Aluminum Kayaks

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by GAVIOTA, Jun 5, 2008.

  1. JEM
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    JEM Senior Member

    Unless it was a recreational kayak with an open cockpit, that would be a scorcher on your thighs once the sun hit it. That, or it would mighty cold paddling in the winter months.
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    Does anybody know ho is this person,what have I done to him to start threating me this way??

    From: "Jim Robinson" <> Save Address Reminder

    Subject: alum.
    Date: Friday, June 06, 2008 9:13:45 PM [View Source]

    just a quick note to let ya know,,,,your post on
    better disappear,,or i WILL get in touch with the "right" people and have your "company" looked at,,,,,,dont make me have to spell it out and show you what i mean.


  3. JEM
    Joined: Jan 2004
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    JEM Senior Member

    Can we see a pic of the kayak? It sounds interesting. May not be everyone's cup of tea but it could work for some. That, or would you mind emailing me a couple pics? I had some folks inquire about a design like this.
  4. Bullshipper
    Joined: May 2008
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    Bullshipper Bullshipper

    Anyone that goes to US customs can register as a US Importer of Record and begin importing merchandise bought in other countires. If you place an order with me in Mexico, the import goes to your designated broker, and the paperwork takes a day or two. The merchandise is delivered to your customer, you bill him, and I bill you.

    I do this on a daily basis.
  5. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    I could quote you the regulation but, yes if you build boats (kayaks, whatever) with the purpose of selling them in the USA yes you do have to get a manufacturers ID Code from the US Coast Guard. It costs nothing, takes a day or two to be processed. In the case of kayaks, that is the ONLY federal regulation the builder has to comply with. So why not?

    Call them 202-372-1073 or FAX 202-372-1934

    look at
  6. kengrome
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    kengrome Senior Member

    Sorry to disagree again, but getting a MIC is not the only regulation a kayak builder must comply with. The builder must also create and emboss a unique HIN into the hull of every boat he builds -- in a specific position on the boat. Then he has to affix the same number in another place on the boat, this time in a hidden location, so if it gets stolen and the main HIN is removed or modified the secondary HIN can be uncovered to properly identify the boat's origin and hopefully the rightful owner.

    But there's more ...

    The retail seller has the obligation to record the contact information of every person he sells a new boat to. These records must be 'permanent' -- which I think is 7 years in real terms although it could be longer -- and presented to the Coast Guard on demand. So if you not only build the boats but also sell them, then you must also maintain these records yourself.

    Sure, it would be *nice* if the only thing a builder had to do is get a MIC before he could start manufacturing and selling canoes or kayaks in the USA, but there is clearly more to it than this.


    Fortunately there are no flotation requirements for canoes and kayaks. Then again, these boats have very specific technical definitions which the USCG creates ... and I think you'd be surprised at how some of the boats most of us might call a 'canoe' or 'kayak' do not comply with the legal definition of these terms. For example, this folding boat designed and prototyped by Pete Flood is very similar to a much cheaper and smaller folding boat I designed myself -- yet it is NOT a canoe/kayak even though both he and I want it classified as such:

    In other words, just because you think (or want) a boat to be considered a canoe or kayak by the USCG, they might not see it your way. So it pays to contact them and get a definitive answer to the classification of the boat you want to build and sell *before* you actually put it on the market -- assuming you prefer to avoid problems rather than create them.

    If your boat fails to comply with the Coast Guard's technical definitions there will probably be additional requirements which will undoubtedly cost more in both time and money, including basic flotation, capacity labeling, safety equipment, etc.
  7. masalai
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    masalai masalai

    Up from the dungeons rises the red herring of doubt.... Too heavy and too fragile - Too heavy to carry over the shallows or around a waterfall, and too fragile to go the other way - I doubt they would even survive going out through a modest 4 ft break in the surf??????

    Just being pedantic so please take no offence but "aluminium" is the correct spelling last time I looked....:D:D
  8. terhohalme
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    terhohalme BEng Boat Technology

    Linder makes beautiful aluminium canoes.

    No heyvy, no fragile, but unsinkable. They are strong enough to fall in rapids (good) but they will easyly stick on rocks (bad).
  9. kengrome
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    kengrome Senior Member

    Sure, this is the general guideline that applies to goods not otherwise covered by additional requirements, but it certainly does not cover all goods ...

    Clearly there are some government agencies which impose their own special rules in order to control the products they are responsible for overseeing. The Coast Guard is just one of these agencies. That's why, if you import recreational boats into the USA, you are required to register with the Coast Guard as the importer of those boats.

    This assumes that Customs -- or the USCG themselves -- do not block the boats from entry because you've never registered as a Recreational Boat Importer.

    Do you do this with 'boats' on a daily basis? Or are you doing it mostly with other products and seldom with boats? I'm not suggesting that you cannot 'get away' with importing boats illegally. It may even be an easy thing to do for all I know -- but that doesn't make it legal, it only means it is possible.
  10. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    I guess you might spell it right over there but by the time it gets here it's wrong. I think you also put the em-fas-is on the wrong si-la-bul, as Mike Myers says. ;)

    I still don't see why an alumin(i)um kayak wouldn't work, but there are disadvantages, as there are to every type of material. Most al. canoes have a keel as a way of joining the two sheets of metal, but a keel is usually a disadvantage. They might be strong enough to fall in rapids, but fill one full of water and the slowest current can wrap it around an obstacle like a wet rag. I think compound curves involve custom work like heating/ hammering or expensive presses. Two things that would seem to have to be reduced in the al. kayak shown were weight and price.

    GAVIOTA, by posting the commercial web site you might have run into roblems that wouldn't have surfaced if you had just asked for opinions on the idea. You'll notice that S.A.Rebuilders has no website to be able to track to see if they are legitimate and following all the rules and regs.
  11. kengrome
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    kengrome Senior Member

    Aluminum will work, but it may also have more disadvantages than any other material ever used for a kayak. I think it all comes down to this: I can buy a new, sleek, smooth, curvy roto-molded polyethylene kayak with a permanent molded-in color of my choice that offers all these features aluminum does not:

    1- I can buy one for 1/2 or 1/3 (maybe only 1/4) of the price of the aluminum kayak previous advertised

    2- Unsinkable because the material itself floats, and therefore has a built-in safety factor unavailable in aluminum

    3- Tough, strong and flexible enough to bend without breaking, crushing or being slashed open when banged hard against sharp immovable objects

    4- Nearly always slides off obstructions rather than getting stuck on them

    5- Comfortable enough for my body to rest against all day long in any kind of weather

    6- Deadens sound naturally -- not as much as wood of course, but far better than aluminum

    7, 8, 9, 10 ... - Never needs repainting, almost never needs any other kind of repairs, doesn't blind me with reflected sunlight, won't corrode when exposed to stray electrical currents, cannot attract electricity and contribute to shocking or electrocuting me, damaged and unfinished edges will not cut me, etc., etc., etc.

    Realistically I think you'd have to sell aluminum kayaks for $300 or less in order to be competitive with the roto-molded polyethylene kayaks available on the market today. Even then you may have a hard time selling them. I think most people would prefer to pay twice the price for a plastic kayak that offers all the desirable features listed above.
  12. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    But, what is the lifespan of the materials in the kayaky form? While the plastic may actually hold a suitable shape for, let's just say, 20 years... it will eventually break-down and become virtually useless as a hull form, even though the plastic, itself, will live on as a decently inert object in a landfill.

    Recycling potential is much better for aluminum than it is for PE kayaks, park benches aside, which also require a certain amount of virgin plastic added to the regrind from the recycled boat.

    The safety factor is moot as soon as you put anything in the plastic boat besides your removable self if there are not watertight air chambers in the boat. Nicely enough, aluminum also can be welded to provide dandy safety air chambers, so the point is a wash.

    Not necessarily. I've owned, literally, dozens of Tupperware kayaks over the years for whitewater paddling and trust me on this one... they are not indestructable. They can just as easily be wrapped, slashed open on sharp objects and punctured if they take a point load source from a awkward angle.

    Repair is a pain in the butt for plastic boats and they do not always hold with a degree of security.

    This depends on the angle with which the obstruction is encountered. Aluminum can have a tendency to grab at rocky surfaces, it is true, but it isn't half as bad as the descriptions would lead you believe.

    If you encounter an aluminum boat which has a hot surface, just how hard is it to splash some water on it from the river, or lake, or whatever, in which it is sitting. The metal is cooled right away and it becomes useable. Plastic boats, depending on color as molded, also can get outrageously hot and the same technique works for them.

    Correct, but if you are really paddling, what is the actual difference here? If you are talking about a boat that is being used to woo a young lady, then maybe this means something... or if you are sailing a crusing boat over a long distance, also true... but who makes a cruising boat from PE plastic, anyway?

    Wind and water noise alone will cancel-out the relative differences in a metal boat compared to a plastic boat.

    Painting? True enough

    Repairs? Not so true at all

    Blinding? That's why paint is around

    Corrosion? So, who leaves their kayak in the water all the time, anyway?

    Electrocution? I guess that depends on the source of the juice that may kill you. If you are talking lightning, the the PE boat isn't going to save your butt anyway.

    Unfinished edges? ... What edges? It's a boat with a deck

    This position completely depends on the interests and preferences of the buyer. There are numerous sports cars on the market today with aluminum bodies. How is it that these firms can get away with producing vehicles of this type, if they could just as easily fab their cars from molded PE, or thermoformed Acrylic?

    This is a horses for courses kind of thing and because the marketplace is so diverse on a global basis, there is room for all kinds of product solutions which don't make sense, at all, to the mass production marketplace.

    Much of this will depend on the design solution that is reached, the intended buyer niche and the eventual price point for the proposed product.

    Just look out there at the kayak business and you will see everything from $200 rec boats in rotomolded PE to $5000 folding boats of the finest workmanship and materials. I would not be surprised at all, if an aluminum boat could be marketed with a modest level of fufillment. People will buy whatever suits their fancy if its presented correctly and is built with the fit and finish that is expected in the designed niche market.
  13. kengrome
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    kengrome Senior Member


    I disagree with many of your arguments because they fail to consider all angles, or they dismiss other possibilities in favor of your preferred conclusions, or they simply ignore some of the important issues I raised.

    Since you already agree with me on the rest of the points I made anyways, it seems your post reconfirms my belief that plastic is a far better material for most kayaks than aluminum.

    I applaud you for your persistence and determination in your Devil's advocate arguments here, but nothing you have said will ever convince me to buy, own or use an aluminum kayak ... or that there is enough of a market for them in the entire world to bother trying to build and sell them.

    My first choice is ply/epoxy/glass composite, my second choice is roto-molded plastic, my third is skin-on-frame, and my fourth is flexible closed-cell foam. Aluminum will never be a possibility for me -- not in any way, shape or form that I have ever seen -- so that's it.

    Nevertheless if you and/or GAVIOTA think there's a market for aluminum kayaks and want to get into the business I wish you all the best. Just please register properly with the USCG before you start marketing your tin can boats the next time ...

  14. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    I can imagine an aluminum kayak with a fabric deck stretched over graphite rods or some such. The hull alone, being so low-sided and narrow, would not have to weigh more than 35 lbs I think.
    I would not build the deck from aluminum.
    The hull could be rounded, so how do you do that? I know airplanes are shaped in complex curves, so it can be done. If ribs could be epoxied in instead of riveted, they could be made from all kinds of materials. Maybe in kit form they could be a good deal. You receive two formed hull halves and build from there. The keel could be an upturn on the bottom inner edge of each half, which get epoxied and riveted or screwed together.
    Anyone who could set up to produce those kits (two pieces of formed aluminum) could churn them out for little cost all day long. Compare that to roto-molded or glass or anything else.

    Advantages? Dunno. Maybe toughness per lb.

  15. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member


    You've set out, from your first post on this thread, to discredit the interests of the original posting individual. To you... His intended position is suspect. His website is not to your liking. He has violated all sorts of possibly applicable Coast Guard rules... just a long list of stuff with virtually no suggestions as to how his choice of material may be appropriate.

    Truth is... any material can be appropriate for the task at hand as long as the designer, builder and buyer/user find it relevant and enjoyable.

    Personally, I think it's fair to give him some due and consider that literally, thousands of aluminum boats of this general size have been produced over the years and they have provided excellent service. Many of them continue to do so, making for one heck of a success story when one considers the original investment is still paying value enhanced dividends, for whomever currently owns the boat.

    Take a long look at the aluminum canoes made in the intervening years since WWII and ask yourself this single question... How many PE boats would still be around, offering continuous, satisfying service after sitting in the sun all day, virtually every day for more than fifty years? Have you ever seen a really well made, highly polished canoe in aluminum? They are truly a sight to behold. There isn't a PE plastic boat made that will ever be able to meet that aesthetic level of satisfaction.

    All materials have specific advantages, as well as problems. Carbon, glass, wood, steel, aluminum, concrete and yes... even several types of plastic, depending on what the design brief states and the preferences of the manufacturer. A boat isn't always about how light, how rough and tough or how easily repaired the material might be. It's about a long list of sometimes intangible, personal assessments that each individual makes for themselves.

    Lot's of people buy kayaks for reasons that have nothing to do with what you might regard as a practical thought process. They are driven by their own criteria and an aluminum boat, whatever the size, fits many of those criteria for many people.

    I wouldn't think of trying to change your mind as to material suitability as you may see it. You are free to build any boat you like with any material you like. I would think that you would extend that same, freedom of choice, courtesy to our thread starter as you assume for yourself.
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