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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 8:25 am 
I've been wanting to buy a folder for my kids for more than a year now and after a lot of reading my shortlist was a Pakboat Puffin Sport and Nautiraid's gorgeous little Raid 1 325. However, the boat would need to be more than a 'learner' boat for my boys but also for me to take on business trips. I travel a lot to places like Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar and the hotels I stay in are inevitabely close to the sea, so a lightweight boat for a quick post-work-stress-buster paddle is desirable. Thus travelability (ie: lightweight) was a prime consideration. In email conversations with Dave AvRutick soon after the takeover of Folbot (heck, sounds like a one of those hostile M&As from the 1980s) I mentioned that I was looking for a small folder but, either he or Phil were keeping things under wraps, there was no mention of anything in the pipeline and I never even considered looking at Folbot.

Then I read about the Citibot, followed by a long session of email-tennis with Dave, and hummed and haahed about choosing the Puffin Sport or the new Citibot. The Puffin's size and weight had it at a slight advantage, but my blood ties with Folbot (we're a Folbot family with a Kodiak, Cooper and a GII) finally tipped my favour to the Citi. The clincher was reading about Dubside using it for a rolling demonstration, I knew I was getting a well built boat. I don't live in the US, so when ordering things I take into account the hassle and cost of having to return faulty items, also I have to buy most things sight unseen. It takes a lot of trust and so far Folbot has been trustworthy. I ordered one and fidgeted for the next few weeks waiting for it to arrive.

The First Assembly:
I took my son to the beach, pulled the Folbot box from the rear of the car, said 'Surprise' and then we started the first assembly. The frame is very simple: A keel, 4 longerons, 3 ribs, 2 deck struts, a one-piece gunwale and a stern/tensioner assembly. Despite there not being many pieces the first assembly took about half an hour with lots of stops to read the instructions. The instruction leaflet was good, or at least a lot better than those that came with my other boats, with a lot of photos. I like lots of photos. The process is fairly straightforward: the bow and keel is one unit with shock corded pieces that snap together, there are two lower longerons and two upper longerons that easily clip to flanges on the bow and are held in place by a short piece of tubing. The same mechanism is used on the Cooper. There are only three cross-ribs and ours were mis-numbered, number one and two had the wrong stickers on, fortunately I have assembled my fair share of Folbots and realised something was wrong immediately. I just hope newbies don't try putting rib No1 where No2 should be or vice versa, they're very different in size (A slip of paper that comes with the boat gives who assembled and who checked each piece, so we know who you are!) My other boats also have all the stickers down one side so that all are visible from the same end, this aids in making sure the ribs are facing the correct direction, our stickers were not the same and so I had to undo the rear rib and re-fix it in place. Ensuring that the ribs face the right direction is critical with the citibot due to the high curvature of the sides, the longerons are even curved to cater for this.
Most of the moon clips holding the ribs to the longerons are backed up with a velcro strap, this made it all very sturdy.
Putting the one-piece gunwale in place was fiddly but not difficult, you just need to be careful because it's so easy to drop the star-knobs in the sand.

Unlike any other kayak I own the sponsons on the citibot are not sewn into the skin, instead they're attached to the upper longerons with velcro. Take careful note in the instructions on which way the inflation tubes must face, I didn't and learnt too late that I had one of the sponsons back to front and upside down. making inflation near impossible.
The sponsons were a lot longer than the actual longeron to which they attach, I'm not sure if this is meant to be so or if it's a shop mistake, but I had a roughly 6" overhang at the rear on both sponsons.
The sponsons are not a plain open 'sausage', instead it is split lengthways in two by a welded seam running down the centreline, like two 'sausages' joined side-by-side. This seam has gaps in it to allow air to move from one side to the other so that the whole unit is inflated evenly. Combined with the fact that the sponsons are 'pinched' between the deck and longeron means that there is a technique to inflating them because you need to ensure that the air equalizes itself across the tubes. The trick is to blow steadily, then block of the tube with a finger and wait a few seconds before the next huff as the air finds its way through the sponson.

Once assembled and with the sponsons attached the frame is inserted into the skin from the rear. I struggled a bit with this, mainly because (I think) the hull material is quite 'grippy' and so doesn't slide easily along the aluminium. I had to regularly shake and tug from the deck opening to get it seated properly. The hull is the same material as my Kodiak, but not as heavy as the GII or as light as the Cooper (we have a very early Cooper with the lightweight hull.)
You also need to check that the velcro at the deck opening doesn't grip to the gunwale otherwise you'll have a hernia trying to get the frame in. The cockpit coaming is very unusual, a sleeve running the circumference of the cockpit opening with a two piece plastic pipe running inside it, one piece for the port side and one for starboard. With the skin in place you push the pipes into the sleeve so that they meet at the front then, at the rear, insert one end into a collar on the other so the pipes form a loop, forming a rigid but flexible coaming. Simple but quite effective. My only gripe was that the pipes tend to pull from the sleeve during assembly and are not easy to push back, what is needed is a simple mechanism to hold the pipes into the ends of the sleeves (Mr Phil?)

The stern is the same screw tensioner as found on the Cooper, but with a better systems for fixing to the longerons using endcaps rather than the Cooper's keyed bolt-thingys. I had to turn the screw fairly far to remove all folds from the skin.
Those who own a Cooper will know that the rear deck longerons have a pipe that you pull out to support the deck. The Citibot is similar but a bit more sophisticated. The rear support pipes slide into the longerons and then clip to flanges on the stern, making things a lot more rigid.
The last thing to go in is the seat, a very clever design that has a solid frame that clips to the floor and has a cross-beam that fits under the gunwale, giving it extra support. An inflatable cushion fits onto the seat and you can vary the amount of air to your personal butt-comfort level. When not in the kayak the seat can fold flat for easy packing.



The First Paddle:
We always name our kayaks, so it was up to my son to name his. In the true spirit of an indestructable 10 year old he dubbed it 'Kamikaze', I hope that's more of the 'divine wind' then a harbinger of throwing himself at the biggest waves. The Citibot was light enough for him to pick it up and manhandle it the few yards to the waterline. The sea was very choppy with some 1 to 2 foot shore breakers, so I helped him into his new boat and he took off across the Persian Gulf.
Attachment:
Citibot Review 1.jpg

He was 50 yards offshore before I realized that he had no PFD ... ooops! Despite the sea's roughness the little boat never looked overwhelmed and my son was the picture of calm and confidence, I know it's not billed as an ocean going boat but not once did I think it couldn't handle the conditions. This was when I realised that the broad beam I'd grouched about had come into it's own, ensuring a very stable ride for my offspring. The beam meant he had to paddle with a high stroke but it did not seem to impede him, he almost surfed a few small waves while his Mom and I watched anxiously but proudly from the shore. After paddling back and forth a few times he came in and neatly rode it up the beach, grinning widely.
Attachment:
Citibot Review 2.jpg


Attachment:
Citibot Review 3.jpg


I decided to have a go, I'm not a big guy in height but pack a solid 98 kilograms (about 215 pounds,) so was wondering if I'd wreck our new purchase on its 1st day. Getting in required me to sit on the rear deck with straight legs and slide into the seat. Then it struck me! No way was this a Folbot!! The seat was waaay too comfortable, I could easily spend a day in this one! The seat is the single best thing from Folbot in ages. I'd inflated it a bit too much, though, which raised my centre-of-gravity quite a lot and upping the 'tippy' factor a bit. I paddled out into the cat's paws and was very impressed with the stability of the boat, despite the short hull length it tracked fine, not as good as the Kodiak or Cooper, but adequately. It cut through the waves rather than over them, probably due to my personal ballast capabilities than anything else, but very little water got inside and despite my earlier concerns it handled my bodyweight with aplomb. It was fun to paddle and a lot more snug fitting than the Kodiak or Cooper around my feet, however I would strongly recommend getting the extra foot braces, we didn't and so there was nothing to 'lock' my feet against.
All in all I was very happy with the purchase, and my son's grin told me he was also.

I've taken it out subsequently, on much calmer water, and it was great. I probably would not use it for extended paddles of a few hours but think it would be a great boat for knocking about in lakes, rivers and sheltered coastal areas.
Assembly times are now down to 10 minutes or so (including the usual mistake compensation and beverage break.)

Concluding Remarks:
It's heavier than a Puffin Sport, but I believe it's sturdier. Despite it not being touted for offshore use I trust Folbot's enough that I have no qualms in letting my son paddle in even moderate chop (but sticking fairly close to shore.) Although I see the benefits of the broad beam I still think that dropping the beam 8 - 10 inches would make it great for kids and still suitable for smaller adults, and it would shave a few more pounds off the weight. But considering that Folbot's line-up is really substantial now (heck, it's eight boats) I can't see a dedicated kids boat seeing as the citibot is darn close.
All things considered it was a great choice for my son and I know that it will pass on to his brother when he's old enough. I hope this is the start of a long relationship with the ocean and of many paddles together.



Dubai, United Arab Emirates


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:21 am 
Site Admin
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2005 9:02 pm
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Location: Astoria, OR
Terrific, information-packed review. Sounds like a great boat for the kid. Looking forward to reading of its use on traveling about.

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Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR
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Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:15 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 12:34 pm
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Location: Southeast Michigan
Great review! Okay if I put it on the main website review pages?

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 8:40 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Location: Anchorage Alaska
Nice review. Here is a link to a paddle sized for kids http://www.wernerpaddles.com/paddles/sprite.html Aside from a happy kid, I see a shoulder dislocation waiting to happen.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:30 am 
tsunamichuck wrote:
Nice review. Here is a link to a paddle sized for kids http://www.wernerpaddles.com/paddles/sprite.html Aside from a happy kid, I see a shoulder dislocation waiting to happen.


Thanks for the paddle reference TC, I'll see if I can find an online dealer who'll ship it to me.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 9:17 am 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 4:47 pm
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Location: Arlington, VA (i.e. Wash DC)
Your kid looks great in that boat! Any videos?

It looks a lot more "kayak-y" than a Puffin (which is actually a canoe).

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Chris T.
~'91 Klepper A2 w/ BSD schooner rig.
'64 Klepper Passat/Tradewind and T12 restoration projects.
Non-folding: Early '90s Old Town Canoe.
Previously owned '04 Pakboat Puffin II and '05 Swift (prototype), as well as an '84 Hobie 16.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 6:11 pm 
Quote:
Although I see the benefits of the broad beam [stability] I still think that dropping the beam 8 - 10 inches would make it great for kids and still suitable for smaller adults, and it would shave a few more pounds off the weight. But considering that Folbot's line-up is really substantial now (heck, it's eight boats) I can't see a dedicated kids boat seeing as the citibot is darn close.

It is closer than other Folbots, but still miles away from a kids boat. It wasn't their plan, otherwise they woud've named Citibot differently. What was their plan then?... I think, - a very leisurely paddling for adults, perhaps photography and fishing; (fishing in the city?... Ok, it's more about the process than results, isn't it)... Except for these activities, I don't know why would anybody want a boat that wide. In beam width every inch makes a difference. 28"-29" beam is plenty, for any adult, in any water conditions - and Citibot is 34". And - yes, for kids it should be 8"-10" less, somewhere at 24"-26".


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 2:23 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Alm wrote:
otherwise they woud've named Citibot differently


Kiddibot? :lol:

See Romainpek's thread on his creation for his children-- a decent analysis of what makes a boat really appropriate for kids.

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Chris T.
~'91 Klepper A2 w/ BSD schooner rig.
'64 Klepper Passat/Tradewind and T12 restoration projects.
Non-folding: Early '90s Old Town Canoe.
Previously owned '04 Pakboat Puffin II and '05 Swift (prototype), as well as an '84 Hobie 16.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 2:28 pm 
chrstjrn wrote:
Your kid looks great in that boat! Any videos?

It looks a lot more "kayak-y" than a Puffin (which is actually a canoe).


Sorry, nope. I'm a photo kinda guy and have never gotten around to buying a video cam. One day maybe.

IMO It's definitely a 'Kayak' rather than a canoe with a splash cover.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 11:12 pm 
chrstjrn wrote:
Alm wrote:
otherwise they woud've named Citibot differently


Kiddibot? :lol:

See Romainpek's thread on his creation for his children-- a decent analysis of what makes a boat really appropriate for kids.

Kiddibot, why not... I remember there was a thread by Romainpek, and one of the best suggestions was a "Puff" by Tom Yost (don't confuse it with Puffin :-) ) - short boat 10 ft as Citibot, but very narrow at 18" and very shallow at 6". Citibot, sizewize, is close to Aleut - which is hardly a kids boat. What makes Citibot better in this application, is smaller volume (I have a feeling it is smaller), lighter weight (not for paddling, but to land and launch it on his own), and narrower cockpit. It is still too wide, too high and too much volume for a child. Well - we use what is available...


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