In a few weeks we will start a six-week trip to the western United States, so we have been discussing how to pack a kayak in our Roadtrek RV.
The last time we drove west we saw lakes and calm rivers that we would have loved to paddle if only we had a boat. Ingenious Class B sailors have found ways to stow a single person kayak on top and even in a special rack on the side of their camper. We saw one rig with a short rigid kayak mounted vertically on the rear. But we already have a cellular phone amplifier mounted on the rear of our camper and it whacks trees from time to time. Our Roadtrek is 8 ft 3 inches tall, and any decent kayak would be sticking up many feet above the camper.
We have a wonderful 17-foot whitewater canoe. It is worthless for flat waters, since it will not track straight. Our worst experience was trying to paddle that canoe across a lake – it was a tremendously frustrating time. We needed something made for flat water. And something we could carry in our Roadtrek. That limited us to inflatable boats. Inflatable kayaks have been around awhile, but they have a reputation of being slow and clumsy. We didn't want something that was like trying to paddle our river canoe across a lake!
The boat that kept coming up in our investigation was the Sea Eagle FastTrack 385 (currently $1,119 at Amazon). It can be used as a single or double seat boat. It is 12.5 feet long, weighs 32 pounds, and will carry 635 pounds. It got excellent ratings by users for the type of paddling we wanted to do. It was reasonably quick and it tracked straight! We were concerned about the sturdiness of an inflatable watercraft; wouldn't it puncture on the rocks? How bulky would it be when deflated? Aren't kayaks tippy compared to regular canoes?
We found a good deal after we learned that a Sea Eagle 385 would pack down into a bundle approximately 24″ x 18″ and the paddles would pull apart in sections that we could easily stow. The Sea Eagle arrived and we inflated it in the living room with a high capacity pump you work with your foot. It was easy and did not take long. The neat thing is that with the rock solid flat floor, you can stand up in this thing. It was nothing like the inflatable boats we've seen in the past.
We launched our brand new Sea Eagle 385 in a quiet lagoon in a nearby park. It was not tippy, it would be difficult to roll this boat. The inflatable seats were comfortable. We were used to our 17-foot canoe, but found it easy to adapt to double paddles. The vessel is robust, not at all delicate. The inflatable keel and a skeg — a sort fixed rudder — allows straight tracking. When we finished the maiden voyage we dried the Sea Eagle with a towel and packed it away. For easy immediate use we can belt the deflated kayak in the third seat. It also will fit in our StowAway box on the rear of our camper along with our PFD vests when we head west for our big fall trip.