Boats (kayaks / collapsible boats / canoes)

Since we are based in Sweden, here are the views that apply to local areas. Sweden has thousands of beautiful lakes and with Vänern and Vättern even two huge lakes that have "coasts and even high sea qualities".



For some reason canoes are the most common form of paddle boats in Sweden. At some point in the 1950s, this fashion swept from the USA to Sweden and spread here. This is surprising considering the many really large lakes in Sweden, because these canoes are generally cumbersome, slow, wind-prone and open-topped for the untrained and inexperienced canoeist. This type of boat was designed in the USA by the natives there to transport goods and objects across the rivers that served as connecting routes. In a country that has big lakes, that has big, long coastlines, where it rains very often and is somehow always windy, using a boat that is, as I said, “cumbersome, slow, wind-prone and even open-topped” is a bit strange . The advantage of a canoe is that it can "comfortably" transport extreme loads. But what is an absolute no-go is using such boats (especially without a spray deck) on Lake Vänern, Vättern or along the coastline. (And yes, I know that everything is possible when the weather is good, but when the weather suddenly changes it becomes dangerous.) For the normal and inexperienced paddlers here on the lakes, they do around 15 km a day, if things go well even 20 km a day. 5 km/h should be the guide value for two people in a canoe. Especially if you paddle alone in a canoe, you should consider whether it makes more sense to paddle with a 220 or 240 double paddle. It's extremely easy and back-friendly.


Kayaks (touring kayaks and folding boats)

Let's start with the folding boats.                                                                   

Folding boats are touring kayaks that consist of a frame made of wood or aluminum. A skin (boat skin) is pulled over this frame, the lower boat is made of PVC or similar materials while the upper deck is made of cotton or similar material. It usually has a foot control. Contrary to popular belief, these boats are extremely stable and even suitable for whitewater to a limited extent. The advantage of a folding boat is definitely that it can be disassembled, then consists of a pole bag and a backpack in which the boat skin is kept. The disadvantage is quite clear that it has to be put up and taken down again and again and requires a lot of care, above all it always has to be really dry if it is stored permanently. Folding boats came about around 1907, and the Klepper company in Germany is still in charge today. Collapsible boats can be taken on planes and trains. Unfortunately, they are now very expensive (new) and also used at the moment (as of 2020) usually only overpriced. On the Swedish lakes, with a “2-man folding boat” e.g. Klepper Aerius, the daily distance is at least 20 - 25 km a day, even for an inexperienced paddler. They are extremely easier and more effective to move using a dual paddle, as well as much easier to steer using foot controls. They can / should be upgraded with a sail system, they usually have the pole mount already build in from the factory. The craziest expeditions have been carried out with collapsible boats, collapsible boats are still used today by special military units.


 Rigid kayaks / touring boats

These boats came along as the motorization of the population progressed. Basically, they were comparable to the shape of folding boats, except that they were made of solid materials, no longer had to be assembled and disassembled, were even more stable and could be easily transported on the roof rack of a car. Like the folding boats, they are available as 1-seater, 2-seater or even 3-seater. Like folding boats, they are superior to conventional canoes in terms of speed, maneuverability and safety. They are also not that susceptible to wind. With an average of around 30 kilos, they are a bit heavier than folding boats, but they are much more stable and easier to care for. (And cheaper) And yes, a touring 2-man kajak can take less luggage than a typical canoe, with a length of about 5m and a maximum width of 90cm, but it should also be taken into account that most rental canoes in Sweden are 520 Linder canoes, and these are designed for 3 people.


But kayaks and touring kayaks, like folding boats, have a completely different advantage. They can be fitted with a sail system relatively easily and are also quite easy to sail! And suddenly it's a completely different world. Suddenly daily stages of 40/50/60 km are possible, with big sails also around 100 km a day. And the old folding boat saying "sail if you can and paddle if you have to" applies. (More on the sailing later.)

If there are two strong paddlers, it has been shown in the past that they should each take a 2-man kayak for a tour here in Sweden. In a couple where the girl is just a little weaker, the combination of a 2- man boat and a 1- man boat is recommended. So there are no luggage problems or the problem of getting it all equipment in the boat. But there is another point that speaks against 2 people in a 2-seater kayak or in a canoe when only 2 people are traveling. Security ! If something happens on the water, you capsize, the boat is leaking, etc., the other person is always there with his boat. You don't capsize without a reason, if you capsize and it's not the only boat there because the other boat is there immediately, that's a highlight and not a big issue, but if it's the only boat then it can quickly become life-threatening and it's not nearly as funny.



Here, for one, there is the standard sail. These are designed for the touring kayaks in such a way that you can hardly capsize them. It consists of a sword beam, two side swords, a mast, a mainsail 2-2.5 sqm and a foresail (around 1 sqm). Unfortunately, these sailing systems are now completely overpriced and technically highly complex. In contrast to the older models, they are almost made so that they cannot be repaired on the go. For some reason companies have to keep reinventing the wheel, which leads to extremely expensive solutions. An example would be the Klepper S 2 full sail with €1400.00.

Then there is the "big" sailing. This definitely has to be driven with outrigges. It also consists of a sword beam, two side swords, a mast, a mainsail  and a foresail ,an outrigger and two floats. The whole thing can then be provided with a mizzen sail. For example the "Mistral +" two-masted sail from the company em2. With its 6.5 m², it should only cost €4108.00!

In order to have the same fun one does not have to spend such sums of money. It is worth looking at the dinghies and accessories alone, e.g. resort to local sails. (As I said, the wheel was invented a long time ago.)

Here is an example of a small sail and its costs.

It consists of an old "bat sail" with 2 square meters (used for around 50 - 100 €), a 32mm aluminum mast that is 2.6m long and a foresail that consists of one half of an old French triangular tent tarp, as well as a classic sword beam with two simple onesleeboards of a collapsible boat. As it stands, the full sail cost around €200.00 at most The system is not perfect, but it is sufficient for speeds of up to in good winds 9 km/h.Stress-free touring speed at around 6 km/h. Since it is without outriggers, the sheet of the mainsail and the sheet of the foresail must not be fastened, otherwise a gust can knock you over.

For more than 20 years I drove the following sails on tours:

As the main sail I used a complete French tarp (I still had it from my service there) as the main sail.Here with a wooden mast, which I eventually replaced with an aluminum mast. It was actually very good, but you always had to be careful when there were gusts so that you weren't knocked over.

Then comes what always comes.You want more.

First I built a simple outrigger.

As I said, it's not rocket science.An old divisible double paddle, four 90cm long aluminum struts from a broken aluminum pavilion and 4 lashing straps that were shortened. The aluminum profiles were simply attached to the paddle blades.

The floats were the biggest problem, in this case they are originals from Linder which I got as a gift. As can be seen in the picture above, these are simply fastened with the lashing straps. Holds up great. The two swimmers normally hover around 15 cm above the water surface, so that they don't bother you while paddling. However, the problem with the floats can be solved very easily and inexpensively. Just google "boat roll / slip roll inflatable". A float then only costs around €30-35 new. Such an outrigger should therefore not cost more than around €100.00.

And it came as it had to come, I realized that much more is possible now. The sail was now simply too small. I bought an old aluminum surf mast with a length of 3.60 m and a diameter of 35 mm (30.00 €) and happened to get my hands on an older opti sail (for 25 €). An opti sail is a spritsail and has to be converted to a gaffsail, which is quite easy.

The upper edge of the sail is simply framed with two wooden or aluminum strips (glued and screwed) and provided with a foot / connecting piece to the mast. The attachment point for the line is measured at around 75 cm from the upper end on an opti sail.

Such an opti sail has a professional sail cut and has a sail area of ​​3.9 square meters. These sails cost around €200.00 new. I quickly noticed that it is extremely problematic with such a large foresail, when a small foresail (up to 1 square meter) is lowered, it simply lies on the foredeck, but such a large foresail always goes into the water and acts like a large sea anchor .The problem is that you cannot pull in the foresail properly alone in a 2-person kayak. So I bought a foresail furler. (used for €50) new there are for around €100.00

Image: Bar at the top to use it as a gaff sail.

The foresail, actually more of a genoa (the headsail now ended behind the mast) was made from a former mainsail. I bought an old mainsail for around €30 and several small sails were then cut out  and sewn from this mainsail. You should be able to use a sewing machine, but you can also do it by hand) The foresail has 2sqm sail area.

And you already have a large sail (almost 6 sqm sail area) with a decent outrigger which can also be sailed at 4 bft. Touring speed (depending on the wind) at 8-10 km/h and peaks up to 14 km/h. One of the other advantages is that the boat can no longer tip over due to the outrigger (unless you are really stupid) and that the sails can be "fastened". In 2021 I sailed with this combination for the first time at 3-4 bft 35 km over the open Vänern.

So the whole sail system cost me around 250-300 €! and that with almost 6 square meters of sail area and outriggers. I / we want to make clear / point out that all this is not magic, you just shouldn't have left hands and you should improvise with the material. Don't be fooled by any "specialists" and don't despair when you see what something like this costs new. Everything is much easier.

For suggestions for the replica, we include detailed pictures here. These are actually self-explanatory and should encourage you to do the same. Beginners who drive alone in a 2-seater are recommended to leave out the foresail/genoa, since sailing with the opti sail is extremely fast and does not overwhelm you. A really optimal combination is an opti sail with a folding boat like this Klepper Aerius II or the sea wolf from the Hammer company. This is due to the fuselage cross-section with the air / capsize hoses, so that an outrigger is not absolutely necessary.

Picture: 2-seater kayak "Hammer Team 2000"with 6sqm sail area, an original opti sail as mainsail and a genoa made from an old mainsail. Here you can see very well how the swimmers hover in a normal position above the water.

With such a combination (touring kayak and sailing) a multi-day tour on the large lakes in Sweden or on the coastal waters is something really relaxing. And alone in such a 2-seater there is not the slightest problem of accommodating the luggage.


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