Handling three piece sea kayaks

I’m beginning to get the feeling that I’m going to need a three piece boat to travel to places that don’t have very good (for lack of a better word) boats to rent. Anyone out there in paddleland have experience with the costs and hassles of dealing with a three piece composite boat while traveling about the world? Flying will be the first mode of transport, but then I may need a bus or taxi or burro after that. I can also imagine needing info on pack and two wheel cart options for moving the boat about while I’m also carrying all my paddle gear. Thanks for any insight.------------Kevin

Much easier to travel with a folder

The Great Swami has your answers.

– Last Updated: Jan-21-08 7:32 AM EST –





Take your time and read these posts, and you will see many ideas and impressions. Tsunamichuck is very well versed on folders vs. sectional--frankly, the most versed on Pnet as he's owned both many times over--so his simple advice is likely correct from all I have read. Folder for flying. Sectional for driving. I have ordered a Valley sectional and plan to travel with it in the rear of my enclosed Chevy Avalanche or my Chev conversion van (the next car I buy will be "green", I promise). But if I were to fly, I'd buy a folder. I owned a Feathercraft Jetstream, though, and although it was one of the easier folders to put together (much easier than, say a Kahtsalano), I found it challenging. I'm all thumbs, though. If you wish to folder info, check out "folder" search on Pnet Archives search (click above) and you will see many more threads than even the sectional idea. Plenty of past reading there. And youtube has some folding kayak videos, such as these:


In my Pacific Horizons DVD, Dubside puts together his Kahuna folder in something like 12 minutes. That's a record, and when he's hauling ass. It takes even him, who has done it 1 hundred times, generally about 20 minutes, I think it said. And a Khatsalano is even more labor intensive. But, if you're in one locale for a week, and will keep it together (thus must have storage outside a hotel room, or a first floor rental), it's no issue.

3 million bags are lost--completely lost--each year on domestic US flights. I ran into a scare recently where our checked bags came in on the wrong plane. Ill feeling, but I think I'd poop my britches if they lost my folder. Risk.

Enjoy! And happy day to you, original poster, and TSC.

I did travel quite a bit with a K Light
and it is real easy to travel with and get together and apart. Not a fast boat and limitted space for gear but a great take along boat. The Khatsalano is a bit heavier and takes about an hour to assemble, but a great play boat and a decent tourer.

Thanks for responses-more succinct
I neglected to read the archives, which were very helpful. I need to be more succinct. I am looking at buying either a 3 piece Explorer or Greenlander Pro or Nordkapp, to cut to the chase. Folders won’t handle the conditions I want to paddle, and the Khats is too soft- plus I had an unfortunate experience with a khats paddler breaking my 400 dollar Lendal over the bottom of his hull during a paddle-presentation eskimo rescue. My fault, but I’m scarred for life and those Khats are very slippery to hang onto in rescue circumstances. Plus the idea of a sea sock grosses me out- perhaps I’m becoming narrow minded.

I paddled in Wales for a few days with Freya shortly after she bought her first three piece (the sexplorer- black with silver metal flake) and she was having looseness problems at the joints. A couple of weeks ago I paddled with a friend that was christening his new three piece (just a regular explore) with the newer clips and the mortise and tenon bulkhead joints and he had no problems at all. I’d rather have a suitcase/clip attachment fail and be able to reattach, than have a thrubolt attachment fail and have to do onsite fiberglass repairs. I think Nigel might be figuring this one out. Big dumping waves will kill anything, in my experience.

So what does it typically cost to deal with the extra 3 piece? Does anyone have a good source of pack/covers that would work? (Sounds like I’ll need extra padding) And does anyone know of a wheeled method of hauling way too much gear with the least amount of hassle. I am certainly not above flagging down one of those carts that you see cruising about the airports at a much faster pace than I can even jog, let alone walk with all my paddling stuff. Thanks again for the response. Cheers-------------------------Kevin

Baggage handlers are assholes
and airlines basically will try and soak you with oversized fees so tack on $200- $300 for each round trip ticket. Expect major shit from European airlines, the Asian ones will likely let you slide. I purchased my 3 piece Kapp from Rob and he suggested strapping 2 sections together to save on baggage fees. Carry extra straps to secure your boat on taxis etc and just plan on hiring porters at your destination.

This will give you some idea…
Here’s personal gear and three kayaks, Freya’s (3-piece [S]explorer, 3-piece Rockpool, and 4-piece Qaannaq) bagged and ready for loading in the car (kayaks are in the five large bags), when we flew from Germany to Newfoundland last year to teach; http://www.qajaqusa.org/temp/NF_packing.jpg

The center section of the larger kayaks require a bag to themselves, and you can usually nest the bow and stern together in another bag. What we always did was to wrap each hull section with fitted pieces of closed-cell foam and tape them up, and then place in a large bag. Even so, minor cosmetic damage was frequent. We packed lightweight/bulky gear inside the kayaks and weighed the bags at home to ensure that they did not exceed the maximum weight allotted for the airline.

Freya had the large black kayak bags custom made at a local upholstery shop. Being black (what else do you expect from Freya? :wink: shiny, and large, we were often asked at airports, by people in hushed tones, if they were body bags. Maybe yellow would set a better mood…

We used simple muscle power and airport carts to move them around but I did have one exasperating experience in Hamburg where I was trying to move all the bags shown in the photo from the curb to the ticket counter, while Freya parked the car. As I carried the first bag to the counter and turned to go back for the next one, a security officer demanded that I could not leave it and must bring all bags at the same time. I tried to explain that this would not be possible. Finally an American overhead the ruckus and kindly agreed to watch the bags as I went to get each piece at the curb, and the pile grew into a mountain.

Flying with the gear is stressful. Some airlines don’t transport kayaks at all. Some will transport them, but you have to massage the truth a bit and call them “surfing equipment”. Expect long talks with baggage handlers and their managers where you are not sure what you are going to pay. Sometimes we paid over $200 a bag, sometimes the ticket agent was so flustered getting everything loaded that we were charged nothing at all. Sometimes you will pay one price going overseas, and a much different price when returning.

While a three-piece does give you some wonderful options for traveling, the price is a few gray hairs and some cold, hard, cash.

Greg Stamer

Sectional cost is a factor.

– Last Updated: Jan-21-08 8:03 AM EST –

Well, kblackch10, the costs of a sectional is not to be sneezed at. The 2008 costs for a Valley sectional--such as the Nordkapp you mention--is $1250 US dollars. That is just for making the regular Nordkapp (list $3029) into a sectional: add $1250. Yes, you read that right.

So, cost is a factor, and weight is the other. Adds 10 lbs to boat weight. But, as some have said, you could bring it in pieces to the beach/launch/dock, and make it there. But then again, once you have assembled it at a paddling destination, you'd likely leave it together.

Valley, at least at this writing, still uses the bolt system. Apparently, from what I'm told, the sections have an interlocking flange, (so not just flat piece connected to flat piece), and thus less "wiggle", plus the bolts are very secure. I personally think clips are up and coming, but I have heard from more than one owner that the bolts, with the right tool (socket wrench with long extension) is not bad for time, and certainly sounds secure. I doubt fiberglass repair would be neceesary at the adjoining bulkheads as there is a plate of metal built-in there, I'm told. (double bulkhead plus metal=weight, though). But, just seems clips are looser in general, and metal fatigue of a clip will be more of an issue than a bolt. You mention ons-ite fiberglass repairs for the bolt system: the clip syetem is on the outside of teh boat: could create torque force hurt the exterior composite, too, in theory. So you'd be doing an exteriuor composute repair (where clip meets boat). If I travel and paddle all week in a locale, putting together bolts in 15-20 minutes as opposed to clips in 3-4 minutes seems like a reasonable trade off for what I perceive to be rock solid. Who knows, I could be wrong. I have found a paucity of true reviews of take-apart kayaks on-line, and once versed with the Valley I have ordered, I will post pictures and review. One blogger friend suggested that I make a youtube video with the focus on the boat review, and another on the sectional put-together process. I may do this. Click 'take apart" here to get a small view of the Valley sectional.


I am confident with Valley brand, certainly. That is why I chose them.

I think TSC and Greg Stamer have the good word, and experience, that I do not have with these sectional boats. I plan to use mine in the covered and locked back of my pickup truck and conversion van, as stated, and thus a sectional is rather ideal. This will allow me to not sleep in a hotel and get up every time I hear a cat in the alley, thinking someone is stealing my roof racked composite. Plus, I think I will travel further for kayaking when I don't have a boat flapping on the roof for days at a time. Think about it: the time I save in roof racking the boat will now be spent in assembling it, so frankly, about the same amount of overall time either way to get on the water.

I doubt, sincerely, that I will ever fly with mine. And now that I see Greg's photo above, I now know I never will.

You could look for a used sectional, but they are not common.

Late post: link to past thread.

Here’s a link where I asked about sectionals and got, as usual, some great adivce from fellow Pnetters.

So, wha’cha gonna do/buy, original poster?

Bolts may not be stronger
I’ve seen the bulkhead pull away from the hull on a three piece NDK Explorer in a hard surf landing. The kayak had clips on the deck and two bolts in each bulkhead.

Marcus Demuth has a bit to say about his experiences with three piece kayaks on his website http://marcusdemuth.com/default.aspx

There is also a three piece poly kayak which has sections that slot together and bolted metal brackets on the deck. Don’t know what they paddle like, I only saw one in a shop once. http://www.australiscanoes.com.au/


The up-charge on a three-piece NDK is $800 with the new clips (this may be slightly higher for 2008). We handled a special order three-piece Explorer over the summer – you may have seen the boat at BCU week in Georgia. The clips are quite secure and the bulkheads match up with a mortise and tenon style feature to keep everything aligned.

Feel free to give us a call or contact us via email if you decide to go that route or have any questions.

Hope to see you out this way sometime soon!


Virginia Sea Kayak Center

Church of Rev Black

To what distant corners of the earth are you planning to travel to now? I hope to make a pilgrimage to your warm waters this year.

You humble disciple,

Awah Tanah


Wheeled Hockey Bag?
You might look at hockey bags. The biggest are for goalie equipment. See you\meet you at Sweetwater?


if i was a betting man
i’d be that the FC khat could take far greater a blow than any composite…

I’ve several folders…but after tsunamichuck created the yahoo group for nordkapps and I saw his 3 piece inside the house I’m thinking a 3 piece would make an awesome conversation piece in the living room :slight_smile:

Medicineman, I sold Tsunami Chuck
his 3 piece Nordkapp. It was bomber in the surf, I assure you. The limit of my “testing” was 8’ faces, long period. Lots of energy to ring my bell. TC’s boat is as tough as nails and should I be in the market for another 3 piece, the Valley system served me well and I’d probably go that way. That said, NDK and Rockpools system looks good, but to me the gold standard is the 4 bolt Valley system.

Also, I have considerable experience in my Khatsalano. I do not baby my Khats, it is a war horse and not a prom date. She is a tough bitch that keeps on giving. Gotta love that! To me, the moral of the story 'tween 3 piece and folders is, how much hassle do you want to tolerate moving the bags in the transport phase of your trip; and, what do you require while actually on the water? Different questions, but inevitably, ones that will pop up at you as you enjoy your journey. And please, enjoy your journey.


Rob G

My 1st impression was nuh-uh.
Picked up Freya Hoffmeister at Halifax Int’l Airport on the occasion of Wendy Killoran’s epic Newfoundland circumnav a couple years ago.

When Freya emerged from Customs, she was wheeling a rather top-heavy baggage cart with three huge black bags and was accompanied by a flustered-looking airport employee. I remembered being dumbstruck by the sheer logistics implied in those three elephantine bundles.

The sections were too large to load into my van even when broken down, so Freya and Wendy assembled the beautiful black (S)Explorer right there on the sidewalk in front of the Arrivals/Departures entrance, under the watchful gaze of an airport Commissionaire.

On the drive to New Glasgow, Freya told us tales of excessive excess baggage fees sometimes based on size, sometimes weight, and sometimes on some kind of weird baggage-handler alchemy.

I think maybe Dubside’s got the travel thing figured out pretty well.

I am more worried about baggage handlers
than surf. I had the pleasure of watching some dedicated United Airlines baggage handlers drop my Khats 15 ft from the cargo hold to the ground. No worse for wear.