Our lightest boat – the SpitFire XLT Ultra weighs in at a scant 18 lbs. The Spitfire XLT is our standard laminate and is RUGGED. XLT stands for “Xtra Lite Trim” – a 50/50 weave of carbon and Kevlar braided sleeving over a foam core that is infused at the same time as the rest of the hull (a system developed at Placid Boatworks) – weighs in at 21 lbs. Both weights include seat, backband, footpegs and portage pads. In fact, all of our boat weights are “as paddled” – no bare hull weights for advertising purposes here. Other solo boats in our line weigh between 19.5 and 22.5 lbs in XLT Ultra and 23 and 26 lbs in XLT. Wood – we use cherry – adds three to four pounds, depending on model.
You can make a very lightweight boat with a foam core in the bottom. Sandwiching foam between two laminate layers makes a very stiff panel. However, using our vacuum infusion process results in a hull that is about as light as a foam cored boat without the downsides. The problem with a foam core occurs when the laminate that is adjacent to the foam core is soft – as many are when the object is to save weight. When you hit a submerged rock or other sharp object, the non-cored area of the hull will deflect – until it gets to that stiff foam core – at which point it breaks. Repairing is a nightmare, too, because water gets into the core space and travels between the foam and the laminate. To repair this requires removal of a large panel of laminate from the inside of the boat, removal of a large panel of foam, thorough drying and patching of the inside of the outer panel, replacement of the foam and replacement and patching of the inside laminate panel. Then, the gel coat needs to be repaired. In the event of a large hit that results in a crack to a Placid boat, a Kevlar patch and gel coat is all that’s required to fix it. Repair kits are available.
Yes, it is more labor intensive and requires more materials and expertise. But it is clean – 90% of resin styrene emissions are captured in the closed bag – and produces a hull that has no trapped voids which weaken the laminate. Extra resin, which adds weight and no strength, is also removed from the system. Watch our video on how we build our boats to learn more.
The bottom of all Placid hulls is an off-white gel coat. This is done because when you scratch any color gel coat, it scratches white. Making the bottom a white color hides all of those incidental scratches you’re going to get and acts as a scuff patch. When paddled, the off-white patch is slightly below waterline. It can also help you trim your boat when carrying a load by having someone observe the patch from the side while you’re floating.
Gel coat adds a small amount of weight to the boat, but it gives the fabric on the outside of the hull some abrasion resistance and protection. You may have seen some older “skin coated” boats – just fabric and resin on the outside – that have become worn through on the stems (and “fuzzy” in the case of Kevlar outside layers) due to repeated dragging over rocks and sand. And even skin coated boats have something filling the outer surface of the fabric weave (or in some cases, partially filling it – leaving it rough in spots) – resin, which is not weightless as some may lead you to believe. Our upper tint colors add no more weight than that of clear gel coat.
Our decks are handmade from blocks of birch plywood with each ply dyed a different color (three in all; colors alternate). The plywood is formed under intense heat and pressure, and with the use of a lot of resin, so it is more of a laminate than a wood in the end. They require no maintenance but can be touched up with 120 grit sandpaper and spar varnish.
All of our boats possess generous shouldered tumblehome to improve paddler access to the water and allow for more vertical paddle strokes and better tracking. You also get to use a shorter (and lighter) paddle when compared to a straight-sided boat. They’re more difficult to build than a straight-sided boat because the narrowing at the top requires that we use two-piece molds to be able to remove them. We feel the effort is well worth it. Differential bow and stern stem radii (stem radii as viewed from the side – much smaller in the stern) create a de facto skeg which greatly enhances tracking. All of our boats have asymmetrical rocker, too, allowing for responsive turning as well as great tracking. Lower shear height than conventional canoes makes for easier access to the water, too. (There’s a glossary of design terms at the bottom of the page.)
Composites and drill holes don’t mix. When holes are drilled through a hull it: 1) creates a hole in a perfectly good boat (bad idea); and, 2) creates a stress riser that will inevitably begin to crack as the part bolted through the hull flexes and the bolt “works” the composite. There are plenty of old composite boats out there with drilled and bolted outfitting to attest to this. We use a special marine adhesive to hold all of our outfitting in the boat. It keeps the lines clean and prevents stress cracks caused by hull flex at hole locations. It also allows us to put in custom attachment points for gear at customer specified locations. Our seats are also bonded in rather than sitting on top of the inner laminate. When a plastic seat sits on top of laminate, sand WILL eventually get between the two and it WILL act as sandpaper.
We get this one a lot. And I can’t answer it for you (though you can check out the heights and angles on our Outfitting page). Everyone’s different and paddles differently. I CAN tell you that we offer three pedestal-style seats – higher ones can be fit over lower ones – so you can have more than one seat for your boat. All boats come standard with a comfortable kayak backband. We also offer several different kayak seat/backband options for the ultimate in comfort.
Our boats come with two portage pads. They store on the thwarts and are placed on the rails for portaging. The boats are typically carried on one shoulder; the second pad protects your hip from the boat bouncing against it as you walk. We also offer a fabric portage yoke which allows comfortable overhead portaging.
In a word, no. There are two types of stability when referring to boats – primary and secondary stability. Primary, or initial stability, is the feel a boat has when you first get in it and are sitting still; flat bottomed boats (and floating docks) have high initial stability. Secondary stability refers to how stable a boat is while underway, in waves, or when leaned. Boats with slightly elliptical bottoms like ours tend to have good initial stability and excellent secondary stability. Our boats can be leaned to the rail and will not tip over (provided you keep your nose between the rails!). We’ve had our boats out in some very big lakes with high winds and waves and they’ve always performed beyond our expectations.
Although our boats are designed to be paddled as open-top kayaks, with double bladed paddles, they perform very well with a short single bladed paddle as well. Because of our shouldered tumblehome and relatively low shear height, most people use 220 cm high angle and 230 cm low angle kayak paddles. Single blade paddles usually run from 46-48 inches. We carry Werner (double) and Fox Worx (single and double) paddles.
Yes. There is a bulkhead in each stem that creates a trapped air tank providing more than adequate positive flotation. A small plug allows the tank to “breathe” as atmospheric pressure and temperature changes. XLT boats are foam cored, adding even more positive flotation.