Toys for the Boys (and Girls)
Summer sailing and fun in the water go hand-in-hand, and there’s nothing like a few water toys to keep younger crews amused in those quiet anchorages. The limited stowage on most sailboats rules out carrying traditional kayaks or windsurfers on board, so we thought we’d try out a selection of inflatable/collapsible playtime gear. As SAIL’s intern, I was volunteered to be the “splash-test dummy” on a sunny spring day in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
With 10 feet of water at the dock and 6-8 knots of breeze, I donned a wetsuit and took my first-ever ocean swim (I’m a Mid-Westerner).
Each item was individually evaluated on quality of construction, performance, ease of setup, and stowability.
I used a 5-star scoring system; “0” means “from the builders of the Titanic”, and “5” means “worth every penny.”
Walker Bay Airis Sport Inflatable Kayak
Weighing less than 30 pounds, the Airis inflates to high rigidity in minutes. A seat back is included, though we used the deluxe seat (sold separately, $99). At 10′ long, the Airis can be conveniently launched from a small sailboat. The sit-on-top Airis is suited to fun exploring, not long-distance kayaking. The beamy underside creates substantial drag so paddling at high speeds is taxing. It doesn’t track perfectly, but it is stable enough for beginners. Its short length makes it highly maneuverable; a 180 turn takes two paddle strokes. The durable hull should be able to weather many a hard landing. Stowed, it’s slightly bulkier than a medium-sized duffle bag, making it a practical accessory for just about any sailboat.
Conclusion: A solidly built, space-efficient toy for all ages.
Sevylor Samoa Paddleboard
This sturdy inflatable is nearly 11′ long and has a beam of 2′ 6″. It is rigid enough to stand on and propel yourself with a paddle (sold separately, $99.99). Balance-challenged? The board can be used just as well sitting or kneeling. The Samoa seems sturdy enough to take tough groundings. It comes with a pump and a backpack-style carrier, and, at 22 lbs, it’s easy to stow.
Conclusion: A good toy for playing around the beach, but it lacks versatility.
This full-on sea kayak is just shy of 17′ long when assembled and features an aluminum-pole skeleton under a durable skin of polyester and Hypalon. The complex setup takes about 20 minutes with practice, but pays dividends on the water. The Cooper tracks well and maintains its speed with minimal effort. While I didn’t use the optional rudder, it may come in handy for long-distance paddling. Weight is under 40 pounds and it folds into a large backpack, but assembly requires a lengthy workspace, at least 25 feet. You’ll need a big boat for that. While the Cooper’s rubberized bottom is built tough, you wouldn’t want to jam it onto a jagged rock. It has inflatable flotation bladders but a swamped kayak isn’t fun. A patch kit is available for $30, and a sprayskirt for rough-water paddling is sold separately for $130.
Conclusion: A solid-performing, stowable kayak for exploring interesting coves and inlets.