Sailors tend to be independent souls, and more than a few cruising couples have found that having two ways to get ashore while on the hook can go a long way to maintaining marital bliss. Problem is, where to stow two dinghies on a boat that probably was designed without any thought about stowing even one?
With that in mind,
Practical Sailorbegan scouring the planet for high-quality inflatable kayaks. Recently improved by new technology, these boats look like a possible marriage saver that won't take up the whole quarter berth, or cost a fortune. Readers suggestions are welcome.
While we were assembling our list of contenders, a Walker Bay Airis Play 9.5 arrived. This bright-yellow, surf-style kayak is the second smallest, entry-level inflatable kayak of Walker Bays new Airis line. All of the Airis kayaks feature a drop-stitched floor and hull that can be inflated to 6.5 psi, making them incredibly hard. The Play weighs just 17 pounds and easily packs into an optional backpack. It comes with a hand pump, but no paddle. After a couple weekends of toting the boat around, inflating it on and off various boats, we found it handy, but lacking in some features which can be found in the larger Airis kayaks, which are geared more toward exploring than playing in the surf.
Pros included fast inflation, rugged PVC tube construction, comfortable seat, easy stowing, and light weight. On the downside: It has a single inflation tube, tracking was so-so, and theres no place to tie a bowline on this model. We suspect there are better inflatable kayaks out there, but Walker Bay is usually good at holding prices down, making them a tough competitor at the entry level. We found the Airis Play 9.5 at www.defender.com for $850.