So what on earth is a catamaran kayak? Simple. It’s a double hulled kayak with the seating area resting in-between the two hulls.
The double hull design provides two advantages over other inflatable kayaks – stability and speed.
Unlike a traditional inflatable kayak, there isn’t a flat floor resting on the water’s surface. Instead, there’s just two sleek pontoon hulls that cut through the water with ease. This sleek design allows a catamaran inflatable kayak, popularized by the Sea Eagle 435 Paddleski, to easily cross large bodies of flat water.
In other words, the boat is ideal for long distance paddling on lakes and other flat water locations.
Secondly, a catamaran kayak has a wider beam than a traditional inflatable kayak. The extra beam, or width, makes the kayak very stable. This allows paddlers to stand upright in the boat without worries of capsizing the boat (or, for that matter, falling out of it).
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Options, Options and More Options
The double hull design of the Sea Eagle 435 allows for a number of unique options not found in other boats.
First among them is the rowing frame. Due to the sleek design, a catamaran kayak is ideal for rowing. Anyone who’s tried to row an inflatable kayak or an inflatable raft that lacks a rowing frame before knows it isn’t a lot of fun. So to solve this problem Sea Eagle has an optional rowing frame available. Once installed, this boat makes rowing simple, allowing the boat to slice through the water with minimal effort.
Second, the stability and beam of the kayak allows a number of “fishing friendly” features to be installed. In particular, the double hull design, in conjunction with a motormount that is placed between the two hulls, allows for use of a gas motor up to 2.5hp. While a 2.5hp motor doesn’t sound like much, due to the sleek design and lightweight of the boat, the motor propels the boat around lakes and backwaters simply and quickly. For those wanting to “go green,” an electric trolling motor with a deep-cycle battery can also be installed.
Other “fishing friendly” optional features include rod holders and padded swivel seats with a comfortable backrest.
And then there’s the sail. Sea Eagle was the first, as far as I know, to popularize the use of a sail on an inflatable kayak. And the PaddleSki was the first boat a sail was used on. The sail is very easy to mount and, in a decent breeze, can propel the boat along at a decent clip.
Still, it isn’t a substitute for a thirty foot sailboat, so keep that in mind.
Catamaran Inflatable Kayaks Compared to Expedition Inflatable Kayaks
The catamaran kayaks from Sea Eagle have much in common with the Explorer Series (Sea Eagle’s expedition line of inflatable kayaks). They are constructed from the same tough material, which means you really have to work at it to put a hole in it.
As such, the 435 PaddleSki catamaran kayak is capable of running Class IV rapids, venturing out onto long overnight float trips though remote terrain as well as functioning as a great boat for simple day trips on the local river or lake.
Yet, there are some differences that paddlers need to be aware of.
First, the 435 Paddleski weighs more than a Sea Eagle 380x kayak and takes somewhat longer to assemble due to the double pontoon design. Assembly time will be longer still if you outfit your boat with many of the options available, such as the motormount, rowing frame or swivel seat.
Second, the Paddleski has less a bit weight capacity (total capacity of 650 lbs). For solo paddlers, the 100-pound reduction in weight capacity when compared to the Sea Eagle 380x isn’t a deal breaker. But for couples who desire a boat that can carry two people plus a lot of gear for a week-long trip, the boat might prove a bit too small.
Third, while the catamaran kayak can survive trips through Class IV whitewater, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to take the boat through it. The kayak is longer than Sea Eagle’s 380x. The extra length makes sharp, quick turns necessary when plowing through large waves and skirting boat-sucking holes more difficult.
On the other hand, the boat’s enhanced stability allow’s the kayak to plow through waves, even at odd angles, that might threaten to capsize other types of inflatable kayaks.
Is a Catamaran Inflatable Kayak Right for You?
No boat is perfect. There is no such thing as an “ideal boat” that is perfect in all situations. And the catamaran kayak is no exception to this rule. Whether or not a catamaran kayak is right for you depends entirely on what your boating needs are.
For lake paddling, there’s no question that a catamaran kayak is superior to mant other inflatable kayak designs. It’s sleek shape, particularly when combined with a rowing frame, allows for nearly effortless travel across lakes and other flat waters.
If your primary boating need is for lake paddling, especially overnight trips in remote areas, the Sea Eagle 435 kayak is perfect for your needs. Ideal locations to use this boat include remote lakes, the Boundary Waters, paddling on the Great Lakes, sheltered bays and endless other places.
Moreover, the ability to use either an electric or gas motor on the kayak greatly enhances the flexibility of a catamaran inflatable kayak. For this reason, people who spend lots of time on lakes and other flat water will find a catamaran kayak an appealing option.
Just don’t forget the sail option. While installing a sail on an inflatable boat might seem odd, for trips into remote areas a sail could prove useful. This is especially so in remote, wilderness type area where motors are banned or impractical, such as in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.
The Sea Eagle 435 Catamaran kayak is an awesome fishing platform. Indeed, I’d say it’s the best inflatable fishing kayak available now (2018). The stability, the ability to use multiple motors, and the ability of two anglers to stand without capsizing the boat and have to a comfortable swivel seat makes the boat superb for fishing.
If fishing is your primary use of an inflatable boat, then give strong consideration to this Sea Eagle catamaran kayak if you also desire the ability to take multi-night/week-long trips through remote terrain.
For river floating, whether or not the kayak is right for you depends on the types of rivers you plan to float and whether there are one or two paddlers. For sedate rivers, with rapids of Class II strength or less, then this kayak handles fine for either one or two paddlers.
However, if you foresee using the boat in stronger rapids, such as Class III, the long length of the boat makes it more difficult for solo paddlers to control. Having two paddlers should avoid most control problems, but even two paddlers will still find the boat a bit more challenging to control in whitewater than an expedition level inflatable kayak.
Whether the more challenging control of this boat in strong whitewater creates problems really depends on how often you plan to use the boat in strong Class III rapids or above. If your boating plans rarely involve running strong Class III or Class IV rapids, then don’t worry about it. Worse comes to worse and you find yourself facing a powerful Class III rapids, you can always make a portage and be on your way.
But if your floating plans involve frequent running of powerful Class III or Class IV rapids, and if you’re a solo paddler, the length of the boat and the reduction in quick maneuverability might pose problems.
Multi-Night/Multi-Week Float Trips
The PaddleSki kayak from Sea Eagle is fully capable of taking long floats. It’s made from the same material as the Explorer Series kayaks and is immune to freezing temperatures. The only real limiting factor with this boat is the reduction in weight capacity and the lack of places to attach/stash lots of bags and other gear.
In other words, for a few nights out on the water this boat works just fine. But if you plan to venture out for a week or more with two people, it might prove difficult finding places to stash all the awkward size dry bags and other gear taken on week-long trips.
- Instruction Manual for the 435 PaddleSki Kayak (.pdf file. May be slow to load).
Setting Up the SE 435 Catamaran Kayak
PaddleSki Owner Setting Up and Using the Boat.
Paddling on Lake Tahoe