A Look at The Atlyak
The Atlyak was the last version of a boat that was introduced several years ago as the Atlatl. It was manufactured in China by entrepeneur Ning Wang, and shares construction and design features with many of the boats currently on the market. I obtained a number of samples from Ning back in 2008 for test and evaluation.
The boat arrived in a well-made backpack of cordura nylon.
The pack is of heavier material than some of the boats I’ve looked at recently, and should last with ordinary care. It’s not as heavy as the bags from (for example) Long Haul, but this is not boat designed for expedition use. There’s also a repair kit, and an assembly manual that’s a bit sparse in detail but seems to cover all the important details.
Opening the bag revealed what appeared on first glance to be a tangle of separate tubes:
but further unpacking revealed that nearly all the tubes were shock corded together, and the tube assemblies were all bolted to the bow section, making the total number of parts relativley few in number.
There are only four ribs, and after some furtive searching for rib identification letters or numbers I realized that the ribs are of only two different shapes and hence interchangeable- the smaller ones go in at the ends of the boat, and the larger ones in the middle. Simple. Consequently the initial assembly of the boat went very quickly.
The final assembly is a bit trickier. The manual is somewhat skimpy on detail, but anyone who has assembled one of the newer Folbots will be able to figure this out. The sternpiece of the frame is pretty much a dead ringer for the Folbot piece:
and functions in the same manner. Overall construction is of somewhat lighter materials; if you look at the rectangular piece next to the nylon screw jack, you’ll see that it’s bent a bit from previous assemblies. It flexed a bit more during my assembly but didn’t seem to be in danger of failing. Still, this may be a part worth keeping an eye on. A characteristic of aluminum is that flexing below yield strength will eventually lead to failure, and this piece might well develop cracks over time.
Compared to the similar Folbots, the fititngs and attachments on the Atlyak are a bit lighter and simpler. The sponsons and inflation tubing are a bit thinner, the tubing a bit lighter, and so forth. Overall, though, the boat appears to be a solid and safe craft, suitible for recreational use.
The hull has a synthetic canvas deck, and a laminated PVC hull with a few reinforcing strips laid inside and out over the seams. The strips aren’t continuous, but are in sections, overlapped at points along the hull. Perhaps this has something to do with the supplies of material availible, or with the manufacturing methods.
The gluing is good, and I didn’t see any signs of seperation.
As in similar boast form Folbot, Pouch and Nautiraid, the hull is open from the cocpit to the stern. The assembled frame is slid into the hull via this opening, and expanded to tension the frame within the hull. The open rear deck is then zipped closed, and the rear deck is folded up and tied like a dry bag. This may not be completely watertight but should keep out water from splashes and breaking waves.
As you can see from the photos, the overall design is similar to the Feathercaft boats and the newer Folbots, with one difference- two padded rails alongside the cockpit that are similar to those seen on the newer Pouch single. These would be a help to snyone trying to roll the boat.
The cockpit coaming installs in a wy similar to earlier Feathercrafts, but is of usnusual construction. It’s a flat, hinged assembly made of fiberglass, heavier than the molded comaings found on the Feathercrafts.
The fabric surrounding the cockpit is wrapped around the rim, and a cord at the rear of the cockpit is pulled tight and knotted to secure it. It moves around a bit, even after securing, but should be sufficient to hold the supplied spray skirt in place.
The seat is a thickly padded one, long enough to support the paddler’s thighs, and should please most paddlers. If anything, it may be too thick. Experienced paddlers might prefer a thinner seat so that they might sit a little lower in the boat.
Assembled boat impressions
The 12′ length of the Atlyak puts it in the class of compact boats, and the small cockpit dictates that the boat will be used by those of smaller stature. The cockpit opening is about 14″ wide, but the padded rails eitehr side of the cokcpit are are barely 12″ apart, and the deck is 12″ high at its highest point. Even if I could squeeze in, my feet wouldn’t make it more than halfway to the footrest.
On Water Testing
I haven’t had one of my crew test it on water yet- they’ll all up north or on trips- but Ralph Diaz, in his review of the original Atlatl kayak in Canoe and Kayak magazine, said that “The boat tracks quite well, as well as many much longer boats. Turning is also easy. It does not weathercock or get drawn into beam or quartering winds or waves. Stability seems solid. Speed is impressive for a kayak less than 13 feet.” I hope to have some of my local crew add to this report in the near future.
The Atlyak is, for the most part, a well made boat, though a few areas could use some attention and perhaps strengthening. At a retail price of $995, it competes with the very similar $1645 Folbot Kiawah, and the $890 Pakboats Puffin and upcoming 12′ Arrow model. The Folbot costs significantly more, but has the advantage of a stronger hull and frame, and the well-known Folbot warranty service. The Pakboats have the advantage of a more established dealer network and reputation.