Pontoons

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John Monroe

Pontoons

Post by John Monroe »

Hi

Has anyone actually sailed with Balough blow up pontoons and Folbot blow up pontoons and can give a comparison in performance and other pros and cons. Or have any thoughts on other ama’s. I started with home built pontoons and soon found out it didn’t have enough buoyancy while sailing in high winds. Then I started building larger sleek foam/fiberglass pontoons but quit because they were too big to store inside my kayak when I wanted to brake down the sails and pontoons and switch to just paddling. Folbot pontoons kinda skim over the water until you get into heavier winds. You can see the pontoons starting to push water at 4.5 mph. In very high winds Foldbot pontoons rise up about 45 degrees and holds their bow high. I have heard other say that Balough pontoons can swivel upside down at times.

John
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Alm

Re: Pontoons

Post by Alm »

I had Folbot amas (pontons, whatever) installed on 2 different kayaks, and happily sold those amas together with Folbot leeboard. Now I'm using Balogh amas and leeboard.

Folbot amas:
Cons:
Their system of attachment (strapped to plastic plates with short end-tubes) results in a significant dangling/rotating by a few degrees around the tube. Also, the angle changes with time because plastic plates bend irreversibly due to stress, temperature cycles, and generally due to plastic degradation when exposed to the elements. So, the performance suffers - I don't think a lot, but it does. If your amas lift their nose by 45 degrees in heavy wind, this might be due to shaky tubes (they are shaky on Folbot rig, because of push-buttons and also shaky attachment system of J-bolts in aluminum coaming) - and not due to amas itself. Folbot amas are short, I don't think they can fold/wrap around the tube (when inflated) so that the ama's nose will point up to the sky.

Also, plastic plates (that amas are attached to) and end-tubes are cumbersome pieces under deck or in airline luggage, despite deflated amas.

Pros:
Cheap.
Protective shells - they increase drying time, (and, I suspect, decrease the performance due to wrinkles), but they also wear off before the actual amas do, which is good.
Easy to install - but I wouldn't trust Folbot system of J-bolts via aluminum coaming, this contributes to overall system "play". Besides, one-for-all angle and height above the water for all boats is a nonsense. The angle should be about 8-9 degrees, and the height - such that both amas would lightly touch the water without wind (though, waterline of fully loaded boat differs from a slightly loaded one, so the height will have to be averaged according to your most frequent payload, with any model of amas).

Folbot leeboard - it simply doesn't work. Too small for upwind sailing, too shaky, inefficient cross-section of the blade (just a cut of aluminum plate), and corrosion-prone parts in the "collar" that the blade sits on.

Balogh yellow amas: there are very light yellow amas (consider them a "spare tire", they are not for frequent heavy use), and regular yellow amas. I have regulars.
Balogh black amas - those are made of heavy-duty material (unfortunately only in black colour at the moment), though regular yellow ones are not beach toys either.

Cons: no protective shell. But this is also a "pro", as tight smooth surface improves performance. After 2 serious multiday trips with heavily loaded boat I have some abrasions at the amas bottoms, may be will "paint" the scratches with Aquaseal, though Balogh says not to.
Also, as a preventive measure, I glued a patch of the amas spare material on the top where ama is rubbing against the crossbar tube and a sacrificial strip of duct tape over the patch (other users put duct tape strip alone, which might be sufficient).

Takes a lot of careful measuring and drilling to install them at the proper angle. If your boat is Folbot, you won't have much choice in height, since Balogh mounts for Folbot are usually plastic pieces of fixed height, not struts that you can cut to your liking. Having struts with Balogh rig on Folbot is possible, but might not be necessary.

Pros:
Good hydrodynamic shape, very tight (when you use provided pump, which I do), thus performance is good too. They slide over the surface, holding the angle perfectly well, without "nosediving", "nose-lifting" or other nasty tricks. (Amas turning upside down are those made by Feathercraft, not Balogh, I read such a report about FC amas. Sorry to say, but FC sail rig parts compare poorly against Balogh, despite the cost higher than Balogh's).

Compact when deflated. Wrapped around the tube with folded struts , you can shove it under the deck bungees or put under deck if there is enough room.

John Monroe

Re: Pontoons

Post by John Monroe »

Thanks for that very complete descriptive comparison between the Balough and Folbot pontoons. You are probably one of the very few persons that have tried both. I've spent only one season sailing with the Folbot ama's, so as I sail this season I will consider if I want to change over to Balough pontoons and re-rig my pontoon setup that would effect my leeboard and homemade struts. Folbots aka's are 1 1/4" dia while Balough's are 1 3/8" dia I believe. Through trial and error I have the height of my pontoons to the water just right for me and my home made struts are like Balough's but heaver duty and the center cross bar is forward enough so as not to interfere with my paddling.

I used to have a leeboard and rudder that were too small and made going up wind difficult. I made a foil shaped leeboard NACA 009 and a NACA 0012 rudder that has made a huge difference going to wind, but they are somewhat large. The leeboard has 36" of wetted surface and the rudder has 18" under the water. The result is I can sail 40 degrees off the wind. I checked and re-checked that with a mounted compass.

So I am mostly happy with my setup but maybe not so much with the Folbot pontoons.

Again thanks for all the good information,

John

Alm

Re: Pontoons

Post by Alm »

No problem. Yes, Folbot akas have 1/8" thinner diameter than Balogh's, but it is their system of push-buttons (and system of attachment to the boat via J-bolts, which you are not using) that affects the performance (and also the above mentioned plastic console holding the ama). There is a lot of "play" on these push-button joints, and there are 2 joints per each "arm". Balogh only has 1 joint per arm, and it is a thin ball-pin that fastens the tubes together more rigidly.

18" of immersed rudder length doesn't tell me much, as I don't know the width. I'm sailing with 32 sf sail and Folbot rudder which has approximately 0.9 s.f. immersed area - poor rudder design, btw, inefficient and unreliable, it gave me a lot of trouble. The only reason why I'm using Folbot rudder for sailing with FC K1 and FC Kahuna is its size. FC biggest rudder, which is FC K2 rudder, albeit airfoil shape, has only about 0.5 s.f. immersed area, and this is not quite enough for sailing with 32 s.f. sail, not to mention 36 s.f. Balogh sail that some people are using. if you have close-up photos of your rudder bracket (head, molding, whatever) - I'd like to see it.

I don't know how big sailing rudder should be - there is a rumour or I forgot where I read it that it should be 1.5% of the sail area. Which means I need 0.5 s.f. rudder for my 32 sf sail, and may be it would've been enough if I installed the mast FORE of the cockpit. But I have the mast AFT of the cockpit - this allows me paddling freely without removing the akas, often with the sail up, to augment light wind with my muscle power, but this aft mast also results in stronger "rudder authority" - rudder blade has to be larger, to compensate for the sail Center of Effort located that close to stern.

Balogh told me that aft sail is a natural "upwind climber", and I didn't believe him first. As it turned out, my aft mast allows for upwind sailing 37-40 degrees off the wind, which is the same result as I measured with the mast fore of the cockpit and same sail. Of course, 37-40 is the point when the boat is barely moving, almost stalls, and this is only without large waves (more oncoming waves make the angle to open wider). In reality it doesn't make sense sailing long tacks closer than 45-50 degrees upwind - paddling straight against the wind is usually more efficient.

John Monroe

Re: Pontoons

Post by John Monroe »

I sail with a 43 sq ft main and a 18 sq ft jib for a total of 61 sq ft.

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I have a steel tube through the stern of my kayak reinforced with several layers of glass. A bolt fastens the rudder to the kayak.

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These are the drawing for the leeboard and rudder I used. The front radius should be very small about the sise of the lead in a pencil and the back should be a small flat about 1/6" which they say has less turbulence then a point.

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My rudder has 1.5 sq ft of submerged wetted surface and is 12 inches wide and the leeboard is 9 inches wide and has a wetted surface of 2.7 sq ft.

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Chris Ostlind is a boat designer and guided me online in making the rudder. I was making it too small to begin with in his opinion.

John

Romainpek

Re: Pontoons

Post by Romainpek »

Impressive ! Do you have an idea of the top speed you reached?

John Monroe

Re: Pontoons

Post by John Monroe »

I didn't have time to do too much testing last year but in the picture at the top you see the pontoon pushing water I was doing 4.5 mph, my GPS registered that which I had hanging in front of me. But the water building up in front of the pontoon would be killing speed, so I don't know if I could go much faster then that. In a higher wind I tried to see if I could get the pontoon to go completely under water and that's when it swivelled up about 45 degrees nose high and at that time I was too busy sailing to look at the GPS. But I am guessing I couldn't go higher then 5 mph with these Folbot pontoons. But at 3 to 4 mph when the pontoons are skipping on top the water I would say they are fairly efficient.

John

john allsop
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Re: Pontoons

Post by john allsop »

John i also have the Folbot outrigger system and on my Yukon i had to put wood under the tube to lift the pontoons clear of the water when at rest, in fact i think they are a poor design but only do what they are intended to do, try and stop the boat going over, I have also used them on my Aerius 2. The other outrigger system i have is the HD system sold by "Spring Creek" and "Sail Boats To Go" and although a little small and of a "solid" foam construction i have been able to reach almost 10 MPH with them using the PA sail on my Aerius 2. The only "pontoons" that i know of that are intended to go below the surface are the ones on the Triak, then their small foil is supposed to "work", i will find out this year. I am tempted by the BSD set up but from what i see in the Forum i may be long gone before they arrived.

Alm

Re: Pontoons

Post by Alm »

John, I don't think your leeboard is too large. BSD leeboard is smaller than yours - it is 8" wide and has 41" from the cross-tube center to the lower tip. And it works on BSD schooner rigs of total sail area 60 sf. So your leeboard is about the right size with your maximum sail.

Rudder is a different story. Even though I personally think that 1 sq.ft would've been enough for your sails, there never can be too much of a good rudder. But only if it's good - rigid, vertical, and hydrofoil shape. In heavy winds stern lifts up when wave is rolling under the boat, and immersed rudder area drops momentarily, and it shows in the boat behavior - it swerves. And then you have to correct the course, deflecting the rudder, and/or letting the sail out a little bit (smaller sail power is easier to handle with temporarily reduced rudder area), and this all results in a loss of speed. Not to mention the annoyance. So your friend is probably right - the more rudder, the better. OTH, rudder too large may negatively affect speed in moderate winds, so it should not be much larger than you need. If I were to choose, - having it a little larger is better than having it a little smaller than you need.

My speed in K1, with BSD 32 sf sail and BSD leeboard (and also in Longhaul MK1 with the same sail rig, only fore of the cockpit), for as long as the weather allowed me toying with GPS (which was up to 25-30 knots wind force), in a heavily loaded boat did not exceed 7 knots (7 nautical miles per hour). I think, a good rudder would increase my maximum speed up to 8 knots (subject to waves height - the more waves, the less speed), and I doubt that my K1 or Kahuna with 32 sf sail could go much faster than that. In heavy winds even 32 sf would be too much for K1 - it would not make it go faster, but instead would press amas deep into water and the resulting speed would become even lower. This is why I reef it down to 28 or 24 sf when my guts tell me that wind is going to increase soon (it's better to reef sooner than later).

John Monroe

Re: Pontoons

Post by John Monroe »

Hi Everyone,

John I had to laugh when you said if you ordered from Balough you might not be here by the time your order arrived. I have heard he increased his production and may have faster service. Glad to hear that you achieved almost 10 mph with your Pacific Action sail and foam Boat To Go pontoons. I remember your setup with the Folbot pontoons.

I'm anxious for Romainpek to test your skin on frame pontoons and see what you think of them. They look fast and could give some good information for the perfect pontoon for guys like us. If I build some pontoons I might use the wood strip built method I use in my kayaks.

Alex the rudder and leeboard are made of heavy oak and they are plenty strong, but heavy. But no flex or wobble.

The picture of an asymmetric pontoons I was making and stopped because they didn't fit my purpose of being storable in the kayak. Being flat on one side like a catamaran I had that didn't need a centerboard. They probably weren't big enough to work to stop side slip, but great if they did. I shaped them out of blue building foam and was going to fiberglass them.

John

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Romainpek

Re: Pontoons

Post by Romainpek »

The blue foam pontoon was looking good, I like its curves.

We'll see about the SOF ones I'm building. Maybe it's a good idea to try different sizes for cheap using SOF tech before doing a nice set of wood strips ones.

Anyway these SOF or woodstrip pontoons will have the same problem as your foamies: they won't be foldable or deflatable...

Alm

Re: Pontoons

Post by Alm »

John Monroe wrote: John I had to laugh when you said if you ordered from Balough you might not be here by the time your order arrived. I have heard he increased his production and may have faster service.
Don;t know about increased production, but this business is a pain to deal with. He is totally knowledgeable in everything concerning kayak and canoe sail rigs (not only his rigs), and his advice is almost always right "into the bull's eye". But being essentially a one-man or a small family business, without delegating any powers to anybody else (trust must be an issue here, as I concluded from some facts), - there is a management problem. Lost emails, or no answers to your emails and phone calls for many weeks for one or another reason, problems with suppliers (small-scale production, high requirements to quality of materials, some hard to find materials and supplies - because he wants the best). I doubt there's been any improvement in his turn-around times lately. I'd rather not comment in details. His products are good.
Alex the rudder and leeboard are made of heavy oak and they are plenty strong, but heavy. But no flex or wobble.
Well, I didn't imply that your wooden parts have flex or wobble. This is Folbot leeboard and Folbot tubes (and push-buttons, and plastic consoles) that wobble. BSD leeboard is heavy too - don't know what wood, but some hard and heavy grade - which is good.

I forgot to mention - I tried to increase the sailing speed, adding 1 sq.m. (11 sq.ft) Pacific Action sail at the bow of K1 (with BSD 32 sf sail behind the cockpit). Wasn't too happy. In low tail winds - yes, PA helps. In side winds and head winds - the system of attachment of PA (on the home-made saddle strapped to the deck), and the entire system of PA ropes and spars doesn't handle side winds or head winds well. Not to mention the difficulties of dealing with 2 sails at the same time. I would say, in low tail winds PA helped to increase the speed by 10% - if I was going at 3 knots with outrigger and 32 sf BSD, it increased to 3.3 knots with PA raised. Eventually I decided not to bring PA to the next Baja trip (extra 5 lbs in the luggage, and very little sense). Getting larger BSD sail (36 sf) would make more sense on the trimaran (I have 32 sf BSD now), than 32 sf BSD+11 sf PA. But PA is a good sail for downwind sailing in a monohull kayak. Will post more details and photos later (still in the process of cleaning, rinsing etc after the trip).
The other outrigger system i have is the HD system sold by "Spring Creek" and "Sail Boats To Go" and although a little small and of a "solid" foam construction i have been able to reach almost 10 MPH with them using the PA sail on my Aerius 2.
Statute miles or nautical miles? Consistent sailing speed 10 MPH or few second bursts (which increase the overall speed, but not much, because they are short-term, caused by waves pushing you forward for a moment, and next moment - slowing you down, and/or brief sessions of "surfing" when wave speed is right). Also, what size of PA you used?

John Monroe

Re: Pontoons

Post by John Monroe »

HI Alex,

As I was building my Balough type mast you helped me with sizes and I just wanted to say thanks. I believe my mast is stronger then Balough's because of the 18" length of the insertion tubing as apposed to his 6" I believe it is, that gives me a double tubing the whole length of the mast. I point this out because of the amount of sail sq ft area I can carry without any problems. If a mast is strong enough the reefing jib setup in the picture is cheap to make and is easy to operate and reef for any weather conditions. So the picture is just for ideas. The plastic spinning tubing is cheap electrical conduit. I had a rope running through it but now a cable. The ends of the tubing has plastic caps. The jib sail is poly tarp made from an online pattern from Poly Tarp Sails but the guy lost his online site when AOL shut all online sites down.

I'm thinking now of fastening the foam pontoon on the AKA and seeing how it preforms sometime this summer. That would be a cheap way to test the design and if it shows promise I could go from there. I think Romainpek's pontoons look really good and streamlined.

John

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Alm

Re: Pontoons

Post by Alm »

I always envied those bigger sailboats with hundred feet sail area that could slide past me in seemingly no wind at all, just a light breeze, while I had to paddle. But there is a price for everything - and not just money. My trips with K1 involve air luggage and bus, so compactness and weight are crucial. BSD rig meets these requirements - it is the most compact and light rig at the given efficiency. Also, when I have to bring the boat from high tide line (sometimes not defined clearly) closer to my tent, sometimes over nearly impassable boulders - every pound counts (and ease of assembling as well, because I have to dismantle the mast and outriggers for this). Jib, albeit easy to control at the same time with the main sail, is not possible with my rig (I mean, without installing an extra mast), as my main sail mast on K1 is 10" aft of the cockpit.

Another drawback of having a lot of sails is a compromised paddling, especially on a smaller single kayak. This is always a compromise, you always gain something and loose something when choosing between better sailing or better paddling. As my next few trips (and probably more than few) will be in Baja again, I have to have a good paddling option. Winds there can pick up in half an hour, gain force, then die or change the direction before I reach my destination for a day. When it changes from tail wind to side wind, I can still use BSD but PA becomes a burden. When it changes from side wind to "close haul", I sometimes have to paddle with BSD sail cleated, because upwind paddling speed might not be sufficient, given sail area and wind force. When it becomes too close to 0 degrees, I either lower the BSD, furl and strap the sail to the aft deck and keep on paddling, or look for any alternative campsite, because sailing becomes impossible, and paddling - tiresome. When light breeze is coming at 30 degrees, too low speed to sail upwind (1 knot speed or less), I lower the sail again and paddle. When wind dies, I lower the sail again and paddle - because raised sail increases air resistance during paddling. And the more sails I carry (additionally to mainsail), the more time it takes to raise and lower them.

With the mast 10" aft of the backrest of my seat, I can paddle without problems, with outrigger in place. Outriggers slow down my sailing speed in light winds (but I can't sail without them in heavy winds), and they add a significant water resistance when I paddle, but there is no other choice. Even though BSD amas are compact when deflated, there is usually no sense for me to remove the outriggers on water for better paddling - wind may pick up or change the direction again, and besides, some tasks, like lunch or washroom breaks, are possible on water only with outriggers, if waters are choppy. (Offtopic here, but even doing a "heavy stuff" after breakfast didn't settle down well is possible with outriggers - sitting on the coaming, with the "exhaust pipe" outside). Outrigers really make long passages easier in many aspects.

It's not that I shun anything else but BSD sail and pontons - they are not perfect, (and Mark Balogh is not perfect as a business manager, I wrote about this many times). I'm just telling why this option works for me and other options - not.

This is from my last trip - from Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto, about 400 km total, don't remember, didn't check my log yet. Furled BSD aft of the cockpit, furled PA fore of the cockpit (partially covered with yellowish deckbag, early morning, poor contrast).Image

John Monroe

Re: Pontoons

Post by John Monroe »

Alex I envy your trips to the Baja. It looks like a good place to get away and test yourself. I remember a documentary on TV about a guy and his brother-in-law that took a catamaran to the Baja for some sailing and one of the hulls started to take on water. They made it to an island but nearly died from dehydration and were finally rescued by some Mexican fishermen.

I understand the trade offs one makes in weight and compactness with our boats and sails as I fight this myself. Once that I added the much more efficient leeboard and rudder the weight went up dramatically. I used to portage with my little boat but it’s all too heavy now, and so I try to pick area’s where I can mostly just sail, then take the sails down along with the AKA’s & AMA’s, pack them away inside my roomy but still relatively light weight 12 foot boat and paddle in tight places. I think I have gone as far as I can go in making this a dual-purpose boat. Nearly everything breaks down and fits in the orange bag which stores under the front deck

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On my trip to the BWCA in N. MN I carried all the equipment you see in the picture plus plenty of food for soloing 10 days.

John

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