News of new air boats comes in with the tide.
Alpacka have gone hardcore and have released their new ‘heavyweight’ whitewater boat, the Alpackalypse. Heavy as in <5kg, but that includes an innovative spray skirt/frame plus a inflatable hip pads and thigh braces rather than actual straps (which they’ve always discouraged). To aid agility and rolling the boat’s 236cm long by 84cm, a bit narrower than normal. And for durability and rigidity it’s made from urethane over a base of Vectran fabric: ‘a high-performance multifilament thread spun from liquid crystal polymer’ [and hand-whipped kryptonite?]. There’s a foot brace too for when you hit the water at the speed of a plummeting boat, as below. The Cargo Fly internal storage system comes as standard; they’re trying to pitch it as ‘a travel boat [where] … a traditional hard shell kayak is impractical’. It might be running the Vectran hull at a higher-than-normal pressure too, as there was talk of a hand pump, not the usual airbag. All the better to throw it down any waterfall you dare, as long as you have $1900 floating around.
More here. Video below: testing in 2013.
Russian folding kayak maker Triton (sold as Faltboot in Germany) are behind a prototype Nortik Trekraft which bears a striking resemblance to similar products known as ‘Alpackas’.
Exterior dimensions seem similar to my Yak and weight is said to be under 3kg. It’s expected to sell for is €600. An IK&P preview here and more here in German and our 2015 actual test here
Meanwhile in China there’s even more blatant copying going on, though you do wonder what’s taken them so long. Micro Rafting Systems look like some 2011 Alpackas, but are made from a slightly heavier TPU and have parallel sides as well as some odd, over-long models. But unless you buy ten or more, the price of $800 before shipping and tax is actually more than I paid for my US-made Yak. In fact it makes you realise how inexpensive the handmade Alpacka’s are. I suppose MRSs will start appearing on our ebays before long.
Fast forward a few months and nothing yet on ebay but the Packrafting Store in Germany is now importing them for €999. Having tried one for a day I can tell you the build quality and materials are much closer to Alpacka than you’d expect and almost justify the high price. More here [link].
And finally from Gumotex comes news of the Framura IK, now out in the UK for £650 – or less from Boatpark in Prague.
For coastal ‘yaking the numbers look great at: 16kg/4.1m x 75cm wide: that’s 29.5″ and about as wide as you’d want to be in a proper IK. I see that in France it appears to be homologated for use as a kosher ‘Cat C, 10km from shore’ sea kayak while in North America it’s sold as a Swing EX but made of the less robust Litepack fabric which saves some 3kg.
From the bow shape it looks like it’s based on the slightly shorter but much wider Swing 2 – or the longer but also wider Seawave. That lightweight deck is fixed and has Swing-like struts to keep it up to shed water up. Access is by straight zips or down the hatch.
As for pressures, the Framura will run 0.2 bar/2.9psi, not the 0.25 bar of the Seawave. But I also hear that the Gumo recommended max pressures are on the conservative side: the sides can be run up to 50% higher with great improvements in rigidity (the floor runs an 0.2 bar PRV so can’t be over-pressured). I also read somewhere they got 12kph out of a Framura while testing at sea. The best I ever got out of my Java or Incept was a short burst of 10kph. Not sure I’d be dragging my prototype IK over the sand like that.
Must say I like the look of the 4.1-metre-long Framura which by the way is a nice spot on the Italian Riviera, not far from Portofino. Not, as I thought, a hint that the new boat uses a frame(ura) to maintain rigidity. That rarely works with IKs, in my experience. More Framura pics below; stills from this video. See also this.