AE AF Convertible Maiden Voyage, Review, Issues, etc

AE1007-R(2005-Present), AE1004-R(2002-2004)

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MrPaws
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AE AF Convertible Maiden Voyage, Review, Issues, etc

Post by MrPaws » Sat May 14, 2011 5:55 pm

I recently purchased the AdvancedFrame Convertible model from airkayaks.com. I am brand new to kayaking and water sports in general. Without any place nearby to test the AE product line, I read through every review and forum post I could find on the AE website, Amazon, paddling.net and elsewhere throughout the internet. My intended uses of this boat are fitness, leisure and short to medium duration class I & II river expeditions.

After our first time out today - despite rain, humidity, less than ideal temperatures (northern Indiana, southern Michigan), being a chunker and not knowing a thing about kayaking - I am positive that this was the right purchase.

I weigh approximately 335 @ 5'11" and my girlfriend is not a fatty like me, but has it in all the right places, so to speak. Our primary goal is to enjoy ourselves while getting in shape. I was extremely nervous despite what people had written here that my weight would simply cause the kayak to capsize, swamp, or otherwise not perform optimally. I can't believe how well this kayak holds my weight. I was even able to stand on the stearn. It was a snug fit in the kayak, but I didn't mind it at all. The thwart acted as a great place to put my feet against, as well. I was pretty amazed.

I was even more amazed when I started paddling. This kayak has some major speed potentials, and I am extremely out of shape at the moment. I couldn't estimate how fast we were going, but we got from one end of this lake to the other in no time, while we were learning to paddle. I was able to paddle for a good 40 minutes and get the solid feeling of a workout while simultaneously gliding along Clear Lake (Buchanan, MI). We chose this lake because it is fairly shallow and only trolling boats are allowed. I figured we'd be capsizing or swamping it at least a few times. Nope, it handles extremely well and I never once felt nervous about flipping it (although Casey did >;) ).

I wore my swim trunks today; but with the tandem conversion deck (I didn't use the spray skirts this time) we barely took in any water at all, even when entering the boat. It really helped keep the water out and I didn't need the bilge pump or towels we had brought along.

We did not use the backbone on our first time out. Despite actually having compiled a component and kayak straightening guide from the posts here, I chose to try without it the first time and just see how it handled.

The only issue that I'm having at this point is with a hard track to the right. Originally I thought it could be the wind, but when we turned around it still tracked right and not left as I'd expected. I am almost certain that this is due to the inner tube not being positioned correctly within the shell. I had done 2 test setups in my apartment living room and noticed that the right side seemed to be showing more of the inner tube than the left side, as if it were on slightly crooked or if the outer ripstop fabric was misaligned. I am fairly certain I just need to find the sweet spot with inflation and also use the "paper between the velcro" method of straightening. I'll also probably check to ensure everything is set correctly in the pockets as well.

I also noticed that my tracking fin is bent in what seems to be a permanent 45 degree angle. I did not have the boat inflated on land for extended periods of time, just 3 setups. The bending seems inevitable... However, Jeremy has already said that it will reset if left out in the sun and that the tracking fin doesn't actually change much. The right track is fairly severe so I'm inclined to attribute the issue to setup and alignment. Again, my maiden voyage was without the backbone, so that could very well be all it takes, although I know I had put 1 PSI into SV 1 and 1 2 - I'm positive it was equal. I'm going to post photographs later on to show what I'm talking about.

While these two items are a tad concerning, the boat still handled extremely well. It could have even been inexperience with paddling or me being less than centered in the boat.

Nonetheless, Casey and I (Matt) were very happy with it and we can't wait until it is actually nice out. We're hoping to do some creeking at the state park (Potato Creek) and trek the Indiana portion of the St. Joseph River (225 miles) over a week long kayak/camping expedition. I'm excited for my next journey and it will probably be tomorrow.

Bottom line: This boat is great for anyone, even a fat guy and his girl. I can't see experienced yakkers being upset with this boat either, simply due to the speeds I saw today.

Things I noted that may be helpful:

- When fully inflated it is easier to carry on one person's shoulder than have two people posted at the hand grips on each end.

- The trick to getting this sucker back in the bag is following the instructions for folding it and using a pump with a deflate mechanism (the AE2011 has this).

- If you're bigger, hold your seat back when you enter so you don't sit on it.

- Stuff a folded towel or two between your feet and the thwart in the back seat to give you something to prop your leg on. I had some light tingling in my feet after a while, but I was able to give myself some leg support this way and the tingling ceased. The conversion decks won't allow a whole lot of bending for a guy with massive legs.


Pictures coming soon!

Thanks to AE and all of the contributors on this forum. Next time I'll be posting in the Trips and Adventures section. 8)

edit: error correction

dspid2404
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Post by dspid2404 » Sat May 14, 2011 8:19 pm

Wait till you try the backbone. It makes a world of difference. However get the alignment issue sorted first. Have fun.

MrPaws
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Post by MrPaws » Mon May 16, 2011 7:12 am

Here are some images of the boat. The indoor photographs kind of show what I'm talking about.

You can see from the second picture that the right side almost looks a tad lopsided and enters the shell at the stearn much later than the left side. It also looks like the left side has more tarp on it. I'm hoping the standard methods will help with this. Any suggestions are welcome.


Image

Image

And this is me after the maiden voyage - quite dry, as you can see =).

Image

Cheers.

JCOOLEY
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Post by JCOOLEY » Mon May 16, 2011 10:51 am

Absolutely fantastic! Try the paper between the velcro to help get the cover straightened a little more. It doesn't look bad at all from the pictures. It does look like the floor might not be centered though. That can cause it to track to one side over the other. Flip the kayak over and check to see if it appears the floor is centered. When you have the backbone in, that won't matter too much.

evgenk
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Post by evgenk » Mon May 16, 2011 2:04 pm

My Convertible looked similar to yours but not just as "bad". Try my method, I found it easier than the paper between velcro patches method.

Start with the kayak’s main tube slightly inflated (under 1 psi ).
Align the velcro patches on the main tube and the outer haul.
Then sit in at the front (bow) and use your feet to push the main tube forward while pushing it to the side with your hands, repeat the same process at the back (stern).
Then follow the inflation steps.

rsimpson
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Post by rsimpson » Wed May 18, 2011 1:21 pm


MrPaws
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Post by MrPaws » Mon May 23, 2011 1:00 pm

Thanks for all of the replies.

I did some finagling based on the recommendations here and elsewhere on the forums and was able to get it centered perfectly without the backbone. I'm pretty sure the floor needed to be straightened and cover slightly realigned on the main tubes. Once you do it it is really easy to figure out.

I don't think I'll need to do this very often. After getting it perfect we took a Sunday trip to Wawasee, IN and put-in on Syracuse Lake. The setup was extremely fast and it looked straight before putting in.

It tracked perfectly straight even among fairly strong waves from wind and motor boats. We would choose a destination, point the kayak in the general direction and paddle for a while; very little corrective movement required.

This was our first trip to a very public site and we got a lot of looks, questions and compliments. Most were interested in the structure composition and were surprised to see that it was actually an inflatable. Someone else commented on the speed from their trolling motorboat. Another elderly gentleman working on his pier commented that, "a day like today makes that seem like hard work". He was referring to the winds, but I told him it was easy with the superb tracking.

After some time in without the backbone, we went back and deflated the SV chambers and removed the tandem conversion deck. I was able to get the backbone in within a few minutes. I then centered the floor over the backbone and partially inflated it to the point where it was not flimsy. We did a little repositioning after that, but then went to the main tubes and inflated them until they were about half way, zipped on the conversion deck and completed inflation.

I looked at the bottom to get a feel for straightness. It wasn't 100% but it was pretty close. It definitely formed a noticeable level of rigidity, firmness and an V-like arc on the bottom of the boat. In the water, it handled pretty close to how it was before, but it really just darted through those waves. We had one wave really elevate us and we were a bit startled but the boat came right back down onto the surface with a light splash and continue gliding towards the next destination.

This week I'll be trying on the Rapid-Up sail AND doing a 4 mile river run (my first) on the solo configuration. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks again to all!!!!

SittingDuck
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Post by SittingDuck » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:31 am

So, are you going to let us know how it went, or did you drown? ;)

I'm equally impressed with my purchase and have the same observations as you, but I'm a little bit alarmed when I see "I'll let you know how it goes" posts that are a few months old and contain no updates.

I plan on paddling this thing across the straight of Georgia before circumnavigating Vancouver island some day and wonder if I should be concerned....

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sonar
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Post by sonar » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:58 am

SittingDuck wrote:So, are you going to let us know how it went, or did you drown? ;)

I'm equally impressed with my purchase and have the same observations as you, but I'm a little bit alarmed when I see "I'll let you know how it goes" posts that are a few months old and contain no updates.

I plan on paddling this thing across the straight of Georgia before circumnavigating Vancouver island some day and wonder if I should be concerned....
I am sure your find that just about every owner of these inflatables are pleased with them I know i am pleased with our a.f kayaks.

The only problem is were not getting out in them enough.

Having said all that please Let us know how you get on with your trips out..

MrPaws
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Post by MrPaws » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:22 am

LOL. No, I am fine. Actually, I've been too busy kayaking after work and on the weekends since I got it, and haven't returned to the forums.

So far I have taken the AE AFC down a handful of rivers in the Northern Indiana/Southern Michigan region. I even handled some mild rapids with it around Arthur Dodd Park in Cass County, Michigan.

After 3 months of solid, regular use, I have to say that this purchase has already paid for itself in delight.

My most recent trip was down the Dowagiac River, which is a tributary of the larger St. Joseph River of the Lake Michigan watershed. It is a narrow, shallow river, so I was constantly getting hung up on barely submerged tree branches and rocks. The boat has held up wonderfully even after "thrusting" over tree branches and rocks.

I wouldn't recommend being so rough with the boat, but it should act as a testament to the durability of the craft and to its viability as a reliable watercraft.

I strongly recommend both decks with this boat. My first mate (girlfriend) likes it but doesn't get out nearly as much as I like to, so I end up going solo often. I just keep both decks in the trunk and every body of water in the area is game.

I have not yet unintentionally capsized or swamp this boat. This is a solid craft and, yes, this user is still alive.

evgenk
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Post by evgenk » Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:50 am

Hey MrPaws, I see you're enjoying your kayak! :-) I am doing exactly same! Usually get out 2 times a week.

You should try larger lakes, it's a completely different experience from rivers. I've already been on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario here in Canada in the last 3 weeks and I gotta say I am getting addicted to the big waves.

It was a bit scary initially as I though I'd tip, but the kayak is so stable that it can take a 3 foot wave hitting it form the side without any issues not that you should ever be in that situation :-) I've gotten swamped once but that's because I didn't have the top deck on.

Speaking of which, do you find that it's hard to get in an out as the coaming is a tad too small? I've made a contraption out of PVC piping as suggested by few members of this forum which has helped a bit however I still find it crammed ... wondering if you've come up with any solutions.

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sonar
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Post by sonar » Wed Jul 13, 2011 7:45 am

Mr Paws is enjoying his kayak to the full.
Looking forward to some blogs or pictures now.


evgenk

So far as the coaming being a tad tight.

May you can add a zipper to it something like the front deck zipper.
Undo it to get in and zip it up when your seated.
Seems to me it would not have to be a long zip.

Just a good quality zip.

Worried about water through the zip try a zip that is made for a diving dry suit they make small ones called coveniance zips.
That should be long enough

And as for sewing it on because the top is removable it should be an easy task for somebody with a semi industrial sewing maching.

evgenk
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Post by evgenk » Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:26 am

Thanks for the idea sonar! The issue is not only getting in and out though, it's also that my knees press against the coaming while I am seated which feels quite uncomfortable after few hours. Extending the coaming towards the bow by few inches will do the trick which theoretically should be easier than adding a zipper. But we'll see. I will first attempt to make my PVC frame a bit larger which should push the deck further up and see how that goes.

If all is well, I will be trying it out tonight as well as my backbone mod which should further define the V shape of the haul. Will post back with results! :-)

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sonar
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Post by sonar » Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:06 pm

I would be intrested to see it the frame sorts out the problem.

My problem was i kept grazing my knees both getting in and out on the A.F. Kayak another model but sorted it out be removing the plastic snap buckle and adding Velcro instead.

Click on the photo for a bigger picture.

Image

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PJohanson
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Post by PJohanson » Thu Jul 14, 2011 8:59 am

Sounds like you're having a ball with your Convertible!
I do recommend that you pick a good day at a sheltered lake beach with friends, and try tipping over at least once, so that you'll know what it's like. It'd be awful for the first time you fell out of the boat to be during an emergency! Now that I've fallen out of my kayak and crawled back in over the bow a couple of times, I feel less worried about what to do if it flips over one day by accident.

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