Switching to inflatable

I have been contemplating a switch to an inflatable. I have a rec boat now and want to paddle Lake Erie more. The benefits for me would be increased versatility and better seaworthiness for Lake Erie, better ability to re enter in waves and open water, better load capacity, and I can take my son on calm days/on the rivers feeding the lake. Looking at the sea eagle 330 or 370. Any thoughts?

Check out the Innova versus Eagle
thread. I think you would find the Innova inflatables somewhat more competent than the Eagles.

There are a lot more lakes and open rivers up there besides Lake Erie, and you’ll be able to get out on them more of the time.


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Story time: one experience paddling with some friends. They in a double rec boat, myself in my day touring kayak. I always have to wait for them. On a road trip, I brought an inflatable kayak and they rented a tandem similar to what they own. They had to wait for me. Inflatable boats are very slow. You can improve this some by getting an inflatable that has some framing with it to maintain rigidity.

Never went through the thought process of rec boat versus inflatable in regards to which can handle conditions better. Guess that maybe you are right that an inflatable could be better. But my default would have been to go the other direction - head more toward a touring boat (which would require some training, which perhaps is a turn off).


– Last Updated: Jun-16-13 1:18 PM EST –

We have a women in one of the groups I paddle with who has one of those sea eagles. Its a BARGE. Super slowwwww. I wouldnt consider going on Lake Erie ever with that. In this same group there were two other inflatables that were much better. They looked like a regular kayak and kept up just fine. I cant remember the name but all I can say is forget the Sea Eagle.It looks like something for use in a pool not a lake. I did ask about the cost of the other two inflatables and they were more up around $800 and up and had a frame in them of some kind.

Your talking about this one right? If so forget it.It couldnt keep up with 10 foot rec boats.

I have an inflatable and hate it
I have an inexpensive (similar to the sea eagle) inflatable I got as a starter boat and it’s a pain. I mainly paddle on sheltered lakes where power boats are limited or banned because of it. I would never get it ouy on Lake Lanier here.

It’s slow!

Tracking is awful! I feel like it’s one stroke forward, two strokes to correct my path, repeat…

The few times I’ve been caught in a power boats wake, she bucked like a rabid bronco, even with the bow turned into the waves.

I’m looking to get a decent, inexpensive sit-on-top soon. The inflatable will then become a barge to load down with camping gear and take turns towing (flat water trips).

I have a thought…
… and it’s “no”. I get out on Lake Erie fairly often and I wouldn’t dream of doing it in an inflatable kayak.

Inflatables are best on small lakes and windless days. For Erie you really need to ‘gear up’ and have the skills to deal with the wind and waves that can kick up in a blink. If you get knocked over (I mean when you get knocked over as eventually it happens to everyone), that inflatable will take off like a stone skipping across the water.

Would you consider a plan “B”? Plan “B” can be anything as long as it doesn’t contain both Lake Erie and an inflatable kayak.

Here’s a picture I took of Lake Erie last year:


The waves were well in excess of 10 feet.

Anyhow, if you are thinking of blow up boats due to space limitations, perhaps you might look for a folding kayak.

Folbot makes some nice ones that one could conceivably take out on Erie and if you want to indulge yourself, there’s always Feathercraft.

Take speed out of the equation (lake erie is one massive lake with few destinations) as I just want to paddle around the shore line. Plus I’m big and slow, in no hurry to get anywhere. My biggest concern is getting swamped in the lake and not being able to get back in my plastic boat even with flotation. The added bonus would be being able To take my son with me. I am not looking to long trips, just to get out on the water, have fun watching the occasional freighter come into port and paddle on the water closest to me without the risk of the boat sinking

I would think that any boat rated for

– Last Updated: Jun-16-13 6:26 PM EST –

whitewater would be safe in the lake. The Innova Safari is rated for up to Class III. http://www.innovakayak.com/store/store.aspx#!/~/product/category=184322&id=465855

Or check out this one for recommended Whitewater IK's

Or, look at inflatable canoes:

Or here:

That’s what I figured with the sea eagle 330. It’s rated up to class iii as well. Again, top speed is not as important as safety in mild chop (not extreme conditions like the above poster showed) and ability to reenter if I flip. Not so worried about popping a tube on the lake, but I would assume a class iii whitewater is far more than I would be throwing at it in lake erie

Have owned two inflatables
Can’t remember the make of the first one but it was a reasonably serious expedition boat. One day in Maine on tour the wind was so strong that my partner and I could not make any headway whatsoever with this tandem kayak. We had to land and hitchhike back to our car. An inflatable presents a large surface to the wind and sits high on the water, with minimal keel, so it is easily blown about.

Its softness makes it very slow. Slow is not only about speed; it’s about EFFORT. It’s not fun to paddle a boat that takes a huge amount of effort to move at slow speed.

On another occasion on the ocean (same conditions as Lake Erie) the bow of this inflatable was lifted several feet out of the water by an oncoming wave and the kayak literally folded in half.

Remember I said this was an expedition-quality kayak.

Even on calm days these things are not a joy to paddle. If you’re in a rec boat now a rational upgrade would be to a 14’ x 24" transitional kayak with two bulkheads.

If you’re not swayed by the comments of people here who know Lake Erie you may have a judgment problem and should reconsider your plans. I mean that respectfully.

Sea Eagle 330

I get you are not trying to be disrespectful about my “lack of judgement” but I think that you are missing my intended use or I am not being clear enough. I have ZERO plans of taking any paddle craft out on the lake beyond a 1-3 foot day. Never going to happen. 1-3 foot waves won’t even fold a pool raft in half. My point is that I don’t want to risk a swim into shore if something goes wrong. The boat I have now is uncomfortable and will sink if filled. I can’t stretch out in it or adjust where te seat is. I don’t want to go on long expeditions over several days, I am not touring. I understand there are trade offs to inflatables that make them undesirable for the types of use being described above, but for an occasional paddle on the water I live closest to. I have lived by the lake my whole life, have seen it in its many states and I know when is a good time and when it’s not.


Three-foot waves

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Any possibility you're underestimating what happens to a kayak in three-foot waves?

One thing I forgot to mention. Inflatables should be washed and dried carefully after each use. Otherwise they start to stink to high heaven due to water that gets trapped between the sides and the floor. Drying them out is a chore.

White water vs sea…
…Class 3: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe a 3–5 ft drop, but not much considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering. (Skill Level: Experienced paddling skills).

Running a river is not analogous to sea kayaking on one of the Great Lakes. On a river you have shore boundries that will constrain your course to a finite band defined by the topography of the shoreline. You don’t have to contend with breaking waves, rip currents, or winds blowing you off shore.

White water kayaks are distinct from sea kayaks for some of those those reasons.

There have been days when Erie is nearly perfectly flat but an off-shore wind can kick up and pretty soon you are going to start to wonder if you can make that 100 yards back to shore. If not you’ll be spending the next day trying to explain to the Ontario Border Patrol what you’re doing in Leamington without a passport.

Even asking the question if a Sea Eagle kayak would be the ticket suggests to me that it might be better to not hit the Erie waters.

Going out on Erie, one always has to assume the worst and one to three footers on Erie can be a problem for even experience kayakers. I’ve been out on two to four foot days and had less trouble (or fun) than on some of the 1 to 3 ft days where the water had lots of chop. The last time I was out on Erie the waves weren’t particularly big but the chop was knocking me all around. I doubt that I could have handled an inflatable on that day.

In my opinion an inflatable is not appropriate for Erie, especially with a kid along for a ride… but hey, the OP has gotta make that call for himself. I’ll be sure to have my towline with me:)

I am pretty impressed with duckies

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I have a couple of Innovas, a Helios and a Safari. They are well on par with any rec type kayak and find the Helios much nicer to paddle than a Klepper A2. I surf the Safari quite a bit and Innova boats have been used on some pretty impressive trips.Check out www.theboatpeople.com
edit to add, the Innova boats dry out in about an hour and I have no issues with odor.
While I prefer paddling hardshell kayaks, I have taken my bagboats on all types of public transit. http://i167.photobucket.com/albums/u153/tsunamichuck/Facebook/China%20Summer2011/302454_283534675007370_1739844983_n.jpg

Given what you just said, I would suggest a SOT as a better option. And many can be used by 1 or 2 people just by moving the seats.

Thanks for all te advice. I think I am just going to love the one I’m with and keep my existing boat an get float bags for it. Maybe I’ll get an inflatable to travel with as circumstances allow

inflatables on big lakes
You’ll find more folks with direct experience with a range of inflatables (and folding kayaks) over at the folding kayak forum:


Having spent my first 4 years of sea kayaking on another Great Lake and also being familiar with Lake Erie having lived in Western PA most of my life, I have to join with the others in strongly urging you to reconsider any plans to take a cheap inflatable out on one of our inland seas. In fact, when I was living in Michigan, the Coast Guard at one point got so tired of having to retrieve kayakers in incompetent boats who were swept by wind, waves and offshore currents out beyond where they were able to get back to shore, that for a while they were intercepting and banning paddlers in rec boats and inflatables from venturing into the lake in some busy coastal areas. It can be a real challenge to regain the shore on a windy day in a competent sea kayak – trying to drive a bulky and bargelike inflatable in is next to impossible.

You can NOT predict what will happen on Lake Erie, or any other water body of that size so don’t kid yourself about “only going out on nice days”. Did you not hear about the father and young daughter who drowned near Cleveland two months ago after venturing out on a “nice day” in a recreational kayak? I have seen the conditions change within minutes on these lakes. In fact, 2 of my cousins, who had grown up on Lake Michigan and swam in it daily during the warm seasons, both drowned one awful day 20 years ago when a storm materialized out of nowhere while they were body surfing. The sky turned from blue with fluffy white clouds to violent grey and the water went from gentle waves to howling wind and screaming surf, sweeping them away from the sandy beach and smashing them against the breakwaters.

As others have said, whitewater rivers and open sea are two entirely different beasts. The features that make inflatables suitable for rapids go against them on windy open water.

Another thing that you have to consider in paddling Erie is water temperature. This isn’t Florida. The lake rarely gets up even to 70 degrees and in some summers never goes above the 60’s. Average temperatures in June are in the 50’s. Even in the 60’s your autonomic responses are drastically reduced and you can become unconscious if immersed for only a couple of hours. Long before that you would become incapacitated enough to not have the strength to get back in your boat in a capsize in rough water. A closed sit-inside kayak is usually the boat of choice for cooler waters because the sprayskirt keeps your lower body from getting doused. Rec kayaks, besides being short and wide (which makes them a danger in strong waves) tend to have oversized cockpits which cause a spray skirt to implode.

One viable option that would be safe for what you are planning would be folding kayaks. Their rigid frames make a craft that is less susceptible to wind and faster and easier to paddle. Probably the most budget friendly of the seaworthy for someone your size would be the Pakboat XT-15 or Pakboat 155. Both are sort of folder/inflatable hybrids in that they combine a rigid aluminum frame with inflatable side sponsons that keep the skin tight and add flotation. They are light like inflatables and pack down to fit in a car trunk or closet. You also have the option of paddling them with or without the deck, which is removable. You can get a new Pakboat for around $1500 and sometimes they come up for sale used. There are also free instructions for building your own sea-worthy folding or inflatable kayaks at the Yostwerks site (thousands of ordinary people have built them, as you can see in the Gallery on the site).


I’m big to…
I’m 6ft, about 335 lbs (Hey, that’s down from over 425!) and had pretty much the same concerns as you… Not worried about speed, worried about getting back in, worried about it swamping…

I’m wishing now I had waited another month, saved a little more and gotten a decent Sit-On-Top and added some thigh-straps to it.

Self baling (With the scuppers), and no cockpit to try to get back into. It’s not just an issue about the size, but I have a hip/back injury from a car wreck (Why I put the weight on to begin with) that makes it even harder to get in and out of a cockpit.

The inflatable I have now swaps like crazy with no easy way to bail (Short of stopping and sponging it every few minutes). And, there is no way I would try to get back into it on the water. I would hold on and use it as a float and kick to shore.