By Peter Tranter and Anne Egan
Some boats are built for performance, others for racing, river running, long distance and the list goes on. Then there are those built purely for fun, jut having a good time and that’s where inflatables enter the scene.
If you’re looking for a kayak or canoe to do all of the above, then there are plenty that will do the job better than the Madison but the ability to just chuck it into the back of the car with the kids, drive off to the coast or the local river and just have a splash around, the Sevylor Madison would come out on top and for a minimum of half the price with paddles thrown in too.
The Sevylor is all about uncomplicated fun and it’s such an easy setup. The Madison is supplied with a very effective footpump. Looking at it initially when taking out of the box, you would be forgiven for thinking it looks like it will be hard work. Well, no it isn’t as long as you follow a procedure.
Firstly make sure you attach the supplied fin before inflation and secondly be sure to inflate the floor of the kayak before inflating the walls. Reasons being that after inflation, you won’t be able to fit the fin and the floor has to be first because if you inflate the walls beforehand, then you will not be able access the valve that inflates the bottom part.
The pressure gauge on the pump allows you to judge accurately on when to stop. The seats are inflatable too but they can easily be done by mouth. All in all – a five-minute job.
On the river it is exactly what it is – a sophisticated and very tough inflatable that seats two comfortable with a couple of rucksacks. This weekend we intend going to the Norfolk coast and just having a splash about. There are no hard edges and if you fall out just clamber back in – perfect for messing about.
On the other side of the coin it is also a convenient paddling piece of kit. We covered around 10 miles of the River Cam from Grantchester through Cambridge and back again with ease. I had to fiddle about with the inflatable seat a little, more so to get my back rest into the right position.
It goes without saying there are no thigh brace, footrests and cockpit, so its more like paddling a kayak/canoe hybrid. The supplied two-piece glades are maybe on the rudimentary side but perfectly OK for short to medium length paddles. As well as the paddles, also included is the foot pump plus a repair kit.
On the floor of the Madison are suggested seat positions for either two paddlers or for somebody on their own.
I know of three friends within a mile of me who have had these types of inflatables for quite a few years now. I’ve always tended to dismiss them as niether one thing or another, more like a dinghy than a canoe or kayak.
However, I have to say that I’ve been reasonably surprised and more impressed with the fun angle rather than taking them seriously as some type of performance boat. If you bear that in mind plus the very low cost – then in all seriousness you cannot go wrong – get one for the kids if nothing else – they’ll love you for it.
Three words, “I loved it.” The Madison is my first experience of an inflatable kayak. Starting with the appearance the Madison is striking. In blue and aqua marine, the kayak looks beautiful and gives the impression of quality and good construction. We tried it out on the beautiful River Cam in Cambridge one barmy evening and it was a delightful and stress free paddling experience.
It was relatively easy to inflate using the foot pump supplied, other options for inflation are available in the form of a hand pump and an electric pump. The valves were initially a little temperamental and it took a couple of attempts to correctly attach the pump so that it did not leak whilst inflating but this felt like it was just a matter of experience.
Once inflated, and the seats were put in place, given by the built in seat-O-graphy, we were off and portaged the kayak a couple of hundred metres down to the river.
The seats are worthy of further mention, I am 65 kilos (yes I am working on it!) and just 1.5 m tall but I found the level of comfort afforded by the seat absolutely fabulous. The cushion base is inflatable offering great support and was so comfortable with no numb bum experience. The back rest is attached to the base, and in situ is adjustable via straps, to the level of uprightness or recline that you find to be best. Personally I found it to be the most comfortable I had ever been in a kayak. The height of the seat relative the height of the side of the kayak meant I felt myself to be in a very good position for paddling which led to less fatigue and strain.
Lifting the Madison from the river again did not present any difficulties and it felt light, and easy to manage. Paddling with one person or two, was simple, the Madison comes with a removable fin, simple to attach and assists with tracking.
Stability, pretty important in a kayak, again I found this to be more than adequate especially when entering and leaving the boat. Carrying it (inflated to the water) was easy as the carry handles offer good grip and it didn’t feel heavy or awkward. The side carry handles double up as paddle holders for you to clip your paddles into.
The texture and feel of the kayak were appealing to me, and together with the curviness I found it a very user friendly vessel that screamed come and have fun in me, which we did and made friends with some Cambridge cows along the way.
Another great feature of this kayak is how quickly it deflated and can be popped into the back of your vehicle and away you go. Obviously storage is simple – it packs away into it’s bag and takes up very little space in a shed or garage, alternatively you might choose to keep it in your vehicle and have the freedom to paddle without having to have planned or loaded.
Supplied with two piece adjustable paddles which we found very adequate for purpose, certainly for the purposes of a few hours of recreational paddling.
All in all a very desirable craft, easy to inflate, carry, paddle, store – a definite hit.