Safari 330 initial impressions by Joel (customer)

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    Lee Arbach TBP
    Keymaster

    Took the Safari out for the first time, a 45 minute, mid-morning paddle
    in a protected, saltwater bay. Light wind, 64 degrees F, mostly flat
    conditions. I’m a 60 year old, male paddler, 5’11”, 150 pounds. I’ve
    paddled sea kayaks and surfskis for 30 years, and used to do a fair
    amount of open-water racing.

    I purchased the Safari as an affordable, lightweight, fun, easy to
    transport boat I could take out on saltwater, lake, and flatwater river
    day trips; especially with less-fit paddlers in recreation type kayaks.
    I also wanted a small boat for playing in surf. I didn’t want a PVC
    boat, so opted for the Safari over the lighter Swing and Twist, because
    of the more durable Nitrolon hull material, its self-bailing scuppers,
    and open cockpit. This is my first inflatable kayak.

    On opening the box, I could tell this wasn’t your typical pool-toy
    kayak. Gumotex (the Czech Republic manufacturer) has been making boats
    for many years, and the quality of the material and construction is
    immediately apparent.

    Inflation with a Bravo 7 foot pump was a breeze at a bit over 5 minutes.
    The 3 PSI chambers provide a good amount of rigidity and I was
    pleasantly surprised that with the tube width, the cockpit area wasn’t
    too expansive.

    The kayak is easy to shoulder carry; finding the balance point is quick.
    With the seat, foot rest, thigh straps, and skeg, the Safari weighed 27
    pounds 6 ounces on my bathroom scale.

    The boat has rock solid, primary stability. Previous generations of the
    Safari had a reputation for being tippy, not so with the longer and
    wider 330 model. I wouldn’t hesitate to put a beginner in this boat. I
    had the seat pad fully inflated; there was no need to deflate it to
    lower my center of gravity. At my weight with no gear, I wasn’t
    displacing much water; there’s definitely more hull exposed out of the
    water compared to a hardshell or folding kayak. As there was minimal
    wind, there was no way to get a feel for the impact of increased surface
    area. Paddlers weighing over 200 pounds have mentioned getting their
    bottoms wet in prior Safari models, but I noticed no water accumulation
    inside the boat aside from paddle drips.

    I used a 220 cm European touring paddle with a high angle stroke and had
    no trouble clearing the tubes. According to my GPS, I was able to cruise
    at 3 to 3.5 MPH; using a high angle stroke. Low angle, more recreational
    touring pace, was in the 2.5 to 3 MPH range. Hull speed seems to
    somewhere between 4 MPH and 4.5 MPH.

    With the skeg, the boat tracks remarkably well for being so short. It is
    very responsive and turns on a dime, even with the skeg installed.

    The inflatable seat has a low back that is perfect for a proper,
    torso-engaged forward stroke; the inflatable footrest also supports a
    good forward stroke, leg drive. Paddlers used to slouching and leaning
    back may not find the seat comfortable. However, I found a Crazy Creek
    folding chair fits perfectly on top of the inflatable seat, providing
    more back support if desired.

    Rinsing and drying the boat afterwards was a snap. The hull design makes
    it quick to towel out any pooled water. Best yet, the folded up Safari
    easily went back into its dry bag, backpack with no struggle or cursing.

    For the first time out, I was impressed with this little boat and have
    to say it surpassed my expectations. Obviously, it needs more water
    under its keel for me to have a better sense of how it does under
    different conditions. But with its light weight, cost, and performance,
    the Safari 330 is certainly a strong alternative to conventional plastic
    recreational kayaks.

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