Thursday, August 25, 2011

Comparison Review Pathfinder II vs. Sea Eagle 330 kayaks

A few weeks ago a couple of readers asked me some questions regarding the Red Star Pathfinder II and the Sea Eagle 330 tandem kayaks. I answered the questions based on my experience with both of these kayaks. Unfortunately, the exchange was buried in the comments section of the Introductions page. Since the Pathfinder and the Sea Eagle 330 are in the same class of inflatable kayaks, many other people might have the same qustion. Here I copied the thread to make it into its own posting:


Anonymous said...
It seems you really like Pathfinder, don't you? I'm considering buying a Pathfinder II and hope you can give me some tips on it. I'll mainly use it for some coastal touring and perhaps some island hopping. Do you think it's seaworthy enough to do so? I'd also like to know how can one tell the kayak is fully inflated. Someone claims that quote a gauge is printed on the chambers inside wall. In the box is included an acetate ruler so that when inflated to the correct pressure the marks on the chamber should be 10 cm apart. unquote I know that this is exactly what Sea Eagle doing, as shown at 6 minutes 33 seconds and 9 minutes 10 seconds of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETbPLGojr8o Did you find such acetate rulers really come with your Pathfinder kayaks? Thank you very much.
Kevin T - Inflatable Kayak Report said...
Thanks for posting on my blog. Yes, I do like my Pathfinder II very much. In fact, I love it! However, there are a few short-comings. I will write a detailed review when I get some time. Here is a short list the pros and con. Pros: 1. Kayak body itself is extremely well made, tough and sturdy 2. Stable - will not tip over in nearly any circumstance. You can paddle standing up if you like. It's that stable 3. Reasonable cost 4. Manufacturer is very quick to respond to warranty issues 5. Versatile - carries two adults with enough leg room. In warm water where you don't worry about falling in, I can carry myself and 3 or 4 kids (climbing all over). 6. Turns on a dime - excellent maneuverability 7. Light weight - easy to carry 8. Has lots of D-rings to attach stuff. I hooked up an Advanced Elements Rapid Up sail to it and it fits perfectly. 9. Easy to inflate - I was able to match it perfectly with an inexpensive high pressure 12V pump (see my post about 12V pumps). I don't have to top off at all with a foot pump. Cons: 1. Accessories such as seats, bag, paddles, gauge are poorly made. The bag and a seat tore after a few outings, but the manufacturer replaced them at no cost. The paddles are spongy. A handle came off so I replace it with a small dog collar. If you are willing to swap out parts, you will be OK. Like I said, the kayak body itself is awesome. 2. Not very fast - it is wide and sit up high and is affect by head wind more than hard shell kayaks. 3. Tracking is OK but not great. You won't spin around in circles like some cheap kayaks, but it will swing from side to side a bit. It helps when you have 2 people in it to weigh it down a bit. A for being able to tell if the kayak has been inflated, the package comes with a pressure gauge. Kevin
Ariel said...
Hey...Cool blog! In the next day or two, I will be buying an inflatable tandem kayak. After way too many hours researching, I have limited it down to the Sea Eagle 330 and the Pathfinder II...You have both of those...What do you think I should do? I am particularly looking for a boat that is very versatile, comfortable, and durable. Also, please let me know which one tracks better and which one is faster. It's so hard for me to make up my mind! Thanks for your help! -Ariel
Ariel said...
By the way, I have found the pathfinder on sale for $200 (once u factor in shipping): http://www.riverrat-recreation.com/pathfinder-2-person-inflatable-kaya2.html
Kevin T - Inflatable Kayak Report said...
Hi Ariel, Good for hear form you. Regarding which kayak I like better, let's just put it this way: I have been using my 3 Pathfinders every chance I have, but have not used the Sea Eagle 330 for 1-1/2 years. Versatility and durability are two of the top attributes of the Pathfinder II. From how fast one can inflate it (15 minutes using a 12v pump), to how light it is to carry (2 persons carry easily, 1 person Ok but slightly heavy), to how easy it is to attach accessories (such as RapidUp Sail), how many people and cargo it can carry (2 adults, or 1 adult and 2+ kids) and how easy it is to store (no need to wash salt off, just dry it). Some people say the seats are not comfortable, but I find them perfectly fine. I think the secret is to make sure the seatback is standing straight up so it can support your back. After some time on the water, the seatback tends to slide backwards. You just have to push the seat bottom backwards to shift the seatback straight up again. I wouldn't consider the Sea Eagle 330 really versatile. For example, it can only fit 1-1/2 adults comfortably; that is one adult and one child younger than 10. Otherwise, you can't straighten you legs. To inflate the boat, you have to pump 9 chambers: 2 sides, 1 bottom, 2 for each seat, front hood, rear hood. The ones for the seat are really tricky. The Sea Eagle is slightly faster but less stable. Speed is not such a big deal to me, but stability is. The Sea Eagle is not easy to tip over, but you get the feeling you can. After a few minutes you get used to it and it is no longer an issue. However, you can't absolutely trust it to not tip over. For example, I have taken the Pathfinders on night paddles several times with a kid in the font; I can trust it to almost never tip over. However, I will not do the same with the Sea Eagle. I think the Sea Eagle fins are better designed (2 side-by-side fins in the back) so it tracks slightly better. The Pathfinder II is not bad in tracking, especially when the 2 detachable fins are on (2 fins front and back in the middle of the boat), but I do notice a light left and right motion of the front of the boat from my paddling. The motion wastes paddling power and make the boat slower (because you are going zig-zag instead of totally straight). It is almost totally gone when 2 people are in the boat. Wow, the $200 for the Pathfinder II is an incredible price! Feel free to ask again if you have more questions. Kevin
Ariel said...
Wow! Thank you so much for the prompt and detailed comparison! I still have a few questions: 1) Which is more durable and least susceptible to punctures (and dog claws)? 2) By versatile, I mean being able to handle multiple types of water well (particularly flatwater, lakes, rivers, and whitewater) 3) Size-wise, I am also considering the Sea Eagle 370 (a nearly identical but bigger boat than the 330) so the 330's lack of size does not necessarily deter me from buying a Sea Eagle. Also, I will probably be mainly paddling solo or with dog. 4) I know the Pathfinder's accessories are not supposed to be too good, how about the Sea Eagle's? 5) Which complete package is lighter? Could either one of them be transported comfortably in a backpack? 6) Do you have the Sea Eagle Pro or Deluxe Seats? 7) Which boat might be better for longer overnight or week trips? 8)Anything else??? Thanks for all your help. Sorry for asking you way too many questions, I've become sort of obsessed on my kayak hunting journey... Thanks again! -Ariel
Kevin T - Inflatable Kayak Report said...
Ariel, I will answer each of the questions below. I had the same questions when I was researching kayaks and wished I had the answers then: »1) Which is more durable and least susceptible to punctures (and dog claws)? I've never had a puncture or leak in either. The Pathfinder material seems thicker, but the Sea Eagle should be fine, too. The Pathfinder's bottom seems to be extra thick and may be 2 layers. »2) By versatile, I mean being able to handle multiple types of water well (particularly flatwater, lakes, rivers, and whitewater) They both handle all kinds of waters fine. The Sea Eagle's fin design is better. They are fixed, slanted, and at the rear of the kayak, so when you hit the river bottom, it will naturally bend upwards due to the flex on the boat body, and is less likely to be damage. The Pathfinder has detachable fins situated in the middle of the boat, where your weight pushes it down. When you scrap the river bottom, the fins will fall off (which happened to me). The solution is to remove them for rivers, but that causes the boat to be slightly less maneuverable. If you do a lot of rivers, I'd recommend the Sea Eagle over the Pathfinder. »3) Size-wise, I am also considering the Sea Eagle 370 (a nearly identical but bigger boat than the 330) so the 330's lack of size does not necessarily deter me from buying a Sea Eagle. Also, I will probably be mainly paddling solo or with dog. The Pathfinder has a slight left and right rocking motion with a solo paddler. It gets a bit irritating after a while. You spend more energy paddling, or are slower than other kayakers. I was tempted to glue some Sea Eagle type fins (from a fin kit) to the rear of the Pathfinder. However, I see kayaking as an upper body workout, so I don't mind the extra exercise. With the Sea Eagle, you get better tracking in flat water and better maneuverability on rivers. 4) I know the Pathfinder's accessories are not supposed to be too good, how about the Sea Eagle's? There are not too much. The paddles are better than those that come with the Pathfinder. However, one of the paddle has a crack between the angle adjustment holes after 1-1/2 year of use (my wife uses the Sea Eagle paddles on the Pathfinder), which are way to close together. 5) Which complete package is lighter? Could either one of them be transported comfortably in a backpack? I think the Sea Eagle is lighter but is at least twice or three times the size of a typical backpack. 6) Do you have the Sea Eagle Pro or Deluxe Seats? No, I have the terrible standard blow up seats which slides around in the boat too much. 7) Which boat might be better for longer overnight or week trips? I think the Pathfinder is bigger than the Sea Eagle 330/370 in width, so it will carry more. If I am going kayak camping, I'd take the Pathfinder due to the bigger size and better stability. The Pathfinder II paddles like a mini-van: large, stable, easy to set up but is slower and has less accurate tracking (with solo paddler). 8)Anything else??? I guess for me the easy of set up and take down, stability, and size trumps everything else. That's why I have use the Pathfinder consistently but not the Sea Eagle. Kevin
Ariel said...
Thanks for all your help! In the end, I just ordered a Wild Adventure K2 Explorer: (http://cgi.ebay.com/2-1-Man-Inflatable-kayak-reduced-349-/250867825123?_trksid=p5197.m7&_trkparms=algo%3DLVI%26itu%3DUCI%26otn%3D4%26po%3DLVI%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D1987021681344567002#ht_12412wt_1398) It is very similar to the Pathfinder which I got to see blown up in a store. Here are some reviews comparing the two: http://www.paddling.net/Reviews/showReviews.html?prod=2717 Thanks again for all the info! You really helped a lot. -Ariel
Kevin T - Inflatable Kayak Report said...
Hi Ariel, I am glad that you found something that you like. The Wild Adventure K2 Explorer looks very similar to the Pathfinder - the same design that I find so simple, functional and appealing. I will be taking my 3 Pathfinders and Sea Eagle kayaks camping soon and the Pathfinders will be my main cargo hauler. Let me know how you like your Wild Adventure K2 Explorer when you get it. Regards, Kevin

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

San Francisco Bay Water Trail

I cam across this California Coastal Conservancy web page describing the final version of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail Plan. The designed is targeted for human powered boats and small beachable sail crafts, including kayaks, canoes, windsurfers, kite sailors, row boats, dragon boats, etc.

http://scc.ca.gov/2010/07/30/san-francisco-bay-area-water-trail/

The idea of a water trail that spans the entire San Francisco Bay has been bantered around for several years. It looks like this year (2011) some action will be taken, even if that means starting an official advisory committee meeting on September 11.


According to this article on SFGate.com, "over the next few months, planners will finalize a map and work with marina operators, park agencies and others who oversee the put-in spots. The first signs should be installed by the end of the year."

http://articles.sfgate.com/2011-06-25/news/29701622_1_water-trail-kayakers-environmental-groups

The final draft of the water trail plan is here:

http://scc.ca.gov/webmaster/project_sites/watertrail/enhanced-water-trail-plan-final.pdf

Looks like essentially what will happen is that existing access points (watercraft put in locations) will be identified and marked, with some being enhance for such things as restrooms, overnight camping, storage, etc. Some new put in site will be added. That sounds great!

For kayaking in the San Francisco Bay now, at the very least, this document provides a list of existing put in points. It seems like a pretty comprehensive list of put in locations that is usable by kayaks. This should be good for more research and exploration in the near future, perhaps before the San Francisco Bay Water Trail is complete.

The list of put in locations corresponds to maps on the Coastal Conservancy's web site (the first link on this page). The links to the maps are located on the lower right side of the Coastal Conservancy's web page.

Here are the put in locations:

Table 8.2.  Site key for access points shown in Figure 8.1. (HOS = High Opportunity Site).

ID, SITE NAME, CITY, CATEGORY, EXISTING, PLANNED? HOS?

A1 Albany Beach Albany waterfront park Exist. Launch
A2 Berkeley Marina, Ramp Berkeley marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
A4 Point Emery Emeryville waterfront park Exist. Launch
A5 Shorebird Park Emeryville waterfront park Exist. Launch
A6 Emeryville City Marina Emeryville marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
A8 Middle Harbor Park Oakland waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
A9 Jack London Square/   CA Canoe and Kayak Oakland public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
A11 Estuary Park/Jack London Aquatic Center Oakland waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
A12 Grand Avenue Boat Ramp Alameda public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
A14 Robert Crowne Memorial State Beach Alameda waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
A15 Encinal Launching and Fishing Facility Alameda public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
A18 Doolittle Drive; Airport Channel Oakland waterfront park Exist. Launch
A20 San Leandro Marina San Leandro marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
A22 Eden Landing Ecol. Pres.  Hayward refuge/reserve Planned Launch
A24 Jarvis Landing Newark privately owned (business) Exist. Launch
A25 Tidewater Boathouse Oakland public boat launch ramp/float Planned Launch
A26 Berkeley Marina, Small Boat Launch Berkeley public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
A27 Coyote Hills Fremont refuge/reserve Planned Dest.
A28 Elmhurst Creek San Leandro public access area Exist. Launch
A30 Hayward's Landing Hayward refuge/reserve Planned Dest.
CC1 Martinez Marina Martinez marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
CC2 Carquinez Strait Reg. Shoreline (Eckley Pier) Martinez waterfront park Exist. Launch Y

Table 8.2. cont.  Site key for access points shown in Figure 8.1. (HOS = High Opportunity Site).

ID, SITE NAME, CITY, CATEGORY, EXISTING, PLANNED? HOS?

CC5 Rodeo Marina Rodeo marina/harbor Planned Launch
CC6 Pinole Bay Front Park Pinole waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
CC8 Point Molate Beach Park Richmond waterfront park Planned Launch
CC9 Keller's Beach Pt. Richmond waterfront park Exist. Dest. Y
CC10 Ferry Point Pt. Richmond waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
CC11 Boat Ramp Street Launch Area Richmond public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch
CC14 Richmond Munic. Marina Richmond marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
CC15 Marina Bay Park & Rosie the Riveter Memorial Richmond waterfront park Exist. Launch
CC16 Shimada Friendship Park Richmond waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
CC17 Barbara & Jay Vincent Park Richmond waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
CC19 Point Isabel Regional Shoreline El Cerrito waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
CC20 SS Red Oak Victory Richmond privately owned (business) Planned Dest.
CC21 Point Pinole Pinole waterfront park Planned Dest.
CC22 Bay Point Regional Shoreline Bay Point waterfront park Planned Launch
CC23 Rodeo Beach Rodeo waterfront park Planned Launch M1 Kirby Cove Sausalito waterfront park Exist. Dest. Y
M2 Horseshoe Cove Sausalito waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
M3 Swede's Beach Sausalito waterfront park Exist. Dest.
M4 Turney Street Public Boat Ramp Sausalito public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch
M5 Dunphy Park Sausalito waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
M6 Schoonmaker Point Sausalito waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
M8 Clipper Yacht Harbor Sausalito marina/harbor Exist. Launch
M10 Shelter Point Business Park Mill Valley public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
M11 Bayfront Park Mill Valley waterfront park Exist. Launch Y

Table 8.2. cont.  Site key for access points shown in Figure 8.1. (HOS = High Opportunity Site).

ID, SITE NAME, CITY, CATEGORY, EXISTING, PLANNED? HOS?

M13 Brickyard Park Strawberry waterfront park Exist. Launch
M16 Richardson Bay Park/ Blackies Pasture Tiburon waterfront park Exist. Launch
M17 Angel Island State Park Marin County waterfront park Exist. Dest. Y
M19 Sam's Anchor Café Tiburon privately owned (business) Exist. Dest.
M25 Higgins Dock Corte Madera public boat launch ramp/float Planned Launch
M27 Bon Aire Landing Corte Madera public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch
M28 Marin Rowing Association Boathouse Larkspur public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch
M29 Ramillard Park Larkspur waterfront park Exist. Launch
M30 San Quentin San Rafael waterfront park Exist. Launch
M31 Jean & John Starkweather Shoreline Park San Rafael waterfront park Exist. Launch
M33 Harbor 15 Restaurant San Rafael privately owned (business) Exist. Dest.
M35 Loch Lomond Marina: Ramp San Rafael marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
M36 Loch Lomond Marina: Beach San Rafael marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
M38 McNear's Beach Park San Rafael waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
M39 China Camp State Park San Rafael waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
M40 Bull Head Flat San Rafael waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
M41 Buck's Landing San Rafael privately owned (business) Exist. Launch
M43 John F. McInnis Park San Rafael waterfront park Exist. Launch
M47 Black Point Boat Launch Novato public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
N1 Cutting's Wharf Napa County public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
N2 JFK Memorial Park Napa waterfront park Exist. Launch Y

Table 8.2. cont.  Site key for access points shown in Figure 8.1. (HOS = High Opportunity Site).

ID, SITE NAME, CITY, CATEGORY, EXISTING, PLANNED? HOS?

N6 Napa Valley Marina Napa marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
N7 Green Island Boat Launch Ramp American Canyon public boat launch ramp/float Planned Launch
N8 Riverside Road Napa public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch
SC2 Alviso Marina Alviso waterfront park Planned Launch
SC3 Palo Alto Baylands Launching Dock Palo Alto waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SF1 Candlestick Point State Recreation Area San Francisco County waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SF2 India Basin Shorel. Park San Francisco waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SF4 Islais Creek San Francisco waterfront park Exist. Launch
SF6 The "Ramp" San Francisco privately owned (business) Exist. Dest.
SF7 Pier 52 Boat Launch San Francisco public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
SF8 South Beach Harbor  San Francisco marina/harbor Exist. Launch
SF9 Treasure Island San Francisco public access area Exist. Launch
SF10 Aquatic Park San Francisco waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SF11 Gas House Cove (aka Marina Green) San Francisco marina/harbor Exist. Launch
SF12 Crissy Field San Francisco waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SF13 Brannan St Wharf San Francisco public boat launch ramp/float Planned Launch
SF14 Northeast Wharf Park San Francisco waterfront park Planned Launch
SM2 Ravenswood Open Space Preserve Menlo Park waterfront park Exist. Launch
SM4 Redwood City Municipal Marina Redwood City marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
SM6 Docktown Marina Redwood City marina/harbor Exist. Launch
SM9 Redwood Shores Lagoon Redwood Shores waterfront park Exist. Launch

Table 8.2. cont.  Site key for access points shown in Figure 8.1. (HOS = High Opportunity Site).

ID, SITE NAME, CITY, CATEGORY, EXISTING, PLANNED? HOS?

SM11 Beaches on the Bay Foster City waterfront park Exist. Launch
SM12 Foster City Lagoon Park Foster City waterfront park Exist. Launch
SM13 East 3rd Ave Foster City waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SM16 Seal Point Park San Mateo waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SM17 Coyote Point, Marina San Mateo marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
SM18 Old Bayshore Highway Burlingame public access area Exist. Launch
SM20 Colma Creek/Genentech So San Francisco public access area Exist. Launch
SM21 Oyster Point Marina So San Francisco marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
SM22 Brisbane Marina Brisbane marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
SM23 Coyote Point, Beach San Mateo waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
SM24 Westpoint Marina Redwood City marina/harbor Planned Launch
SM25 Corkscrew Slough Viewing Platform Redwood City refuge/reserve Planned Dest.
Sn3 Hudeman Slough Sonoma County public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch
Sn5 Papa's Taverna/ Lakeville Marina Petaluma privately owned (business) Exist. Launch Y
Sn6 Petaluma Marina Petaluma marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
Sn7 Petaluma River Turning Basin Petaluma public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch
So1 Brinkman's Marina Vallejo public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
So2 California Maritime Academy Vallejo privately owned (business) Exist. Launch
So5 Beldon's Landing Fairfield public boat launch ramp/float Exist. Launch Y
So7 Matthew Turner Park Benicia waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
So8 W. 9th Street Launch. Fac.  Benicia waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
So9 Benicia Point Pier Benicia waterfront park Exist. Launch Y
So10 Benicia Marina Benicia marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y
So11 Suisun City Marina Suisun City marina/harbor Exist. Launch Y

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kayak Lexington Reservoir

I just found out that Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos is open to kayakers again after being closed last season. This is great news for South Bay kayakers! There are a few other lakes in the South Bay available to paddle, but most are also used by fast moving motor boats.

With no motor boats allowed, Lexington Reservoir seems like a nice way to spend an afternoon. It's not a big lake, only 2 miles end to end, but it has several offshoots to explore. The Miller day use area is accessible by boat or car and in only 1/2 mile away from the boat ramp. It has picnic tables and a porta potty.

There is a $5 lake use fee, $6 parking and $7 boat inspection fee.

Here are some pictures of Lexington Reservoir:
http://www.westernwaterscanoeclub.org/photos/lexington/lexington.html

Here is a description of Lexington Reservoir from the Santa Clara Parks department:
http://www.sccgov.org/portal/site/parks/parksarticle?path=%252Fv7%252FParks%2520and%2520Recreation%252C%2520Department%2520of%2520%2528DEP%2529&contentId=e7f37d256b784010VgnVCMP2200049dc4a92____

Here is a park map:
http://www.sccgov.org/SCC/docs%2FParks%20and%20Recreation%2C%20Department%20of%20%28DEP%29%2Fattachments%2F199360Lexington%20Map.pdf

This is the location of the boat launch on Google Maps, which you can use to get directions to:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=37.200134,-121.986581&sll=37.192501,-121.987832&sspn=0.017778,0.032015&num=1&t=h&gl=us&z=18