Pakboats Puffin II and the Pouch ‘Single 2000’ E68
Five Sodium Granules
To help number the grains of salt with which to take this exercise in contrast and comparison, I offer the following information:
- I’ve probably spent 40 to 60 hours in the Puffin and well over 100 in E68. I never really spent much energy trying to count the hours and minutes, nor have I carefully recorded the number of times I’ve been paddling in either boat. At work the drill is, “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen,” which is fine when you may be pressed to give evidence, but is kind of a torment when you just want to monkey around in a boat
- I’m about 42 years old. 42, according to a once popular fiction, is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. I’m reasonably fit, on my tallest days attain a measurable height of 5’10” (or, in paddle lengths, 177.8 cm), weigh in at a whopping 175 lbs. (79.4 kg), and have crooked teeth with marginal facial symmetry.
- My prior regular on-water experience was as a teenager, surfing the South Bay area with occasional extended trips to other parts of the state, as well as Baja, Mexico. I normally used longer boards – holdovers from the 1960s.
- My prior kayaking experience was a miserable group activity with my Seventh Grade class on a weekend trip to Toyon School at the Catalina Isthmus. We used heavy, conically ended, symmetrical fiberglass kayaks that were coming apart in the middle. I believe mine was duct-taped together. I couldn’t manage the sprayskirt, and got soaked. I fell behind. At the weekend’s closing campfire I received a certificate for Hardest Working Kayaker. If I can find it, I’ll scan and post it.
- I came to kayaking as an adult the way hit-bottom alcoholics come to AA – find another way to live, die, or go nuts. My job was one that could not be done as written, and as-written changed whenever the agency got bad press in the Tennessean. My wife and I had been on the infertility diagnosis and treatment treadmill for what seemed like ever, and I’d about had it. At an adoption/infertility seminar, we met another couple who had an inflatable Sevylor tandem, and that was enough to plant the seed that grew into the kayak tree. The last time we saw them, they apologized to my wife.
After internet research and some contentious budget negotiations with that beloved wife of mine, I bought a new Pakboats Puffin II with a tandem spray-deck in May 2005. The PII offered what for us was the best mix of price, warranty, packability/portability, weight/length, ease of assembly, and fairly short assembly time.
The Pakboats Puffin II is a 14’, open-decked, symmetrical kayak with an aluminum frame for which both one-piece single and three-piece tandem spraydecks are available for additional cost from the manufacturer. No rudder is available for this boat. The PII may be paddled tandem or solo, depending on thwarted rib placement during assembly. The PII is light, around 30 to just under 40 pounds in weight, but has a carrying capacity of 400 lbs. The hull of every Pakboat is made of PVC. The PII comes from the factory with keel and chine reinforcement strips, as well as a repair kit that includes color hull material, bottom material, sponson material, as well as glue and plastic caps for the sponsons. says of the PII:
The most versatile Puffin. It can handle two paddlers with gear for the day or one with enough gear for a week or two. As a solo it can also be rigged with a deck that will support a spray skirt. Or, a 3-piece deck offers two paddling positions, but does not support spray skirts. Like the other Puffins the Puffin II is a recreational boat and is not intended for very rough conditions although waves occasionally washing over the deck do not pose a problem.
I bought my PII new, direct from the manufacturer, making use of the contact information found on the company’s website. Buying direct enabled me to speak with the firm’s owner and the boat’s designer, Alv Elvestad, who was able to answer all my questions. Alv is an interesting and knowledgeable guy, and time spent in conversation with him is time well-spent.
Solo Boat Wanted
The first time I assembled the Puffin, my wife looked at the kayak and said, “I like this boat!” It turned out, however, that my wife didn’t want to get up at five a.m. every Saturday morning to explore the local rivers and lakes with me, and I pretty quickly decided I wanted a very stout, dedicated solo kayak. My wife tends to prefer creative outlets like scrapbooking. I looked for an addition to the fleet.
Pouch “Single 2000”
I purchased my E68 used, direct from Ralph Hoehn, North American importer of Pouch folding kayaks, after noticing the announcement on his site http://www.pouchboats.com that he sometimes had used or demo-R&D boats for sale. I phoned Ralph, who was able to answer all my questions about the boat, as well as being someone with whom it was a pleasure to exchange thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects including, but not limited to, folding kayaks.
The Pouch E68, or Single 2000, is a 16.5’, decked, asymmetrical kayak for which a rudder is available. It has a maximum carrying capacity of just over 441 lbs. The E68 is intended for solo paddling, and it weighs a lot. Pouchboats.com reports the kayak weighs 42 lbs. with the PVC hull, which is the version I’ve got. I can heft 40 lbs. with ease, but I would estimate this kayak’s weight is closer to 60 lbs., which includes seat, seat-back, and keel reinforcement strips, but does not include seasock, extra floatation, bottles of Gatorade, a lunch, a paddle, a compass (like I really need one for these small lakes and rivers still, it’s nice to know the wind direction and which way one is paddling), a bilge-pump, a boat-sponge, and, of course, actual bilge-water.
The following description comes from http://www.folding-kayaks.com, as Pouch no longer appears to manufacture or list the E68 for sale on their website
This kayak design is based on traditional shapes and forms of Poucher kayaks. It differs from all other kayaks by its completely redesigned frame. It is possible to assemble the frame outside the skin, insert it into the skin and close it faster than ever. This is also due to the improved new fittings of the boat. The whole frame is specially varnished. It consists of the following materials: Frame: Wood, Stringers of Ash; Ribs of Birch; fittings: high graded steel, Skin hull: synthetic fabric with Trevira synthetic fabric, deck: BRETEX, waterproof, breathable, resistant to degeneration.
For a more detailed discourse on the Single 2000, begin reading at http://www.pouchboats.com/e68.html and follow the related links. Aside from my impression of the boat’s weight, and I have not actually weighed the one I’ve got, I concur with everything Ralph’s got to say about this amazingly cool boat.
Both boats arrived at my door within about a week of ordering. I assembled the PII using the instructions that came with the kayak. The E68, as an experiment, I assembled the first time without making use of instructions. Although the kayak’s assembly is pretty straightforward, by the time the E68 arrived, I’d read so much about the boat and studied a lot of frame pictures and other material at http://www.pouch-inoffiziell.de, I had no trouble putting the boat together.
The P2 still takes me about 25 to 30 minutes to assemble, and the E68 about 45 to 55 minutes, both without rushing. Unless the gunwale rods on the PII are nearly perfectly matched on left and right sides, insertion of the gunwale terminators will result in the keel and stems being either uninstallable or irretrievably crooked rendering complete assembly impossible. Contrary to what I have read from another PII owner, the sponsons will burst if an attempt is made to overinflate them, as I learned when a friend took literally my statement about the approximate number of pumps it would take to fill the top sponsons on either side of the boat.
The wood-framed E68 assembles with relative and consistent ease. The few problems I have had with assembling the Pouch have to do with my orienting the gunwale halves left to right, left to right, as opposed to left to left, right to right, and the fact that the skin seems to shrink sometimes between uses. I’ve had to stand on the stern while grasping the rudder bracket on three unpleasant occasions to force the frame into the skin. I purchased a rubber mallet this Spring, but have so far not had to use it. Skin shrinkage on this boat is also documented by Hartmut Henkel at his definitively excellent site for this boat – http://www.pluennenkreuzer.de (His assembly and other photos are outstanding – I’m obsessed with looking at pictures of folding kayaks). Other problems with the Pouchboat include that the finish of the kayak’s metal quarter-turn fasteners, as well as a number of the frame’s wood screws show some rust, and a tendency for the Bretex covering the bulb or piping on either side of the stern skin opening to tear or wear through as a result of sliding the aluminum closure tubes over the velcro-shut opening. I’ve taken a Dreml with wire-brush attachment to them, then applied some lubricant, which has made an improvement. The latter issue is documented in my E68 Sewing Project album.
Disassembly requires less time than assembly for each kayak. Normally, I try to dry them out and wipe them down with a towel after use and before packing. I don’t have a protected place to store my boats assembled, so must make due with drying them off as I have a chance. Also, I don’t cartop them because experience with surf-racks, as a kid, taught me that racks will tend to mar an automobile’s finish. Not to mention loading and unloading the boats.
The boats share a small barn (not the red one you can see in a photo in one of my albums on the main site) in my backyard. Here in the American South, vestiges of our agrarian origins remain in the form of these small, barn-shaped sheds (called, as you might expect, mini-barns) and riding lawn mowers built to resemble small tractors. Some of these small machines cost as much or more than a top-of-the-line folding kayak or a good used car. As you may have noticed from one of my albums, I don’t take a lot of pride in having a beautifully clipped lawn. My neighbors, a part of whose house is visible in one of the photos, take an almost obsessive pride in their yard, flowering plants, and beautifying accents. They rarely speak to us. I am tempted to purchase a garden gnome or, possibly, one of those rustic painted three-quarter sized deer statues to accentuate the eccentric character of our yard.
The Puffin fits, with its two seats, air pump, cloth-covered fiberglass stays (4) and three-piece spraydeck, as well as the standard black nylon end-pieces, in one green nylon duffle bag. The bag’s shoulder strap is good for securing the hull rolled up around the folded keel, gunwale rods, and chines. The bag is not durably made, and after only half a season’s use, one of the ribs had worn a small hole where the gunwale clamp rubbed against the bag during packing, transportation, unloading or a combination thereof. Recently, a fastening tensioner for one of the bag’s two compression straps broke as I tightened it.
The Pouch boat did not ship with its original packing bag, but in a large cardboard Frankenbox. The female UPS driver who delivered the boat to my home as her last delivery of the day said, ‘I am so ready to have that thing off my truck I’ve been hauling it around since six this morning.’ She made the remark with wry good humor, but was visibly unimpressed when I tried to explain to her that what she’d delivered was a folding kayak, and not just some heavy object in a makeshift box.
I keep the skin, ribs, seat, and seatback in one foreign army duffle bag, and the keel, gunwales, and other long pieces in an oversized black duffle I had a relative purchase for me from Cheerful Al’s Union War Surplus in San Pedro, California. I’ve been told that a large sail-bag might better suit the purpose, but until I can find one conveniently located and priced, the long pieces will remain in the black bag. The hinged coaming, shaped like a tall, shallow ‘C’ when folded, is the most awkward bit to pack, and it often catches on shelves or folded-down seatbacks when stored or loaded in the car. I secure everything with a bungee around black-bag’s waist. It is one of two cords, already old when acquired by me, that I used to secure the hood of the now sadly deceased 1979 diesel VW Rabbit four-speed in which I motored cross-country from Portland, Oregon to Tennessee about 12 years ago.
On the water, the Puffin II tracks well and moves swiftly when paddled as a tandem boat. Its three-piece spraydeck’s installation is counter-intuitive, and it did not ship with directions for installation. It also requires placement of thwarted ribs and seats in a configuration that is not detailed in the boat’s instruction manual. Once successfully attached however, the deck keeps the boat’s interior dry, but there is not much space under the deck for feet and knees. I have no idea whether this is true of the single spraydeck, as I do not have one. My experience with the Puffin is that it is best paddled tandem. It moves handily enough, is maneuverable using directional strokes, is so stable with all four sponsons inflated that leaning the boat to turn did not occur to one.
Paddled solo, the PII has a strong tendency to weathercock, but does not seem the least destabilized by wind, chop, or boat wakes from any direction. Said stability applies also when paddled tandem. Part of the reason the PII weathercocks so markedly is that when paddled solo, it has a lot of rocker. When I say rocker, think, ‘Potato Chip.’ An evenly distributed load in bow and stern would probably help to counteract this tendency, for instance, camping gear for a weekend or longer trip.
On a recent Saturday, a friend from church used the PII his first time paddling a kayak of any type. My friend, though unused to the exertions of kayaking, showed excellent and uncomplaining endurance. After lunch, I suggested we switch boats, so that he’d have an easier time paddling and have the opportunity to use a couple of different boats.
When I took my seat in the PII, I was immediately struck by the vessel’s BOUYANCY, as well as the comfort of its inflatable seat. I’ve thought about trying to attach a Puffin seat to the E68, but have not yet done so. The Pouch feels like its gliding through the water, whereas the Puffin feels like it’s riding on top of the water. I had trouble getting the PII to go in a straight line, and it’s much harder to use torso rotation to propel the Puffin. That’s because there’s really nothing to push off against with one’s feet, although a foot-rest is available for all the Puffin models from Pakboats. When I stopped paddling, the Puffin quickly slowed and began to turn in the direction dictated by the wind and the lopsidedness of my own weight distribution vis-à-vis the seat.
Here’s a photo of both boats illustrating no-rocker v. rocker.
The E68 is my “go to” boat for solo paddling. It is heavy, it moves quickly when paddled using proper form at a high angle. The E68 glides for a long way after that last paddle stroke, and tracks straight except for my own lopsidedness in the cockpit. The E68 can be leaned way over to initiate turns. The Pouch does annoy me by trying to turn into beam winds, but remains manageable even though I am still a somewhat inexpert paddler. I have never used the rudder that came with this boat because I think it will add time and complexity to the assembly process; I think I should learn to control the boat with paddle and body-English (or pidgin in my case) before trying out the rudder; the control lines are not long enough to reach the pedal lines to which they are supposed to connect. Another E68 owner with whom I’ve corresponded told me he’d had the same problem and adapted some small-link chain from a hardware store to span the gaps.
The E68’s Bretex (apparently a form of waterproof, breathable nylon available primarily in Europe) deck has faded significantly from the brilliant red depicted at the Pouchboats.com website to a sort of reddish, coral pink. Said fading of the red Bretex fabric appears to be a documented bug. My names for things tend to derive from their colors (i.e. Blueboat, Goldcar, Whitecar, Redboat), but I didn’t want to default to the sort of unimaginative goofiness you see so often at marinas (i.e., Redboat II). So I paddled the nameless E68 as a vision-quest, supposing the boat or circumstances would reveal an appropriate name. As it turned out, growing on the rock footings of a causeway crossing Woods Reservoir, in Franklin County, I saw a flowering vine the blossom of which matched my boat’s faded deck, Campsis Radicans.
What the Pakboats Puffin II and Pouch E68 have in common is that they are two well-designed folding kayaks, and that I’ve got one of each. They are two very different boats, each intended to fill a different paddling niche, and from my perspective, each fulfills its purpose very well.