I have just purchased and received a brand new Wayland Harpoon I single folding kayak, and wanted to share some of my experiences.
I have been involved in canoeing and kayaking for about ten years. The foray into folding boats started recently, when I acquired a double Folbot Pisces. It is a good boat, and it generated further interest both in folding boats and in kayaks. I then decided to get a single-seat wood-framed touring boat suitable for small lakes, rivers, and large open water, like Lake Superior.
Why a wood-framed boat? The main reason is because I like things made out of wood. All other reasons, such as supposed ease of assembly and field repairs, for example, did not weigh in as much. Hull material was not really an issue for me either. My Pisces has a vinyl hull, and has faired well over the years. All the information that I have looked through made me believe that hypalon and vinyl have very similar wear and aging characteristics, if properly looked after.
Once I decided what I wanted, I started looking around to see what is available, and examined my pockets. There were not that many types of boats of the kind that I was looking for available, either new or used. There were excellent affordable aluminum-framed boats, but they were not what I wanted. What I found out is that wood-frame boats from most of the mainstream manufacturers were out of reach for me financially, either new or used in good shape. Then I noticed the mention of Wayland on folding-kayaks.org.
The company attracted my interest. Way back when I lived in Russia, Polish camping and rec. equipment was considered desirable and top-of-the-line. I checked out their e-bay auctions — most had positive feedback. I snooped around faltbooot.de, and too noticed that Wayland boats and replacement hulls for Kleppers that Wayland was manufacturing generally had positive reviews. I snooped around some of the Polish web sites, and also read mostly positive things about the company and the boats. I then exchanged e-mails and telephoned Wayland (they do speak English). E-mails were usually answered quickly, and the couple of the phone calls were answered in a courteous manner.
From the conversation with the company representative, I found out that the kayak that I was planning to order was the updated model of their existing single-seater, Trapper, which was no longer in production. The main differences appeared to be the improved hull, with built-in sponsoons, improved materials, and lighter frame. According to the company, Harpoon.s frame is about 2 kilos lighter, and the boat is wider by a few inches.
All of this built up my confidence enough to buy a Wayland kayak.
The company e-mailed me the final quote on the kayak, shipping and a couple of extras that I have ordered. They added what appeared to be reasonable shipping charges, and promised that the kayak would be delivered within two weeks of receiving payment.
Making the payment involved trust because Wayland does not accept credit cards. The transaction was performed using a bank wire transfer. The wire transfer to Poland took about 3 days. The total was about $1650 for the boat, spray skirt, a couple of custom-fitted packing bags, carry harness and shipping.
Shipping the kayak was the next step. This is where some delays crept in. For whatever reason, Wayland was not able to ship they kayak right away. To their credit, they stayed in constant contact with me, keeping me abreast as to what was going on. After about a week, the kayak left the factory and was delivered to the shipper. The shipping company, Polamer, handles airfreight to US, but, apparently, operates on “as-filled” basis. They also do not assign tracking numbers until the package enters US. The kayak sat at the shipper for another week or so before it was airlifted to Chicago. Once in Chicago, I was able to get status updates from Polamer fairly regularly. It took the package about 9 days to actually enter the country. Once in the country, the tracking number that was assigned to the package was a UPS tracking number Cool. Four days after the package was assigned a tracking number, it showed up on my doorstep. The delivery took a total of about four and a half weeks between the receipt of the payment and the delivery, just within US credit card shipping laws. All this time Wayland maintained contact with me.
The box that I found on my doorstep was a somewhat large cardboard box, probably larger than I anticipated, heavy, with “Caution, Glass” stickers in Polish and English. It was also a little bit chewed up. I took some pictures, just in case, and proceeded to unpack it.
What was in the package
Inside was a single duffel bag made of what looks like heavy-duty corduroy-type material with orange shoulder and compression straps, made of the same material, and a ton of crimpled Polish newspapers used as packing material. I extracted the case, moved it to the family room, and unzipped it.
The parts inside were neatly stacked, and did not appear to be damaged. Every single part, with the exception of the hull, was separately wrapped in thick layers of plastic. It took me some time to extract all the parts. None of them appeared to be damaged.
The wood parts were well finished, covered in heavy layers of varnish. Ribs were reinforced with aluminum alloy overlays in a number of areas. Overall, wooden parts appeared to be well made.
Most of the metal components, including the snap-locks, were made out of aluminum alloy. They were reasonably finished, but did have an occasional rough edge. The fit and finish of all parts appeared good.
All the items that I have ordered were included. The repair kit had in it the patch material, but lacked the adhesive. The company rep later confirmed that it was omitted due to transport regulations.
Two other items were in the case: the manual and the warranty card. The manual is written using English. That is about as much as could be said about it, although it did contain some useful pictures that came in handy.
The hull impressed me a lot. I do not really know of any other boat that I can reasonably compare it with (that is, I have not seen a lot of folding boats). The bottom part, made of hypalon, was glued neatly, and had protection strips already in place. No loose pieces or glue. Bow part was reinforced and well shaped. Stern part had an aluminum casting molded and bolted to the hull. The top part was made of some sort of synthetic material that resembled canvas. No single area of it was wasted. It was covered all over with little and not-so-little pockets, zippered, rubber-banded and velcroed. There were bottle-holders on both sides of the cockpit. Right behind the cockpit there was a built-in zippered deck bag that sat on top of the rear access hatch. Deck line was all over, with many D-rings sewn in. Inside the hull were the inflatable sponsoons that ran the full length of the hull. The sponsoons appeared to be replaceable, sitting inside a nylon pouch that was attached to the hull. Sponsoons themselves were made out of transparent PVC. Sponsoon tubes did not have valves on them. Instead, old-fashioned plugs were used. I have since installed the NRS valves in their stead.
I assembled the kayak in the family room. Initial assembly took about an hour and a half. Most, but not all, parts were labeled. Front and rear gunwales were different, but were not labeled as such. I had to go back a few times to correct some of the errors. Unfortunately, the manual was not always helpful in figuring out what goes where. Klepper assembly pictures from this site were a great reference, and I was able to put the boat together.
Frame pieces assembled with relative ease. I did not have to resort to the use of any tools, or custom-fit any of the parts. Most of the boat, with the exception of the adjustable seat and the seat-back, assembled using built-in fasteners. Altogether, there were seven loose parts — three screws for the seat, two plugs for sponsoons, and two sliding tubes that mated the two longerons.
The assembled boat looked more like a little u-boat than a kayak, probably due to the hump-like built-in deck bag behind the cockpit. But it did look very nice (subjectively, of course). With sponsoons inflated, the boat was about 27 inches wide. It was about 15 feet long. The hull sat on the frame without any folds or buckles, nicely stretched. I could easily pick up the boat. Overall structure looked and felt very solid. When either the bow or the stern was picked up, the boat flexed a bit, but did not make any threatening sounds, and the hull stayed nice and tight.
The rudder attached with a single lockable pin, and it did not take much to run the control lines, as long as the spray skirt was not attached. Rudder pedals were mounted over the bottom of the third rib. They installed with some effort when the boat was already assembled. The rudder itself appeared like the most home-made part of the boat, but did appear to work.
Getting inside the boat when it was in my family room was easy, although the cockpit was much narrower than in the Pisces. Bottom cushion was nicely padded, and could be adjusted forward or backward. The seat back was comfortable, but could not be adjusted forward.
First teardown took about half an hour. After the teardown, I noticed a few very small aluminum shavings inside the hull. They stopped appearing after about the second assembly.
Because I had a hard time lifting the single factory-supplied bag with all the parts, I broke the boat up into two bags. The first, factory-supplied bag contains the skin and one or two of the longest frame pieces. The second bag contains the rest of the kayak.
First Field Assembly
The first time I got the kayak into the water was at a nearby lake. My wife and son accompanied me in their hard-shell kayaks. We managed to get out to the lake rather late, about an hour or so before the sunset. The weather was warm and quiet, without a hint of wind.
The assembly took about twenty minutes or so. My son was helping me out by bringing different parts over when needed, and holding the hull up when I was inserting the front and back sections of the frame into the hull. We assembled the kayak on the small lawn bordering the lake shore. With the experience of the first assembly behind me, the second one was very uneventful.
For the first outing I did not install the rudder, but did install the pedal assembly. This time, I attached it before I inserted the front half of the frame into the hull.
I also installed the spray skirt. It was made of a vinyl-backed corduroy material, and attached to the side washboards using Velcro. It had a side emergency release strip, which is also held together by several rows of Velcro. This was different from hard-shell kayaks, where the paddler actually wears the skirt, but appeared to be functional.
First time in the water, no rudder
The assembled kayak weighed about 60 pounds, so I was able to pick it up myself and carry it to the water.
On the water, entry into the kayak proved to be more challenging than in the family room. At 15. long and about 27. wide, the boat was long and narrow, and had low initial stability. I did not have much experience with kayaks that are so narrow and seemingly unstable. As a result, it took me a few tries to master a dry entry.
Once I was in the kayak, it was very easy to paddle and easy to control. With me in it, the initial stability improved. The final stability was good, provided by the inflated sponsoons. When paddling, the boat felt stiff and solid, without any squeaks or creaks. It accelerated fast, and was able to maintain speed without much effort, and glided for a long distance when I stopped paddling. While I did not have any scientific methods for establishing how fast it was, but I do believe that this boat was fast, most likely comparable to the touring kayaks of similar size.
The boat tracked well, both at low and high speed. I did not have to pay any extra attention to keep it moving straight, even without the rudder. Turning it required some effort, but was still reasonably easy.
Sitting position was good, and I was able to find bracing support against one of the ribs. The bottom seat cushion was firm, but comfortable. My PFD had a full back on it, so my sitting position was somewhat forward and upright, but that did not seem to cause much discomfort. Because the cockpit is somewhat narrow and I am somewhat broad-shouldered and broad-waisted, turning around inside was a little tight. With the boat as narrow as it was, I was able to use my fiberglass 220 paddle, something that I could not do in the Pisces.
The spray skirt provided good protection, and generally did not get in the way. Inside of the boat stayed dry throughout the whole trip. Entering the boat with the spray skirt attached required some getting used to, but otherwise did not cause any problems. Because of all the extra pockets, the deck tended to accumulate some spray water, but none got inside, and at the end of the trip I just shook it off. While keeping the water out, the deck material appeared to be breathable, because I stayed relatively cool throughout the whole trip.
All the deck pockets proved to be very useful. My hydration pack went into the rear deck, and the tube extended enough forward to be usable. Extra paddle went into the paddle deck pockets, camera into one of the side zippered pockets, and the pump was secured by the deck line. About the only pockets that were empty were the axe and shovel pockets in the bow part of the deck.
We spent a total of about two hours paddling in a quiet weather on a mirror-like lake. The boat showed good speed and easy handling. When going through an occasional powerboat wake, the kayak stayed steady, and appeared fairly rigid. Overall, it was a satisfying first experience.
Rudder and wind handling
The next time I took the kayak out, it was windy, and the water was a little choppy. I decided to install the rudder, to see if it would help handling the kayak in the wind.
The rudder attaches to the cast aluminum bracket that is molded into and bolted to the rear of the hull. There were a total of three lines . double line lifting line and the two turn lines. All the lines were run through the d-rings conveniently installed on the deck. The right washboard had a little cleat for securing the lifting line. Turn lines are routed through the holes in the rear washboard, over the seat back and over rib #4 before being attached to pedals.
I am about 5.6. and rather proportional (according to my wife). I found out that even with the seat positioned all the way forward and the extra back cushioning of my PFD, the pedals were mounted too far away, and required me to stretch to operate them. I have since discussed this with the factory, and found out that they do have an extension kit consisting of two additional brackets that allow the pedal assembly to be mounted closer to the seat. The factory rep expressed some disappointment that this important detail was omitted during the ordering process, and has informed me that they were mailing me the parts so that I could install them myself. I expect these parts to show up in about two months or so.
The rudder lifting line operated well. With the full assembly installed and all lines attached, it did not require any effort to either raise or lower the rudder, and the process was rather smooth, comparable with several hard-shell rudder systems that I have used.
With its tapered sides and low profile, the kayak did not seem to be affected by the wind much, even without the rudder. I tried paddling for a little while into the wind without lowering the rudder, and found out that, by-and-large, the boat continued to track straight, and was not blown off-course. When moving at an angle to the wind, it did take some attention to maintain course.
Lowering the rudder made the boat even more controllable. Turns became much easier and more predictable, and the kayak maintained the heading even when moving at an angle to the wind. The only issue was the discomfort stretching to operate rudder pedals.
Going over the chop, the boat felt very solid. The skin remained tight, and I the frame was solid, and did not flex much. The nose of the kayak got wet, with some waves swamping it, but the inside remained dry.
I have taken the kayak out about 7 times, assembling and disassembling it every time. The frame hardware has held up well so far, and the assembly became very predictable and routine. As I learned how to handle this boat, each of the follow-on trips became more and more enjoyable.
There was one unpleasant problem that has occurred so far, and that, I believe, was partially due my mishandling of the boat. On one of the trips, we made several shore landings. During these landings, I opened the rear access hatch several times without deflating sponsoons, while the skin was still tight. When I got to the final destination, and was disassembling the boat, I noticed that one of the rear hatch zippers was damaged, and several teeth were ripped out. The damage could have occurred either when I was closing the zipper, or while it was closed, after it was weakened by being opened and closed under stress.
I.ve gotten in contact with the factory rep, and he told me that yes, indeed, I was supposed to deflate sponsoons before opening the rear hatch. This is probably one area where the boat was unprepared for the US market; common sense notwithstanding, it lacked a warning sticker in the right spot on the hull. Nevertheless, the rep was very helpful, and several options were discussed, including, yes, the factory repair. None of the options were really acceptable for me, because I wanted to continue using the kayak. I also did not want to subject the hull to any major surgery such as zipper replacement.
Instead, I obtained a $5.00 zipper repair kit that contained several zipper terminating brackets. I closed the zipper in both damaged and undamaged areas, and installed a couple of these brackets over the tear, and then additionally sawed it up with a nylon thread. As a result, I still have an operable rear hatch, although I lost about 1/3 of the range on one of the zippers.
The hatch zippers are the only two on the boat that stay under stress. Since the break, I viewed both of these zippers with suspicion. Somehow I think that this problem may come back. I only use the rear hatch when there is no air in sponsoons; and have installed NRS valves to simplify this process as soon as they arrived. The factory rep has indicated the issue with these zippers is something that has been reported to them previously, and that they are working on addressing it.
The only other addition I made to the boat so far was the front and rear flotation bags, as extra insurance. The nylon/urethane bags from Gaia are a near perfect fit into the bow and stern areas.
Despite the mishap with the hatch zipper, I am happy with the boat, and continue to use it frequently. It is easy to assemble and disassemble; transportable, especially in two bags; and is fast and fun on the water. Quality of most of the materials used for frame and hull are good; hull assembly is very good; frame is solid and well made, although some parts have a rough feel to them. It remains to be seen how well it will fare over time.
The company appears to stand behind the product, despite being on the other side of the globe. If I was ordering this boat again, I would probably have them add the pedal extenders right away and delete the rear access hatch, despite the convenience, to avoid some of the weakest points that popped up so far. If this boat holds up well, I would consider buying one of their doubles for our family trips in a year or two. For the light-to-medium duty touring that we do, Wayland appears to be a reasonable compromise for a wood-framed boat.