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 Post subject: Folbot's seaworthiness
PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 12:02 pm 
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This seems to be a matter of debate among paddlers: How durable really are Folbots?

When talking to experienced kayakers, many have no problem citing the seaworthiness of Kleppers, Feathercrafts, Nautiraids and Long Hauls. The opinion varies greatly when it comes to Folbots. The consensus seems to be that it isn't strong enough for rough waters. In fact, one outfitter I spoke to in Annsville, NY said that he wouldn't even take a Folbot out on the Hudson River. On the other side of the coin, there seems to be Folbot owners (like many on Folbot Forum) that attest to the seaworthiness of their boats.

Any thoughts on this?

Just as a personal note: my interest in this question is due to the fact that whatever kayak I get needs to be able to handle at least the Hudson, the Long Island Sound, and the water on the southern shores of Long Island. Thanks.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 12:35 pm 
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Folbots have been getting stronger, but I think they're still significantly less rugged than Long Hauls, Kleppers, Feathercrafts and Nautiraids- which admittedly cost much more. A lot of the weak spots have been improved- most notably the plastic ribs- but they they have a number of points that can fail in heavy use. That hasn't stopped people from pushing them to the limit- my friend Rob took his Aleut to Alaska and paddled it around Kodiak Island.

I own Folbots, a Klepper, and a Long Haul, and the Folbots get the most use of any of them. But when I go camping and paddling in the Great Lakes, I take the Long Haul.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 1:32 pm 
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mje wrote:
Folbots have been getting stronger, but I think they're still significantly less rugged than Long Hauls, Kleppers, Feathercrafts and Nautiraids- which admittedly cost much more. A lot of the weak spots have been improved- most notably the plastic ribs- but they they have a number of points that can fail in heavy use.
Mike, I have given my Folbots (exclusive of the Cooper, which is definitely not as durable) some pretty heavy use, and have not had any failures except for an old coaming when they were made of plastic. Now that the washboards are made of aluminum, I think the boats are very solid.

Over a period of 5-6 seasons, we paddled our G II in ocean conditions on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Barkley Sound and in the Charlottes) on several two-week excursions and never found it wanting, landing on surge beaches, rocky beaches, and paddling pretty big swells. We have also used it extensively on the Columbia, certainly as rough and tough as the Hudson, at least near the mouth where the wind can howl, and tidal currents can get pretty swift.

I think the principal weak point for Folbots these days would be the pop rivets. I take along a few spares, and tools for replacing them, but have never experienced any failures of the rivets, despite our heavy use.

If you have experience with specific points of failure, I'd like to know what they are, because I think the boats are tough. No,. I am not claiming they are as durable as Feathercraft, Long Haul, or Klepper.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 4:38 pm 
I've no idea what the Hudson is like so I don't know what you call a rough-tough river, but my Folbot Yukon is quite tough enough for me to be happy on many of the rivers up here such as the Kootenay - These were by no means the biggest waves we encountered, but my camera isn't waterproof so it stayed in its case for the big rapids.

The weakest point: definitely the spray-skirt, expect to ship a fair bit of water in big waves. I have only had the frame break once, and that was when I reamed it into rocks in a class III rapid. Feathercrafts and Kleppers may be stronger but you probably wouldn't want to do that with one of them either.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 7:04 pm 
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Dave: I was thinking specifically of the pop rivets, along with the plastic plates that join sections- although this is mainly a matter of the rivets again. The newer boats don't have the rivets, which is good, as well as better spray decks, but they're a lot more flexible, and I wonder how they'd respond to heavy weather and surf.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 9:13 pm 
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mje wrote:
Dave: I was thinking specifically of the pop rivets, along with the plastic plates that join sections- although this is mainly a matter of the rivets again. The newer boats don't have the rivets, which is good, as well as better spray decks, but they're a lot more flexible, and I wonder how they'd respond to heavy weather and surf.
The newer boats are the Kiawah, the Cooper, and the Citibot, which are more flexible than the Kodiak or the Yukon (closest versions of the old style). I'll take my Kodiak anyplace I'd take my hardshell, including small surf. I would not want to surf the Cooper -- it is not as strong as the Kodiak. Never paddled a Kiawah, but it is just a smaller version of the Cooper. [The Citibot is not rated as an ocean-going boat, so I am exempting it from this comparison.]

I feel that ratings of durability based on impressions from method of construction are useful, but the proof of the pudding is whether the boats can do the job on the water. The G II and the Kodiak can -- based on my personal experience. I'd not take the G II through surf, but I would take the Kodiak through waves under 4 feet, but would avoid plunging breakers.

There is no question in my mind, based on the places people have taken Kleppers, Long Hauls, and Feathercraft, that their methods of construction are strong and up to the task. I'd rate these three as probably stronger than the Folbot G II, and perhaps equivalent to the Kodiak in toughness. And, I would rate the Cooper and the Kiawah as definitely less durable in rough water than the three other brands. I have no good measure of Nautiraid, so I can not rate their boats.

Kanonbear's original question deserves answers from folks with direct experience with Folbots on the types of waters he contemplates. I've taken my G II and my Kodiak on rougher waters than the ones he describes, repeatedly, with no failures from paddling or landing on shores exposed to windwaves and surge.

I broke the old style plastic coaming on the G II when I sat my bigbutt on it where a cleat was mounted. The current aluminum coamings survive insults like that. I can't think of anyplace I would avoid in my Kodiak and the G II except plunging surf.

Kanonbear, hope this helps.

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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 3:33 am 
KanonBear wrote:
This seems to be a matter of debate among paddlers: How durable really are Folbots?
....

Just as a personal note: my interest in this question is due to the fact that whatever kayak I get needs to be able to handle at least the Hudson, the Long Island Sound, and the water on the southern shores of Long Island. Thanks.

Those that paddled Hudson in NY city core, say that it can be pretty serious - currents, boat wakes, and windy sometimes. Not to mention more open waters beyond the Hudson.
The following is just my opinion - seems like a common sense, so I'll chime in - without an experience with Folbot Cooper. For the above conditions (starting from the end of the question) looks like you need a closed-cockpit hull, preferably fast, able to go against currents. Which rules out about half of Folbot singles (those older ones), and brings us to the 1st part of the question - "This seems to be a matter of debate among paddlers: How durable really are Folbots". When subject is too wide, debates can be endless. Which "Folbot"? Greenland II and Cooper are totally different boats (even if we talk only about Cooper with Hypalon skin). I suggest we change "...are Folbots" to "...is Cooper", as there is not much else to discuss. Cooper might work for your needs, but FC Kahuna or Wisper or K1 will be better, if we exclude the assembling issues from the discussion. If this is mostly day-paddle, then we can't exclude the assembling, and will have to exclude K1 instead.

There were many feedbacks and reviews of Cooper, you are free to explore this option. The most recent report on this forum mentioned water in the cockpit after few hours of paddle around the bay (1 quart or so, don't remember - not much, but not to be ignored either), and frame tubes moving/sliding along each other. This, in my opinion, is not a sign of dangerously poor seaworthiness (heading of the original post) or durability (message body of the original post), though I don't like water in the boat even when it's warm. Mechanical strength isn't an issue here, I think.

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weak spots have been improved- most notably the plastic ribs

Mike, are you referring to HDPE or some other plastic of older Folbot ribs, that are now being replaced with aluminum ribs? I don't see why current multi-piece tubular rib is a stronger structure than a single-piece HDPE or Polycarbonate rib. Tubular aluminum rib is more comfortable around legs, less obtrusive, but I don't think this is an improvement in durability. Feathercraft is using single-peice HDPE ribs for many years, and Polycarb in Kahuna for 5 or 6 years without problems.

PS: Kanonbear - if you prefer wider hulls, then we can compare Folbot Kodiak and similar hulls of other brands - Klepper AEI, for example. Both have inherent problem with cockpit skirt - or we may call it not a problem, but a "feature". Let's say, it's not the same as a normal hardshell or FC skirt. Longhaul MK1 is a longer version of AEI - stronger yet, and a bit heavier. LH offer so-called Expedition 2-part version of sprayskirt on MK1, which is less leaky than Classic 1-part version, but it still has some features that make it different from hardshell or FC skirt. Attachment of the larger piece of the Expedition skirt to the cockpit "boomerang" is still leaky and potentially prone to dislodging.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 5:00 am 
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Alex makes a good point about there being two different classes of Folbot: the closed cockpit Kiawah/Cooper class and the (older) open-cockpit G II/Kodiak class. Different emphases and different purposes. And, I also agree with Alex the former is not as tough as the latter; I am particularly leery of flexible boats; not in agreement about any weakness inherent in tubular metal frames, however. Alex, it might be worthwhile to take a look at how those frames work out in a Cooper if you get a chance to look at one; they are pretty rigid and durable.

I agree speed and agility are good attributes in heavy current areas, especially if there is boat traffic to dodge. Ralph Diaz has some good stories about dodging ferries on the Hudson!

I'm a bit puzzled about the New York guide/outfitter's support of the Long Haul/Klepper/Nautiraid boats for the Hudson, in that light.

Kanonbear, can you go back and ask that guy why he recommends those slower hulls over faster, newer ones?

Kanonbear, are you still there? I think you started this thread.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 2:05 pm 
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I haven't ever paddled around NYC, but I grew up there (on the Hudson) so I have some concept of the waters. I believe the strongest currents, whirlpools, etc., are supposed to be in Spuyten Dyvel, the short stretch at the north end of Manhattan between Manhattan and the Bronx. Some of the waters around LaGuardia airport and Ryker's Island might also be challenging. But I don't think the Hudson, where that outfitter is located, is so bad.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 2:27 pm 
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First, the disclaimer; my Feathercraft experience is limited to a demo boat I checked a few years ago. I have only owned Nautiraids and Folbots so far.

Kanonbear, you raise an interesting question, albeit one that is difficult to answer. I agree with Alex and Dave on how all these Folbot models are different with their own qualities and issues.

I will tell you that the Mediterranean is not the Atlantic or the Hudson, but we do have some heavy seas pretty often. The past season we paddled with both our Coopers in near gale conditions (7-8 Beaufort) and it was not pretty. We did not fear for our safety but we were pushing the envelope with these boats. Even with a sprayskirt on, we got a lot of water in the bilges, again though, the conditions were hairy to be out on the water. In my opinion, the Cooper is not in the same class as the Kodiak or the GII.

OTOH, this past summer, with our GII, we navigated around the Cape Maleas, one of the heaviest seas, where the Aegean meets the Med. It was not a storm or a near gale but we experienced confused seas with big swell coming from all directions. The GII handled beautifully through the swell and the deep troughs. It broached a couple of times, but we never felt that we were pushing the boat to its limits. Again, I don't know if I could paddle in the same conditions with a Cooper. Probably, but I would feel that I was pushing the envelope as an intermediate paddler.

On durability, my opinion is that the polycarbonate frames of the GII are way better. The aluminum ones are lighter, however, the polycarbonate ones make the GII feel almost like a tank. The Cooper is like a feather on the water and its construction contributes to that. Personally, I think that Folbot should continue producing the polycarbonate frames. IIRC, the cost of production was prohibitive so they had to come up with a cheaper solution. I do not have experience with the newer GII with aluminum frames.

In the end, I think Folbot offers durable models of their boats that you can depend on them for some serious expeditions.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 1:06 am 
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Sorry guys for the late reply. Been busy with planning (and then celebrating) our wedding anniversary.

Thanks for the great input. I understand that saying "Folbot" is probably too general of a category. I didn't really consider the smaller Folbots as viable options. So I was thinking more in terms of Kodiak, Cooper and GII.

The lower Hudson, as well as the majority of the local waterways of the city, is generally calm except for spots where currents converge like Hells Gate and around Throgs Neck. However, it can turn pretty rough if the wind suddenly picks up. The section of the Hudson around Annsville/Peekskill widens out because the Hudson Highlands forms like a fjord around it. So the conditions up there would be somewhat similar to that of the NYC area.

I think Alex and Dave brought up great points about speed and agility and how they're just as important as toughness. But can you really have a boat with both attributes? The Kodiak sounds like it can handle both. And then there are the FCs.

Thanks again, guys.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 2:45 am 
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So I was thinking more in terms of Kodiak, Cooper and GII.

GII? As Dave mentioned, he was puzzled by somebody recommending wider and slower hulls over lighter and faster ones for your area. Using GII for solo paddling is even harder to understand, except for sailing (with outriggers) or ocean crossings in really heavy winds and waves.

Quote:
great points about speed and agility and how they're just as important as toughness. But can you really have a boat with both attributes?

Yes, you can - in FC K1, FC Kahuna, FC Wisper. Then, after these three, I would put a Cooper. From what I read and see, I'm less worried about it not being tough enough, than about it not having some features of Kahuna or Wisper - hatches, good seat, dry hull.

Quote:
The Kodiak sounds like it can handle both. And then there are the FCs.

I think you've got it confused :-).... It is FC that can handle both, and then there is Kodiak. Kodiak is wider, shorter, slower and heavier than FC K1, not to mention Kahuna or Wisper. But - yes, it is tough.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 4:52 am 
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Quote:
The Kodiak sounds like it can handle both. And then there are the FCs.

To which Alex responded: I think you've got it confused .... It is FC that can handle both, and then there is Kodiak. Kodiak is wider, shorter, slower and heavier than FC K1, not to mention Kahuna or Wisper. But - yes, it is tough.
--------------

I agree; Kodiak is tough, but slower than those FC boats. I would depend on the Kodiak anywhere, but would not expect to go fast in it.

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