkles - which will be a concern if you are racing.

Here is the deal:

- The A12 hull is gray and it comes with a red or yellow deck for $695 (complete with pump, repair kit and bag). We will also sell a few A12 without decks for $595.

- The Double has a gray hull. We will sell it with both solo deck and 3-piece (double) deck for $895. The decks are red or yellow. Unless you specify color preference, we will ship one deck of each color. Of course, each boat comes with pump, repair kit and bag.

And what about the real Arrows?? We are still working on it, but there is no solution yet. Hopefully we will soon have a fabric we like so we can reintroduce the Arrows with all the new features. We'll keep you posted.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:10
 
Outdoor Wood Stoves Print E-mail
Monday, 18 May 2009 12:42

A couple of new outdoor wood stoves have come my way. I have not had much chance to use them yet, so this will be just a little introduction, but i think you will find the possibilities intriguing.

If you travel by canoe in remote northern areas you will have found that firewood is often in short supply, but you can almost always find some dead willow branches along the river bank. That source of wood does not get you very far if you use a traditional camp fire. You will just get frustrated trying to find enough firewood to get a pot of water to boil. But there is a better option - or several better options if you count all the wood stoves out there. If you fly to your paddling destination, you already know that bringing liquid fuel is problematic. A wood stove does not depend on gas or kerosene.

I think all wood stoves are more frugal with fuel than an open fire, but not all wood stoves are created equal. I really like the looks of these two new stoves, and I look forward to giving them a try.

The Littlbug stove from Littlbug Enterprises is an interesting creation. It comes in two sizes (Junior and Senior). I have the larger Senior size and it can clearly handle a big pot that you may want for group cooking. Both sizes have a vertical cylinder shaped combustion chamber where you can use firewood or sterno or an alcohol burner. A very clever design allows the pot to be supported at several different heights, depending on the size of the pot and the type of fuel used. All the parts are stainless steel, and the whole stove folds up into a very compact, lightweight package. For more information, look up www.littlbug.com.

The Bushcooker from the Four Dog Stove Company takes a different approach. The stove is smaller and does not fold up. Instead, it fits inside a pot that comes with the stove. The Bushcooker has a combustion chamber inside a outer jacket and allows oxygen to the fire from all sides - including from below. The stove is not cheap, and you can see why. Hand made of titanium, it is an elaborate piece, and I certainly believe the manufacturer's claim that it is super efficient as well as virtually indestructible. There is more information at www.fourdog.com/cat_files/Page281.htm

I will be back with my own experiences once I have had a chance to use the stoves. It may be a while before that happens. Instead of the downturn we expected, the season has been quite busy. We have already sold more boats this year than we did in all of 2008, and we are running out of some items. I can live with this kind of downturn, but it does not let us slow down very much.

We hope to see you out on the river soon.

Greetings, Alv

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:11
 
Pakboats on Public transportation Print E-mail
Monday, 27 April 2009 16:06
This time I will give you a little case study on traveling with a XT-15 kayak. I took the kayak to Norway twice list year – both times as airline baggage. The first round-trip flight last summer from Boston to Oslo was no problem at all. Icelandair let each of us check two 70 pound (32 kg) bags, so we could have taken enough stuff for a couple of weeks of camping – at least if we had traveled with the XT-16 double. I just checked, and you can still take that much baggage on transatlantic Icelandair flights, even in economy class. Once you are there, you have access to lots of paddling destinations by bus, train or boat, so baggage restrictions are not an issue.

The second trip last October was more challenging. We flew from Boston to Frankfurt, Germany to attend a trade show. Then by train to Wiesbaden for a couple of days, and on to Ulm, then Augsburg and Berlin. Carting the XT-15 around on multiple trains is a challenge even at just 38 pounds (plus the bag), so I decided to cheat by buying L.L.Bean’s extra large rolling duffel. That bag is great, and my arms did not stretch too much. After a short paddling trip in Berlin, I got on a flight to Oslo, Norway. Here is where the real challenge started because air travel within Europe comes with much tighter baggage restrictions than we are used to on trans-Atlantic flights.

xt-15-on-reisa-fjordI was lucky to check the discount airline “Norwegian”. They offer the opportunity to check up to two bags, each weighing 20 kg (44 pounds) for a fee of $7 each when you book your bags at the time of booking your ticket on a flight to or within Norway. The fee is double if you just show up at the airport with the baggage – but even $14 per bag is not all that bad. At least when you consider that your 10 kg (22 pound) carry-on is free. Of course, the fee gets you just one flight. In my case I was going on to Tromsø at 69 degrees north, so I had to pay again. It adds up if you keep flying around, but over-all it is a pretty good deal. I just checked, and the baggage rules have not changed.

Once you get off the plane in Tromsø, there is good bus service available, and you can find outstanding paddling almost anywhere. Find a good road map and plan your trip. You will find that the road map gives you a good idea where you can go by bus – and it helps you plot a route where there are no roads or traffic noise.

While I am on the topic of kayak touring in Norway, I will add a little more information: You can find excellent sea touring almost anywhere along the coast. Tides are generally moderate and not dangerous, but you should pay attention if you want to make miles without working too hard. Camping along the beach is allowed, within reason, and there is no fee. Be considerate of other people, and you will be fine. It is very possible to provision out of grocery stores along the way. You may find the groceries more expensive than you are used to, but it will not destroy your trip budget – unless your groceries include a lot of beer and wine. Yes, bring fishing gear. The fish is still free, and it is good! Water is safe to drink untreated almost anywhere. Pick a source that you can see tumbling down off a mountain, and that will be safe water for sure – and those streams are not rare at all.

If you get the impression I am looking forward to kayaking in Norway again, you are right. My next destination will very likely be a few hours by bus east of Tromsø – in a place that has not yet been discovered by the kayaking crowd. May be I will see you there this summer?
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:13
 
Welcome to Alv's Blog Print E-mail
Friday, 06 March 2009 16:32

As part of the new Pakboats web site we decided to include personal blogs for Ralph and me.

My blog will most likely include various musings about folding boats, boat design, and how to outrun mosquitoes on wilderness trips. Like everything else, a blog evolves over time. I hope you will find something of interest.

I am very excited about the new version of Pakboats.com. The old site was getting old and the structure was getting hard to manage, so there was no way anybody in our office could update it. Basically, it was getting more and more out of date. With the new site, we can now add and edit content on a regular basis, and I think you will find Pakboats.com a much more interesting and dynamic place. Besides the blogs, there will be a current list of demo boats available, and the price list will be current. There are also sections for photos and videos, and we would love to have you send us contributions from your trips. Improvements to boats or accessories will be covered as they become available.

Whenever something newsworthy happens at Pakboats, you will find it here first. We hope you will keep coming back to see what is new.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:12
 
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