Ralph Hoehn and the "Associates"
I had been looking for some time for a single folding kayak for use during my very own, unaccompanied escapes. Word of the introduction of the new Pouch single in Germany caught my attention at just the right time: I picked up the phone and spoke with the owner of "Poucher Boote GmbH". Instead of just buying a boat, my Associates and I became the Pouch importers for the USA. This is the stuff of which history is made! Here is some of the background.
I have been
paddling boats since the late 1960s. Cheap, inflatable kids boats, commercial
and owner built glass fibre craft, as well as beautiful wooden kayaks
litter the twists and turns of the path of my paddling experience.
One boat has stayed the course: The Pouch double, model RZ85. I laid my first RZ85 to its untimely final rest at the age of 35 or 40. That was the boat's age at the time, not mine. I had named it "Sarum" for sentimental reasons and was quite saddened by its passing. All folding boats should be named by their paddlers! It's the tradition.
It's successor, again an RZ85, is going strong. Already it, too, is looking back on close to 30 years of paddling history! I bought "Sarum II" from its first owner in the early 1980s. Primarily due to the fact that the boat has not reacted adversely to being stored disassembled for prolonged periods, it has travelled with Sharon and me and has followed us through a number of space restricted dwelling places to this day. It rises elegantly to the more or less frequently recurring challenges of use because we can always re-assemble it rapidly. Sharon is my wife, by the way, not originally a water person at all, but pretty readily converted by means of this boat. She is one of the tree Associates.
The boat has also proven to be ideally suited to (supervised) abuse by the children: It serves us on the water, as well as admirably adapting to use as a pirate vessel on land! Currently "Sarum II" is the tool of choice in the boating indoctrination of our Associates 2 and 3.
You have now met one of the boats, the Associates and me. Call us or write to us and we'll be happy to tell you the rest of the story ...
Why do we swear by folding boats?
Folding boats are the most versatile human powered craft.
An appropriately designed, built and assembled folding boat easily rivals or betters similarly sized and similarly deployed boats of other construction methods. Proof: Folding boats serve military special forces, occasional weekend paddlers, serious expedition tourists, children playing pirate ships ... and in almost any conceivable use in between.
Folding boats are indestructible.
When a part does break, it will have acted like a safety valve, dissipating the destructive force acting on the hull without putting the rest of the craft's structure in jeopardy. It is amazing how much breakage a folding boat will absorb and still carry its occupants to safety! A nice little feature should you get into situations that are "over your head".
Folding boats are immortal.
By virtue of being designed for ease of assembly and disassembly, all parts of a folding boat are readily accessible. This means that each part can, if the need should arise, be repaired or replaced in isolation from the rest of the boat. The benefit is twofold: Low repair cost, low down time.
Folding boats are always ready for action.
You can pack up most folding boats in a package small enough to live in the trunk of a car. You can also store them in closets, under beds, behind desks, in athletic lockers -- please add to the list. In a matter of minutes the boat emerges from its cocoon, unfolds its wings and flies away with you! Sounds like hyperbole? Try it!
"Seaworthiness" of folding boats:
boats descend from Arctic skin-on-frame boats. In the hands of a trained,
experienced and fit paddler, using appropriate equipment, these Arctic
kayaks are the most seaworthy vessels of their size. Incredible feats
have been accomplished with them.
Again: What makes a boat "seaworthy" is the appropriate combination of paddler and equipment.
Having said that, there are two related features of folding boats in particular, which promote their inherent seaworthiness:
for smooth motion even in a highly confused sea state. Smooth motion keeps
paddler fatigue low and increases the time a paddler has to respond to
sudden adverse situations. Both are important for the over all seaworthiness
of the combined system of paddler and boat.
What is it about skin-on-frame boats?
I mentioned above that modern folding boats descend from Arctic skin-on-frame boats. They are a modern manifestation of this type of craft.
Skin-on-frame boats fascinate me. One reason is that their construction is so similar to our own: A skin over a frame. Upon boarding, the paddler merges with the boat, they become one body.
Skin-on-frame boats are ancient. Using them provides a tangible link to the generations of paddlers that have lived before us, paddlers who entrusted their survival and that of their families to their skills and their boats.
Skin-on-frame boats were always custom built to suit their intended paddler. So was the rest of the equipment, which the paddler used for propulsion, safety, hunting. There is a deep subtlety of design, not readily apparent through casual observation, which makes skin-on-frame boats an intriguing subject for study.
Skin-on-frame boats evolved over generations of builders. Their design was constantly subtly adapted for the most appropriate response to the parameters that governed their use. Studying these adaptations can give modern designers of similar craft clues as to how to approach possible responses to today's parameters of use. I cannot imagine myself being interested in folding boats without being fascinated by their ancestors.
Want to know more? Please email - or call us!
What of naval architecture and marine engineering?
Okay, perhaps now I'm beginning to drift quite a way from the central topic of folding boats.
However, I have always been interested in boats, as far back as I can remember, and in what makes them tick. The formal academic disciplines, which deal with water craft, are naval architecture and marine engineering. These provide a standard language for use when investigating, describing and designing vessels.
The more I understand what makes folding boats work, the better equipped I am to use them and to assess why certain boats may be more appropriate for certain paddling parameters than others. A paddler must find the most appropriate boat for the intended use and likely conditions encountered during use, as well as the paddler's level of skill and experience.
Therefore, I continue to pursue my interest in aspects of naval architecture and marine engineering -- largely as they apply to skin-on-frame in general and folding boats in particular.
Any thoughts or ideas in this regard? Write to or call.
What is your understanding of the concept of folding boats?
Have you heard some of the myths surrounding folding boats? For example that "sponsons improve the stability of the boat"? That "initial stability makes a boat more seaworthy for a beginner"? That they are fragile? That they require a lot of maintenance? That they are slow?
One of my aims in life is to dispel these myths.
There is a small, but growing group of folding boaters around the world, now increasingly linked via the internet, who feel as I do. We are in the process of collecting data and information about folding boats. We will process this information and make it available to anyone interested in furthering their understanding of folding boats, hopefully in turn to add to the growing body of knowledge and understanding. This project is beyond the scope of this website.
If the above has whetted your appetite, please contact with whatever input you feel is appropriate or pick up the phone.
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