Hey guys! I have an advanced elements firefly and I’m still pretty new to the kayaking world, but I’ve read in multiple places that they are not meant for open water. And I was wondering why that was? Is it because the wind and rough water would push it around too much and be hard to steer, or would it actually damage the kayak? Pardon me if this is an obvious question?
A few things…
To start with it’s 35" wide and under 8’ long, measurements which seriously compromise speed and tracking. Most kayaks that can handle open water are less than 24" wide and more than 12’ long as a minimum.
Inflatables like this are very prone to be pushed around by wind.
It has three inflatable chambers, which is certainly better than one, but what happens if one chamber fails? How durable can a $200 kayak be?
Sorry, but it’s really a “pool toy”. It will get you out on the water but I wouldn’t go further from dry land in it than I could easily swim.
a friend has one
One of my best friends picked one up used for $100 so I'm very familiar with it.
It's really more a raft than a kayak and I have to agree that it is pretty much a pool toy and barely a step up from an inner tube. It should not be used in anything but a small pond or shallow narrow stream with very low flow. I would not take it more than 20 feet from shore and only in warm water no deeper than I could stand in. Such boats are slow, track poorly, are susceptible to wind and currents and would be quite dangerous in open water conditions because it's highly likely you would be unable to paddle back to shore. People too often fail to take this into account. Sure, you can float out to sea or down a river in or on anything, but would you be able to get BACK to where you started from in it when you are tired or the weather changes or even under normal conditions?
I think it's irresponsible for AE to be marketing the Firefly with photos showing people in what look like coastal conditions.
For $100 to $200 more than what you dropped on the Firefly you could have picked up a competent used real kayak. If you just want something to sit and fish or birdwatch in a small pond or stream, it would be adequate, but its utility is pretty restricted to those environments. This is all my friend uses hers for, floating short distances a quiet sheltered coves on lake near her house.
Thanks guys, for proving to me once again that Forums are frequented by people who like to put others down for what they don’t have. I appreciate the time you both took to reply, but really? “A pool toy” “a raft”? I’ve had no problem being far from shore, and the way this kayak is held up, I honestly don’t plan to, and maybe that’s stupid of me, but hey, what’s life without a little danger right? Bedsides that’s what a pfd is for right? I asked a question about functionality in open water and instead I got two answers telling me the kayak I have just isn’t good enough. I emailed advanced elements directly this morning asking the same question and the answer I got is that there is no coaming around the cockpit for a spray skirt, therefore in open or rough water, there is no way to keep the water out. And as for a more expensive kayak, yes that is true I could have bought a hard shell kayak, and one day I plan to, but as a student in college, the kayak, and the roof rack to transport it came out to more than I could budget for. And I’m sure someone will respond to this and try to light me up for coming to this forum and asking a question, and getting upset about the answer. But honestly. Take into consideration that some people just can’t afford the kayaks that you want them to have. Peace.
You asked and we answered
I very carefully described what the boat is intended for and is safe for and WHY it should be limited to those uses. In fact, read this recent news story for hard facts about why we caution people:
We are not putting you down, just being realistic. People can DIE when they enter serious waters unprepared and in the wrong craft. And they risk the lives of the rescue crews who have to intervene to save them. I used to live on one of the Great Lakes and the local Coast Guard and other rescue groups got so tired of having to retrieve people in inflatables and small discount store plastic boats who found themselves unable to paddle back to shore due to undertow currents, surf and offshore winds that they would turn back anybody in such boats who attempted to paddle outside the harbor.
You would not take a golf cart onto an interstate highway. That doesn’t mean golf carts are inferior, just that they are not appropriate for that environment. Same here.
It’s good that you understand the importance of wearing your PFD, but that is not going to save you if your tiny raft fails in cold water or you are too far from shore to swim or paddle in.
Look, we’ve all had to compromise on cost of our toys at various points in life but you have to be realistic about the limitations of what you can afford. My friend with the Firefly loves to kayak and I loan her one of my touring boats for open water adventures until she is able to afford something safe for that kind of thing. Meanwhile I completely understand and approve of why she has the Firefly. And she knows and accepts where and when it is safe to use it.
Sorry if the responses struck you as offensive, but those of us who know what can happen on open water get very anxious when we see people getting over their heads in boats that are not appropriate for conditions.
These can be handy and fun little boats and nobody means for you to not enjoy it. We just don’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way with it.
Thank you for your concern
Thank you for clarifying and I admit my reply was snarky and a little unwarranted, seeing as the your reply about not being able to paddle back in through rough water was exactly what I was looking for in an answer, it was both remarks about the craft being a pool toy that were offensive. If the craft is made of quality materials and backed by a trusted name, why does the fact that they are filled with air make them less of a kayak? Again I appreciate the time you took out of your day to respond, but I didn’t appreciate the attacks being made at the quality of the kayak because of the inflatable element. And that news article does hold a valid point, but nowhere is there a mention of an inflatable kayak, but rather two people who were unaware of the dangers of their environment, which would be dangerous even in a hard shell kayak.
No one is putting you down
From the tone of your response, I’m not sure it’s even worth anyone’s time to try to explain this to you, so first I’ll ask YOU a question. Have you seen this boat, or similar ones, being used on a windy day? The wind has its way with these sorts of inflatables. Adding to that, it would be unusual for a person using such a boat to have the kinds of skills needed to counteract the wind.
Oh, so you think your PFD will save you if you flip over and your boat blows away like a beach ball after you’ve already blown a few or several miles offshore? Think about that one for a while.
No one is saying you can’t have fun in this boat, and no one is insulting you for choosing it. Just don’t expect it to be safe in open water if an unfavorable wind pops up. You might go out 100 and times and have no trouble, but the first time you DO have trouble, things are likely to go more than just a little wrong.
I would also like to appologize for the tone of my response. I will be the first to admit that I am fiesty by nature and that it probably wasn’t the best way to go about getting my point across. Not that I’ve given any reason to believe this, but I am aware that safety is a major concern and my wording was definitely off. When I say if taken it farther than swimming distance from shore, I didn’t mean in the ocean, This kayak has only been on lakes so far. So that was my fault. So since I admit to being ignorant and definitely in the wrong with my reply, how would this kayak fair in a more coastal setting in the ocean. Mainly bays, marinas, and not too far beyond the surf?
“Putting you down”?
That certainly wasn’t my intention at all. Sorry you took it that way.
And my criticism had nothing to do with this being an inflatable kayak. There are some excellent inflatables out there, some with very high pressure chambers and some - like Pakboat Puffins with addtional aluminum structural members. These boats perform as well as a hard shell or a skin on frame.
The probability of that kayak you have being taken by an offshore wind is high. Given its width the probability of it being flipped by a wave is also high. In the right conditions it could get you out having fun on the water. In the wrong conditions it could put you in serious danger. Again I would advise you not to take that boat any further from shore than you can easily swim.
I have but one question.
Have you practiced capsizing and getting back in your FireFly?
There are inflatables that are among the toughest and safest boats on the water. High end inflatable whitewater boats by companies like NRS and Aire can cost thousands of dollars and are state of the art for serious rapids. The military and rescue units use tough inflatables. I own two sea kayaks and one light touring kayak myself that are all nylon/rubber skinned with aluminum frames and inflatable hull components. The more costly longer models by Advanced Elements are also capable boats with more kayak-like performance features.
We aren’t against inflatables (far from it), just cautioning you that you really get what you pay for in kayaks and need to be realistic about where it’s appropriate to use the one you have at this point.
Yeh, I confess it was snarky of me to call it a “pool toy” and I apologize - it is a step above that but it’s still more of a cute little raft than an actual kayak. But being raft-like means this sort of boat can be quite a lot of fun in mild whitewater streams (class 1 and 2) or a leisurely float near a lake shore on a sunny day. Enjoy it for what it is.
people here are trying to help you
It's not the appropriate tool for the job. Willowleaf gives good and practical advice and furthermore, apparently knows someone who owns the same boat.
Inflatables have the disadvantage of getting pushed around on the water due to lightness. But when you mention "open water", people think exposure to conditions, which can mean wind and waves. Sea kayaks have other commonalities of design that your inflatable doesn't share, that help manage those conditions.
It sounds like you have limited resources as some of us who now sea kayak also did at one time or another...but that you also want to get out on open water with confidence? Why not keep your boat, but either take some classes, or a guided tour in a rented sea kayak, or attend a kayak symposium? That way, you manage your investment but also get some exposure to tell you if this is a direction you want to go in. If so, there are other ways to manage cost, including renting and ultimately, buying used (or building your own). The used sea kayak market is flush with good deals.
When I attended my first symposium I didn't know what I didn't know (still don't). If you overlook what may seem like patronizing you'll find people who want to encourage you to progress toward open-water paddling.
Thank you guys
The advice was great. I’m definitely going to stick to lakes for the time being, granted I will probably get ballsy and go a ways out from shore, I’ll leave the sea paddling for the future. I appologize again for my original tone. You guys all have been a huge help
You actually answered your own question
In your OP you asked why the craft would not be good for open water, and perceptively anticipated, “Is it because the wind and rough water would push it around too much and be hard to steer . . . ?”
Yes, those are the primary reasons.
The dimensional configuration and materials of the hull – short, wide, soft, light – make such a craft impossible to paddle fast, difficult to paddle straight, and susceptible to being very uncontrollable in wind and waves. As others have pointed out, this can be dangerous if you are far from shore in “open water”, which you didn’t really define.
The common sense precautions you should take are the same ones all paddlers should take. Be aware of the limitations of your craft. Be aware of the air and water temperatures and dress accordingly for a possible swim. Finally, be very aware of the weather report.
Many of us experienced paddlers with specialized boats will still be reluctant to paddle in wind and waves. It’s just too tiresome and potentially discomfiting, if not dangerous. When in doubt, sit it out.
Personally, I never go far from shore in any of my canoes or kayaks. There’s no reason to usually, unless you’re on a multi-day camping trip that requires long open water crossings, which is not the kind of trip you would do in your inflatable. I go just far enough off shore to enjoy the view and try to stay most of the time within PFD-swimming distance to shore.
Just be careful about these things and you can enjoy recreating in that craft. You will discover soon enough whether you actually enjoy its performance characteristics and paddling it over extended distances. If you decide you don’t, you haven’t parted with a lot of money, and it may be time to upgrade to a higher performance boat.