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 Post subject: First impressions...
PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 11:31 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 31, 2006 2:56 pm
Posts: 33
Location: Ohio, USA
A while back, I purchased one of the “demo” Atlyak kayaks that the manufacturer had donated to this site. Here are my impressions:

Disclaimer – This is my first real experience with a folder.

Assembly:
The basic frame went together very fast. The shock-corded assemblies are really pretty fool proof. Stern piece, however, was a bit difficult to figure out. As noted above, I am not familiar with the Folbot stern section. The assembly manual is pretty sparse, so I was more or less on my own. All told, my first assembly took almost exactly one hour. I was then able to break the boat down and have it back in the bag in about ten minutes.

I discovered two things during the first assembly: 1) One of the “cups” that receives the bracing bar was not of the same diameter of the rest and would not accept the tube. 2) My hips would not fit between the bracing bars without me twisting my hips out of horizontal. I probably could have gotten a replacement part from the manufacturer to address the first issue, but I have the tools and the skill, so I ground out the cup myself. To address the second issue, I moved the back mounts for the bracing bars out one inch each from their original location. The effort involved in removing the original rivets made me feel good about the quality of the frame components.

Modifications made and lessons learned, the second assembly took me only 25 minutes. I could now fit in the kayak without serious manipulations of my body. I should note here that I am 6’-1”, 165 lbs., 33-inch waist, 10.5 shoe size. My hips just brushed the sides of the coming as I entered the boats. I would guess that I am about the tallest person this boat can accommodate. Folks who like being locked in to their boat will feel quite comfortable. I was originally suspicious of the footbrace, but found it to actually work out quite well.

First Launch:
Rather than a quick test at the local pond, time constraints forced my first launch to be a field test – a two-night camp n’ yak in Lake Huron, just west of the Les Cheneaux islands. Camping with me was my brother, who has a great deal more experience than me in hardshells, though he would be sharing my Innova Sunny on this trip.

I would guess that assembly on site took about twenty minutes. Lightweight backpackers should not have problems packing for a weekend in the boat – I am by no means a light packer, and I nearly made it. A full 28 liter drybag fit easily fit in the stern, with room left for a bag about half that size, plus some smaller bags/items around the edges.

Rather than reliving all the details of our weekend, I will sum up: though hampered by morning thunderstorms, we were able to paddle about 10-12 miles. Conditions ranged from calm to 2-foot waves. Winds ranged from calm to 10 knots. Since I have no basis to compare the performance of this boat to other folders, comments on performance are mostly relative to an Old Town Castine, a plastic kayak of almost the same dimensions.

Initial stability seemed tender. My brother paddled the Atlyak for about an hour and said he never really felt comfortable. However, it took me about that much time to be confident in the secondary stability, which I found to be quite good. The bracing bars really helped me to feel as one with the kayak. The seat is initially quite comfortable, though the keel tube eventually became noticeable to my tailbone. The hull material is quite tough. I bounced off of rocks numerous times while launching and landing, and cannot find any scuffs or marks.

The wind we encountered had little effect on the kayak. What weathercocking occurred was easily countered by a bit of lean. The effect beam and quartering waves was much more noticeable, which is to be expected from a boat this length. I was surprised by the stiffness of the kayak on the water.

Tracking was quite good – course wobbled was almost not noticeable while paddling in calm seas. The Atlyak accelerates quickly and glides quite well. It’s speed advantage over the Sunny was very close to that of the Castine’s. We did not have GPS, but it seems that comfortable cruising speeds above 4 mph are realistic. Edging was useful in initiating a turn, though a complete edge turn did not seem to be possible.

The coaming and nylon skirt functioned better than I expected. This was important, because when paddling into the waves, the bow began to be washed over when wave heights reach one foot. Because the kayak is symmetrical, those same waves also wash over the stern and the most exposed part of the zipper flap. In these conditions, water accumulated in the hull at the rate of about one quart/hour. I did not seal the seams before this trip, so I cannot clearly say that the zipper flap was the source of the water, but it seems likely that at least some of the water was taking that path - the location of the Velcro only allows the flapped to be rolled once before being attached. I may try to add some Velcro to improve this detail in the future. I would like to hear feedback from folks who have paddled the Folbot Kiawah on these points, as the kayaks appear to have very similar configurations and similar vulnerabilities.

Summation:
The quality of the materials and fabrication is quite good. The manufacturer could make some simple modifications to improve the kayak without making structural changes – namely, a wider cockpit opening, and the Velcro position on the flap. The manufacturer could also benefit from an overhaul of the instruction manual by an english-speaking professional. The website, which is a bit crude and does not translate well, could also use an overhaul. I am not comfortable drawing conclusions regarding performance at this point, but my early impressions are that the Atlyak is a nimble and fun boat, with characteristics comparable to a lower volume hardshell kayak of the same size.

-JT


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 Post subject: Re: First impressions...
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:16 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 12:57 am
Posts: 1230
Location: Anchorage Alaska
Thanks, I will try mine out in a couple weeks when I am in The Fingerlakes Region of NY and will bring it back to So Cal and have Jennifer Kleck try it out. Aqua Adventures is looking for a reasonably priced folder and the Atatl may fit the bill.

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 Post subject: Re: First impressions...
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 11:04 pm 
Perhaps, could be added to Short Reviews?


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 Post subject: Re: First impressions...
PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 1:20 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 12:34 pm
Posts: 1742
Location: Southeast Michigan
I'll add that text to one of the reviews sections.

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