Puffing Pig. Gumotex Safari Inflatable Kayak

Gumotex Safari Inflatable Kayak
Gumotex Safari Inflatable Kayak

I have got fed up with lifting heavy kayaks onto the roofrack of my car. At 23kg the Cobra Expedition isn’t too bad, but the Tarpon 160 is a beast at approx 35 kgs (I think Wilderness, the manufacturers, are a bit coy about its exact weight). I like to paddle by myself and it takes a supreme effort, both physical and mental, to ‘clean and jerk’ kayaks onto the roof. I have drawn a few suspicious (and even sympathetic) glances from passers-by as I square up to the task like I’m about to toss the caber (which would be a lot easier).

Sooner or later one of my discs, or some other critical component of my back, is going to give.

So enter the GUMOTEX SAFARI. An inflatable kayak. 10ft long 28″ wide. You’ve got to be joking. You can’t possibly go offshore kayaking in that!P1090911

Yes I can.And who cares that it’s a glorified lilo when it weighs only 14kgs and you don’t even have to hoist it onto the roofrack because it can fit IN the car?

Being short and fat (although it isn’t particularly wide) it must surely suffer from a low top speed.Well yes but unbelievably this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Gumotex seem to have been able to defy the basic laws of kayak speed, shape, and everything.

Puffing Pig in Heaven
Puffing Pig in Heaven

It is noticeable how much bigger a ‘wash’ is created while paddling along, but this seems to be offset by the superbly comfortable inflatable seat and footrest which encourage a powerful and sustainable paddling technique that you can keep up all day long.Yes you are probably inadvertently paddling a bit harder but it means you burn of a few extra pies. It’s a win win.

Having dibbled with some very long and slender (and very tippy) kayaks , as I’ve always had a bit of a desire to clock up a bit of pace and notch up a few miles, I am no stranger to the relationship between width and length of kayak and speed through the water. So I was very wary about biting off more than I could chew when I took Puffing Pig (there was really no other choice for a name) out for it’s inaugural BIG paddle at Land’s End. Puffing Pig, incidentally, is the old English term for a harbour porpoise because of their characteristic ‘piff’ they make when they breathe.

Dawn Departure from Penzance
Dawn Departure from Penzance

I was pretty chuffed when I completed the 17 miles between Penzance and Sennen ,rated as a Grade ‘C’ paddle….potentially pretty hairy. Fortunately it was about the flattest day in history in West Cornwall, with ultra light winds and no swell, and very small neap tide minimising the notorious currents around Gwennap Head and Land’s End itself. I was then going to catch the bus back to Penzance, but it was such a lovely afternoon I wasn’t in the mood for intermingling with humanity (favouring instead gannets and seals and the odd porpoise), so I paddled all the way back.

Land's End
Land’s End

For this return trip I kept a mile or so offshore all the way , passing Longships lighthouse (in the company of a paddler who was en route to Scilly) and around the Runnel Stone buoy. Thought I might encounter the humpback whale that had recently be seen in the area, but needless to say didn’t.

Longships Lighthouse
Longships Lighthouse
Runnel Stone buoy
Runnel Stone buoy

To make the trip even more cushy the wind switched from east to west so I essentially had a breeze from behind for the whole 34 miles. Lucky Puffing Pig! I’ve only once covered a greater mileage during a coastal paddle in a normal (ish) sea kayak.

I get the impression that the ‘natural ‘speed of the Gumotex Safari is about 75 % of a normal SOT , but this is balanced by the high level of comfort and superb paddling posture encouraged by the inflatable backrest and inflatable footrest.

Gumotex Safari comfort
Gumotex Safari comfort

And it’s even got scupper holes so that when you go surfing or tackle a bit of white water it is self draining.

So what about fishing? No rod holders obviously but with a bit of elementary DIY you can rig up a pipe in the rear storage area to act as a rod holder and go out and bag yourself a couple of fish.

miniscule garfish
miniscule garfish

One issue I nearly overlooked. Would a bass thrashing about in the footwell puncture one of the chambers with its spiky dorsal fin? I wasn’t going to chance it so kept the fish in a bucket while dehooking. It doesn’t make for the best photo but better than being marooned in a rocky cove near Hartland Point.

potentially perforating bass
potentially perforating bass

It’s all too good to be true. The ultra light weight of the Gumotex Safari means you don’t hesitate to carry it over a long section of rocks or rough ground, or groan with dismay when confronted with another lock on a canal. You can be out of the car and on the water and away in a minute so what you might lose in hull speed you gain with minimising faff time at the beginning and end of a trip.

Inflatable kayaks have a bit of a reputation at being susceptible to wind.Understandable as they are glorified airbeds, and I have head to rescue a few of these (airbeds that is)as they, and their occupants, have been heading out across the English Channel fanned by an offshore wind.

This lack of grip on the water, and poor directional stability, is eliminated by the installation of a tracking fin, essentially the same as a surfboard. Fantastic, it now behaves like a ‘normal’ kayak and is no more vulnerable to wind than any other kayak, maybe less so.

And maybe best of all, when you have finished your trip, you don’t have to paddle all the way back, you can fold it up, stick it in its dedicated rucksack, and catch the bus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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