Touring Single E68
Fresh out of the Bag
Still cold, having only shortly before traveled in the cargo hold of a transatlantic flight, the contents emerged from the back pack with the new Pouch logo.
The New England night was descending rapidly as two E68s assembled into their intended form for the first time. Longitudinal members of wooden folding boat frames over time take a set in the curve of their assembled shape. Ours were still factory straight. Nonetheless first assembly went pretty smoothly, even if not as rapidly as this would be the case on subsequent occasions (in daylight). The design is clear, the rather few frame parts well marked and finished to fit well.
uses innovative quarter turn fittings by Southco to connect the frames
to the longitudinals. Where frames 1 and 5 join the gunwale, these caused
some head scratching at the beginning: The relative orientation of the
parts deviates significantly from the right angle of the fittings here
and it was hard to see how they would fit together.
The keelson assembly is a clever piece of design, although everything appears horrifyingly loose at the beginning. Once the keelson pieces are aligned, their holes slotted neatly over corresponding brass pegs and everything is latched together under slight tension and thus secured, we are rewarded with a very stable module.
The forward and aft sections of the frame are dimensionally stable in themselves when assembled (in good part due to the secure quarter turn fittings). The high deck stringer ensures good distribution of the bending forces in the forward portion. The aft section is much shallower, but it is no less stiff: Two separate deck stringers hook into frame 3 from the top (just aft of the cockpit), run sternward through openings in frame 4, are bent outward and then allowed to hook back into frame 5. Through simple elegance the designer has achieved great stiffness of the whole frame without resorting to complicated fittings and other contortions. A boat results, which has good dimensional stability independent of skin tension, which is an enourmous safety factor! (For completeness' sake I report that Pouch is currently making slight alterations to the connection of the gunwale sections amidships to secure them against possible movement under tension.)
All parts of the frame are now securely connected. Time to check the seating arrangements in the open frame to ensure proper positioning of the footrests. Here it became apparent that the track, on which the footrest can be adjusted fore and aft, was positioned too far forward for my shorter test partner. A call to Pouch in Germany sparked an immediate response: Pouch is now equipping all E68s with a longer track. For our purposes it was enough to unbolt the track, move it backwards on its base plate and re-bolt it -- wooden frames allow easy customization of this sort! In fact, I have to admit to being a tinkerer, which makes me appreciate a wooden frame the more for the opportunities it provides me in this respect ...
Back into the Bag?
Due to its inherent stiffness the frame is easily handled for the next step in the assembly process, inserting it into the skin. To start, we unhooked the elastic forward decklines. This allows the sponson bags to hag down freely on either side of the frame without the tension of decklines pulling them out of position and over the top of the frame during insertion. The aft deck opens up like a filleted fish and permits plenty of room to position the frame. There is a flap of hull material attached to the inside of the aft most point of the skin. You pull this out and use it as a handle to facilitate stretching the skin over the tensioner, which is an integral part of the stern plate of the frame. It also came in handy when taking the skin off the frame again! This, by the way, is the only phase of the assembly process where a little strength and patience are needed. Pouch is working on a modification to make life easier here. Another trick: Leave out the back rest until the frame is in the skin - it does add significantly to the stiffness of the midships section -- then position it before levering the excenter at the stern into the tensioned position.
Lower the excenter's lever (the aftmost deck stringer doubles in function here) past the top of frame number 5 and then hook it into said frame from below. Thereby secured. Align the open aft deck edges, slide the slit aluminium tubing over their piping, lay the cockpit deck edge into the corresponding slot on the inside of the coaming, inflate sponsons evenly (provides lateral tension after a few hearty puffs) - done!
We used the rudder only when the boat was heavily laden and found it almost superfluous otherwise. The assembly is straight forward and we won't dwell on it here.
Bring the position of the footrests and the seat into the correct relationship to the leg length and you will find a solid knee hold under the coaming. The shaped rubber seat promises to remain comfortable even on longer trips. When under load it sits securely on the keelson assembly. Once you take the load off, it can easily be adjusted forward and aft. With the seat in its aftmost position the backrest was very comfortable. In this position the paddler's posture encourages a relaxed paddling style. The backrest ends at the bottom edge of the coaming, which facilitates easy laying back during sculling and rolling (surprisingly easily accomplished for a boat with such a high coaming). One problem: During more aggressive maneuvers it is possible to dislodge the seat. Once again Pouch has reacted immediately and is now securing the seat to the keelson assembly.
The E68 sports a large circumference cockpit. On the one hand it eases entry and exit (especially during re-entry from the water!). On the other hand the brand new spray skirt was a little tight the first time we deployed it. Another trick: Slip the rear edge of the spray skirt as far between the coaming and the deck material as possible, this will hold it in place while you work the seal towards the bow. The spray skirt does adapt after it has been wet once or twice - we used a "Hiko T4".
We Must Down to the Sea ...
The E68 accelerates easily and maintains a smooth glide. This is the result of its 5 m (16'4") length (LOA), of which a good 4.60 m (15'1") is in the water (LWL). Waterline beam appears very narrow with only a paddler as payload! You pay for the fast hull shape in initial stability, but one quickly gets used to this, especially since the final stability inspires full confidence. The latter is completely predictable and dependable.
On an even keel the E68 has excellent tracking. Keeping it on an even keel requires a few minutes of practice. Use the time to gain full confidence in the E68's final stability. Then use that confidence to reap the rewards of edging the E68 to exploit its full range maneuverability!
Watch out, here follows a brief technical discourse, to put the above into perspective. By all means skip the numbered paragraphs if you find such things uninteresting.
1 - Regarding
the hull shape, which makes it all possible.
2 - Regarding
lateral stability, a good thing within reason ...
185 lbs, distributed almost evenly over 5'12"
The centrally mounted footrest and rudder pedal unit is easily removed from the boat. So is the backrest. This allows easy loading of the bow and stern sections as far as frames number 1 and 4 respectively. Beyond that things get a little tighter due to the smaller size of these frames, but the space in the ends of the hull should be reserved for buoyancy bags or, at most, very light cargo packed in bags which will provide the ends of the boat with buoyancy in case of flooding.
We stowed our cargo as centrally as possible, while still commensurate with a comfortable extended paddling position. A sideways launch from a 24" dockside was no problem for the fully loaded boat. Even with the heavier paddler in paddling position the sponsons were still well clear of the waterline. Thus there was still plenty of further buoyancy.
As soon as one boarded the loaden boat, the greatly increased initial stability became noticeable. Once the paddler was sitting comfortably the boat was rock steady. Acceleration was reduced due to the additional mass, but the glide phase proved to be extended in equal measure. We had to edge more aggressively to assist turning due to the increased initial stability and this gave us the first opportunity to the effectiveness of the rudder.
Judging by the relationship between the sheer line and the waterline the boat was trimmed too far by the bow, according the way we had stowed the cargo. Nonetheless the hull continued to show the same directional stability as unladen. We noticed that the bow wave had a tendency to climb up towards the sheer and at times throw a thin sheet of spray - OK, so we should have improved on the trim ...
We tried various paddling styles: A relaxed "traditional" touring style (flat, long, slow movements of the paddle), an adaptation of a racing style (steep, sharp explosive movements of the paddle) and a number of experimental styles in-between. We used wooden paddles with relatively long narrow blades (similar to Bending Branches "Journey" blades). The boat reacted equally predictably in all phases, with just the right amount of inherent directional stability to resist the turning forces of normal forward propulsion strokes. Flat and steep strokes were equally comfortable. Shorter paddlers may wish to heighten their sitting position in the deep cockpit, depending on their personal preferred paddling style.
The deck to cockpit rim joint, as well as the center seam in the aft deck appeared quite watertight during sculling and rolling. There was some drippage after extended rolling at the bow and stern ends of the cockpit rim. This will undoubtedly be still further reduced as Pouch switches from hinged cockpit rims to solid rims.
presented the boats to the American public for the first time on April
29 on the Hudson River at the Downtown Boathouse in Manhattan, NY. (A
word of thanks to the folks at the Boathouse, who keep up this great facility
and make it possible for New Yorkers to get out on the river!)
We demonstrated assembly of the boat, as well as some rolling and re-entry exercises and then made the two demo boats available to a rather enthusiastic line of interested paddlers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the boats were well received - I gratefully received words of enthusiasm and encouragement!
It's a beautiful thing that Pouch is developing and introducing new boats once again!
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