I picked up a Sea Eagle 370. I wasn’t looking for anything hardcore. I just wanted something to paddle around with the kids and see some turtles and egrets. My first practice run, it ripped a 4-inch gash in the bottom in the first 15 minutes. Just paddling gently by myself on calm water. If it got a slow leak, I’d be disappointed - but this was instant, epic failure. Sea Eagle did nothing but send me instructions to patch it. If it’s that delicate, I’m not taking my kids out in it! I got the upgraded seats and electric pump and everything. Now I have no use for it. Total waste of $425. Quite literally the worst purchase of my life.
Would you say inflatable kayaks work better in deep water where there is no chance of scraping the bottom? Do they prefer fast water where the rocks and branches are rounded off or flushed downstream? Or do people actually have success with them in slow, shallow water where you occasionally scrape against something? Was I just somehow super-incredibly, unimaginably unlucky? Did I do something wrong?
In this video, the guy says he has owned 40 inflatable kayaks and has only seen a serious air leak once - and that was because of a misuse.
I see tons of positive reviews. I see the Sea Eagle 370 consistently rated among the top budget kayaks to buy. I really thought I did my research on this one.
I need some life advice. Should I try to repair this thing? The gash kind of goes diagonally across a seam, so I’m not even confident a patch would hold. I’m so conflicted. I really want to like this boat and inflatable kayaks in general. I had such high hopes. But after that experience, I feel so “deflated”.
The only thing you will be out is your time if the repair isn’t successful so I’d give it a shot. PVC boats are the cheapest out there. Less repairable than some others but I would still give it a go unless the cut or tear runs down the length of seam. Something you want to do with cheaper pvc and vinyl bladder boats is under-inflate them. They are not going to be as stiff and high performing but it helps with their durability. Typically if something just gets a simple puncture it is repairable. You could always test it out with a duct or gorilla tape repair first. After testing the boat you will want to remove the duct tape and rub off the residue, maybe a dab of isopropyl to clean and let the boat completely dry before trying the repair kit. Unfortunately, sea eagle, sevylor, and aire (tribuatary series) lower end offerings don’t offer the same value as their better made more expensive boats. What do you think happened? Perhaps you ran over a stick or log? General scraping should not have resulted in the type of failure you describe.
Last year we put in at our normal spot and a guy came at us up stream paddling like mad asking us if we had patching for his blowup. I told him I had some gorilla tape in the car and he said that will work. so we paddled back with him and I got him the tape and he had kind of a small hole. I told him I didn’t think it would hold as where he was going was about 6 hours on the river and he was going with friends who kept going. He stuck a piece over the hole and then did several layers overlapping. Blew it up and it held so off he went paddling like a mad man trying to catch his friends. About an hour later there he was on shore blowing it up and we asked if he was ok and he said yes it just was slowly leaking. Few minutes later he passed us and then 30 minutes later he was pumping it up again. This went on all day and finally we passed him for the last time.
When we were getting out there was a pregnant woman there that looked close to 9 months and she asked if we saw a guy. I said with a blow up sea eagle and she said that’s him. I told her we passed him a mile back and he was pumping and paddling his way along and he should be there shortly. She did not seem to happy.
Our river is shallow in places has sharp rocks and limbs and such and after seeing his drama I wouldn’t want one or trust one where we go. They might be fine where the bottom is mud or sand. Sounds like what you need is a nice canoe. They are a little bit of work learning how to get them on the cars roof to haul them around but when in the water I feel much safer.
It does seem like you had a bit of bad luck. I see inflatable kayaks similar to yours in the oyster lined mangrove tunnels around here all the time and haven’t seen anyone have any issues. But you’re probably justifiably nervous about anything inflatable now, and I can’t say I blame you. You’re going to bump into things while paddling, it’s pretty much impossible not to, and it’s no fun being paranoid that your boat might sink any minute.
Are there places close by that you can rent a canoe or kayak? Might be a good option until your shoulder heals and also would let you see if the kiddos enjoy paddling enough to think about getting a rigid boat down the road.
You definitely hit something hard. I went with the Sea Eagle Explorer 380X and it’s been great so far. I was a little hesitant on the low end boats that Sea Eagle and others have. The 330 and 370 aren’t made with the same quality materials as the higher end models. What exactly did you hit and where were you?
Aire is an interesting company selling both low end and high end boats. Plenty of folks swear by their tributary series and I own one but consider it not all that reliable. They have vinyl bladders inside an outershell. The outershell pretty good at what it is designed to do, prevent abrasions and puntures. Unfortunately I have replaced both sides of my Tomcat’s bladders. Their seams begin to leak over time. I’m serious about underinflation if you want to prolong the life of the ik, ducky.
The 370 would not have been my first choice. It has an old style singele layer I Beam floor that only takes like 2.5 lbs of pressure, so it can snag on anything that may be sticking up. There are other brands, like Tributary, Solstice and others where the the tubes are in a nylon shell that acts to make the whole boat more rigid and typically have a thicker PVC bottom to protect the bladders from puncture. There are several of those around for about the same price as the Sea Eagle you purchased
I’ve owned folding kayaks with vinyl and PVC shells and inflatable components for 20+ years, also dealt with inflatable rafts that my outdoor club had. You can get PVC/vinyl patch kits in any camping gear department or sporting good store and the patches are very durable. It’s an easy thing to do – I have patched boats at the launch site and been ready to get back on the water within 15 minutes. I would not waste time on tapes (though I am currently using Gorilla tape and FlexSeal tape on gashes in two hard shell boats but I don’t think it will adhere as well to inflatables). There are large peel and stick patches for PVC pool liners but they might not work on an inflatable. You have to take into account that the material can expand a bit when inflated and you want to use a solvent glue that essentially melts the patch and base material into each other and that will stretch together. Also, heat can loosen some of the peel and sticks and tapes.
What you report is a pretty unusual failure. It makes me wonder if the boat had arrived damaged, possibly having been lightly scored by somebody opening the original carton with a razor knife at some point, just enough to weaken that area and cause it to eventually split. It is not unusual for people to damage an item by carelessly cutting open a box and they may have repacked it and returned it to the store without revealing that they had damaged it. That may have happened before you received it. In fact I bought a “new” Ryobi table saw last summer at Home Depot and noticed when I carefully cut open the carton that it looked like it might have been re-taped. Sure enough, when I got it open, it was already partially assembled and the edges of the blade were scored plus the box was full of shreds of white plastic – somebody had obviously bought it and used it to cut a bunch of PVC pipe or trim and then sealed it back up and got their money back. I did immediately return it to Home Depot the same day and they swapped it for another one (after offering me a discount if I cared to keep it, which I declined, not knowing what other damage the prior owners might have inflicted upon it.
IMHO, the seller should have offered you a replacement. But since they did not, you have nothing but about $10 and a few minutes of your time to lose in patching it. PVC patches not only will hold up as well or better than the original hull, but those of us who use inflatable or rigid PVC hulled boats often glue protective reinforcing strips of patching over the wear areas on the bottom to protect them from cuts and abrasion.
While I sympathize with this being a significant investment for you, it really is at the low price and quality end for an inflatable boat – more costly ones will have multiple chambers and usually more reinforcement. Inflatable boats are generally pretty tough and are, in fact, the craft of choice for hard core white water paddlers and military small vessels. Don’t give up on them – I’m confident a simple repair will rescue this one you have.
By the way, once you have it back to being functional, be VERY careful to never leave it fully inflated on shore for long or on or in your transport. The large volume of air inside will expand a lot in the sun and on hot days and can and will rupture seams and even weak spots in the bladders of cheaper boats. Always let some air out on shore and only top it off to higher pressure right before launching. The air will always shrink in volume a little once the boat is surrounded by cooler water so you want it firm just before you launch. But deflate until it feels squishy once ashore for more than a few minutes. DOn’t learn this the hard way like I did 20 years ago! (i was able to repair that goof anyway, and that was on a $3300 boat).
Good point! I didn’t hit anything. I think I just scrubbed the bottom at some point and there was something sharp there. This is in the Passaic River in NJ. So man-made garbage is totally possible. If that is the case and I get another inflatable, it will probably happen again. I doubt even a high-end kayak could endure much of that 4-inch-gash-inducing-sharpness.
A hard-shell kayak is a pain in the butt for all the obvious reasons. And I would need a big one. Plus, my wife has no interest, so strapping this big thing to the top of the car is only going to get me eye rolls. I like the idea of having my secret little hobby self-contained in a bag.
An advantage of foldables is that they don’t have pressure on the inside and the skins will tend to flex over objects that might puncture a pressurized surface where the material is taut. I paddle mostly urban rivers that often have heavy industry along them and small streams where human debris is common and have never had a folder hull punctured. I really think your unfortunate experience is a rare problem – you were just unlucky and it is not something that will be a recurring problem.
But a folder to carry a family (like one from PakBoat or Ally or Nautiraid) is going to cost you 3 to 10 times what you paid for the Sea Eagle.
Trust me – just patch it and maybe add some extra strips over the bottom while you’ve got the glue and material. And carry a peel and stick patch kit for quick patching if it happens again. It’s a corollary of “Murphy’s Law” that if you have the patch kit with you, you never need it!
That is another possibility. The cut is not perfectly parallel to the direction of travel, so that might be a clue that the gash was caused by something else. But it’s only about 30 degrees off. It seemed to hold air when I first pumped it up. Maybe it got cut half-way through and burst open while I was on the water? It’s not definitive either way.
I worked for some years in the outdoor sports outfitter sales industry and it was not uncommon to open shipments and find that at some point when products were handled and repackaged at some point during the distribution chain and somebody had careless sliced through material with box cutters. We’d sometimes find tents, clothing, packs and gear with cuts in various surfaces. Nothing like opening a carton to find loose handfuls of goosedown that had exploded out of a sliced parka or sleeping bag. With the rise in “e-commerce” and products being shifted around from various distribution warehouses and contracted delivery services I am betting this is a larger problems in recent years. It’s one reason why I am reluctant to mail order items and prefer if possible to get them from a brick and mortar store AND inspect the packaging for signs it has been re-taped. Don’t know how I missed that with the Ryobi saw but at least that turned out OK.
You definitely hit something. If you opened a gash on the bottom, it sounds like you were in water a few inches deep at most or were not looking at what was below the water line. It could have also happened while you were launching if you jumped in the boat too hard and the water was way too shallow for the boat. Where exactly is the gash? Directly on the bottom or along a seam? The low end Sea Eagle boats are pretty soft and really meant for smaller people. The higher end ones all have rigid drop stitch floors. You can hit things pretty hard in them and they can take the abuse. It’s all about how much money you want to invest. Any of the good Sea Eagles are $900 or more. A decent folding kayak will run you the same if you invest in an Oru or Tuktec. The Pakyak (I’m probably spelling this way off) might be the best assemble on the beach kayaks, but it’s about $2,000 last time I checked.