Nov 102010

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I was considering an inflatable kayak as a replacement for my hard sided Native Watercraft Manta Ray, and I got a lot of feedback comments from blog readers. Some shared their experiences with inflatable kayaks, and a surprising number said that they too have thought about an inflatable boat, and would be interested to see what I came up with.

After that blog came out, Tim Ryerson from Inflatable Boats 4 Less contacted me and offered to send me one of his Sea Eagle PaddleSki 435 catamaran kayaks to test. I’ve met Tim and his pretty wife Crystal at different RV events over the years, and Tim has told me several times that if I tried an inflatable kayak, I’d be hooked.

Tim said to play with the boat and write an unbiased review for my readers, good, bad, or indifferent. I’m impressed with a businessman who is that confidant in the quality of his products!

Two boxes arrived, a large one that held the boat, and a smaller box that held two paddles, two inflatable seats, a foot pump, and other supplies. The larger of the two boxes weighed about 50 pounds. Terry was able to lift it with no problems.

Boat boxes

Terry boat boxes 2

Following the directions Tim sent us, we unpacked the boat, and used the foot pump to inflate the two fourteen inch tubes. It took us about seven minutes to inflate the boat on our first attempt. Sea Eagle also has an electric pump available as an option, and I think it would be a good investment.

Sea Eagle calls the PaddleSki 435 five boats in one, because it can be paddled as a kayak, or with optional equipment available from Sea Eagle, you can row it, mount an electric trolling motor, a small gas motor, or even a mast and sail! I disagree though – to me it’s actually six boats in one, because it can be either a solo or tandem kayak! Once inflated, the PaddleSki is fourteen feet long, and just over 36 inches wide, with a capacity of 650 pounds. The boat weighs 41 pounds inflated, and is easy to carry.

Boat 2 seats in 3

Yesterday we tested the Paddle Ski out on the Crooked River, here in central Florida, with our friends Denny and Cindy Henderson. The river is aptly named, because it has more twists and turns than a politician’s pedigree, and connects several lakes in what is known as the Clermont Chain of Lakes.

We put in at the boat ramp at Palatlakaha River Park, and the first thing I noticed was that the PaddleSki is so stable that getting on and off is much easier than in my regular sit on top kayak. I’m an incredibly clumsy guy on my best days, and I don’t have many good days. More than once I’ve fallen into or out of my kayak when launching or coming in, and my buddy Ron Speidel swears he’ll never go anywhere near me on a body of water again until I get launched, because last summer when we paddled together, he almost fell out of his kayak laughing at me! Not so with the PaddleSki. I’m not sure that I could turn this boat over if I tried!

As soon as I paddled away from the boat launch, my first impression was “Man, I love this boat!” I’ve been on the water in everything from rowboats and canoes, to several styles of kayaks, and I have never been in anything that feels so stable and comfortable. No matter how much I wiggled and moved around, the PaddleSki stayed solidly planted on the water.

Nick in PaddleSki 8

Nick in PaddleSki 7

We paddled about 1/4 mile downriver to Lake Louisa, and then out onto the lake a short distance. There was no wind and the lake’s surface was as smooth as glass, and I became more impressed with the PaddleSki with every foot we paddled. This is absolutely my new favorite boat! It moves quickly across the water, it’s easy to paddle, and the skegs, one mounted on the bottom of each pontoon, make the boat track extremely well. Much better than any of the three hard shell kayaks I’ve owned.

Going upriver

However, I just as quickly became aware that the inflatable seat that came with the boat was just not going to work for me. I felt like I was leaning backward, and before long my back was killing me. This is more a factor of my weight and my very bad back than any design flaw in the PaddleSki seats.  I’ve experienced the same thing with several different kayak seats. I doubt that most paddlers would have any problem with the inflatable seats that came with the Sea Eagle.

The most comfortable kayak seat I have ever had was the one on my first boat, an Ocean Kayak Prowler, and I told Terry that I think one would solve the problem I had with the inflatable seat. Of course, losing 75 pounds and not having a trashed back to start with probably would help too! 

We paddled back upriver to the boat launch, and we moved Cindy’s kayak seat, with four mounting points, to the PaddleSki, and I tried it again. It was a major improvement, and later on when I called Tim from  Inflatable Boats 4 Less to give him my first impressions of the boat, he offered to send me one of Sea Eagles four point high back kayak seats to try. I think it will be a major improvement, and I appreciate the fact that Tim and Crystal want their customers to be satisfied, and will work to make that happen.

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Denny took the PaddleSki for a short test ride, and came back to the launch ramp very impressed with the way it handled, then Miss Terry took it out on the river. You can see by the smile on her face that she was impressed! I asked Terry what she thought of the boat, and she said it’s very smooth, it tracks very well, it’s extremely responsive, and well balanced. If you can’t tell by now, in my opinion, the PaddleSki 435 is a keeper!

Terry PaddleSki 2

Terry PaddleSki 5

Unfortunately, because of the seat issue, I had to deflate the PaddleSki (which took two minutes) and get out my Manta Ray for the rest of the day’s paddling. What a difference in weight just carrying it to the water! The Manta Ray weighs 65 pounds, over half again as much as the PaddleSki.

Back on the water, I was immediately aware of the difference in stability between the two boats. The Manta Ray is an excellent kayak, and I am comfortable in it, but it is definitely much more “tippy” than the PaddleSki. Just wiggling or leaning a bit side to side will make the Manta Ray bounce all over the place.

We paddled upriver through some beautiful scenery to another big lake and out onto it’s surface, Denny stopping to cast for bass along the way.

Crooked River 3

Crooked River 7

Crooked River 6

Cindy Denny kayaking

Once we were on the big lake, I got a real scare when a couple of guys in a bass boat went speeding past, throwing up a rooster tail of water behind them, and creating a strong wake. The safe way to take a wave in a kayak is head on, and the boat will ride up over the top and back down. But this happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to turn, and three fast waves hit me broadside, bouncing me all over the place.

Terry was sitting beside me when the waves hit, the bow of her boat against the side of mine in a T formation, on the lee side of the waves. If I hadn’t been able to grab onto her bow to steady myself, I think I may well have gone into the water. That was the first time I’ve been really scared in a kayak! Most fishermen have good manners and are courteous to other watercraft, but there are always a few jerks out there.

My friend Denny lives and breathes fishing, and had been casting into dark pools at the base of cedar stumps, and under docks, as we paddled by, hoping to hook something. As we headed back downriver toward the boat launch, Denny’s rod tip suddenly dipped sharply, and he had a fish on the line. It gave him a pretty good fight, but he brought a nice one pound largemouth bass to his boat, then let it go after posing for a picture for Miss Terry.

Denny fishing 2

Denny bass

We spent close to three hours on the water, and had a wonderful time. But we sure were tired by the time we got back to the launch. Carrying our heavy boats back up to the van was a chore. I can’t wait until the new seat comes for the PaddleSki, so I can get it back out onto the water!

Thought For The Day – I may not have gone where I intended to go, but  I have ended up where I needed to be.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  28 Responses to “Testing A Sea Eagle PaddleSki”

  1. Nick we’ve had the Sea Eagle Paddleski 435 for a bit over a year now and really enjoy it. We purchased the Pro Package which already includes the high back seats you referred to, along with better paddles and the bow storage bag. We like being able to deflate it and store it inside our MH bays without having to use a towed vehicle mounting system. We have found the PS to be very stable and easy to launch and remove from the water. The newer version that you are probably trying out actually weighs less than our unit, so I’m sure it’s pretty easier to lift.
    Should you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email.

  2. What a great review on the Sea Eagle. I can see so many advantages for RVers in a boat like this.

  3. Very impressive review Nick! I want one! The Sea Eagle looks like it may be just the thing for us. I’m eager to see how you like it with the new seat.

  4. That’s the boat we saw at the COE park campground that I wrote about! I’m sure of it! My husband fell in love with it when we saw some guys fishing with it, but they left before I could talk to them and get the name.

  5. I like the looks and the good repots on the boat Nick. I just can’t get past the idea that any sharp rock or submerged log could punch a hole in it. And that may be a false fear on my part. I’d be curious to see how it holds up over the longhaul.

  6. Nick I feel like I know you after reading the journal and your blogs for so long. You talked about fishing, and I can just see you sinking a treble hook in the side of the boat LOL! But if you can avoid that I think that it would be an excellent platform to fish from.

  7. I got swamped & dumped into a lake in Texas two years ago when a jerk just like that roared past me. I was able to get my kayak back upright & crawl back, but I lost some very expensive fishing gear in the process. I think the pontoon style boat like the Paddle Ski would be able to ride over those waves a lot easier.

  8. Remember when doing a review: the five Ws the H and the P.

    Who What When Where Why and How and Price

  9. It looks like a nice boat for calm water. You seem to sit up pretty high so I wonder how it handles in wind and waves.

  10. Thanks Nick and Terry for your fantastic review. George…the Sea Eagle PaddleSki 435 Deluxe is $949 and the Sea Eagle PaddleSki 435 Pro with the high back seats that Steve and Karen talk about is $1099 and include free shipping to US 48. Our company InflatableBoats4Less sells these for $100 below the prices above. If you follow Nick’s link above to our website you’ll find by reading “About Us” that we started as Sea Eagle PaddleSki owners and their biggest fans and parlayed that first boat into a darn good inflatable boat company. So were told.

    Reggie and Tommy comment on the ability of an inflatable to withstand punctures. A high quality supported fabric material boat like the Sea Eagle PaddleSki is darn near bulletproof! During seminars I present on “Boats’N’RVs”at RV Shows and rallies around the country I pass material samples around the room along with a sharpened screwdriver asking attendees to try to punch a hole in the PVC material. For years nobody succeeded until finally one big Nick sized guy walks up to the front of the room material sample raised proudly overhead with the screwdriver protruding right thru the middle. he had taken off his Timberland boot and after placing the sample on the grassy floor of the tent used the heel of his steel-toed boot to hammer that darn screwdriver right on thru. Witnesses report that it took some doing though!

    I’ll bet you could talk Nick into bringing his Sea Eagle PaddleSki 435 to his next Rally and you can all take turns trying to put a hole in it.

  11. Add us to the list of very happy PaddleSki 435 users and customers of Tim and Crystal. We purchased ours from them about a year ago. They have the very best prices out there and the boat is a dream to own and carry in our motorhome. One of our best purchases yet!

  12. Does a dolly exist that either mounts on the rear motor mount or the boat sits on to allow rolling to the launch site rather than carry if.

  13. We bought a Sea Eagle 330 sport kayak late this summer and have been happy with it. Just wish that we had had more time to use it. Be a little crowded to try to fish out of it with 2 people in it but one person would have enough room for their gear.

  14. Should probably note that we fulltime so space is a big consideration for us and influenced our choice of boat model.

  15. Ok I’m interested nick. I tlooks like it would be spot on and we could carry it in our basement bay. Will you have the Sea Eagle on display at your Yuma rally?

  16. LeRoy, yes they have an EZ cart to transport the boat to the water. Here is a link to the Sea Eagle website that lists the cart.

  17. I have looked at different inflatable boats and kayaks online, and I had about narrowed my selection down to the Sevylor. But your glowing review of the Sea Eagle now has me rethinking that decision. I’m going over to look at the Sea Eagle and Inflatable Boats 4 Less websites now.

  18. Very interesting review, Nick. I just spent some time looking at the Sea Eagle website and I’m psyched! Kathy is terrified of water becasue the one time when she went out it was in a canoe with a high school boyfriend and he was showing off and rolled it. She’s not a swimmer and almost drowned. I’ve wanted a kayak for years but she has been terrified, but I think the PaddleSki is stable enough for her to be comfortable in. As soon as she gets home from work I’m showing her this.

  19. Man that is cool! I bet I could even carry one of these on the trailer on the back of my Gold Wing. We are a one car, one bike family, and my wife works days and I work nights. With one of these I could get some paddling done during the day.

    From what I’ve been reading here and on their website I don’t think its nearly as fragile as I thought an inflatable would be.

  20. I want to be Nick! He gets all the toys and Miss Terry cooks for him too!

  21. As I wrote to Nick, I have the SeaEagle Explorer model and it is also very stable which was one of the things I was hunting for…… Tim and Crystal are the best to work with and answer questions. I have a flat wheeled cart that I have used to haul dog crates/equipment into dog shows….it works just find to haul inflatable kayaks and equipment to the water’s edge. And just bragging…those are my English Cockers on their website, hanging out on the prows enjoying their rides :=) though they both prefer swimming to riding! LOL

  22. Hi Nick,
    Please let us know about the seat issue. Other reviews (below) have been very negative about even the PRO seat and we need to know from a mature person what the real deal is.
    Dave (looking to buy before the end of the month)

    The Sea Eagle 435ps PaddleSki Inflatable Catamaran-Kayak
    Posted on September 13, 2010 by

    The Sea Eagle 435ps PaddleSki inflatable catamaran-kayak. Yes, that’s a mouthful – and the boat is quite an eyeful, too! But the included boat seats, even in the “pro” and “ultimate” packages, leave a lot to be desired. They certainly look cool, all sleek and hi-tech in black, but they don’t provide much in the way of comfort, barely supporting a kayaker up!

  23. Nick, I have a PaddleSki that I bought used at an estate sale and like you, the seat was miserable for me. I am 5’9” and weigh 280 and in just a few minutes my lower back was aching and I was sitting in a reclining position. This was the high back seat from Sea Eagle. Guys our size just need more support. I bought a good quality 4 point seat from a kayak shop, it matched right up to the Sea Eagle’s D rings, and life is great again. I put a square boat cushion under the bottom to give me a little more butt padding and extra height.

    As for durability with this boat that some of your readers asked about, tell them they don’t even worry about it. I have bounced off rocks in Wyoming rivers, drug it across gravel bars, used it in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas, and banged it against docks and pilings, and never had a leak.

    The boat fits into a cover that is roughly about 3 feet long by 2 by 2 feet high and wide and stows easily in the front cargo bay of my fifth wheel trailer.

  24. Sounds like a great kayak, but the price is a little daunting for RVers on a fixed income / budget. What are the chances Sea Eagle will give an additional Gypsy Journal discount for your great review? ;-P

  25. I had a very used and abused Sea Eagle kayak that I bought third had and that had been neglected by both previous owners. It had three patches that were all on the top so were not caused by rocks or anything in the water. The guy I bought it from said his brother had stuck a bass plug in it one time, and that the other two patches were from damage it got in storage. But I bought it for almost nothing and it still gave me excellent service until I finally gave it to my son-in-law and bought a 14 foot jon boat. But now that I am spending the winters traveling in my Allegro I cant bring that with me. I think I will look at the website you had in your blog and see about ordering another one.

  26. The seat would be a concern for me also, so I’ll be interested inyour results with the high back seat. Other websites do not give the high back high marks.

    Jason- what make and model seat did you install?

  27. Terry, I got the GTS Expedition. It’s not cheap, but well worth it to me. Other excellent seats are the Apex 1 and the Ocean Kayak Pro Staff

  28. Thanks, Jason!

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