Boat Review: Sea Eagle Travel Canoe 16 | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
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Boat Review: Sea Eagle Travel Canoe 16 Photo: Scott MacGregor

Sea Eagle's new inflatable canoe soars to great heights

We’ll forgive you for being a bit skeptical.

The inflatable dinghies, canoes and kayaks we grew up with were little more than pool toys. Long-time inflatable kayak manufacturer Sea Eagle will change your assumptions about blow-up boats with the world’s first performance-oriented inflatable travel canoe.

Debuting the Travel Canoe 16, or simply the TC16, on the showroom floor at last summer’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, the Sea Eagle booth was a hub of excitement. Editors were excited about the TC16, which is a perfect craft for paddlers who don’t have a spare 48 square feet to store a canoe, and for those who are paddling in far-away places and want to be able to check their canoe on an airplane. When deflated, the TC16 packs to the size of a burly winter sleeping bag— small enough it might not even be considered oversized baggage. In fact, it’s the only canoe that’s ever been delivered by courier and deposited in the Canoeroots office kitchen.

The TC16 is just shy of 60 pounds and is incredibly easy to set up. Literally, just pump and go. Inflation took Canoeroots publisher Scott MacGregor about seven minutes and then we were ready to hit the water. And that was without reading the instructions.

On the water, the TC16 makes for fun and easy cruising. Even without the optional skeg it tracks straight, turns easily thanks to moderate rocker and is quick to get up to top speed.

Its double-walled, drop-stitch hull is rock hard when inflated to the recommended 12 psi, and the PVC-based material had staffers climbing all over it, practicing Capistrano Flips and gunwale-bobbing without worry of bruising limbs on aluminum gunwales and wooden thwarts.

The flat bottom of the TC16 makes it feel stable so long as you remain on the level. With even a little tilt the canoe quickly falls to find its secondary stability on its inflated sides. Once you’re there, the secondary stability is rock solid.

Two factors impressed me most about the TC16. First, after righting the canoe following a capsize there’s almost no water inside the hull. When the canoe does overturn, it floats on the water instead of in the water, meaning you can right it, slither back in and keep on paddling without bailing.

Secondly, the TC16 is durable. We crashed it, bashed it and bounced it, and none of it left a mark. Not even a head-on collision at ramming speed with a car-sized chunk of billion-year-old Precambrian rock. Try that with your hard shell. There’s a limit to the TC16’s durability I’m sure, but we didn’t find it.

In moving water, the hull does bend and flex more than other travel canoes we’ve paddled. While grinding down shallow drops on our local river the canoe almost seemed to bend and slither over rocks—a funny sensation that takes some getting used to.

Our only complaint? The inflatable seats are attached to the floor with Velcro, and the feet-out- front, lean-back style isn’t what we’re used to for aggressive river running. We kept wanting to kneel.

In addition to the niche markets of urbanites and northern river travelers, Sea Eagle’s TC16 is sure to find a home in the boat houses of families, fishermen and river cruisers looking for a versatile recreational canoe.  

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Watch the Sea Eagle get unboxed, blown up and then get out on the water here:

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