bits and pieces


I’m in pieces,
bits and pieces
And that’s the way it’ll always be
– dave clark five

Happy Monday! Hope your day goes well. Over the weekend CD asked me to talk about more the value of a 3 piece kayak. He wondered about quality, shipping, travel, and such. So let’s see what I can tell you without being too “Brand” specific.

The first thing worth noting is if you want a kayak to travel with you have two choices really; Folding boats and sectionals. Which one you choose of course depends on what your goals are and the price. Both folding kayaks and sectionals of good quality are more expensive than a standard fiberglass boat. That’s a given. For today though let’s talk about sectionals.


Usually a sectional kayak starts out as a normal kayak. Then, after it’s out of the mold and pretty much together it get’s chopped. (imagine the magician with the saw. . . ) Then a bulkhead is placed at the end of each section. The upside is that they can be pretty strong given their construction. And a bit heavier as well. The Alaw Bach has these nice little seashells set into the bulkheads that come together like Legos. These assure you that you are getting everything aligned properly and keep the sections from sliding up and down under pressure.

Bolts or Clips?

Each company has their own way of connecting the sections. My Rockpool has recessed clips that are very quick to latch. It only takes a minute to put the boat together. Inside the clip is an adjustable bolt that is used to keep the connections tight. Thing is, Mike at Rockpool pointed out to me early on that these clips don’t need to be clamped down very hard. It took time for me to trust that, but it’s true. You only need them adjusted enough to hold the boat together. If you make the clips so tight that it takes some muscle to close them, you’re over tightening them. It’s not necessary and will wear on the clips. I have also seen sectionals that have bolts running through the bulkheads, where the paddler has to climb into the cockpit head first, with a wrench. Obviously these are tough, just heavier and a bit of a pain to do up. One thing I would check whatever brand you buy, is that each section lines up correctly. I’ve heard of sectionals that don’t quite come together correctly leaving a quarter inch lip. Obviously the hull should be smooth.


Ok here’s the tricky part. Most airlines will not allow Kayaks as baggage. It’s hard to figure out why exactly, but that’s their policy. In fact I’ve read that BA is talking about adding that policy now. The funny part of this is that they allow all sorts of other objects that are bigger and bulkier. Bass fiddles for instance. With my Trak there has never been an issue. They just call it a golf bag. However, it does say “Kayak” on the bag and I was questioned about that once. It took a supervisor to ok it on that instance.

With the sectional I’ve had to argue. Don’t just assume an airline will let you take your sectional kayak. Before I left on my trip I called the airline in advance. I explained the sizes, weights and such and was told it would not be an issue. Well it was. No matter what you are told, you have to be prepared to negotiate with the customer service people and possibly the security folks as well. In the end I was able to get approval for my flights.

Assuming you are allowed to fly, you need to pack properly of course. Both end sections easily fall within most airlines normal baggage requirements. I packed them with my gear up to the weight limit and basically used them as hard-shell luggage. The center section is over sized, but still fits the oversize requirements. ( I paid an additional $80 both ways for the center section. ) Again you have to manage the weight. I don’t know of anyone who makes bags for their sectionals. You have to make your own. Inside the bags it’s up to you how to protect the hull. Foam is fine, but it adds to the size and weight. It’s a good idea to tape foam around the tips and clips to protect them from damage.

In the end I think paddlers need to get together and use their associations to lobby airlines. Since our kayaks are within their standards and they allow all sorts of recreational gear (both on water gear and off), their policy seems really out of whack. The ACA and BCU should be pursuing this issue.


Ok, to tell you the truth hauling a sectional by yourself through an airport is not really fun. It’s a real bear negotiating the hallways and escalators. You are just thankful when they finally take them off your hands.

Outside the airport a sectional is just too fantastic. I love it. I just toss the boat in the back of the jeep in sections. I can take it anywhere and set it up in a moment. Storage? Mine is sitting right here beside me in my office. How simple is that? Perfect for apartments and certainly in big cities where you may have to pay for storage. Of course if you don’t have a car AND live in an apartment then I think you’d prefer Dubside’s method with a folder. I can’t imagine taking a sectional on a bus!

On the Water

The reason you may choose a sectional over a folder is of course the solid hull. To each their own there. But some of course would argue that hull speed, strength, and the ability to perform rescues are all better with a sectional than a folding boat. Of course TRAK is addressing that in pretty good fashion. Since at the moment we are talking about sectionals, let’s just focus on that for the moment.

There are two minor things that jump out in the design worth noting. First are the front bungies. Where the boat is cut in the front will affect how your bungees are laid out. In the Alaw Bach, the cut meant I lost two front bungees. Their placement was such that they would cross over the cut in the boat. You would have to detach and re-attach them each time you put the boat together. Mike provided me with some raised attachments if I wanted to customize the front bungees. In the end though I just added a deck bag which met my needs without having to drill any new holes. The second issue is with skeg placement. Since the skeg is in the tail section, the slider is placed behind the last bulkhead. My center section has a day hatch, so you can see that the slider is back a bit. However, I could reach it easily enough. I didn’t find this to be a problem. Someone with limited flexibility may not be able to get back there. A rope skeg may be a better option for some. You could easily string it up after the boat was together.

All in all though once you are on the water, you really forget it’s a sectional boat. I spent my time in the UK & PR paddling a sectional and never once felt that it was somehow different than a solid hull. There is no reason it would.

The Decision

Well, those are the main points I can share. A sectional kayak is really nice in a variety of situations. However, don’t just expect an airline to let you travel with it. Expect to pay quite a bit more so it’s certainly not worth it just for “coolness” points. However if you have limited storage and do travel a lot it a sectional can be a real value. As far as I know sectionals are available from NDK, Rockpool & Valley kayaks. I’m sure there are more. One bit of advice I can give you if you do decide on a sectional (or really any kayak for that matter), don’t get caught up in this recent light weight fixation. Lighter kayaks are just not as strong. (In my experience obviously) The flexing hulls are much more susceptible to gel coat cracking, punctures, warping and other damage. There is a lot to be said for the old heavy warhorses if you are an active kayaker. Sectional or not, if you are an active paddler I’d always go for a thick heavy layup.

12 Responses

  1. Thanks for this interesting post Derrick! As someone who sees the world as a series of interesting kayaking put-ins, I sometimes feel a desparate need for a sectional boat or a folder like the Trac. I’d be interested to read more about your experience with the Trac now you’ve had it and traveled with it.

  2. cooldoctor1

    Derrickquix: thanks a million for your input. I am at work now, but plan to read every word of your review of sectionals in general. I have ordered one, actually, from Geneva Kayak (featured on your blog 1.5 years ago–Ryan Rushton, a great guy and young storekeeper). Aquanuat LV with Pro-lite hull, clear keel strip, clear gel coated hull and all black deck. Sectional, of course. I will email you some pictures whenever it comes in from Nottingham and Peter O., likely in springtime 2008.

    Thanks for a great and interesting blog site. What is neat about your site–and how you do this I do not know–is that whenever I google anything kayaking, damned if I don’t get some search result linked to your website. Perhaps it is because you cover so many areas of the sport, including the fairly esoteric, like sectional kayaks. Great work.

    Happy paddling. CD1

  3. derrick

    LOL! Esoteric. . . there’s me in a nutshell! :)

    You’re new boat sounds very cool. I look forward to the pics!!

  4. cooldoctor1

    Oh, crap. I got the Pro-lite layup, and you are quite specific, and I agree with you, in stating that stornger is better. I remember an old Lincoln fiberglass canoe we had a kids, and that bad boy must have weighed 100+ lbs. But you could drop it onto the dock with complete impunity.

    Well, I’ll try this one foray into carbon Kevlar and see how she flies. If I have anything like the trouble that bowler1 is having with spidercracks on Pnet, then I will be royally p.o.’ed. But it does sound like Valley is reputable. Plus, I can see Peter Orton at Canoecopia 2008 and ask him to pretty please lay a couple extra sheets of carbon KV in there for me (actually, it might be done by then).

    I’ll likely truck it up to Devil;s Lake this summer and paddle it, too. I’ll leyt you know if I do.

    Thanks Derrickquix. Very much.

  5. cooldoctor1


    What is your address (any address that you get anything by mail). I am mailing one small thing out to a few of you that gave me good advice this past year. I promise I will eat it with my corn flakes after I address the card.

    Steve CD1 cooldoctor1@yahoo.com

  6. Axel

    Hi Derrick,

    The 3-piece industry standard showpiece of Rockpool now has following… Allthough not with the finesse of the Rockpool clamshells another brand of kayaks that happens to be made a stone-throw away now also has a recessed block and recessed clamps.

    You mention that the kayak is cut BEFORE the bulkheads are placed. The guy from the “other brand” allways told me that that a double bulkhead is laminated in with “spacers”. The kayak is then cut between the spacers. Dunno if that is the case with Rockpool. It then makes for the perfect matching.

    Modern 3-piece kayaks have watertight connections by design. No more bolts and leakage!


  7. cooldoctor1

    Axel: my 2008 Valley A’naut on order still uses bolts. Takes about 20 minutes to put together, so not as rapid for certain as Derrick’s Rockpool, plus heavier. So, don’t know about the future, but I think bolts are still in use, at least from Valley. Grab that extended wrench and climb into the cockpit head first like a pooh bear looking for honey in an ant hill.

    Takes about twnety minutes to properly cartop my yak now, so not much difference there, I suppose.

  8. derrick

    Thanks for adding that in Axel. What you say about the double bulkhead with spacers could certainly be right. Mike just sort of ran through it very quickly with me. Standing by the boat, and saying “we put it together normally, then cut it. . ” He probably left out all sorts of details. :)

    So if I threw that stone would it bounce off Nigel? LOL! Feel free to share. I was not sure how he was doing them these days. I saw one when I was there, but I didn’t look that closely at the time. The thing with NDK boats is they certainly should be able to put up with all the banging around a sectional takes. (well, mine gets banged around a lot anyway. . )

    Hey CD, thanks for the info too. At least everyone will know why they see that new valley with legs sticking out. :)

  9. On dealing with airlines, remember that air frieght or even surface frieght is always an option. Surface freight would be cheaper, but it would have to be done well in advance.
    I wonder if a sectional would be too big for UPS?

    Either way, a sectional is far cheaper and easier to deal with than a no-sectional kayak.

    Although a folder is cheaper to travel with, from my experience a sectional is more reliable. Folders often times need parts replaced, where a composite just needs an occasional fiberglass patch. Something to consider on wilderness trips.

    There is something to be said for Dubside’s reason to use a folder though. It must be great to have both.


  10. OCD_yakker

    Derrick or Axel

    Does anyone in the US distribute the non-Valley/NDK sectional boats? I NEED ONE in my condo and have no boat at present. (long story – short blog) I admire those who have moved away from the bolts and wrench process!! -Scott L

  11. Jim

    Derrick – you didn’t say much about the clips. I’ve seen them on Phil/Simon’s Explorers on their trip in Madagascar too, and photos show the clips on the hull. Is this a problem? Could the clips catch on things underwater and slow the boat down? They do seem great in terms of speed of assembly. Your thoughts on getting sectional boats through an airport are very enlightening. Thanks.

    Great website – seems we were both at the NDK Wales Symposium this past May, although I didn’t meet you, I see lots of shots from that event! JIM, ny

  12. cd1

    Derrick–I bookmarked your wonderful write-up on sectionals, and finally have mine from Valley Sea Kayak. Came in 1.5 weeks ago. Inaugural paddle tonight. Many of the things you stated in your experiences about sectionals I am undergoing now. Seems like a nice boat and wonderful finish for this Valley Aquanuat LV that is now in my living room. As I carry it in the back of my Cherolet Avalanche, I am pleased to report that it fits nicely inside back, with tailgate closed. This is a huge convenience (and the only reason I got the boat, as I am unlikley to fly with it). I sort of need padding in the back of the Av to prevent the three pieces from shifting around and banging one another, and on my drive home from Geneva, IL I used PFDs and paddle floats to do the job. Walking through Wal-Mart the other day, I had a revelation: sleeping bags! 3 bags at $8.99 each from the camping aisle, and seems to be working. WIll keep you abreast of how she paddles and watertightness. Email if you want pics, Derrick. Enjoying your website, as always.