Aironaut: first impressions

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Jake
knight of the folding kayak realm
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Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:22 am
Location: Coastal New Jersey

Aironaut: first impressions

Post by Jake »

Until a few weeks ago a bum shoulder and windy weather had delayed getting my Aironaut out on the water for an introductory paddle. Since then with mild weather and generous use of naproxen I’ve had a few hours to get familiar with my boat. I’ve paddled a number of kayaks over the years but the Aironaut is the first and only inflatable kayak that I’ve ever paddled and, thus, I have no frame of reference by which to compare the Aironaut with any other inflatable.

As advertised, the boat’s three air chambers can be inflated in about six minutes. However, the skeg must first be installed which I didn’t find an easy task though a dollop of liquid dish soap does make the job easier. Once inflated, the Aironauts light weight, a mere 20 pounds, seemed almost surreal. I thought the Kurrent an easy carry but the Aironaut practically floats in air with just one arm wrapped around the hull. Once in the water the long cockpit makes getting into the boat quick and easy with no forward crossrib on which to bark one’s shins. As to actual paddling, the Aironaut’s relatively narrow 28 inch width (actually more like 24 inches at the waterline) makes its performance seem more like a well designed folder of similar length. I experienced wind speed up to only about 12mph and the boat didn’t seem adversely affected. The large double skeg is more than adequate to control weathercocking and I assume that it would do much to minimize yawing in a following sea condition though I haven’t yet paddled the boat in those conditions.

Because I prefer shorter paddles, no longer than 220cm maximum, for more efficient, moderately high angle paddling, I found the inflatable seat too low for comfort and the inflatable back cushion seemed overly soft and unsupportive. A simple, effective fix was to attach an inflatable seat pad to a high density foam seat back using strips of Gorilla tape. This was then placed on top of the existing inflated seat. I’ve used this device on other kayaks to elevate my paddling posture and it worked just as well with the Aironaut, raising my CG about 2cm for improved efficiency as well as comfort. I was a little concerned that raising the CG would make the boat a bit less stable but, in fact, I felt it to be more lively, more fun to paddle with a slightly elevated posture.

At this point I’m pleased with my Aironaut and look forward to paddling it in Gulf Coast waters this winter though there is a thing or two that makes me wonder. I love it’s light weight but that could mean compromised durability. I could accept a few more pounds for a hull that I felt might withstand a certain amount of rough and tumble or even a small degree of over inflation. As to this point, my trepidation was somewhat allayed when a gust of wind blew the Aironaut off the roof rack of my Forester before I had a chance to secure it and i could only watch in horror as it fell onto the gravel and skittered around a bit. Happily, close inspection found nothing but the merest scuff mark or two. And for Florida waters, I could easily do without an integral deck. I don’t care to use a sea sock and a detachable deck like that used with the Gumotex Seawave would make it much easier to rinse the boat after paddling.

All things considered, I feel that Doug Simpson and Feathercraft raised the bar for inflatable kayak performance. Perhaps another IK manufacture (Gumotex comes to mind) could take it one step higher by adapting, say, drop stitch technology into the basic Aironaut design. I think that Doug would be pleased.

JohnSand
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Re: Aironaut: first impressions

Post by JohnSand »

Very interesting, thank you.

Jeremiah
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Re: Aironaut: first impressions

Post by Jeremiah »

Thanks for the overview of your Aironaut Jake. Sounds like you're going to get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I still have an interest in the Innova Rush and might have purchased one if they hadn't disappeared by mid year like everything else that floats. It seems to check all your boxes except for the demensions where it is a little short and pudgy. But I think it looks sharp and with the use of drop stitch maybe Innova will come up with a sleeker, longer version. Another reason to consider one is that, like Feathercraft, the Innova's appear tough an long-lived.

Jake
knight of the folding kayak realm
Posts: 489
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:22 am
Location: Coastal New Jersey

Re: Aironaut: first impressions

Post by Jake »

Hi Jeremiah,
I, too, think that Innova is really onto something with their new inflatables, the Rush 1&2. Sometime before I had the opportunity to acquire the Aironaut, I had a conversation with Lee Arbach at The Boat People regarding the Rush1. As you suggested, it ticked most of the boxes that were important to me. However, at the time, Lee didn’t seem quite confident in the hybrid technology incorporated into the manufacture of the boats and so I decided to hold off for awhile on purchasing the Rush even though I thought it would likely have met my requirements for a fun little boat that was relatively light weight, quick to make ready for an afternoon’s messing about and tough enough to withstand getting knocked around a bit. I’m not concerned about the short length of the Rush 1 but the width is another thing and 32 inches is a bit broad in the beam. The Aironaut’s width is 28 inches but with my 145 pound frame aboard, the actual waterline width is more like 24 inches and I don’t find its stability, either initial or secondary, to be a problem. The good thing is that the relatively narrow width makes it possible to paddle with a euro paddle as short as 210cm and I wouldn’t want to paddle with anything longer than 220cm.

I think that the qualities inherent in what makes a “good boat” are as varied as the people who paddle them. Looking back over the years at the sailing and double paddle craft that I’ve called my own, there were a few that had what you might call a kind of happy gestalt in that the whole seemed to be more than just the sum of the parts. These might not have been particularly swift or even very efficient but they’re the ones that I remember most fondly and that counts for something.

Jeremiah
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Re: Aironaut: first impressions

Post by Jeremiah »

Hi Jake, I heard about the worry concerning hybrid technology in some of the newer inflatable water craft. If that specifically means drop stitch then I would think that this shouldn't be a concern because drop stitch material has been around for some time now. The flaw in its use would be from how well or how poorly the manufacturer constructed the kayak, canoe or paddle board. For example, a paddle board has a top and bottom layer connected by a side seam or rail. If the rail is poorly made then this is a vulnerable area that could blow out and could be difficult to repair. But the average inflation figure on a paddle board is 15psi. A lot of pressure! On the Rush kayak I believe it's roughly a third of that for its drop stitch chamber.
I'm not going to beat the drum too loud. Everyone should make informed decisions. But I like the idea of a stiffer, better performance inflatable kayak without the need for a partial framework to accomplish that. I would even dare to say that Doug Simpson would embrace drop stitch technology if it was a more environmentally friendly material like the urethane he was using in the hulls of his kayaks. But that's another discussion.

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