Rock hopping to wilderness

Sitting here on the cliff too I see the remote islands of Lunga, Fladda, Inch Kenneth, The Dutchman’s Cap, IonaLittle Colonsay and world famous Saffa on the horizon — each an expedition of its own.

The 17 foot Folbot Expedition Cooper sea kayak folds down to fit into a rucksack and stows neatly onboard a rib or in a car. Indeed the advert has one packed in the boot of a Mini Cooper and I’ve seen it done.

Ocean craft

Folding kayaks may sound Heath Robinson but they are in fact robust expedition craft used by NATO Special Forces — one Klepper, a sea kayak of a similar design, was famously used by Hannes Lindemann in 1959 to successfully cross the Atlantic.

Atlantic paddle

Lindemann, a doctor wishing to study the human body’s natural ability to survive long periods at sea, used a Klepper Aerius II folding kayak, to cross from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

Strong arms

Although he modified the boat to take a main sale other kayakers have since completed the journey without the assistance of wind power.

Lindemann encountered winds of Force 8, gusting to Force 9 and capsized twice during periods of sleep deprivation.

Between the crests of waves

Journalists, taking one look at the tiny kayak on his arrival, asked “but where did you sleep?” and famously he answered “between the crests of waves”.

Setting out

With practice, a Folbot Cooper can be assembled in 20 minutes. Other types of kayak don’t fit in a rib, in a pick up or indeed in the boot of a Mini as does a Folbot Cooper – folding kayaks allow the paddler to travel more lightly and to be more mobile.

Folbot Cooper Expedition

The Cooper is similar to Lindemann’s craft only much improved. Aluminium has since replaced the wood frame making it lighter (30 pounds), stronger and smaller when stowed.

Furthermore, due to its reduced weight, it is more buoyant giving the craft a superior load capacity for expedition provisions. However, simplicity is key — an Inuit saying ‘live life like you are in a kayak’ is a good starting point for island life.

A Folbot is a perfect craft to explore deserted coastline, spectacular caves and white sand beaches. Its small size when packed allows its user to jump on a bus, a train or a plane with the boat packed as standard luggage — the craft really has mobility at its heart.

Closer to the sea

Some paddlers prefer folding kayaks because the give of the canvas against rach wave  makes the owner feel closer to the sea.

Performance craft

Others prefer the sleekness and sheen of fibreglass kayaks, which are faster crafts, and, if paddling long distance, fibreglass is probably the one for you because less residtance means more exonomy. However such detail didn’t stop Lindemann.

This having been said I love fibreglass kayaks – they save energy in your paddling arms and are the Formula 1 of the kayak world. But they still don’t fit in my car.

Craft of choice

This Folbot single seat sea kayak is 17 feet long, tracks straight with good velocity and enables kayakers to hop between rocks, lees, headland and bays with confidence. The Cooper capably handles waves, turns well despite its length and packs as much luggage as a mule making it my expedition craft of choice.

The Western Scottish Isles have much rocky shoreline interspersed with headlands and bays ideal for paddlers looking for exhilarating trips with calm moments of respite. Such shore hugging gives even basic paddlers access to wilderness scenery, dramatic caves, turquoise waters and the calm respite of sheltered bays.

Lindemann never had such luxuries and was lost at sea despite his triumphant arrival in the West Indies. Sadly a typhoon struck when he was paddling onwards to mainland America and he was not seen again.

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