From Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge to Florida’s Withlacoochee River, Sea Eagle’s inflatable TC16 helps outdoor fans make the most of every trip.
By Tom Schlichter
Ask Clif Edwards his ideas about being on the water and he’ll tell you that since 1988 he has considered himself a canoe kind of guy, paddling a variety of traditional canoes. In 2018, however, his dad convinced him to give the Sea Eagle TC16 a try after seeing it in a catalog.
Although skeptical of an inflatable canoe and its claims of great performance, versatility and durability, the thought of not needing to hoist it onto a van-top roof rack – where it would suffer UV damage and reduce gas mileage during transport – certainly piqued his interest. The lack of storage issues when the canoe was not in use, along with eliminating the risk for back strain when loading the canoe, also helped sell him on the idea. It didn’t take long before his experiences with the TC16 made him a convert.
“The first time I paddled in Class III whitewater was in my TC16 on the Green River in Wyoming and it performed superbly, as it also did on a whitewater stretch of the Chattooga River in South Carolina. Another time, on a beautiful Father’s Day, Darlene and I were paddling the Flaming Gorge of Wyoming when a sudden wind event put us in dire straits. I was glad I had put the removable skeg on and we rode the wind event out without capsizing. The TC16 proved very seaworthy in the white-capped waves,” says the 67-year-old former Park Ranger who served in three marine wilderness parks.
As to the versatility of the TC16, Clif certainly has put it to the test. “I have no regrets,” he states. “I’ve solo canoe-camped out of it, camped out of it for multiple nights with my partner, Darlene Staudacher, and day paddled with three aboard. Personally, I like the inflatable seats over the web seats as they provide different seating positions,” he adds. “That’s a nice touch when you are paddling 19 miles over a 7-hour period.”
Indeed, paddling has been a family affair for Clif and 61-year-old Darlene, a retired law enforcement officer, daughter Tiffany Wright, 40, who recently retired from the Coast Guard, and granddaughter Skyler Wright, 14. Darlene and Tiffany are big fans, while Skyler is still learning the ropes. Just last year, the trio embarked on a three-generation, 15-mile paddle down Florida’s meandering Withlacoochee River and things couldn’t have gone better.
“It was just a lot of fun making memories with my granddaughter and daughter,” recalls Darlene. Tiffany agreed the trip turned out great, noting they spotted several alligators and other wildlife along the way. “It was just something we wanted to do together. I’m so glad the Sea Eagle helped make it happen,” she says enthusiastically.
“There really is plenty to like about this canoe,” says Clif. “Being an inflatable, the TC16 is lightweight at just 65 pounds. It fits easily in the trunk of a small car – or what we call the ‘garage area’ of our van. It is fast enough, too, allowing average sustained paddling speeds of 3-4 mph, and it’s easy to maneuver. We find inflating the hull and getting it ready takes about 15 minutes. That may be slightly more than with a traditional canoe, but you won’t injure your back by putting it on the roof, taking it off, or carrying it to the water’s edge and back. Overall, the Sea Eagle TC16 is both affordable and a great fit for our outdoor lifestyle. As for backing their product, I’ve been very impressed with the company. Any issues we’ve had along the way, Sea Eagle has made it right with 100% satisfaction.”
Available in both two- and three-person configurations, the fully inflated Sea Eagle Travel Canoe 16 measures 16’ long, 38” wide (at center), and 20” deep at its highest points. With a max load capacity of 915 lbs., it’s spacious and packs down to a mere 40” x 24” x 16” rectangle that fits into its own bag for easy storage and transport.
Completely buoyant and unsinkable, the TC16 is also easy to upright and re-enter from the water, and 33% lighter than comparable canoes. Far more stable than traditional canoes (you can actually stand in it), it’s designed with a bow that slices through the water and a body that features a full-length flat-planing surface area for extra speed. A full-length double-chine system and removable rear skeg enhance tracking and increase stability while the 3-inch-thick high-pressure, patented All Drop Stitch Constructed gunwales and floor provide amazing stability. Three separate air chambers further ensure safety as reflected by The TC16’s Class IV whitewater rafting.
It’s hard to find more beautiful water than what you’ll see while paddling in Rainbow Springs State Park. Photo courtesy of Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon, FL.
“Skyler, Darlene and I can vouch for the TC16’s easy re-entry from the water,” states Clif. “When Skyler was 11, the three of us intentionally tipped over the canoe on Florida’s Rainbow River. I can tell you that self-rescue in that canoe is much easier than in a traditional rigid hull. We found it lighter, easier to flip back over, drain and climb back aboard than is the case with conventional canoes.”
On their most recent trip, Clif and Darlene took a paddle with another set of Sea Eagle fans. Putting in near White Springs at Steven Foster State Park, the couples worked their way to Suwannee River State Park. “When we first met,” explains Darlene, “we started to justify to them why we had an inflatable canoe, but they interrupted us to say they had a Sea Eagle kayak and loved it. Since then, we’ve been on three paddling trips together. I can’t wait to plan the next one.”