Toby Hodges looks at the latest inflatables, water toys, and accessories that will help maximise your enjoyment afloat in the sun
With the Northern Hemisphere summer now in full swing many of us have our boats back on the water. But with long distance cruising still difficult, perhaps it is time to look at some fun inflatables and water toys to make the most out of your time on the water this summer.
Here in the UK it may seem like we have a comically short summer season, but the Brits certainly like to make the most of the sun when it does choose to come out. While gearing up for your summer cruise or next long weekend in the sun however, have you considered which kit might maximise your enjoyment aboard?
It’s still all about inflatable tech and electric power in the tenders and toys world – and some foiling too of course.
Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6 stand up paddleboard
A few years ago a step change in technology brought us the inflatable stand-up paddleboard (SUP). It was not long before many yacht owners added them to their inventory thanks to affordable prices, along with their compact size and light weight – some fit in a small backpack and weigh less than 8kg. These are fast becoming a replacement for inflatable dinghies for some.
Nowadays you’ll likely be the odd one out in an anchorage if you don’t carry a SUP (or two) aboard – and in which you’ll be missing out on fun, exercise and some adventure for all the family.
This will be our fourth year/season of using our Red Ride 10’6 and for much of the summer it replaces any need for a conventional inflatable tender. This remains the most popular all-round and near-bulletproof model available and one, that many consider to be the best paddle board on the market – it’s certainly the most well-respected manufacturer.
The Plymouth-based company has since released a 9’6 Compact model, which better suits small lockers.
Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6 deals
Read our guide to the best paddleboard options on the market
Read our guide to the best inflatable paddleboards on the market.
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The ubiquitous jet ski gets the foiling treatment in this new product from a California-based marine start-up. Valo can carry two people, using a 108hp electric motor and three foils to carry them 60cm above the waves. Top speed is an impressive 50 knots, while electronic flight controls keep the craft stable. The foils fully retract for launch and recovery. The first units hit the water this summer, with full production ramping up in 2024.
Expected price is around $59,000.
See more at boundarylayer.tech
Foiling toys are standard fare for superyachts these days, but they’re not simple for beginners to get the hang of. Flite has tried to remedy this with its new Flitescooter, which offers more stability and a handle to help newbies get their balance. The technology and control system on the inside is the same as the original Fliteboard, but greater buoyancy means there’s no need to get wet. The handlebars can be easily removed as riders improve their skills.
Iaqua sat down to reinvent the underwater scooter, and the result is the AquaDart, which claims to be half the weight of the competition (24kg), with a 30% smaller footprint and 60% more thrust than conventional jet drives. It’s hard to verify these figures, but the product is certainly compact.
The AquaDart comes in three varieties, ranging from the sporty version with 450N of thrust up to a 620N option. They’ll take you to 40-45m depth, but you can also set an operational floor at 2m depth. Battery life is between 60 and 90 minutes.
Price from $5,830.
Yamaha Seawing II
For those who can’t be bothered with flippers… this is the latest in the Seabob style underwater dragging craze. The Seawing II is licensed by Yamaha and has twin motors that pull to a speed of 5mph (faster than it sounds when submersed).
The 10aH battery pack gives a run time of around 40 minutes and charges in three hours and there is a battery level display. It’s very compact and weighs just 3.7kg.
Yamaha Seawing II deals
ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 EVO
Meanwhile, we recently conducted a test on lightweight inflatable dinghies with sister title PBO and on electric outboards with Yachting Monthly. The results for both will be published during the autumn but it’s clear to see that the days of petrol outboards aboard yachts look numbered.
ePropulsion’s Spirit EVO range looks particularly appealing. These are the first electric outboards with hydro generating capabilities. The Spirit 1.0 EVO is equivalent to a 3hp outboard, which can charge while sailing.
F-One Rocket Air
There have been two recent explosions in the watersports market: firstly with inflatable toys such as paddleboards and then with foiling. So what happens when you fuse the two?
Rocket Air – potentially the best bang for your buck that you can fit in a compact locker space. It can be used as an inflatable surf or paddleboard, or with the addition of a foil, for foil surfing, foil paddle boarding, wing foiling (with an inflatable wing) or just towing behind the tender (it’s amazing how little pulling power you need).
F-One offers a range of sizes from 4ft 10in (75lt) through to a 7ft 11in board, which has a massive 185lt of volume. The smaller boards better suit surf and wing/kite use and the larger boards are for wing and SUP enthusiasts.
They are designed around F-One’s highly popular rigid boards, down to the same foil position.
The dropstitch construction is ideal for the stiffness required while ensuring a ding-proof toy to lug around your yacht.
Packraft – Lightweight inflatable dinghies
Packrafting is the latest new inflatable water sport with equipment relevant to cruising yachts that’s rapidly gaining popularity, says Rupert Holmes. It uses ultra lightweight one or two person inflatable dinghies, many of which weigh less than 2kg.
These are made of a very lightweight urethane nylon fabric that’s resistant to both abrasion and tears.
It’s also possible to find lower priced packrafts made of a similar PVC to inflatable tenders, though these tend to be somewhat heavier at around 8kg.
While a packraft is unlikely to replace a conventional tender it means there’s no longer a big barrier to carrying one, or even two, spare dinghies. This can enable crew members to go ashore independently, or allow older children to explore a sheltered estuary, for example.
The Anfibio Sigma TXV is a two person model with a transparent floor panel so that marine life can be viewed under the boat.
The boat weighs 2kg, while each of the two seats adds a further 250g. This model is 260cm (8ft 6in) long, with minimum tube diameter of 27cm – barely more than an inch smaller than the old Avon Redcrest, though the narrower beam restricts payload.
It’s important to recognise that there are many different specifications of packrafts available.
Some are only suitable for use on lakes and other very sheltered bodies of water, while at the other end of the spectrum others are designed for use in white water.
A growing trend with cruising sailors is to use electric scooters as a mode of transport ashore as they are much more compact than a folding bike (for stowage and transporting ashore).
There are so many available now ranging from around £250-£2,500, but as well as price, chief considerations include battery limits, wheel sizes and weight, plus the need to check out the legal constraints of using specific models and speeds in different countries.
Pictured is the popular Pure Air Pro, priced at £599 from www.pureelectric.com. There’s a handy guide to the latest at t3.com.
For those going lightweight this electric sculling oar remains an intriguing solution. The 1.7m long oar contains a 450w electric motor and built-in rechargeable battery, which provides 45 minutes of grunt at full speed. The TEMO weighs only 4.9kg
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