Aironaut modifications

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Jake
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Location: Coastal New Jersey

Aironaut modifications

Post by Jake »

I bought an Aironaut from Doug Simpson at Feathercraft mostly for winter paddling in Florida waters. Enough has been said about this somewhat odd duck of an inflatable kayak by others having considerable experience with various inflatables. While I’ve been paddling kayaks of various stripe for the past 37 years, the Aironaut is my first inflatable boat. It is wonderfully light in weight and can be inflated and afloat inside of ten minutes. It moves through the water at about the same speed as the Kurrent that I owned for more than three years and tracks very well with its rather large double skeg in place. It seems just a bit slower into the wind than the Kurrent or the old K-Light that was my first folder but this is not a significant issue as I usually prefer a long beach walk on windy days (of which there have been many this past month since I arrived on Anna Maria Island). In addition to these worthy attributes the Aironaut has an esthetic quality that I find quite pleasing to the eye. So far, my only notable complaint has been with the seat and back support. I prefer to use a shorter paddle, not longer than 220cm and a moderately high angle stroke. In the Aironaut, the paddler sits low in the boat, actually on the bottom with an inflated back cushion which seems lacking as effective support. My simple remedy was to fashion a two piece seat and back support from high density foam hinged with gorilla tape. This raised the seat about one inch and provides effective back support but it also raised the center of gravity making the Aironaut less stable in any kind of a following sea condition. The higher CG is not a problem in calm water conditions but becomes alarmingly evident when paddling down wind even in the mild sea conditions normally found on lower Tampa Bay. I’m now considering adding a slightly thicker seat pad thus increasing the CG for an even better paddling posture. Happily, these days I prefer keeping to sheltered waters where the Aironaut should prove a delight to paddle even with the higher seat.
I must say, though, that I miss the sensation I got when paddling a traditional a skin-on-frame folder, quite different from paddling the Aironaut but this is not a complaint, only my way of rationalizing the purchase of another folder.

Jeremiah
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Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by Jeremiah »

Hi Jake,
I'm glad you're enjoying the Aironaut in what must feel like paradise right now. They are beautiful kayaks and maybe a little closer to that "perfect" kayak to suit your needs.
Your paddling style is one that you probably have used most of your life so I would understand if you weren't keen on this suggestion. But I was thinking, rather than modify the Aironaut, try a Greenland paddle. Borrow one if possible. The low angle technique would allow you to keep the lower center of gravity. I've tried many paddles of all different shapes, lengths and weights and it was swinging a Greenland paddle that put the biggest smile on my face.

Jake
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Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by Jake »

Hi Jeremiah and thanks for the suggestion. I’ve never used a Greenland paddle because the kinds of boats I once paddled were mostly long, narrow monocoque kayaks that seemed to call for a high cadence stroke rate with a short euro-style paddle. I no longer paddle such boats; the only monocoque kayak I now own is a short, rather beamy Epic GPX and I desire no others. A quick Google search gives plenty to read about these traditional paddles including instruction for making your own. I think I might just buy a spruce 2x4 and plane away at it until it looks like a bit like a Greenland paddle. If I like it well enough, I’ll look around for someone who will make a proper piece for me. Something handsome enough to hang on a wall when I’m not paddling. An objet d’art😊. Jake.

mje
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Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by mje »

The traditional Greenlandic boats for which the paddle design evolved are long, narrow, boats. I used a Feathercraft Klatwa with my K-1, and found it to be extreme ly effective- once I learned the traditional technique. The Greenland paddle when properly used has very little air resistance, has no flutter in the water, and develops great thrust. The Euro-style paddle was developed for whitewater competition.
Michael Edelman
FoldingKayaks.org Webmaster

Jake
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Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by Jake »

You’re probably right, Michael, but I wouldn’t want to be the guy to try and convince that surfski bunch that what they derided as “museum sticks” might actually be more efficient than their carbon fiber, bent shaft wing paddles😊.

JohnSand
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Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by JohnSand »

My favorite paddle is made from a spruce 2x4x8'. It's kind of a cross between euro and Greenland paddles.

Jeremiah
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Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by Jeremiah »

While paddling I met someone who had a collection of kayas near the lake shore. He wanted to know if I'd like to try his racing kayak, a narrow beamed composite with bare bones rudder and seat. His paddle was a short bent shaft with what looked like spoons for blades. It was the perfect paddle for a kayak that felt like you needed to go fast or else you might capsize.
Getting older I appreciate more and more the warmth of wood, the easy motion and the less toll on joints that a Greenland paddle can provide. Some might say that my technique was wrong with another type of paddle. But I believe that no one should apologize for the paddle they use if it enhances their kayaking needs.

mje
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Posts: 1934
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Location: Southeast Michigan

Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by mje »

Michael Edelman
FoldingKayaks.org Webmaster

Jake
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Re: Aironaut modifications

Post by Jake »

Thankyou for this, Michael. I don’t have access to the necessary tools here in Florida and the only things I have back home are a low-angle block plane and a Japanese pull saw. I think these should be adaquate enough to fashion a simple paddle from a spruce 2x4.

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