Yesterday I spent the day at the sea with a friend, taking his FeatherCraft Gemini for it.s maiden voyage. The weather was gorgeous, we were launching and landing at rocky beaches, and the sea was mild. Swells were about 2 feet, and there was a mild surf breaking on the beaches. Shipping lanes and commercial fishing were nearby (co-located, actually), which generated some swells up to 5 or 6 feet and occasional medium waves breaking on the beaches. The ocean here is warmed by the Japan Current (I think that’s what it’s called) and the water temperature is reportedly 21 degrees or more from April to December. My experience on this November weekend would seem to bear that out; the water was quite comfortable without any special gear. We paddled for about 2 hours. For those who know Japan: we were at the South end of Miura peninsula, straight south of Tokyo, near Jogashima.
My friend’s FC Gemini is actually a 2002 model. I believe that’s the first year that they were offered. The workmanship could not be better. The design is excellent, with both a retractable skeg and a retractable rudder built in as standard. It fits in a single, medium-sized bag (as bag boats go), and weighs just 23 Kg. This 50-pound package is extremely portable, compared to any other 18-foot folding double that I know of. It comes with a standard cart that is fitted to the bag, and also converts for use with the assembled boat. The cart is not very good (wheels too small, frame to flexible and flimsy), but it is very stowable, and it is very nice that it is included with the boat. I understand that there is a backpack-style bag also available, at extra cost.
Setup took us over an hour, as most folding boats seem to the first time (or, in this case, the second). I’ll venture a guess that the time required could go down to 25 minutes with practice/proficiency.particulary with two regular partners. This is strictly a guess, but that guess would break down to 15 minutes for the boat, and another 10 minutes for attaching seats, etc., to the deck. As I commented in a previous post, I feel that the attaching of the seats is the clumsy aspect of the assembly process. There are just three longitudinal frame members, with all horizontal structure provided by the four large, longitudinal air chambers. Those air chambers fill very quickly with the large double-action pump that comes with the boat.
When we first launched, my friend didn’t have the rudder deployed. I am significantly heavier, I was in the front seat, and we alternated between circling left and circling right. We deployed both the rudder and the skeg, and from then on the boat was very seaworthy and seemed to track pretty well. I did not take a turn in the back seat. The boat moves quite swiftly through the water, and is surprisingly dry. I can.t be sure, since we didn.t get into any radical situations (aside from the ships and fishing boats playing chicken with us.no kidding. In the US, I would be reporting them to the Coast Guard.) It seemed to me that the boat is very seaworthy, with a strong tendency towards dynamic stability, as opposed to initial stability. I prefer my boats to emphasize dynamic stability although, owning a Klepper A2 and a Puffin, I’m usually blessed with an abundance of initial stability. Despite wakes and surf from bad angles, we never had a nervous moment. It slices through the water, and waves, very nicely.
My reservations include the amount of stowage space and the apparent lack of an arrangement for a single paddler. Even with our simple warm-weather, daytripping load, we were pressed for stowage options. I solved our biggest problem by strapping my drybag behind my seat, and ahead of his feet, which does highlight one of the nice aspects of the boat: we whacked paddles several times but, in general, there is quite good seperation between the front and rear paddles, so synchronization isn.t as crucial as in many doubles. I would guess we had over 400 pounds on the boat, and I don’t think it was even breathing hard handling that weight.as befits an 18 foot double. This boat is kept from being quite a good expedition boat only by the stowage issue.
My other reservation is that I think the boat would be severely compromised by the deflation of one of the outer two air chambers. This bothers me, and I would think long and hard about it before buying the boat. This boat is really a hybrid between an inflatable and a folder. I see deflation of air chambers as issue affecting almost all bagboats. I have had deflations of the sponsons in both of the folders that I own.surprisingly, it was the Klepper whose behavior became dangerous in this circumstance. At the same time, my two manufacturers, as far as I know, are the only ones that have answers to the issue of sponson deflation. Klepper and Long Haul have Quattro versions, which have redundant sponsons on each side (Long Haul sells redundant sponsons that any A2 owner can retrofit if serious paddling or sailing is going to be undertaken.I haven.t gone this route, but I probably should). Pakboats just introduced new sponsons for the Puffins which I have not seen, but have had described to me, that sound like the definitive answer to this issue. Each of the two sponsons in a Puffin now has two parallel separately-inflated air-chambers, which are also patchable. Although this has added as much as 20% to the weight of new Puffins, I agree with Pakboats that the improvement is well worth it.s weight. As far as I know, none of the other manufacturers have addressed this issue, either, which leads me to feel that any strong criticism of FeatherCraft on this score would be unwarranted.
Whom do I think this boat would be best for? That’s pretty easy: A couple living in a warm-water area that wants to be able to do day paddles.together.and occasionally take their boat with them on an airplane, and who has a car with a large trunk. Why a large trunk? Because I think you could leave the seats mostly attached if you were not trying to fit the hull into the bag, and thereby make it a very fast-to-assemble boat. It.s a really nice ride.
— chris t.