About Cecil Hoge


My Solar Power Dream Come True

This is our new Sea Eagle® FastCat™ 14.4 model. It has been custom outfitted with 4 175-watt Renogy solar panels on a special aluminum canopy frame & a Torqeedo® Cruise 2 motor. The boat I am using above is the first prototype of this new model. Last year I tested this same boat all summer with a 20 hp Honda motor. With 3 or 4 people and the 20 hp Honda, the FastCat™ 14.4 goes 20 to 22 mph! This year, I have converted the original prototype into a Solar Powered Boat. And while this new solar boat configuration does not go fast, there are some wonderful benefits of using a solar powered boat.

By Cecil Hoge – President, Sea Eagle® Boats, Inc.

I have been testing electric motors with solar panels on inflatable boats for over 15 years and while I have made steady improvements in using solar panels with electric motors and inflatable boats, I have not been able to reach, until recently, the Holy Grail of using solar power with electric motors. What is the Holy Grail of Solar Power with electric motors? It is simply to have the ability to motor without limits perpetually without ever having to recharge the battery with a plug-in battery charger.

The solar powered inflatable boat above recharges itself by converting sunlight into electrical current and charging the battery whenever there is some sunlight. That is accomplished by the 4 175-watt Renogy flexible solar panels shown on the custom canopy. With the Cruise 2 Torqeedo® electric motor the FastCat™ 14.4 can go perpetually, as long as there is sunlight, at 4 to 5 miles an hour without using any battery power. The top speed of this solar boat configuration at max throttle power is only 6 to 7 mph. So, in truth, there is not much difference between cruising strictly on sunlight and going at full throttle and using some battery power.

I have a floating dock in Little Bay. It is the small tidal bay just to the left of Setauket Harbor. As you can see, Little Bay is connected to 3 other bays and Long Island Sound. Long Island Sound is 120 miles long and where I am, 12 miles wide. So I have a lot of options of where I can go in my Solar Powered Boat.

This FastCat™ 14.4 has been tied up to a dock at my house for the last five months and I have been testing this special Solar Powered Boat configuration literally four to six days a week. I am lucky in that I live on a tidal bay called Little Bay. It is appropriately named because it is little – only about 1/2 a mile across and 3/4 quarters of a mile long. Little Bay leads out to Setauket Harbor and that leads into Port Jefferson Harbor. If you go left when you come out of Setauket Harbor and follow that for about a mile, you can take another left into Conscience Bay. The point I want to make here is that I have direct access to four different bays and Long Island Sound beyond.

Now living on a tidal bay is often not understood by folks not familiar with the coming and going of tides. The actual fact is that my entire bay completely empties twice a day, which means that my boat is either floating in water or sitting on mud. I am fond of saying that I have 9 feet of water or 9 feet of mud. In truth, since the tide is always coming or going, the level of the water or the lack of water is always changing and depends completely on where the tide is. At my house the tide is generally out for 3 and half hours twice a day and in for 8 and a half hours twice a day. That allows plenty of time to go boating.

I have now gotten to test and use this boat configuration for over 5 months and I can say that the combination of 4 175-watt Renogy flexible solar panels, the Cruise 2 Torqeedo® Motor, a Torqeedo® Solar Controller, and FastCat™ 14.4 really works in what I would call a “Holy Grail” manner. That is, this boat can be powered perpetually as long as there is sunlight and that allows you to motor it wherever you wish without ever having to charge it yourself.

I consider this a lifetime dream of practical, perpetual solar power come true. And while I have tested numerous other configurations of solar panels, electric motors, and inflatable boats, this is the first solar boat configuration that delivers “perpetual solar power”.

Let me count the ways this is wonderful:

  1. You never have to charge the battery because the solar panels do that for you. So this is a boat that literally powers itself.
  2. An electric motor under power is far quieter than a gas motor. In my case, I carry on board a small bluetooth speaker to listen to music. Because the electric motor is incredibly quiet, you can really listen to the music as you and any family or friends cruise the different waterways.
  3. There is no smell of gas or oil fumes and no pollution created by motoring with this solar boat configuration no matter how far you go.
  4. You do not need to worry about filling up a gas tank or having gas and oil spills because electric motors do not use gas or oil. So not only is an electric motor far quieter and less odorous, it costs zero for gas and it is far less messy.
  5. Starting an electric motor is far easier – turn the master switch on, push the power button on, turn and twist the throttle – away you go!
  6. Because solar panels automatically charge the battery, there is no need to drag the battery to a 110-volt outlet to plug in an electronic charger. And for those of you who do not know, batteries tend to be heavy (the Torqeedo® lithium battery weighs 62 lbs.), so moving a battery involves strong arms, strong legs, and a strong back. Having the battery in the boat with solar panels automatically charging the battery eliminates the need to move the battery to a place to plug the electronic into an electrical outlet.
  7. Of course, I have to admit this is only practical if you already live on a lake or bay where you can moor your boat or have it tied up to a dock. However, it is also practical to leave solar panels on a boat that you either trailer back and forth to the water or park outside on a lawn where there is sunlight.
  8. Perhaps the most important benefit is the fact that you can, if you have to, go hundreds of miles for hours on end with no cost for fuel or electrical power.
  9. If one compares the cost of a solar powered boat to a gas powered boat, generally the initial cost is far lower for a gas powered boat, but when one compares the long-term need to continually fill up a gas powered boat and the yearly upkeep to tune-up a gas motor and keep it in good repair, solar power does pay off within several years.

What Are The Limitations Of A Solar Powered Boat?

  • Outfitting electric motors & batteries with solar panels generally works best with smaller electric motors and that generally restricts your maximum speed to under 10 miles per hour. I would expect that to change as solar panels, batteries and electric motors become more powerful and more efficient. In the future it will be more practical to recharge larger electric motors and that will deliver higher speeds.
  • It is also true that mating solar panels with smaller electric motors will provide the best economic comparison to gas outboards in terms of overall cost.
  • In outfitting a boat with solar panels, you have to have a convenient, out of the way place to put solar panels. That is why we made an aluminum frame canopy to hold the panels – the panels sit above the passengers, they do not get in the way of needed space and they provide a shelter from sun and rain. A true win, win. That is also why we offer solar panels that conveniently fit on our sun/rain canopies.
  • A solar powered boat will provide unlimited power AS LONG AS THE SUN IS OUT at a slow speed, depending on the solar panels used. As mentioned earlier, the FastCat™ 14.4 will cruise just on sunlight at 4 or 5 miles per hour indefinitely as long as the sun is out.
  • However, if it is cloudy or early in morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is at a low angle, solar power is greatly reduced. And that is even more true if it is raining for one or more days.
  • In the times that the sun is not recharging the battery, you will be using up battery power when motoring, and that will naturally limit your range.
  • So, while solar panels can provide perpetual power that can allow you to go really long distances if the sun is not shining, you will have to rely on power in the battery or you will have to recharge it using an electrical charger plugged into an electrical outlet.

With the present Custom Solar Configuration for FastCat™ 14.4 that I am showing in this blog story, there are inherent drawbacks. The Cruise 2 Torqeedo® electric motor only goes 7 mph at max speed, so if you have a need for speed, you are out of luck. I would note here that the Cruise 2 Torqeedo® has now been replaced with a newer model, the Cruise 3 Torqeedo®. The newer motor goes a little faster, about 8.5 mph with our FastCat™ 14.4, and the battery now has about 1/3 more power, so that also enhances the distances you go when your use exceeds the power of incoming sunlight. The new battery weighs 62 lbs. and the Cruise 3 motor weighs 38 lbs., so on a weight only basis it is about the same as a gas 9.9 outboard. Being under 100 lbs., both are reasonably easy for one person to manage, but having the motor and battery separate certainly makes it easier to put on and off of a boat.

However, cost-wise, electric motors are far more expensive to buy. The Cruise 3 motor (the new model that replaces the Cruise 2 we are using) costs $4299 for the motor and $2999 for the battery. We sell a far more powerful 9.9 Honda for $3,079. It will motor 3 people on the FastCat™ 14.4 at 14 miles per hour, so it is not only way cheaper to buy, it pushes that boat far faster. So, if you choose a Cruise 3 motor, you have to love the benefits of electric power because economically it is going to take a long time for your investment to pay off.

My own conclusion is that solar power does not presently make economic sense for higher power electric motors, especially when combined with the very reasonable costs of inflatable boats. That said, I must also say that the landscape for electric outboards is changing rapidly, There are presently only a few companies offering higher power electric motors, but Mercury and many other outboard brands are rushing electric motor models to the marketplace and no doubt, pricing, electric motor propulsion, battery efficiency and the efficiency of solar panels will all get better in the near future.

I can say that the custom model boat configuration that we have made up and described here is a totally practical use of solar power with electric motors. It is fairly expensive to do this with a 6 hp electric outboard. And if cost is the main consideration, the best immediately available benefit is with smaller electric trolling motors like the WaterSnake® Asp 24, Venom 34, Advance 70 and Minnkota® 30, and Minnkota® 55 motors that we sell. At the bottom of this story, you will find a link to the present solar boat packages we offer.

As a company, we presently sell all those models in Solar Boat Packages with PowerFilm 50 and 110 watt solar panels. The advantage of those packages is that they are still reasonable in price and you can hook up that Powerfilm Solar Panels to any 12 volt lead acid, AGM, Gel or Lithium battery (in the case of our Advance 70 WaterSnake® electric motor) on a “plug and play” basis. That is one solar panel with one electric motor with built-in solar controller and built-in fuse.

We are presently in the process of developing solar boat packages for Torqeedo® motors. The first motor we will have a solar boat package on with be the Torqeedo® 1103 Travel Motor. This is a somewhat smaller motor delivering the equivalent of 3 hp. Like other Torqeedo® motors, it is not cheap. Presently, that model costs $2,999. A nice feature of the 1103 is that it weighs a total of 39 lbs. with the built-in lithium battery that comes equipped with a built-in solar controller. We will shortly be offering that model with a 165 watt Solgo solar panel with a special Torqeedo® connector to ensure no problems. This will be a true “plug and play” solar boat package.

In the case of the Custom Solar Boat Package that we constructed for purposes of testing and achieving “My Solar Power Dream”, we are also putting together the same kind of “plug and play” solar boat package for that Cruise 3.

Now, people who wish to make their own solar boat packages can go ahead and recreate a solar boat packages with more solar panels similar to the package I created for this blog story. But they should only do that if they have electrical knowledge and are comfortable with matching up lithium batteries with multiple solar panels and a solar controller. If you decide to do that and you want to use Torqeedo® electric motors, you also should know that Torqeedo® will not warranty their products unless you use a Torqeedo® solar controller.

And then there is the cost to consider: For the purposes of this experiment, we used an old Cruise 2 Torqeedo® motor that we had bought 8 years ago and married that with a 4 year lithium battery.

For solar panels, we bought 4 Renogy 175 watt panels and connected them in a series. Because the Renogy panels were flexible and because they blocked out the sun, I got the bright idea to mount the panels side by side on a special square tube frame. That provided an out of the way place for the panels and a UV proof canopy at the same time.

Now, it must be said, that while this same configuration can be re-created by anyone buying one our Sea Eagle® FastCat™ 14.4s, recreating this particular solar boat package will require the following:

  • A custom built canopy frame to hold the 4 solar panels – this would require some skills to build a custom canopy frame, as well as various nuts, bolts, and parts to attach the panel into a single frame. In the near future, that should not be much of a problem because we are planning to offer a larger canopy which can hold 4 solar panels. In the meantime, our wide Sun/Rain Canopy will hold 3 Renogy or similar size solar panels, so with our standard wide canopy, you could have 3 solar panel solution. That might not be as much solar power as the configuration, but surely, it will be more than enough solar power for regular use of a Cruise 3 Torqeedo®.
  • The above solution would still leave you with the task of buying flexible, solar panels – you should figure $200 to $300 per solar panel and $1,300 for a Torqeedo® solar controller. As mentioned above, the solar controller is a must if you want Torqeedo to uphold its standard warranties. Torqeedo® does offer a fairly reasonable cost solar controller for the Cruise 3 motor, but that is limited to a single solar panel with an output of 8 amps or less. If you wish to have more solar panels, you have to go for the higher end solar controller which costs a hefty $1299. Strangely, that controller is only rated at IP 51, which means it is not truly waterproof. That means you have to have some way to keep the controller out of direct exposure to rain. My solution to that problem was simple: a $4 plastic wastepaper basket that fits neatly over the controller. That works, but it is not the most beautiful solution. Strangely, the cheaper solar controller for one solar panel / 8 amp max is IP67 rated, so that is completely waterproof.
  • Next, you cannot forget the motor and the battery – a Torqeedo® Cruise 3 costs a cool $4299 for the motor only. Then there is the battery. That costs $2999 for the lithium battery. So, when you add all of the above costs, including the cost of our FastCat™ 14.4 you are really in for about $12,000. In short, you have to have a real love of electrical power to choose to create this particular solar boat package. Frankly, no matter how much gas you use on 10 or 20 hp gas motor and how many times you repair or tune-up a gas motor, it will take a long time to justify your purchase of this solar boat configuration just on economics.
My $4 green wastepaper basket protects the Torqeedo® solar controller from the rain.

In summary, you are probably not going to want to re-create this particular solar boat package. As mentioned in this bog story at the beginning, this was always an experimental solar boat package to give us a true understanding of what can be done with solar boat packages. As such, I believe this configuration has given me a true understanding of what is presently possible.

As mentioned above, we already offer 10 solar boat packages with our Sea Eagle® boats and WaterSnake® electric motors. And yes, because WaterSnake® motors do not draw a lot of electrical power, these solar boat packages do work well and are very reasonable in cost.

For those who wish to use larger electric motors, we will shortly be offering solar boat packages with the Torqeedo® 1103c Travel Motor (the equivalent of 3hp gas motor) and the Torqeedo® Cruise 3 motor (the equivalent of a 6 hp gas motor). Those packages will come with canopies to hold the solar panels and will offer what we think will be the most practical and economic configurations for solar boats.

For more information on solar panels, why to go solar, and how to choose the right one for your Sea Eagle, check out this video.

For those of you interested in the present solar boat pack packages, click here to see them.

50 Years of Selling Inflatable Boats – Part 3 – From the Internet to The Future!

Testing of new models came to be an ever-expanding way of life. Often this meant testing products when most folks would be inside sitting before a fireplace. Here I am testing our then new model Sea Eagle FastTrack. My rule for testing in the winter was, “Do not go out when the ice is thicker than a 1/4”.

By Cecil Hoge

At the end of part 2 of this history, our Sea Eagle boat business had already been in business for 30 years and gone through many changes. By 1998 we had re-built our Sea Eagle boat business and had found new ways to sell more inflatable boats through our new Sea Eagle website. In doing so, we expanded our range of products to include transom boats, whitewater & camping kayaks, fishing boats and a new kind of inflatable catamaran kayak called the Sea Eagle PaddleSki. 

From our earliest beginnings in 1968 to the present, our goal was always to produce the best inflatable boats of their kind. In doing that, we always tried to offer products that were different and better from what was on the market, whether it be a kayak, a fishing boat or a transom boat.

So, for example, when I developed the FastTrack shown above, it had several unique features not found on inflatable kayaks. Its most unique feature was the patented outside drop stitch inflatable keel. That gave the FastTrack special paddling benefits. As the name implies, it paddled faster and tracked better than other inflatable kayaks.

There were other differences in the FastTrack that made it unique: it had a drop stitch inflatable floor inside, on top of an outside fabric floor. That provided rigidity and great puncture protection. It had an asymmetric shape – tapered at the bow, wider at the stern. This allowed the kayak to go through wind and waves easier and still hold the weight of two people comfortably. It had an outside removable skeg to further improve tracking. These design features made the Sea Eagle FastTrack our best paddling inflatable kayak for open water ever.

As we moved into the internet age, the goal of the company remained the same: produce the best inflatable boats of their kind.

Unlike our Panther Martin fishing lure business, which had enjoyed continuous growth from 1958 to 1998, Sea Eagle Boats had both up and down years from 1968, the year we started in the inflatable boat business, through 1998. These ups and downs were mostly caused by external factors such as suppliers going out of business or big swings in foreign currencies or dramatic price rises in the price of petroleum. The price of oil was always a major factor in our business because inflatable boats are made from petroleum based fabrics and parts.

I have to point out that we have always worked with foreign suppliers to make inflatable boats because there has never been an inflatable boat industry in the United States. We did make two experiments with production of inflatable boats in the U.S. We had a Michigan company produce some transom boats for us for a short period and a Delaware company produce some kayaks for us. The transom boats made in Michigan were actually pretty good and almost succeeded, but we were defeated when the company went bankrupt, primarily because they had grossly miscalculated their true costs.

The kayaks made by the Delaware company were an interesting case since that company happened to produce the space suits that were used for the first trips to the moon. I assume this company was and still is an excellent producer of space suits. I believe they are still the main supplier of space suits to NASA. Unfortunately, they proved to be a terrible producer of inflatable kayaks.

The Sea Eagle Explorer Kayaks that they made for us in the late 1970s turned out to suffer from slow seam leaks. Admittedly, the leaks were so slow that it took weeks for a kayak to become soft. And it actually took some time after receiving the first kayaks to understand that there was a slow seam leak problem. We probably could have solved that problem in future productions, but another more difficult issue arose.

This particular company was used to selling to the government and within a few weeks of starting production of our kayaks, they found making kayaks took far longer than they thought. So, they did what they always did with the government. They announced to us the necessity of immediately increasing the price. They had a hard time understanding why we were unable to accept a 60% price increase mid-production during the first run of 200 kayaks. They also had a hard time calculating the time, labor and material costs involved in inflatable boat production. 

That is because inflatable boat production requires an extensive manufacturing experience and the local availability of parts, materials and machinery. The inflatable boat industry, which first arose in Europe and then migrated to Asia, has a long history of manufacturing and extensive infrastructures in Europe and Asia to support it. To duplicate a factory in the United States capable of making inflatable boats would require an inherent understanding of manufacturing techniques that are unique to the inflatable boat industry and a network of supplier companies to provide parts and materials needed for production. 

As a small family owned company, we have always wanted to produce our boats in the United States, but every time we researched what was necessary to create an inflatable boat factory here we came to the conclusion that the startup costs were far more than potential sale of boats that we could expect. 

Why is it so difficult to manufacture inflatable boats in this country? First, and this is a pretty big first, there are no real producers of inflatable boat material in the United States. Yes, there are a couple of companies producing fabrics that say their materials are suitable for inflatable boat production, but the cost of the hull material is usually 5 to 6 times a similar hull material in Asia or Europe and the actual characteristics of the material are not suitable for inflatable boat use. For example, PVC/Polyester, the most used material for inflatable boat production, the U.S. version of the material had a tendency to be too rigid to easily roll up. An interesting alternative material, Urethane/Polyester, tended stick to itself and be 10 times more expensive than PVC/Polyester.

So, problem number 1 is finding a U.S. company able to produce a suitable hull material at an economical price and as far as I know that does not exist.

The second problem is finding parts suitable for inflatable boat production. And that is also an almost impossible problem, because there are no companies making the valves, the grommets, the carry handles, the multitude of fittings you need to outfit inflatable boats. Again you need all those parts and fittings in order to make an inflatable boat. An inflatable transom boat, for example, without the molded parts to glue the wooden transom on, is not an inflatable transom boat. It is like a fishing lure without a hook.

This is also the case with inflatable kayaks, where for example, D-rings and drain valves are important parts, or inflatable standup paddle boards (SUPs), where drop stitch material is necessary in order to achieve the required rigidity of a SUP.

Drop stitch construction is a particularly interesting example. It is a relatively new development in inflatable boats, kayaks and SUPs that allow you to make flat, rectangular shapes with high pressure. This new material greatly widens the shapes and kinds of boats, kayaks and SUPs that you can make.

Drop stitch material consists of two layers of fabric with hundreds of thousands of threads going from the bottom layer to the top layer. When inflated the threads prevent the material from becoming a round shape. Without the hundreds of thousands of threads between two layers of fabric, the fabric, when glued together, will want to become a round shape when inflated, which while very useful for many purposes, limits the shapes you can make. Thus, the advent of drop stitch manufacturing technology is an important advance in inflatable boat production because it allows you to create unique new shapes previously not possible. This type of construction permits much higher air pressures making drop stitch products far more rigid than other inflatables.

This is our patented 16′ Sea Eagle Travel Canoe – drop stitch technology makes it possible to achieve shapes previously impossible.

This technology is not very new. I first saw it being used in France about 45 years ago. At that time, the technology was quite unreliable and subject to defects…so having a basketball shape suddenly appear in the middle of what was supposed to be a flat shape is not very good. In the last 10 years the technology of making drop stitch materials has advanced enormously and today it is probably the greatest innovation in inflatable production in the last 50 years. As such, it is pretty necessary to have the ability to produce drop stitch constructed inflatable products.

Unfortunately, there is no American producer of drop stitch material. If you want to use this type of material and make boats in the U.S., you must import the drop stitch material. The only countries that can make drop stitch hull fabric for inflatables are Germany, Japan, Taiwan & China. Of these countries, China produces both the best quality drop stitch material and best priced drop stitch material. Sad but true.

So, for the above reasons, we have always worked with foreign companies to produce inflatable boats and as time went on, those companies were generally located either in Korea or China.

By the late 1990s, as mentioned above, we were producing Korean and Chinese made inflatable boats made to our specifications and design. Our supported fabric boats were made in Korea – those boats use a fabric re-inforced PVC/Polyester material. Our unsupported PVC boats were made in China – we use a special formulation, extra thick PVC material we call PolyKrylar™ for our Sea Eagle 330, 370, 9 and PF7.

By the late 1990s, because of the advent of the internet, our inflatable boat sales assumed a steady and growing pattern of increases year after year. So unlike our early sales from the 60s to the mid 90s, where sales on any given year could be up or down, sales from 1997 on went in just one direction: Up.

Our website, SeaEagle.com, and the internet introduced many new possibilities. As mentioned in Part 2 of this history, we started very simply on the internet in 1996. Just a few display pages and an 800# that customers could call. It did not take us long to realize that having an order cart was important, both for orders during the day and for orders at night. By 1998 we had an order cart and internet sales, along with overall sales, were growing rapidly.

The internet allowed us to also explain products in ways previously not possible. Not only could we put far more content on the internet about a given product, but we also could show videos. This was a giant jump for us because for the first time customers could actually see our boats in motion.

Previously we had made various videos, but they were to show on a TV program or in TV 60 second commercial or on a TV screen at a boat show. There were limited places we could use these videos. But now that we had a website, we could post videos permanently on the website and those videos would stay up as long as we were selling the product. And, given our history, that turned out to be a long time.

The background of increasing sales was a new and wonderful aspect of our business. It meant then that we could introduce many new models, put them up on the internet and have sales of new products pretty much as soon as they arrived in this country. And, because we still were making and printing catalogs showing the same products, this in turn supported the new and additional side of the business coming from the internet.

Nick readies for a day of fishing adventures with his Sea Eagle FoldCat. In the background -- the breathtaking Grand Tetons.

This is our patented Sea Eagle FoldCat – a roll-up fishing boat that you can assemble and inflate in less than 10 minutes. In the background — the breathtaking Grand Tetons.

So after successfully introducing transom boats (our Sea Eagle 10.6, 12.6 and 14 models), we went on to design and introduce FoldCats and PaddleSkis. These were two truly unique boats. The FoldCat being a patented two man fishing boat that could be set up in less than 10 minutes and the PaddleSki being a catamaran kayak that could be motored, sailed, paddled or rowed. Each of these new models did extremely well, selling hundreds and then thousands.

In addition to introducing new models, we also were able to bring back older classic sellers such as our Sea Eagle Explorer kayaks. These were great whitewater, camping, all around kayaks that I had first developed in the late 1970s. Because our Korean supplier had access to better materials and new manufacturing techniques, we could remake this series, improving both the original design and the original materials.

By the 2000s, we had fallen into what I would call a “virtuous circle”. We could grow sales of our products with print advertising, catalogs and the internet and when we added new products we could add new sales to existing sales. This meant that in those years we basically quadrupled our sales.

Through these marketing techniques, we were able to become the first company on Google when you typed in “inflatable kayaks” and generally in the first five companies when you typed in “inflatable boats.” All of our marketing efforts were tied together, so print ads listed an 800# and our website, catalogs gave our in house order telephone # and our website and our website also gave our in house order telephone number and had a place to request printed catalogs.

So you can say our success was a combination of constantly introducing interesting and unique new products and then using print advertising to tell the public about those new products, and then using the internet and catalogs to show those new products and being able to take orders night or day on the internet and being able to answer any and all customer questions or take orders on our in house 800 phone number. It was indeed a virtuous circle.

As we got into the 2010s, things got a little more muddy, a little more complex, but basically the same situation pertained. Sales grew. We advertised and promoted products and sales grew more. We introduced new products, some patented, some not, but all unique and filling what I would call holes in the market.

For more information on the FastTrack, visit http://www.seaeagle.com/FastTrack.aspx

This was the first shape we developed for our patented Sea Eagle FastTrack – that took me 5 years to come to the symmetrical shape shown above.

Some of the new products took a lot longer than others. It took me about 5 years to develop the first FastTrack kayaks and I tried an ungodly number of experiments to make better tracking, better paddling kayaks. For example, I made a kayak with an aluminum frame inside instead of an inflatable floor. I found that to be heavy, hard to assemble and a general pain, even if it did paddle pretty fast.

After making and selling a few thousand of the original shape FastTrack (shown above), I decided it could be improved. So I made a slimmer and more tapered version. See below:

3 years later we changed to an asymmetrical shape to paddle even faster!

Another really difficult kayak to develop was our Sea Eagle RazorLite, which is surprising since the final product is so truly simple. But not for me. I went through 14 prototypes and 5 years of testing before I ended up choosing the final product, which, in the end, was quite simple. Along the way I had tried a lot of weird and wonderful solutions, none of which worked the way I wanted. I made it into a fabric covered kayak with two side zippers so you could use the kayak enclosed or open. It worked well, but there was not enough room for your feet to be upright, something I thought pretty important. I made a drop stitch top deck for the RazorLite – that looked great, but was heavy, 3″ thick and also did not allow enough space for your feet.

This was an early prototype of the RazorLite – I loved the zipper spray skirt even if I could not get my feet comfortably under it. The spray skirts could be rolled back and secured for easy access to bow or stern cockpit areas. This was also before I added sharp bow and stern molds. The new bow and stern molds greatly improved the speed and tracking of the Razorlite.

I knew of course that I could increase the height of the sides, but that would make the kayak more susceptible to high winds. I can say modestly that I went through about 6 prototypes deciding on just how high the sides had be – my choices ranged from 5″ to 12″ before settling on 8.5″ for the solo 393rl model and 10″ for the tandem 473rl. Most sides were either too high or too low. If it was too low, water would come in over the sides. If it was too high, the sides would act like a sail, allowing the kayak to be blown around.

I tried the kayak without bow molds and with bow molds. It quickly became apparent that the bow molds made a huge difference in the paddling performance.

Such a simple shape, but not so easy to come to – 5 years & 14 prototypes!

In the end the solution was simple and elegant. An open kayak with 8.5″ high drop stitch inflatable sides at the center and sharp pointed molds at the bow and the stern. And the result was great, we created a true high performance inflatable paddling kayak. I am extremely proud of the RazorLite kayaks. Recently, thanks to a design my brother made, we were able to add adjustable footrests for both our 393 and 473 RazorLites. Those footrests provide really secure footing and adjust to most humans on the planet. Sometimes, things that look simple are the hardest to develop.

In the last 20 years, we have developed many new inflatable boat designs. Our 285 Frameless Pontoon Fishing Boat for one angler, our StealthStalker fishing boat for two anglers, and our Sea Eagle PackFish 7 for one angler. All of these small fishing boats had distinct differences and advantages over other inflatable craft on the market. 

Here is our Sea Eagle FishSkiff 16 rigged with a canopy, a solar panel and an electric motor. Used this way, the FishSkiff will automatically recharge the battery whenever you run down the battery. This is the first inflatable skiff in the world to use all drop stitch construction. With a 6 hp gas motor, this boat will propel one or two anglers at 15 to 17 mph.

As time has gone on, the design of boats has become more of a collaborative activity. Today, my brother shares with me many of the design responsibilities. He is fluent in a design application called Fusion 360, allowing him to make very precise 3D drawings for new products. I make my drawings on iPad Pro using Graphic, a simpler, but very fast and easy drawing program.

In the case of our Sea Eagle FishSkiff 16, Dan Dejkunchorn, one of our employees and a fanatical fisherman, came to me and showed me a 14′ solo fiberglass skiff that was made to take a 5 hp motor. I had seen this particular boat a couple of months before at a trade show. I had thought it was an interesting design, but had done nothing about it.

Dan thought this kind of a boat had a number of advantages for fishermen and it would be great if we could come up with some inflatable alternative. After all, a fiberglass skiff, even one just 14′ long, is quite heavy and does not fit into a car trunk. So, we embarked on an effort to create an inflatable fishing skiff that had the good features and advantages of a small fiberglass skiff without the weight and difficulty of transport.

Dan knew what he wanted as fisherman and I knew how to make an inflatable boat with the features he wanted. Dan is my go to consultant on anything to do with fishing. It took only 6 months to develop the FishSkiff and unlike some other products we were able to come to a final design with a minimum of prototypes (3) and within a year, this skiff became our second best selling product. 

So, developing new products can be fast or slow. Perhaps, the fastest example of developing a product is our Sea Eagle NeeddleNose Standup Paddle Board. I was at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. We had already developed a couple models of Standup Paddle Boards and I happened to pass by a booth with a rigid fiberglass board using what they were calling a “wave piercing” design – it had a straight pointed V bow. I thought that was an interesting concept and I wondered how we might make a inflatable SUP with the same abilities.

I went back to my booth, pulled out my iPad and made a drawing in about 20 minutes. I realized a round bow at the front would not work, so I drew a drawing of a sharp wave piercing bow mold that could fit over the rounded inflatable bow. That was to achieve a “wave piercing design”. It so happened our Korean supplier was present at the show. A few minutes later, when he came by the booth, I showed him the design and asked if he saw any problems with the idea. He said he thought it was all practical. Accordingly, I e-mailed the drawing to him and the production manager of the company immediately.

The Sea Eagle NeedleNose was an example of fast product development – just 3 months from concept to selling products.

Within 3 weeks they made up a prototype. Within two weeks of that we had received, tested and approved the prototype. Within 3 months we were in production and had started our first NeedleNose SUPs. Within 6 months we had sold our first several hundred units. This is not the typical case of design, but sometimes things do work right from the first moment and sometimes things do go smoothly.

As we got into the 2010s, the internet began to change the world around it. Print advertising, and generally the small or medium size print ads that we used to explain the virtues of a new product, began to work less and less. Simply put, people began to read magazines less and less. This caused something of a crisis for us because print ads had been our best medium to explain and introduce new products. Now that medium was being closed off to us or at the very least becoming less and less effective.

This meant pursuing other avenues of promotion, but nothing immediately replaced the function of being able to explain a new product in print. Of course, we could still explain new products in our catalogs and on our website, but that was limited by the number visitors to our website and by the number of people we sent catalogs to. That universe was not so small. We have over one million visitors to our website each year and we mail 50,000 to 70,000 print catalogs 3 to 5 times a year. Nevertheless, this is still a limited universe.

We are, like many other companies, active on Facebook and Instagram. We use different search engines such as Google and Bing. But there is a downside to all of the channels of media that we use and that that is that each is fundamentally limited. The world does not necessarily beat a path to your website or request a catalog or find out about you in Google, Facebook, Bing or Instagram, even if you do have a better mousetrap. This caused us some hard thinking and has resulted in us making many marketing experiments, many of which failed.

Of course, advertising, marketing, multi-channel promotion is always a mixture of failures and successes. The trick is to have more successes than failures.

Today, as we are entering the 2020s, I can say that we are finding new ways to present and explain our products…through FaceBook, Instagram, Google, Bing etc. We are also finding new ways to use e-mails, digital ads, catalogs. And I can say there are still some print media that are effective. For example, some of the coastal fishing magazines, some RV and Motorhome magazines are still healthy. Those publications have dedicated groups of readers and some people still respond positively to print ads.

It seems to me for a company to be successful, there are many important pillars to a business and they must all work together. A method of promoting and explaining products is important, but that is totally meaningless unless your products do not live up to your promotional abilities. And having good promotion and good products is also meaningless unless you have a good system to buy, receive and ship the products you have. Many businesses have good promotion, many businesses have good products, but if they are not able to deliver those products, it serves them nothing.

I can say that because of our family background in previous businesses, we understood from our very beginning, the need for good promotion and for having good products and for having inventory of those products and for shipping promptly. Our father, Cecil C. Hoge, Sr., had a long history in business that dated back many years before he had gotten into the inflatable boat business. Those businesses covered a wide array of different kinds of products. To name a few…art painting courses, dance lessons, pocket adding and subtracting machines, paint brushes, fishing lures, fishing rods, fishing reels, garden and lawn fertilizer, TV repair books…the list goes on and on.

When I first started working in the business, my father had just bought an inflatable boat company that had been failing. At that time, we were still selling pocket adding and subtracting machines, paint brushes, fishing rods, etc. It was still the early years of our Panther Martin fishing lures, but that business was gradually growing while the other businesses were gradually failing. By this time, my step-mother had married my father and she, being German, had instilled into our little business the importance of earning a profit on all goods and the importance of shipping goods precisely and on time.

So, by the time, I came into the business, we had already established a culture (if you can say that a little business of about 25 people could have a culture) of good promotion, good products, of keeping all goods in stock and of shipping all orders out precisely and on time. So this was already the history I and my brother inherited.

After I came into the business, I added a few weird products myself…good luck bracelets, outdoor hats, exercise equipment, fly and mosquito repellent and several other kinds of products, many of which failed, but some of which we sold hundreds of thousands of. In every case, it was always important that the product was good, that we had excellent methods of promotion, that it was in stock and that we shipped it out promptly.

As I have mentioned in Part 1 of our Sea Eagle History, early on, my father stepped back from the business and gave full ownership of the business over to my step-mother and me. In 1971, my brother John was born, and ultimately he would become my partner. But that was in the future. What I can say is, from the very moment I came into this business, it was always important to have good promotion and good products. And it always was important to keep goods in stock and ship products out promptly.

In my time at this business, we have seen multiple recessions, multiple booms, stock market crashes, new stock market highs, weather calamities, oil crises, inflation, deflation, new highs in unemployment, new highs in employment and various epidemics. Through it all we have survived and thrived. That is not to say it was easy. It was not.

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog story, our goal is to make the best inflatable products of their kind in the world. The world is too complex, I think, to produce or claim you can make the best of everything, but it’s still obtainable to make products that really are the best of their kind. So, whatever model of inflatable boat, kayak or standup paddle board we make, I would like to think it is the best of its kind. 

This is our new Rescue 14 – a special model, made heavier and re-inforced to make it super tough – it features a re-inforced drop stitch floor to be able to take a 30 hp outboard motor.

I cannot say what the future history of Sea Eagle shall be. We are trying to branch out into new fields of endeavor. For example, one of our new focuses will be flood control boats. We have already sold 500 or 600 boats for use in fire/rescue/flood work. Now we are developing new models to to be used specifically as flood rescue boats. We think these boats will be, yes, the best inflatable boats of their kind. Those products are shown on Rescue.SeaEagle.com.

I am also thinking of new kinds of inflatable transom boats…new kinds of fishing boats… new kinds of paddle kayaks…new kinds of standup paddle boards. Products that will be lighter and easier to assemble, boats that will motor faster, boats that will have a smoother ride through waves, kayaks that will be easier to transport or paddle, paddle boards that can be better used in the surf.

One of the great features of inflatable boats is there is not a huge mold cost to pay for before you can make something. With inflatable boats you can start with an idea. That idea may be good or bad, but it does not cost a lot of money to find out. And sometimes, just sometimes, you create something truly great.

So, we start and end with that dream and we hope to provide many more unique, different and great Sea Eagle designs in the future.

50 Years of Selling Inflatable Boats – Part 2 – A Winding Road To The Internet


This is an early picture of our Sea Eagle 8 – note the headband on the young lady – a must have fashion accessory of the time.

By Cecil Hoge

At the time we had decided to launch our website, SeaEagle.com, our line of inflatable boats had shrunk from 12 models to 6 models. A major reason for this is that our supplier for supported fabric boats had been taken over by a competitive inflatable boat company. So our supplier of Sea Eagle Explorer kayaks and Sea Eagle transom boats, who at that time was Hutchinson Marine in France, got bought out by another French company making Bombard inflatable boats. The founder of Bombard boats was a man named Alain Bombard. He was a French biologist who became famous for taking an inflatable boat across the Atlantic Ocean.

After a few years of having the manufacturer of Bombard boats make our Explorer kayaks and transom boats, they got bought by Zodiac. At the time, Zodiac was the most famous inflatable boat company in the world and they politely told us they had no intention to make inflatable boats for a competitor. That temporarily put us out of the Sea Eagle Explorer kayak and Sea Eagle transom boat business.


This was a 1994 catalog cover showing our GT 15 with a rather unique product we called “The Glass Slipper”. It was a fiberglass bottom that attached to the GT15.

So, in 1996, our line of inflatable boats consisted of the Sea Eagle 330 and 370 inflatable kayaks, the Sea Eagle 8 & 9 Motormount boats and the Sea Eagle GT-10 & GT-15. The GT-10 & GT-15 were unsupported special formula PVC boats that had truly excellent motoring performance at quite a reasonable cost considering the fact that they took 10 and 15 hp outboard motors. Because these boats had no actual inside fabric threads (the strength of materials came from the thickness and the special formulation of the PVC), they could not be inflated to the same working pressure as fabric supported boats. So they worked at around 1 psi instead of 3.2 psi. Nevertheless, because the material was a super thick, special formula material, they were quite excellent inflatable boats and we sold thousands of them in the years leading up to 1996.

My brother John Hoge first came into the business in 1989. John’s first focus was to upgrade our clunker computer system. In the late 1970s and the 1980s we had an IBM 36 with about 14 work stations. This mainframe computer got us through some ups and downs in business and, after we got it to work, took everything we could throw at it. It was a big computer, but it took almost 10 years to get this beast of a computer to work the way we wanted for our strange and quirky business.

This is a picture of our 1997 Panther Martin lure catalog cover. Our lure business was started in 1958.

I should point out that we had two businesses to keep track of and they both were quite different in their own way. Panther Martin was a trade business selling fishing lures to retailers like Bass Pro and Cabela’s and wholesalers servicing everything from Mom and Pop stores to WalMarts and Kmarts. Sea Eagle boats was primarily a mail order company selling directly to the public by classic mail order – about 70% of the business was individual orders going to individual customers, about 30% of the business was to small dealers and some mass merchants.

Because we had two different kinds of businesses, it meant that we sold products at different prices and at different discounts. And even in the early 90s we had over 800 different sizes and colors of Panther Martin fishing lures and while we had only 6 models of inflatable boats, we still had over 200 different kinds of accessories that we sold with the boats. If you add to the fact that we had already 1,000 items to keep track of, the fact that in the fishing lure business we had to pay the government excise tax in the boat business we did not, the two businesses represented a pretty complex computer problem. Complicating that was the fact that we were buying in different foreign currencies which were always going up and down. Keeping track of all those variables was a pretty tall order.

And then there was the simple fact that we had two different customer bases, with each company having sales divided between individual mail order customers and trade companies…so, in fact, we had four sets of different customers. All this meant that my brother John was kept quite busy in the first few years implementing a computer system to keep track of it all. Fortunately, it did not take ten years to get the new computer system working the way we wanted it. The new system was pretty much up and running and keeping track of almost everything in the first six months. Still, it was a mammoth job, taking a solid year and half of my brother’s time.

Strangely enough, the mix of the two businesses is roughly the same today. What was different in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s was that the Panther Martin lure business was the larger part of the overall business while today Sea Eagle boats is the larger part of today’s overall business.

I now need to mention an important fact: My brother and I had a father, named Cecil C. Hoge, Sr. It is quite common for sons to have fathers, but our father was a rather interesting man. In the mid 70s he had given official ownership of the two businesses over to me and my step-mother. I have a theory about that and my theory is that he decided to turn over the business because he realized that I would never amount to anything unless I had true responsibilities.

At the time, my father was really in the prime of his business life, so turning over the business to us was a really unique and noble gesture. And that is particularly true if you knew my father. He was a particularly active and intelligent businessman. He came at the world of business from a marketing perspective…something he picked from his father, Huber Hoge, who owned an advertising company in the 1920s called Huber Hoge, Inc.

I have posted a story about my father on my personal blog site called TangledTalesofanAmericanFamily.com. In a story entitled aptly: “Cecil Hoge, My Father” I give a lot of details about my father’s rather colorful marketing and business career. Should you want to learn more, please feel free to check it out.

Here is a brief summary of my father’s career. My father was happily going to the University of Virginia and living the original party life, when the Depression occurred and he realized that my Grandfather was going to lose his business. So my father left the warm and friendly clime of Charlottesville and headed back to New York to help the family. I believe my father’s first job was at a now defunct newspaper called the New York Sun. In the Depression, selling anything was hard, but my father found a way to become quite a good salesman for classified ads in the New York Sun considering the sad state of the economy.

My father told me some stories about those times. Almost as soon as he got back from the University of Virginia, he and his family got kicked out of the very nice apartment they were living. You would think that would be a catastrophe and no doubt it must have seemed like it at the time, but it turned out this happened to many formerly prosperous families. That meant that many apartment buildings in even the best part of New York City had very few tenants who could actually pay the rent.

What do you do when nobody can rent? You cut deals and that is what many of the best apartment buildings did at the time. So, my father and his family, which at the time consisted of 3 other brothers, a sister, a mother and father, moved from one fine apartment to another, each time cutting a better deal and each time running out of money and having to move on. It was a trend of the times.

Another trend is the fact that taxi cabs could no longer get full fare. My father told me that he might be coming back from a party, strangely dressed in a tuxedo or tails, with almost no money for a cab. What did he do? Knock on the window of each cab, and in those days there were plenty of cabs sitting on Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue patiently waiting for a lone fare to show up. So my father would knock on a cab’s window with one nickel in his fingers. As soon as he caught the attention of the cabbie, he would hold up the nickel. While many cabbies refused that as a fare, my father said he always found a cab willing to take the nickel. Those were the days of desperation and depression.

So, my father came from a prosperous middle-class family, went to the University of Virginia and after two years of thinking the prosperity would never end, he found himself and his family destitute. It was a story lived many times in many homes and apartments at the time.

“It took ten years out of your life,” was my father’s description of the Depression years. No matter, my father first sold classified ads at the New York Sun and then, because he was such a dynamic salesman, moved up to selling display ads. For those of you are not familiar with the difference between classified and display ads, classifieds were little one column one or two-inch ads with 30 or 60 words of copy and no picture, while display ads could be anything from 1/8 of a page to a full page. Display ads were called that because they usually included one or more pictures or drawings.

As the depression rolled on, my father moved up in the world first earning $20 or $30 dollars and then earning several hundred dollars a week. This was possible at the time because part of the pay came from commissions earned from sold ads. This newfound relative prosperity caused my father to get married and change jobs. For a while, he did a stint selling ads at Vanity Fair Magazine, which must have been pretty exciting since it was a very trendy magazine run by a gentleman who, according to my father, liked his drinks a little bit too much. The original Vanity Fair Magazine did not make it through the 30s, but my father did.

When World War II arrived my father said, “Suddenly, everybody had a job and the Depression was over.”

After the war, my father joined forces with his brother to re-institute his father’s advertising business. The new company was called Huber Hoge & Sons Advertising. This became a force in mail order advertising during the late 40s and early 50s. My father handled advertising for Double Day Books, Jackson and Perkins Roses, Arthur Murray Dance Studios and a number of other pretty prestigious advertising accounts.

In that period my father got the mail order bug bad. In doing so, he decided instead of running direct mail advertisements for other people, he could do a lot better running mail order ads for himself on products that he controlled. And that is what he ended up doing.

This is the little pocket adding machine that my father sold millions of in the 1950s. It added and subtracted with the aid of the stylus that is clipped to the side of the device. It sold for $3.98…a magic price in those days.

In the mid 50s, my father was advertising and selling a diverse selection of products…pocket adding machines, dress forms for ladies, paint brushes, art instruction courses, dance instruction courses, TV repair books, fertilizer for lawns and gardens and many other odd and quirky products. If you are looking for some common product thread you will find none. In fact, the common thread was that my father would try to sell anything that could be sold through mail order. And that is how we first got into the fishing lure business. Not because my father was an avid angler, not because my father knew something about fishing, but because he had an accountant who liked fishing and who told my father to run an ad on a particular fishing lure.

My father ran the ad as a favor to the very persistent accountant. Somewhat to my father’s horror and amazement, the ad worked and he sold over $1,000,000 of our original fishing lure called “Vivif” in the first year. That was quite a feat in 1956. In those days, one million dollars was real money. That experience convinced our father to go into fishing lures big time and shortly thereafter my father bought a company that had, among a myriad of fishing tackle products, Panther Martin fishing lures.


This is one of my father’s first ads on Vivif, the fishing lure that launched us into the fishing lure business. It is typical of the “heavy copy” ad that my father wrote at that time. Because of the success of this lure, my father bought a small company that had Panther Martin fishing lures. That led to us selling over 110,000,000 lures.

The year before my father bought Panther Martin, it had sold about $8,000. The year after he bought it, it sold about $15,000. That was not a big success for my father, but Panther Martin lures turned out to be one of the greatest fishing lures ever made. Fast forward to today and we have sold over 110,000,000 Panther Martin lures. So from a small acorn came a large oak tree.

Over time, our father migrated away from some, but not all, of the many weird and wonderful mail order products that he had previously sold. By the time I came into the business in 1968, we had already become primarily a fishing lure business that happened to buy in that same year an inflatable boat business. By the time my brother came into the business, in 1989, we were a fishing lure business that happened to own an inflatable boat business. As I mentioned in Part I of this history of Sea Eagle Boats, Sea Eagle boat sales went up and down year to year. By the late 80s, it had a couple of years when it was actually bigger than our Panther Martin business, but most years, Sea Eagle was the smaller business. Panther Martin was a different kind of business in that its sales generally did just one thing: increase.

Now I also mentioned that my father did something very unusual for a man who had been pretty successful most of his business life – he turned over the business to me and my brother. The first few years of my brother coming into the business, the boat business was owned by me and my step-mother. That changed in 1993 when John’s mother passed away. From that point on John was my full partner.

After turning over his ownership in both companies, my father went on to a pretty successful career as a business writer. His specialty was mail order marketing and the evolution of mail order marketing into online marketing. He wrote and published 5 separate books on marketing. His first book, called “Mail Order Moonlighting,” sold over 100,000 copies. In 1983 he wrote and published another book called “Electronic Marketing”. In that book, in 1983 he predicted what he called “electronic catalogs”. This was really before the internet got going, but our father was already predicting its arrival.


This is the cover of a book my father wrote about how Sears and Roebuck ended up beating Montgomery Ward. It is an interesting tale that might be informative to Walmart and Amazon.

Given our father’s background and his new writing career and the fact that it was related to the type of business we were already in, my father could not help but make suggestions on how my brother and I should run Sea Eagle.


This is a picture of our GT15 Sportboat from one of our catalogs. As you can see, the price of this boat was quite reasonable and we sold over 5,000 over a 7 year period.

In the early 1990s, Sea Eagle was selling about 4,000 or 5,000 inflatable boats a year with most of them being our unsupported PVC inflatable dinghies, kayaks and sportboats…the Sea Eagle 8 & 9 motor mount boat, 330 & 370 kayaks and the GT10 and GT15 sport boats. While we have discontinued the GT sport boats and the Sea Eagle 8, the Sea Eagle 9, 330 & 370 remain popular models that we continue to sell year after year up until this day.

From my father’s point of view, our fishing lure and boat business had descended into traditional and rather boring businesses. We had a brief period in the 1980s when the boat business had surged ahead for a few years and surpassed the fishing lure business. But after that, the boat business again slowed while the fishing lure business kept growing. In my father’s mind, it was all kind of boring. He liked the frenzied activity of a promotional mail order advertising campaign and in the early 1990s, while we had direct sales of the inflatable boats that generated considerable sales, we had no one promotional program that drove the whole business forward.

Our father had one suggestion: “Get on that goddamn internet.”

As I have mentioned in my blog story on my father, he rarely took the Lord’s name in vain or cursed in any way, but when he got agitated about something, as in this case, sometimes the words would slip out.

Now I was the marketing guy who knew nothing about computers while my brother was the computer savvy guy who loved computers. So my brother led the charge in actually setting up and getting us online. We had many discussions on how to do this. One big question was whether to create an order cart where customers could place orders online or to just put up a phone number and an address to call or mail for more information. In the first year, we chose to forego the order cart and we just listed our phone number and address so customers could either contact us by phone or write in for a catalog.

One of the debates we had was whether anyone would order online in the first place. In 1995, when we started the process of going online, not many companies were taking orders directly on the internet. Amazon was just getting started – they came online in August of 1995 – and at the time they were thought only to be a bookseller. So, the first question was, would anyone actually order an inflatable boat on the web. The second question was if they ordered on the web, when and how would they order. That was important because while we could take phone orders or input mail orders during working hours, we had no way to take orders after working hours.

So our thinking was that we would probably not gain much having an order cart, but maybe we would get additional orders when people either called or mailed us. It still was an alien concept to us that someone would order in the middle of the night without being able to ask questions of a live person. We thought, in our infinite wisdom, very few people would actually order outside of working hours.

Why we thought this is still something of a mystery. After all, most people work during the day and therefore they supposedly would not have time to order during the day. But our long history in mail order boat business told us differently. All the orders we ever got was during the day and even when we had “800” phone numbers ready to take orders at night, we almost never got an order after 5pm.


This is part of our original Sea Eagle website – it was pretty crude and simple!

In March of 1996 we put up our website showing 2 basic models – the Sea Eagle 8 and the GT15 – and giving an 800# to call us to get a catalog, if interested. It was about as simple and as low key as a website could be, but then in 1996 there were not many websites, and of those that were up, they were not very sophisticated. When someone called for a catalog, we would give any inquiries we got a special website code, which, if I remember, was MW096B. The MW was to indicate it was a miscellaneous web inquiry, 096 was the year and B was for boats.

For the next 10 months, we did not do anything but wait and see what happened. The first reaction in the immediate months after we started the website was underwhelming. So underwhelming that after a month or two we stopped monitoring how many sales were coming from it. We just let it sit and mellow.

And mellow it did. By the end of the year, to our surprise, we found that we had sold $56,000 in the first year on the web. Hmmmh. We pondered this a while and then surmised that even if we counted all the time it took developing the website, the sales were profitable. You see it did not take a whole lot of time to make a few single web pages with some images, some brief description of each product and an 800#. Yes, there were a few links to some other pictures and some more detailed construction features, but all in all, the website was amazingly simple. I do not know how long my brother spent on this, but I doubt it was more than 2 or 3 days, if that. So $56,000 for two or three of work was not bad in our minds

This led to making some further development of the website in 1997 and 1998. We added a few more products, we had some more description and pictures of accessories. We put in more links for explaining more features and benefits. In truth, the website was still very crude. In spite of that, the sales we tracked directly to the website went from $56,000 in 1996 to $108,000 in 1997 to $256,000 in 1998.

At that point, we still had not added an interactive order cart. We had a lot of discussions about adding an order cart. It involved quite a bit of extra work and we really wondered: would people actually be comfortable giving their credit card and placing an order. We were not sure. Another question that we continued to ponder was whether people would actually order at times when we were not open, when the customer could not call up and ask specific questions about our inflatable boats.

Now, we could see that if people ordered when we were not open, that could be a real benefit. That might be added business. However, we were still not sure if there would be an overall benefit for the consumer. Even though we did not have the same number of boats in those years, we thought our products were pretty unusual and because of that we thought answering people’s questions about our products over the phone was the most important thing we could do.

By the time we had sold $256,000 in one year on the web, our views were beginning to change. Web sales were becoming a significant part of our overall Sea Eagle direct sales and we could see that they were contributing to the growth of Sea Eagle overall sales.

March of 1999, we took the plunge and added an order cart. It took several weeks of hard work on the part of my brother to get it up live and running. At the moment of launching our interactive order cart, we still had several questions:

Would people give their credit card information and place an order directly on the web?

Would people order off hours without calling us and without asking us a lot of specific questions about the product?

Would online orders increase our overall sales?

We knew the answer to all three of the questions above within a month. It was a categorical “yes”.

In 1999, our web sales again more than tripled while regular in-house phone and mail orders also went up, but more marginally. Not only that, the fact that we had a website seemed to also help our trade sales. And most strangely of all, the fact that we had website sales seemed to attract the attention of other websites. So, in 1999, Amazon came to us and first starting selling our boats on their website.

This was counter-intuitive at first. We figured that our direct sales might be seen as a threat to their sales. But Amazon seemed to take a more benign view of it and think, if we could sell our boats on the web, then they could sell our boats on the web.

I have to say from 1999 on we enjoyed substantial organic growth each and every year thereafter. Now, as I have mentioned, in the past, the 1980s for example, we had some periods of great growth followed by dramatic slowdowns.

From 1999 on, growth was different. It was both rapid and a steady. There was no falling back in sales as we got into 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 & 2004…we just kept growing. Of course, we did a lot of correct things…we expanded the website, we added videos, we added new exciting products. And the growth came both in our direct sales and in sales to trade customers. What did change was our trade customers became almost entirely other websites, rather than Mom and Pop dealers. That was good and that bad.

We were suddenly exposed on lots of websites and the total awareness of our brand went up accordingly. But we were no longer in many physical stores and Mom and Pop dealers. Physical stores and Mom and Pop dealers had, in the past, provided a very important function. They demonstrated and explained our boats directly to customers in an environment where the customer could feel and touch the actual product. That experience has a whole lot of benefits.

If you compare the various ways we have sold our products…through dealers, through mail order, by catalogs, by ads, by phone, through our websites, through videos, through other people’s websites – each of these mediums have advantages and disadvantages. However, I have to say the advantages that the website brought, along with the other advantages of being on other people’s websites, resulted in the greatest change and growth of our business.

In 1997, another thing happened that changed the course of our business. A Korean lady named Kara called us, saying she represented a Korean company making supported fabric inflatable boats. She asked if they could quote making inflatable boats for us. We were dubious, but since we still were making plastic floorboards, we asked if the Korean company could make supported fabric boats that could use our plastic floorboards.

To make a long story short, in 1997 we began working on a new fabric supported series of transom boats that used the plastic floorboards we had first used with of GT-10 and GT-15 inflatable boats. We introduced the new fabric supported boats in 1998 and it turned out that the combination of our plastic floorboards and the Korean supported fabric boats produced really good transom boats that could take up to 30 hp engines at a quite reasonable price.

By this time, our Sea Eagle website was getting more elaborate and so we added 3 fabric supported transom boats to our lineup of 6 unsupported PVC boats. In the year 1998 our web sales went up dramatically and we also sold almost 1,000 fabric supported transom boats. So you can say that year we had a kind of double success.


These are some of the Explorer kayaks that we introduced in 1999. These particular kayaks have been used in Peru by a company running eco tours using our kayaks. They have been in use for the last 12 years running rivers in Peru.

In 1999, we added 3 supported inflatable kayaks and an interactive order cart. The kayaks were really a re-introduction of our original line of Explorer kayaks that we had first introduced in 1976. So, once again, by 1999, we were offering a fairly full range of supported fabric and unsupported boats. And the redesigned Explorer kayak also was an instant success.

So you can say from 1996 on we had a lot of new things going on. Not only did we go online and quickly expand our web sales, but by adding two new series of supported fabric boats, we greatly expanded our line of inflatable boats. By 1999, we had 15 basic inflatable boats. And as soon as the order cart was up running, our web sales went into overdrive. And by having our full range of boats online, we also attracted a lot of new online trade customers. By the end of 1999, our web sales went up to $746,000. At the time, web sales still only accounted for about 30% of our direct sales and in addition to that, we had developed a pretty nice trade business of about $1,500,000. This meant our Sea Eagle business was now over $5,000,000.

Thus, began a whole new stage and evolution of Sea Eagle Boats. Many other changes and product innovations were soon to come. To learn more about that you will have to wait until I finish Part III of the History of Sea Eagle Boats.



50 Years of Selling Inflatable Boats – Part 1 – The Early Years

This old, somewhat wrinkled picture shows me about to be crushed on a 10 foot wave. To get some perspective of this shot, the kayak I am on is one of our original 10′ 8″ Pyrawa kayaks. Seconds later the Pyrawa was upside down and I was headed for the beach feet first, pronto.

By Cecil Hoge

It is remarkable for any business to survive for any extended period in this age of endless changes and endless challenges. To survive 10 or 20 years is an accomplishment. To survive longer is more remarkable and to have survived 50 years borders on the mystical.

No matter. It is with great pride that I can say that I am, and our business is, in its 50th year of continuously selling inflatable boats. Given that fact, I would like to provide a kind of personal history of our company.

The Early Years

When I started in my father’s business I had no intention of working in the business. In fact, one of my conditions, in the beginning, was to work only on the night shift so I could keep the day free to seek my dream profession. The profession that I hoped to be successful in was writing. And while I have managed from time to time to get some things printed, I cannot say that I ever succeeded in my dream profession.

What happened instead was somewhat more strange and perhaps, more predictable. I began in 1968 when our business was mostly a fishing lure business. I first worked on our fishing rod production line, managing a bunch of hippies from 4pm to 10pm, Monday through Friday. Since I was a kind of a hippie at the time that was not very hard. Rod production was not our main business in those days, but it constituted a reasonable amount of sales.

This is a not very terrific picture of the product we produced – The AutoCast Rod – a fishing reel gets attached just above the black handle and a fishing line goes from the reel through a couple of eyelets into the cup, where, theoretically, it is tied to a fishing lure.

The product I was helping produce was called the AutoCast Rod – see the picture above. It was a specialty fishing rod that could cast a lure 30 to 40 feet automatically. It was not push button automatic, nor was it digitally automatic. On this product, you attached a spin cast spinning reel and a fishing line with a lure at the end of the line. Then you had to pull back a lever about 18 inches, snap into a notch and then when you were sure your lure was in the little cup at the end of the rod, you would release the lever from the notch and the cup would spring forward and cast the lure and the line about 30 or 40 feet.

This product was just one of a long list of strange mail order products that my father had chosen to sell. As such, it was pretty successful. Sold primarily to mail order catalogs that mostly do not exist today, this product was a good seller. At the time I came into the business, this product enjoyed an increase in sales from 20,000 units per year to 40,000 units per year. It turned out that although most people did not want to use it, there was a select group of people who really did like it. Those people who did like it were mostly paraplegic or physically handicapped so they could not cast or fish otherwise.

What compelled my father to get the right to sell this product I will never know, but for about 10 years it was a good seller. I remember we sold it to Madison House, a mail order company selling a vast number of quirky mail order products, Lillian Vernon, another mail order house that also sold quirky mail order products mostly for women or for the home and to several other mail order companies.

So, it fell upon me to manage a group of about 10 misguided hippies in an effort to boost our fishing rod production and meet the mail order demand from the catalogs we were selling to. During the day, my step-mother ran a production line for the same product and they were producing 300 to 400 rods a day. That was not enough to meet the demand this product suddenly enjoyed. That was because several new catalog companies had recently put the product in their catalogs.

The fishing rod production line consisted of about 15 drill presses and assorted sawing and drilling and riveted instruments, all of which had been jerry-rigged by the original inventor of this product. I have to say that the guy had been pretty smart in what he did. Basically, a rod started out as some metal and plastic parts that had to be cut and drilled and inserted or riveted and then passed further down the line. As it went down the line other parts had to be added or inserted, such as screws or springs or fiberglass rods or plastic cups. Eventually, at the end of the whole line an odd-looking fishing rod was produced.

In this production process, I quickly learned that the amount of production possible could vary incredibly. When we started out my intrepid team produced a whopping 7 rods the first night. It seemed that everything went wrong that evening. Being a competitive kind of guy and hating the fact that the day shift was producing over 300 rods while we had turned out a measly 7 rods, I quickly reviewed my production team and the process we were using. Something was wrong for sure, but at first, I could not figure it out. The next night, I was able to get the production up to 26 rods, so, something was still wrong.

Now, at first I worked on the very first drill press, but then I noticed that things quickly bogged down at the second drill press. Then I worked at the second drill press and found out that things bogged down at the third production station.

To make a long story short, I moved to the end of the line and just started to go faster than the 10 hippies in front of me. Now, my 10 hippies were actually pretty good guys and in their own way, somewhat competitive, so pretty soon the whole line speeded up. By the third night, we produced about 120 rods. I kept employing my technique of going a little faster at the end of line, occasionally haranguing some of the more lackadaisical free spirits and pretty soon we were producing 500 to 700 rods a day, thus putting pressure on the day shift, who also improved their game to 500 to 600 rods. So, within two weeks, we were producing 1200 rods per day and catching up on back orders.

All of this was a fascinating lesson for me. For one thing, it taught me something about how a real production line worked and about how different the results in running a production line could be. For another, it taught me something about working with people. I felt I got more from my guys by pulling them up to higher production then by pushing or shouting or complaining. One last thing I learned – I found making a difference was interesting. You could say that by learning how to produce a pretty good quantity of something I found the process interesting.

One of our original Pyrawa inflatable kayaks, still alive in our showroom today. I bought this one back four years ago for $100 after the customer had used it for over 40 years.

Now, as I mentioned, at that time we had two businesses, a fishing lure business, which was our main business, and a brand new inflatable boat business that my father had just bought ownership of. We started the inflatable boat business with only one product – the Pyrawa Inflatable Kayak.

When my father first told me he was going to buy this strange business two months after I started working in the business I thought it was truly strange. I had never heard of such a thing…an inflatable kayak that comes in a bag and inflates into a ten and a half foot long kayak…truly strange. At the time, one thing though was true…I loved anything to do with the water…and so, when my father told me about this strange new business, I was intrigued.

My father’s interest in the new business was simple. He thought he could sell these new inflatables by mail order for two simple reasons: there was a company called FolBot who was selling a folding kayak by mail order and, like folding kayaks, inflatable kayaks fit in a box. Now, I really liked water. In particular, I liked riding waves in the ocean. I had used a 16′ boat with a small 5 hp motor in my early years when we had a house in Bellport, Long Island. And since our house in Bellport was only a quarter mile from the Great South Bay, I could easily walk to where my little boat was anchored and motor across the Great South Bay happily at the age of 8. In addition, I had sailboat and iceboat experiences, both of which I really liked. So, you could say I was all in when it came to the question of boats.

This is me in the surf with an early version of our Sea Eagle surfmat…a product I developed around 1976 because of my long-term interest in mat surfing.

That did not mean I was all in on inflatable boats, which I knew almost nothing about, but I was certainly happy to experiment and see what these weird kind of kayaks could do. To my amazement, they could do a lot. I quickly got the hang of inflating them. I quickly got to understand their strengths and weaknesses. The Pyrawa inflatable kayak was just the first kayak we started selling.

The first thing I did was try this weird new product out on the water. To my surprise, it actually worked. It took only about 5 minutes to inflate and was pretty easy to paddle and, most amazing of all, after deflating it, it was actually possible to get it back in its bag. This further piqued my interest and made me decide to try working in the business on a more full-time basis during the day.

The first couple of years, we sold the Pyrawa inflatable kayak with considerable success. My father named the new company Leisure Imports, Inc. At the time it was thought by “the smart money” that Americans would shortly be working only three or four days a week. And while that theory did not quite work out, our business did pretty well.

We had a French partner in this new venture, a gentleman named Guy Rabion, and he was located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He concentrated on managing a small warehouse there housing the kayaks and trying to develop trade accounts.

At the same time, my father let me write ads and create brochures to sell our new inflatable kayaks by mail order. The combination of running ads and selling kayaks directly to consumers worked pretty well. Taking FolBot (a folding kayak company) as our mail order model, we ran in a number of magazines and newspapers at the time…Canoe & Kayak, The Wall Street Journal, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, the New York Times to name a few.

Generally, we ran small ads asking for customers to mail in inquiries in order to receive a brochure. Now, this process was very slow. We generally had a telephone number in these ads, but, believe it or not, most people sent us letters requesting a brochure. Then we would send out the brochure which listed the prices of the kayak package separately and then sold the kayak with two paddles and a pump for $99. This offer proved to be successful and the advertising not only sold some kayaks, it created an awareness of Pyrawa inflatable kayaks nationwide.

It did not take too long for me to be in business before I began to really get interested in the process of selling inflatable kayaks by mail order. In particular, I came to like the process of getting photographs taken and then using those photographs in a brochure. This process had some not so hidden perks. For one thing, I would have to gather together a whole bunch of models – since I had a number of good-looking male and female cousins, they proved to be our basic models for the first several years. Because a friend of mine, Freddy Havemeyer, had decided he wanted to be a photographer, he became our first photographer. And of course, taking photographs meant we would have to be outside on the water, in the sun, working while paddling. Life was good.

After a year or so on the night shift, I moved on to a day job in the office. There I began to learn the intricacies of the two businesses that we were in. I found the lure business kind of boring and the process of importing fishing lures so complex that I even questioned whether we should be in the business. My father, who had zero interest in fishing lures, had started our fishing lure business because of an insistent accountant who loved to fish. He wanted my father to run an ad on a new lure that he had had fishing success. My father was not enthusiastic about this idea, but he agreed to run an ad that he was sure would fail. It did not and within a year, my father had sold over one million dollars of the fishing lure. That was a lot of money in 1956.

On the basis of that success, my father went on a fishing lure business buying spree. One of the companies that he bought was called Rockland Tackle and it had a lure called Panther Martin among many other products. At the time, Panther Martin was only selling $8,000 a year, but because the lure had a reputation of really catching fish, my father decided to promote it in one of his heavy copy advertisements. You may not be familiar with a what I call a heavy copy mail order advertisement. It is basically an ad with a very large headline, a few small pictures and about 750 words of advertising copy. This type of ad had done wonderfully in selling my father’s first fishing lure, which was called the Vivif. But, perhaps because the fishing stories were almost too unbelievable, even though they were absolutely true, the ad on Panther Martin failed. What the ad did do however was create some awareness of the product on a national basis and get it in the hands of some fishermen.

That proved to be enough because each year thereafter the sales of Panther Martin improved. So it went from $8,000 to $15,000 to $26,000 to $54,000 and so forth for about 10 years. By the time I came into the business, Panther Martin was selling about $250,000 of lures per year. You could say that it thrived by benign neglect because we really had not paid much attention it or promoted it after the first year. Now about all this product did was catch fish, so for me, not being an avid fisherman, that was boring. Moreover, since it was made in Italy, I found the paperwork required to import the lures very confusing and troublesome. It seemed to me we were always fighting with customs trying to get different shipments cleared and sent to us.

Today, I am quite proud of that business and I do not find it boring, but back in the late 60s and early 70s it was a different story. I was more interested in the boat business. I quickly transferred most of my efforts to that side of the business. Here was something I really found interesting…real boats that you paddle and play with, that you have to get photographed (meaning you had to organize more paddling and playing) the only real challenge was the actual writing of ads and creation of brochures.


This is one of my father’s original Pyrawa ads in 1971. Notice that we did not even include a telephone number in the ad and we added shipping charges if they used a credit card. That was because at the time almost all people buying things through mail order actually ordered through the mail and because credit card companies charged around 7 or 8% extra. It would take another 10 years for the telephone to be accepted as a method of actually ordering products and for people to have the courage to actually give their credit card number over the phone.

My father wrote the first ads that we ran on the Pyrawa and they proved successful. “Instant Canoe Can’t Crash” was the headline. In the first year of the business, my father created the ads, ran the ads and directed our small mail order business for boats. Along the way, he taught me his theories on the strange art of mail-order advertising. Given the fact that my father had always been a workaholic and that he ate, drank and slept advertising, I had been brought up around advertising all my life. Because of that background, writing mail order ads did come naturally to me over time.

It took me many year to learn how to write good ads and good brochures, but by small and slow steps I learned to work with layout artists, who would first create a draft drawing of what an ad or a brochure should look like. After agreeing on a layout, I would have to write the copy for the ad. That consisted of a headline, body copy and an address. Then the layout artist would take my ad copy and selected pictures, choose some type and order it from a type-setter. About a week later, the type would come back and the layout artist would paste it onto what was called a mechanical. The mechanical did not show the actual photo pasted in place. Rather a photostat of the photo was pasted into place. The whole process of making one small ad took about three weeks and two trips into New York City, where the layout artist was located. Since our office was in St. James, Long Island, about 50 miles from New York City, just the driving back and forth to the city took 5 or 6 hours, depending on traffic.

This was my first really successful ad for Sea Eagle boats. We sold over 6,000 Sea Eagle IVs from this ad. Notice that we now had an 800 number and no longer were charging extra shipping on credit card orders.

Today, this entire process takes us about twenty or thirty minutes to create an actual ad. Best of all, we can see immediately what the ad really looks like. Everything is done on either my computer or Tonya Ferrara’s computer or on Navneet Syal’s computer. Both Tonya and Navneet have been working for some time now on catalogs and ads. The only difference is that Tonya works out of our Port Jefferson office while Navneet works out of his office in New Delhi, India. Interesting, both can turn out an ad in 20 or 30 minutes. All I can say is that it is a good thing that I do not have to drive to New Delhi to see each ad Navneet completes.

So, in the beginning, I learned about the one inflatable kayak that we were selling and how to create ads and brochures to sell that kayak. As time went on, I began to visit our supplier for the kayaks in France once or twice a year. This was particularly interesting for me. Since we had a French partner in the business, he took me around France introducing me to different suppliers. At that time, we had a kayak supplier, a paddle supplier, and a pump supplier. Each was in a different part of France and that meant that we had to travel all over France seeing these three suppliers.

Since we were also in the fishing lure business and since our fishing lure supplier was located in Milan, Italy, I would always also visit our fishing lure supplier on these trips. That really meant that each time I went to Europe, the trip took 2 or 3 weeks. These trips, while always very busy with things that needed to be done, also gave me an opportunity to sample European wines and meals and take in some of the nearby sights. This was another aspect of our business that I came to love.

While we started with just one kayak, the French partner we had bought out, was also importing a whole range of other inflatable kayaks and boats from a company named Pennel e Flipo. In the beginning, my father did not try to sell these other boats, thinking to concentrate first and foremost on the inflatable Pyrawa kayak which seemed to have the most promise. After a couple of years of successfully selling the Pyrawa inflatable kayak, we decided to offer some these other Pennel e Flipo boats…they included a fairly expensive inflatable kayak and a small transom boat. This also meant that we had to add Pennel e Flipo to the list of suppliers that we visited each year.

In the beginning years, we had almost no say in how the products were made. Rather we were told by our suppliers how they made the products and why they made the products they made, but we got no real input in changing the products. We were expected to sell what we were given. That was our job. After several years we began to make suggestions about product changes, trying to change certain features to make the products better accepted in the U.S. At first, we were told that changes could not be made, but as we bought more products and the volumes of different models went up, our suppliers began to become more flexible about what they could or could not do.

One irony that occurred over time was the fact that when I went to Europe, the people that I mostly worked with were engineers. That was strange for me since I had been a philosophy major at the University of Virginia. At college, I had looked down at engineers, who I wrote off as limited, one-dimensional creatures without imagination and without a general understanding of the way things really were. The feeling was reciprocal because all the engineers I knew in college wrote off philosophy majors as totally impractical people who would never get a job and who had no practical understanding of how things had to get done. So, given this previous tension, it was somewhat ironical that I ended up working mostly with engineers. And strangely, as I got to know the breed, I came to like and truly respect engineers.

About five years into working in our inflatable boat business, a crisis arose. Our supplier for the French Pyrawa inflatable kayaks went bankrupt. Now under French law, when a company goes bankrupt, the largest creditor has a right to take that company over. Since Pennel e Flipo, the other French company who we were importing from, was the largest creditor, they exercised their rights and took over the production of Pyrawa inflatable kayaks.

We thought this crisis was huge because by this point we already were selling over 5,000 Pyrawas a year. Most of those sales went through Sears and Roebuck, but we had also managed to sell it to an up and coming customer called L.L. Bean. Sears was selling 3,000 Pyrawas and L.L. Bean was selling almost 1,000. The remaining Pyrawa sales were through our own mail order efforts. In any case, we felt that by that time, Pyrawa had become a fairly well-known name in the inflatable boat business and we were terrified by the fact that we might lose the right to sell our best-selling product.

So, Pennel e Flipo took over the production of Pyrawa inflatable kayaks and we continued selling these kayaks under the name Pyrawa. Then another shock came along. As we approached the end of the 2 years, Pennel e Flipo informed us that also under French law, if a bankrupt company was able to reconstitute itself, it could take back ownership of the company and their previous production. Dumutier Decre, the original French company we were dealing with sent us a telex (this was in the days of telex, even before faxes) saying that they intended to re-constitute their company and again produce Pyrawas. Now, Dumutier Decre was about 1/20th of the size of Pennel e Flipo and they had already gone bankrupt, so this did not give us a lot of confidence. At the same time, Pennel e Flipo told us that they would be happy to produce kayaks for us but it would have to be under a different name.

That meant we had to decide which company to go with, the smaller company that had gone bankrupt but had the rights to the Pyrawa name or the larger company that could produce kayaks under a different name. Since Pennel e Flipo was the stronger company and since they were already producing some other models for us, we went with Pennel e Flipo.

That meant that we had to decide on a new trade name. This was both the hardest thing and the best thing to do because, in the end, it meant that we would own our own trademark name. That still did not solve the problem of what name to call our boats. I came up with the idea to call our boats Eagle Inflatables. I liked birds and I thought they had a lot in common with inflatables because they both worked with air. That was my thinking.

“Now, that is a classy name.”

I called our trademark lawyer who immediately told me that Eagle was too generic a name. Worse, he said it was boring. In haste and embarrassment and frustration I blurted out “Sea Eagle“.

The lawyer said, “Now, that is a classy name.”

And that is how we came to call our boats Sea Eagles.

Once we chose the new name, I cannot say the transition was very easy. It seemed to me it took about 10 years for the name to really get some traction, but traction it did get over time. That taught me something about inflatables and trademark names. Inflatable boats get their reputation by not doing things. Specifically, by not puncturing after use and abuse, by not having seams come apart, by not having hull materials come apart or degrade in the sun, by not drowning people. That took years to prove and so it took years to establish the reputation of our Sea Eagle boats.

I have to say that was quite different than our other company. Panther Martin lures established their reputation by catching fish and conveniently an angler could catch a fish within minutes of first using one of our fishing lures. And if fishermen or fisher ladies began to catch fish on a particular lure, they were hooked on that lure. Quite simply, the most important thing in a fishing lure to a fishing person was its ability to catch fish. And yes, it was important over a long period of time that the paint did not chip off, that the gold or silver finish did not tarnish, that the lure held up over repeated use, but the most important thing was that lure caught fish. And since we had a lure that almost always caught fish, we never had much trouble establishing the reputation of our Panther Martin fishing lures.

The problem was much more difficult with our Sea Eagle boats because it literally took years for a boater to agree and recognize that they had a really good inflatable boat. And again, mostly that recognition came from things the product did not do. So not puncturing when it went down a whitewater river was a good thing. Holding up for years under the sun in all kinds of weather was a good thing. Safely allowing people to get across lakes, rivers and bays was a good thing, especially when no one drowned.

There was another pretty big difference in the two businesses we owned. Panther Martin went up 20 or 30% every year for about 20 years, year after year. Whereas Sea Eagle would have a great year followed by a lousy year followed by a great year followed by another lousy year. That was because our fortunes changed year by year based on what customer(s) we added and what things were happening in the general economy.

For example, in 1973 there was something called the Arab Oil Embargo when Arab countries literally stopped selling us gas and oil until we agreed to pay four or more times the previous price. That meant that the cost of our inflatable boats went up 87% in 1974. This was because the hull material of our boats was oil-based. We dutifully tried to pass on these price increases to our customers. At that time, it was primarily Sears and Roebuck and L.L. Bean. Well, you may be able to realize they were not too enthusiastic about an 87% price increase. But that is what we did. And you may be able to imagine when that 87% price increase was passed on to consumers, the consumers were not enthusiastic, at least for that first year.

Needless to say, sales in 1974 were somewhat more muted. Strangely enough, although they did go down about 40% that year, we did sell boats at the higher price and thereafter the higher prices were basically accepted and our sales went up the following year. I might add that the Arab Oil Embargo also created a recession and stock market collapse in 1974, so there was lots of excitement. No matter, we soldiered on.

The boat business, unlike our lure business, was like an accordion. When you stretched out your arms, it was quite wide. When you put your arms together it was quite short. So our boat business would expand and contract year to year with us never knowing whether it would be an up year or a down year. Fortunately, through the tough years, our fishing lure was always there to support us, so we were able to survive.

Over time, we went through a vast number of changes. Strangely, it turned out that our move to Pennel e Flipo was not a good move. While they were supreme manufacturers of material, they were not gifted at inflatable boat production, so sometimes our kayaks had defect problems. As soon as we were aware of the quality problems, we began to look around Europe for a new supplier. In doing so, our French partner came across an Italian company called Adamoli Sintectiche Resine. They turned out to be both a less expensive producer and, strangely, a higher quality producer.

So, we moved pretty much all of our production to them. That proved to be a great move for us because they had truly good products at very reasonable prices. In short order, our line expanded to 3 inflatable kayaks, 2 inflatable dinghies, a small transom sportboat and a number of inflatable pool toys, among them the Sea Eagle Surfmat and something we called the Floating Island. This was an 8′ around inflatable island that you could lounge on in a pool or a pond or a lake or off your boat. This wider selection of products also meant more trips to Europe for me to visit both our boat and lure suppliers, both conveniently located in or near Milan.

In the beginning, our boat supplier was unwilling to make separate products or new designs for us. but they recognized that we knew more about inflatable kayaks than they did and they knew more about inflatable dinghies and pool floats than we did. I remember that the first thing that I was able to convince them to change was the design of an inflatable seat for our kayaks. This turned out to be the same design we still use today for our SEC kayak seats. These were simple inflatable PVC seats, but at the time they represented a big step forward. The next thing we convinced them to do was put deluxe one-way air valves on most of the main air chambers. Previously, we had only simple pipe valves, which, although they worked pretty well, were a true pain to use.

Little by little, we came to change the products that Adamoli Sintectiche Resine made for us.

In the summer of 1975, my French partner got a call from a young Frenchman, a guy named Louis Michel Janny, who told our partner that he had developed a new kind of material that he thought could be used to make inflatable kayaks. Our French partner called me and I suggested maybe we meet in France. When my partner called him, Monsieur Janny suggested something simpler and quicker. He would come to the States, meet with us and explain his project. And that is what he did.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, he came, we were intrigued by his new material (a special kind of PVC material with polyester grid fibers) and we arranged to come to France that summer. So off to France we went and within two months we developed the first series of what is now our second longest continuous series of inflatable boats…our Sea Eagle Explorer kayaks. In this case, because our new supplier was not very familiar with inflatable boat production, we had far more input into the final design of this series.

The first Sea Eagle Explorer 380x.

Sea Eagle Explorer kayaks were what I called a modular design. By that, I meant that it was made up of separate components, that when assembled, became one whole kayak. Specifically, it incorporated unsupported PVC spray skirts with unsupported inside PVC floor with a supported fabric outside hull. The fabric allowed the outside hull to be quite rigid and puncture resistant while the modular spray skirts and floor provided a finished look to the kayak at a very moderate price.

Since we were able to get this new series into L.L. Bean in the first year (1976), we were able to sell over 1,000 units in that first year. The majority of the sales went through L.L. Bean, but we also sold these kayaks through our own mail order sales and through a fairly intricate dealer network that we had begun to build up. Since these kayaks were fairly expensive for their time ($599 to $699) the sales of a 1,000 units was a big deal for us.

Here I am taking one of the first 380x Explorer kayaks down Dick Creek Falls on the Chatooga River in Georgia. I and a group of friends went down to Georgia and ran the Chatooga and Nantahala Rivers for five full days to test out this new series. It was fun! Notice the classic style flat-bladed wooden paddle that was state of the art for us at that time.

At the same time, we were selling a continuous quantity of 330 and 370 Sea Eagle kayaks, which in those years were orange and blue in color. In addition, by this time we also had a couple unsupported PVC inflatable dinghies, the Sea Eagle 6 and the Sea Eagle 8. So, by 1976, we had about 7 inflatable boats, a number floating pool toys, and inflatable boat accessories.

As we made our way through various economic crises, our sales were sometimes up and sometimes down. In the late 1970s, we also began to sell traditional inflatable transom boats taking outboards up to 25hp. By 1980 the number of models that we offered had increased to 10.

In the early 80s, another recession came along with a period of fast-rising gas and oil prices. Since our boats were PVC based, an oil derivative, this meant that our inflatable boats were being affected each year with sharp price increases. At that time, the leading sellers of inflatable boats, Zodiac, Achilles, and Avon all had to dramatically raise their prices. In 1982, I made a simple color change to our unsupported PVC boats, going from orange and blue, to gray and blue, and we introduced a new improved series of motormount boats which were called Sea Eagle Heavyweights. These boats were really our Sea Eagle 6, 8 & 9, now in gray and blue and now made with a new formula PVC in a thicker gauge. Now, these boats were virtually identical to our present Sea Eagle 9, but at the time, the color change made our boats look far more serious and the heavier gauge, better quality material really changed the way these boats were perceived. It also dramatically improved the way these boats performed.

In short, in spite of a raging recession, we were able to sell 10,000 of the Sea Eagle 6, 8 & 9 in 1982. This represented a huge increase in sales for us and it allowed us to gain a significant market share of the inflatable boat business. In that year, our Sea Eagle boat business finally surpassed the dollar sales of our Panther Martin lure business. This was quite a switch for our family business since the lure business had always been the larger of the two.

Our classics in the 1970s…Sea Eagle 4 & 5 dinghies, Explorer Kayaks and tenders and, of course, our original Pyrawa inflatable kayak.

But the boat business still proved to be an up and down affair. We expanded our boat range in 1983, adding more kayaks and more transom boats and the business grew a little bit, but as the 80s continued and prices continued to go up, the sales started to fall back. At the same time, our fishing lure company was chugging along as it had always done, growing each and every year. By the end of the 80s, the lure business was once again our main business.

The two businesses continued into the 90s with some years the boat business being the bigger business and other years the lure business being the bigger business. I have to say all of these years the boat business was always a struggle, with up and down years. That period lasted until 1996. In that year, we launched SeaEagle.com on the internet. This was at the insistence of our father who kept harassing me and my brother to get a website up and running. It could not have taken place without the aid of my much younger brother, John Hoge. John had just graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he learned to be proficient in the art of computers. Because it was the early years of the internet, we did not quite understand what we were doing, but we forged forward anyway.

I will save the story of our internet experience and further development on new and different Sea Eagle models for Part 2 of this history of Sea Eagle Boats.

To be continued…


My Solar Powered FishSkiff



This is the first PowerFilm® Solar panel that I tested on the FishSkiff. It was far larger, far more expensive and slower to charge than the newer Semi-Flexible Solar Panel we are now selling from PowerFilm®.

By Cecil Hoge, President of Sea Eagle Boats, Inc.

Several years ago I wrote a blog story called, “My Solar Power Dream”. In it, I outlined my efforts to create a solar-powered boat that really worked. That experiment was more dream than reality. Today, I can say that we are now selling a dream come true – see the picture of the Sea Eagle FishSkiff 16 below.


This is the new Solar Electric Motor Package we are now selling. It includes the FishSkiff 16, two swivel fish rig seats with Scotty Rod-holders, a WaterSnake Venom 34 Electric Motor, a MinnKota Battery Box, a Sun/Rain Canopy & a 45 watt PowerFilm® Soltronix semi-flexible panel.

In my first testing of a Sea Eagle boat with a solar panel and an electric motor, I had put a solar panel on an inflatable sailing catamaran and hooked it up to a lithium battery that powered a Torqeedo electric motor. In the years leading up to that experiment, I had tried a number of solar panels to charge 12 volt batteries, most of which did very little. They were called “Trickle Charge” solar panels and that was a good name because the charge literally had to trickle for several weeks before it actually fully charged the battery. And sometimes, when the panel actually fully charged a battery, it kept going, literally burning holes in my dock. Not a pretty sight.

On my sailing catamaran, I hooked up a PowerFilm® solar panel on the bow between the 2 pontoons with the Torqeedo electric motor at the stern. It worked, but it had a number of problems.

Now this panel was the same size as the larger panel shown in the first picture. It was made from a flexible film imprinted on a strong polyester fabric. It could rolled up when not used, but it was about 3 times the size of the semi-flexible panel shown in the second picture above. The new Semi-flexible Solar Panel that PowerFilm has now developed is flexible, but it cannot be rolled. It is about 1/8″ thick and measures 17″ x 30″. That is far smaller than the flexible panel that measured 34″ x 54″. Then there is the little matter of cost. When we sold the larger flexible panel we had to sell it for $999. while the new smaller panel sells for $369. Last and really the most important features of the new smaller panel was the fact that it had a built-in solar controller which prevented it from over-charging a battery. Trust me, you do not want a battery burning through your dock or your boat, for that matter.

On the sailing catamaran, the larger, more flexible solar panel drooped between the inflatable pontoons. This tended to scoop up water when sailing and hang loosely between the two pontoons. Nevertheless, it did work…kind of. The solar panel did re-charge the battery in the Torqeedo motor, but it took quite a bit of time. If there was sun, it would actually charge the battery fully in about 8 hours, which was pretty good.

But, there were two problems with that:

1. You generally did not get a full 8 hours of sunshine each day.

2. The battery in the Torqeedo motor I was using only held a limited amount of electrical power. It did have, however, a built-in solar charge controller which prevented the solar panel from over-charging. That was helpful, but the amount of wattage in the battery was very limited, meaning the amount of running time was also very limited.

Even when fully charged, the Torqeedo battery could only be run for about 25 minutes at full speed. This meant I could go out fairly regularly, but you had to watch your time and how fast you were going because if you wanted to go fast, you would run out of juice pretty quick. And paddling a 16′ inflatable catamaran back to my home one or two miles away was not something I really wanted to do.

I will say that Torqeedo has now resolved their battery size issue with their new Torqeedo 1003c motor which we now sell. It has a battery that holds double the amount of wattage so the run time is effectively doubled. Even so, you still have to monitor your charge level carefully in a Torqeedo (that is easy in a Torqeedo because of the power level monitor on the tiller arm) because it is also more powerful and it uses up wattage far faster than a smaller electrical motor like our WaterSnake Venom 34.


Cruising in my Solar Powered Fish Skiff – prototype #1. In this picture I am testing another solar panel using the original 14ft prototype FishSkiff.

About 18 months ago I began working on a new kind of fishing boat. It was a fishing skiff designed to hold up to a 6 hp outboard gas motor and 2 fishermen. Our name for this new model is, appropriately, the FishSkiff  16. The first prototype, shown directly above and in the top picture, was 14′ long and 54″ wide. When I conceived this new model I had no intentions to create a solar-powered version of it. I was looking to create a fishing boat that weighed very little, packed up in a car trunk and motored long distances with small, lightweight gas-powered outboards.

When I got the first prototype, I found out that the first prototype did not motor well with a 6 hp outboard. That was because the pontoons were not long enough behind the transom – take a look at the picture above and compare it to the picture below. The problem was that the bow of the boat wanted to ride up at a 20-degree angle at full speed. I can only blame myself for this error since I was the guy who made the drawing of what I wanted our supplier to make. Correcting this problem was simple – all we needed to do was extend the length of the pontoons and provide more buoyancy behind the motor. And that is what we did.


In this picture you can see that the pontoons behind the transom have been extended and we have also added a rubbing strake to the side pontoons for some extra added protection.

The longer pontoons behind the boat worked great and looked great. I would note that I also changed the shape of the bow and added a rubbing strake on the side pontoons to give this boat a more pointed elegant shape with the drop stitch bow pontoons extending beyond the drop stitch floor. Again, you can see these changes if you compare the wo pictures directly above.

There was just one problem – I still had the first prototype – what was I going to do with that? That gave me the idea to use that prototype with an electric motor and a solar panel. With a small electric motor, there would be no problem with the shorter pontoons. And that was easy because we had already started selling WaterSnake electric motors three years ago – so I had the motors. In addition, I had developed a working relationship with a solar panel company, PowerFilm®, and they had just finished working on a new kind of solar panel which was smaller and more efficient. Finally, I had also developed a relationship with a lithium battery company, Relion Battery.

The main difference of this new kind of PowerFilm® solar panel was that it was about one-third of the size of the original panel, it was specifically designed to charge 12 volt marine batteries and it had built-in solar controller to prevent the possibility of overcharging a 12 volt battery. So I put the new PowerFilm® Solar Panel on one of our Sun/Rain Canopies (where it was out of the way and took up almost no space) and hooked it up to a 50 amp Lithium battery from Relion Battery.

I will note here that I could have used a regular 12-volt lead acid battery, but I liked the idea of the lithium battery because it weighed only 15 lbs. That compares to a 50 amp lead acid battery that generally weighs 50 lbs. to 60 lbs. As an older man, I really liked the idea of a lightweight 12-volt battery. Lithium has some other advantages that are important to mention here. They can be run down completely with virtually no damage or degradation to the power of the battery. Whereas if you rundown a 12 volt lead acid battery by more than 50% you effectively lose about 50% of the useful life of the battery immediately. In addition, lithium batteries can be charged thousands of times with almost no degradation of the power. Lead acid batteries can be charged a few hundred times and a loss of useful power that the battery retains.

So I put the solar panel on one of our large Sun/Rain Canopies (which of course we already had) and hooked it up with a 12-volt controller to the lithium battery and Voila…I had a solar powered FishSkiff.

That is not quite accurate. This new boat configuration was not truly a solar-powered FishSkiff. What was actually happening was that the solar panel was charging the battery whenever it began to run down (provided there was sunshine). And the battery would power the electric motor whenever I took the boat out for a spin.

Effectively, I did have a solar-powered boat because whenever I chose to go motoring I had plenty of juice to cruise around for several hours. Now, this kind of system does have some logistical limits. If you go full speed for over an hour and a half, you could run out of power. And then you would have to paddle your way from there until the solar power put in enough juice to resume motoring or until you got home. A better alternative to that is simply to go at a little slower speed (I recommend 3 mph instead 4 mph) and have all the power you need.

And effectively, whenever I went out, I had all the power I needed, primarily because I generally never would go out for more than 3 hours at a time and, if I did, all that I had to do was slow down a bit and run at half throttle. Since the top speed of the boat at full throttle was 4 mph and the speed of the boat at half throttle was 3 mph, slowing down really was not much of a sacrifice. But running the electric motor at half throttle only used half of the power that full throttle used, so effectively it meant you had a lot more time of the water.

I used this boat for over 6 months last year and I found that I could go boating 5 or 6 times a week without ever having to recharge the battery. The 45w Semi-Flexible Solar Panel from PowerFilm® seems to fully charge the Relion® 50 amp lithium battery in less than 8 hours, that is, presuming there was sunlight.

In summary, I can truly say that our FishSkiff 16, when rigged with our little WaterSnake electric motor and with a new PowerFilm® solar panel can be motored pretty much every day without ever having to recharge the battery.

That truly is A Solar Powered Dream come true!

Should you want additional Information on outfitting one of our Sea Eagle boats with a solar panel, click on the link in this sentence.


The new PowerFilm® Soltronix 45 watt solar panel can be mounted directly on many of our Sea Eagle boats, SUPs and kayaks. Here is a picture of our Sea Eagle FishSUP 126 with the solar panel strapped to the bow. We now sell this specific package for the FishSUP 126.

Please note, if you are getting a Solar Panel set for one of our boats, you will either want  to strap it directly to one of our kayaks or FishSUPs, as shown above, or mount it on a Sun/Rain Canopy as shown on the Sea Eagle FishSkiff 16. If you want to put it on the Sun/Rain Canopy, please let Jerry, in our tech department, know so he can make sure the canopy has attachment grommets in place for the solar panel.

The following Sea Eagle boats take both our canopy and can be used with an electric motor up to 65 lbs. thrust – FSK16, SE9, STS10, 285fpb, 375fc & 10.6sr.

And you can mount the solar panel directly on our 380x, 420x, 385ft,  465ft, 435ps kayaks and our FishSUP 126.

Should you have questions on how to do that, call Jerry at 1-800-473-7308 9am-5pm, EST.





LAKE TAHOE CIRCLE TOUR — 8 Days & 72 Miles in a Sea Eagle FastTrack 385

Tim and Ki Blog readers, you may remember Tim Middleton and his canine companion, Ki (Pronounced “Kee”) from an earlier post on our blog. When Tim’s first article posted, this man-and-dog duo was happily adventuring in Tim’s Sea Eagle FastTrack 385. And they’re still at it today — this time, circumnavigating Lake Tahoe.

by Sea Eagle Staff

If you’re a boater, and you haven’t been to ‘Tahoe, you’re missing an awesome experience. Crystal clear water to about 70 feet, gorgeous mountain vistas, sandy and/or rocky shores, this is one BIG freshwater lake, nearly 125 MILLION acres — that’s 500 square miles. Lake Tahoe straddles the Nevada/California line at 6,225 feet above sea level. Don’t drop your tackle box — it’s estimated to be 1,645 feet deep! And, per the USGS, it’s 72 miles around.

Total immersion

Tim tells his adventure story. “Lake Tahoe means many things to many people. For some, it’s about kayaking, paddle boarding, and all kinds of boating. Others go fishing, hiking, or camping in rustic cabins. For others, it’s about the gambling casinos on the Nevada side. Me? I enjoy being in the outdoors. Ki and I do a lot of adventuring. Mountaineering, hiking, camping, and kayaking, of course.

Ki and I have taken many day trips in my Sea Eagle FastTrack 385. And recently we’ve been going on extended boating-and-camping trips. Our big trip last summer was circumnavigating Lake Tahoe — eight days, seven nights, and 72 miles of paddling

Trusting my adventuring abilities, and with a bit of info from Lake Tahoe Water Trail Organization, we put in at South Lake Tahoe, the most populous community on the lake, and headed clockwise. Lots of boaters do the lake one segment at a time but I wanted to do it adventure-style, all in one trip. I think what’s so unique about this trip is it was total immersion — 8 days, 7 nights, all along every inch of the entire shoreline. Ki and I got to know the lake intimately. It’s much different and better that way instead of visiting just one portion of a lake, one beach, at a time.

Hauled cargo like an ocean tanker

You’ve got to be prepared. The first night there was a bear on the beach. We had mostly clear weather but stayed holed up in camp 26 hours straight during some high winds and small craft advisory warnings. Safety’s always #1 when boating. I respect the water and you really want to be prepared.

I packed a lot of gear and 10 days of food in a plastic tub so we rode lower in the water than usual — the Sea Eagle hauled cargo like an ocean tanker! It worked out fabulously. Big load, no problem. We went through heavy waves, 2-foot swells with wind chop blowing into the boat. I never felt we were in trouble, though. I went diagonally to the waves but even when we took them parallel to the boat it was stable. I was very impressed.

My Sea Eagle really proved itself as a worthy craft. At one point, we headed out of a cove into some waves and wind whipped spray over the bow. Ki turned and gave me ‘that look’ and I said, ‘Hey, sorry Ki, I’m doing my best here.’

I got Sea Eagle’s QuickSail and there were days when I had a nice tailwind. I’d put up the sail and enjoy a nice, free ride. Meanwhile, Ki would sometime stand and ride the bow like a ship’s figurehead.

Sea Eagle Fast Track 385 at Lake TahoeFloating above gigantic boulders in 40’ of crystal-clear water

We paddled past all kinds of big and little houses. Multi-million dollar homes and rustic lodges. Long stretches of undeveloped, very remote wooded land. In a few days, we got to Sand Harbor at the northeast end of the lake. It’s truly remarkable there. We floated in 30 or 40 feet of water and could see clear to the bottom. And standing on the bottom were huge boulders, some 20 feet tall, reaching nearly to the surface.

Then we paddled south down to State Line that marks the Nevada and California border, and back to our starting point at South Lake Tahoe.

Dragged over rocks

Ki and I traveled in the same Sea Eagle I bought four years ago. We’ve beached it many times, dragged it up on rocks and coarse sand, but it shows hardly any wear at all. It’s a very tough boat.

This extended trip reconfirmed for me all the good things I said in my first Sea Eagle post about the FastTrack’s quality, strength, packability, great warranty, maneuverability, and super design.

Our next trip? I’m planning to paddle the Big River at Mendocino, California, for some classic flat-water kayaking. Friends tell me it’s an eight-mile tidal estuary within a beautiful California coast forest. I’m told there’s bioluminescent algae there.”

— Tim Middleton & Ki, Sea Eagle FastTrack 385 adventurers

PADDLING WITH SEALS – Winter Paddling and the Ever Changing Scenery

A Friend Shows Up On My Dock

Getting ready for a morning paddle last week, I was welcomed to my dock by this cute visitor.

By Cecil Hoge

I paddle pretty much all year round. Since I live on the water this is not very difficult to do; I just have to walk about 100 feet to the water. The other day this feller (he or she, I am not sure which) greeted me on my dock. I am fairly used to seeing seals out in one of the bays in the middle of winter, but I must admit that I was quite surprised to find this feller taking a break on my dock.

Aside from the relatively short period when the bay is frozen solid, I go paddling every day I can and that includes paddling on winter days when the tide is in, when the weather is passable. I do not like to paddle in driving snowstorms or in winds over 25 mph or in temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

When paddling in winter, I do have one rule and that is not to paddle when there is ice. That usually occurs in January and February. Last year was a particularly cold winter and my local bays were frozen from the end of December to early March. This year has been a particularly warm winter with the bays freezing over only two or three times for no more than 3 or 4 days.

Now you might think it is kind of crazy to go paddling in the winter because even if the water is not frozen, the air temperature is often 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I am in total agreement that is a terrible thing to be cold when you paddle, but I believe that it is very easy to be warm. I always wear a warm windproof/waterproof jacket, warm gloves and warm, lined pants. I also wear a life jacket in winter – that not only adds warmth, but it also helps prevent drowning in 40 degree water. I consider falling in not an option since exposure to 30-40 degree water for more than 10 or 20 minutes can quickly lead to death. Not a good way to start the day.

That said, I believe by dressing warmly in appropriate clothes you can be both warm and safe. Here I have to put in a plug for our Sea Eagle® boats. They are very stable, more so than most rigid kayaks, and they have their own built-in flotation, which is something most kayaks and rowing shells do not have.


This is a tree I pass on my way from Little Bay to Setauket Bay

You might ask doesn’t paddling get boring? Yes, it could if you are bored by endlessly changing scenery. The fact is that when you paddle the same conditions are never repeated even if you paddle along the same general course, day after day. This is because the tide is always different, going or coming at one level or another, the weather is always different and what you see paddling is always different.


One of the pleasures of paddling in winter are the many different birds you might see along the way.

It is quite easy to take pictures of nearby birds, especially if you have a camera with a good zoom lens. I did not go out of my way in taking these pictures. In winter my little bay, cleverly called Little Bay, is often filled with swans. Swans pay kayakers little mind – I probably should say kayaker since I am the only kayaker they ever see.  This makes them very easy to photograph. I pass literally hundreds of birds every day I paddle. Here are some more.


In the picture above, I am guessing one duck is a Mallard male and the other is his wife. You may have to look carefully to recognize the wife – she is very modest.


Crossing paths with a heron and some geese.

Herons do not like humans. I think they remember when they were giant flying dinosaurs and humans were little snacks to be picked off on a slow day of hunting. They are harder to get close to and when you do get close, first they give you the evil eye, then they squawk their ancient dinosaur squawk and fly off thoroughly disgusted.

I think winter paddling is very healthy. I think breathing the air when paddling on salt water clears out your lungs and helps ward off colds. It’s just a theory – I cannot promise that it will work for everyone, but it seems to work for me.

If you ask a serious kayaker why they like to paddle they may not be sure just what to answer. Yes, they like the exercise…yes, they like seeing different kinds of birds…yes, they like the fact that something is always different. The sun, the clouds, the tide, the wind, the weather, the time of season, the time of day…every time you go paddling the surrounding elements are different and in flux – this is both soothing and exhilarating.

But I think it is not just the changing scenery that makes paddling interesting, exhilarating and just plain fun. There is another notion I would like to suggest. It is the horizon that is visible when you are paddling – the sheer open spaces that come into view without the obstructions that are so normal to everyday views. Think of it, when you go out of your front door, there are a lot of things immediately in view…a car, a driveway, a hedge, a road, a telephone pole. But when you are paddling, often you come to places where your view is not obstructed by objects. Literally, the horizon in front of you expands and seems limitless.


Paddling out to Port Jefferson Harbor.

This may not seem exciting as a description, but I think if feeds an inner calm that most of us seek and long for. Even when you go for a jog, there is not much of a horizon visible. Usually, you are on a road with no great expanse of horizon in view…with houses and telephone poles and mail boxes. This is the great difference with paddling for there is a true horizon and it seems limitless. There is no path, there is no road, there is no set course, you may paddle where you will and along the way you come across unobstructed views. Of course, many will say it is a stupid and crazy idea to paddle in winter when your fingers might get chilled, but I will tell you, “Oh no, your fingers will be as warm as toast if your paddling in winter, because your hands are moving and exercising all the time so cold is simply not a factor.”

Now, I would like to get back to paddling with seals. It is usually out here in Port Jefferson Harbor (see the picture above) that I see seals. I guess that is appropriate because they are harbor seals. Port Jefferson Harbor is 2 bays away from my house and I usually paddle out to there on a kind of route. It is about 2 miles from my house to get to the harbor itself.

Usually, I do not see many seals and when I do, it’s generally not their whole body. What I do see is their head protruding out of the water. Sometimes, I mistake them for a small buoy or duck or a loon. It is only when I see the head disappear and then reappear that I realize what I am looking at. Generally, they keep their distance. I am told that the first thing that they do when seeing a large object on the water is try to determine if it is a predator and I suppose me in my kayak could be considered a predator.

Occasionally, seals swim within 50 or 100 feet of me and I can get an idea of their size. They can be quite large and, I suppose very heavy. They seem to be 6 to 8 feet in length when I see them out in the harbor. That was one of the reasons I was surprised to see the little feller on my dock. He or she was only about 3 feet long and had this very sweet adorable look. I wanted to go down the dock stairway and see if I could pet this cute creature, but the seal slouched off of my dock before I could get close. This was probably fortunate for both of us, he or she got to slide off into the water, its true medium, and I got to keep all the fingers on my hand. I am told that seals are quite fond of fingers.


This is currently my favorite Sea Eagle® – The RazorLite™ 393rl – I may be prejudiced, though, because I designed it. And no, I do not always paddle on cold winter days!

As you can see from the picture above, I do also paddle on warm sunny summer days. There is, however, a beauty to paddling in winter. Generally you are out there by yourself – in my case, in winter I only see an occasional clam digger. There are no mighty Mastercrafts charging back and forth with skiers in tow, there are no large yachts or small boats cruising back and forth, the waterways are pristine and empty. You feel alone, at peace, remote and all to yourself and the birds and the seals. Winter is in fact a nice time to paddle.


CREATURES OF THE KUZURYU — Kayaking unknown waters in rural Japan

”My Japanese friend, Yuko, pumps up my Sea Eagle 330, We are about to launch on Lake Manahime in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. At first Yuko didn’t seem to appreciate the untouched beauty of the lakes, but after several trips together she finally confessed, “OK Sam-san – this lake is beautiful after all.”

”My Japanese friend, Yuko, pumps up my Sea Eagle 330, We are about to launch on Lake Manahime in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. At first Yuko didn’t seem to appreciate the untouched beauty of the lakes, but after several trips together she finally confessed, “OK Sam-san – this lake is beautiful after all.”

“I stopped paddling. The boat glided in perfect silence. I strained

"For Fukui's Sake - Two years in rural Japan" by Sam Baldwin

“For Fukui’s Sake – Two years in rural Japan” by Sam Baldwin

hard, scanning the depths. There was something down there. And it was moving. Deep down, just on the very limits of visibility, a large, dark form glided beneath me.”

— from “For Fukui’s Sake — Two years in rural Japan” by Sam Baldwin.

At Sea Eagle, we hear regularly from all kinds of boaters from weekend warriors to those dedicated souls best described as “adventurers.” We spoke recently with hiker, backpacker, author, and boater, Sam Baldwin, about his kayaking adventures in his Sea Eagle 330 in the wilds of backcountry Japan.

Sam Baldwin kayaks the wilds of back country Japan in his Sea Eagle 330

Sam Baldwin kayaks the wilds of back country Japan in his Sea Eagle 330

Where bears prowl

“Welcome to a Japan where snakes slither down school corridors, where bears prowl dark forests and where Westerners are still regarded as curious creatures. Welcome to the world of the inaka– the Japanese countryside.

Saying sayonara to laboratory life in the UK, I took a job as an English teacher in a small, rural Japanese town that no one – the Japanese included – has ever heard of.

Arriving in Fukui Prefecture, where the guidebook says there’s ‘little reason to linger,’ I at first wondered why I left England. But as I slowly settled into my unfamiliar new home, I discovered the secrets of a Japan still clutching its pastoral past and explored a landscape of, rice fields, lush mountain forests….and lonely lakes where SOMETHING lurks…

Undiscovered Japan

I love the beauty and escape of the great outdoors. As a kid it was all about fishing, then I got into cycling, and in my late teens I went on my first snowboarding trip to the tiny country of Andorra in the Pyrenees. There’s something I love about being in majestic surroundings.

Most people think of Japan as a sprawling, neon-soaked, overcrowded mega-city. I wanted to experience a Japan that few people think of. When I first took my Japanese friend Yuko kayaking in beautiful Lake Kuzuryu, she said it was ‘spooky’ rather than attractive due to the lack of human development and lack of other people around — the exact reasons I found it such an amazing place.

I’ve done numerous bits of boating over the years in various craft, from canal narrow boats in Ireland, to small sailing dinghies in England, to larger yachts in Greece, and various day trips in canoes and kayaks all over. But my Japanese kayaking adventures in my Sea Eagle were the most rewarding so far.

Layers of mountains fade in to the haze. A solo exploratory trip on Lake Kuzuryu in Fukui prefecture, in my Sea Eagle 330

Layers of mountains fade in to the haze. A solo exploratory trip on Lake Kuzuryu in Fukui prefecture, in my Sea Eagle 330

The most magnificent lake I’d ever seen…and no boats

High up in the mountain folds in Fukui Prefecture, there sits a lonely lake. Clear, blue-green and contained by steep, forested slopes, Lake Kuzuryu is one of the most magnificent I had ever seen. It was impossible to hire a boat locally, so I started thinking about how else I could explore these lakes in the Japanese mountains. I was so taken by their beauty that I knew I had to get on the water, so started looking online, reading forums and magazine articles.

At first I was looking at hard shell kayaks, but as I began to read more about inflatables, I realized that they would be a far more practical solution. I could store an inflatable kayak in my apartment, and transport it far more easily than a hard shell.

10 minutes

I did a lot of research before buying. I kept on reading good things about Sea Eagle. I really liked the website and the general feel to the brand. The boats seemed like really good value for money. I settled on a Sea Eagle 330, Sea Eagle’s most basic craft but exactly what I needed for my adventures.

Living in a fairly small Japanese apartment, there would have been nowhere to store a hard shell, so the fact that I could stash my Sea Eagle in the cupboard was a huge selling point. Also, not having to worry about car racks and trailers was another massive plus point. And the fact that it can be pumped up and on the water in under ten minutes means the Sea Eagle is perfect for my needs.

My original goal was pure exploration in Fukui Prefecture on the main island of Honshu. I also went to another lake in Fukui called Lake Manahime. Several times I took it to Fukui’s coastline and explored small islands near to shore. I also took it on a long road trip to the northern island of Hokkaido, where I went kayaking in Lake Shikotsu, a beautiful body of water edged by smoldering volcanoes.

Easy to sell

My Sea Eagle had many admirers in Japan so when it was time for me to return to the UK, I had no trouble selling it to my Japanese friend Yoshi who took it down the Kuzuryu River and had a great time.

When I got back to the UK, I bought another Sea Eagle to help me explore some of the many lochs in Scotland. I’ve found some really beautiful ones, great for camping/kayaking trips.

Thanks for making such an excellent product that is well priced, and makes it so much easier to get out and enjoy the water. I learned that if you take a chance, exit your comfort zone, and follow your heart, doors that you never even knew existed will open. Without my Sea Eagle, I would never have been able to explore those lakes up in the Japanese mountains, and I never would have seen the monkeys, the giant hornets, or the creatures of the deep that I got to write about.”

And just what were Sam’s Creatures of Kuzuryu? We won’t spoil Sam’s story. Read it for yourself in “For Fukui’s Sake — Two years in rural Japan”

Sam Baldwin is an English writer living in Scotland. His travel articles have appeared in numerous magazines, guidebooks, and online travel sites. Sam founded SnowSphere.com, a website for snow travelers. His recent book, For Fukui’s Sake – Two years in rural Japan, chronicles his adventures in a little-known Japan.

KAYAKING 2,300 MILES on the MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI — They boated every inch of America’s most famous river

Modern day Huckleberry Finn-style adventurers on the Mississippi, Ryan (left) and Phillip take a break from their 2,300 mile kayak trip to snack on watermelon just north of Memphis. Mark Twain’s famous book, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” tells of Huck stealing a watermelon – Ryan and Phillip were given theirs by a farmer who lives on the river.

Modern day Huckleberry Finn-style adventurers on the Mississippi, Ryan (left) and Phillip take a break from their 2,300 mile kayak trip to snack on watermelon just north of Memphis. Mark Twain’s famous book, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” tells of Huck stealing a watermelon – Ryan and Phillip were given theirs by a farmer who lives on the river.

“Hey, Phillip, let’s take a boat trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River!” So began a remarkable Huck Finn-style river voyage by two self- described adventurers, travelers, and videographers.

Ryan Jeanes’ casual remark to his business partner, Phillip Hullquist, planted the seed that grew into the duo’s three month odyssey from one end of America’s most iconic river to the other — a 2,300 mile river adventure from the Mississippi’s headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico…and resulted in their full length documentary movie, “The River is Life”.

Ryan paddles while Phillip (not shown) shoots video on their first day on the Mississippi River about two miles from its headwaters. The water's only six inches deep there - nothing like what you expect in the Mighty Mississippi.

Ryan paddles while Phillip (not shown) shoots video on their first day on the Mississippi River about two miles from its headwaters. The water’s only six inches deep there – nothing like what you expect in the Mighty Mississippi.

“What’s stopping YOU?”

Many people may dream of being adventurous enough to drop everything and do something like travel the length of the Mississippi for three months. Some may talk about their plan for years. But few will actually do it. And that is the whole point film makers Jeanes and Hullquist drive home in their documentary, “The River is Life.”

“Dream it. Live it. Film it” is the slogan the duo has pinned to their video company, 11 Visions. Phillip sums up their philosophy with a poignant question. “What’s stopping you,” he asks, “from doing the things you really want to do?”

Ryan and Phillip have made a boating adventure film that’s an engaging, watchable,  and very interesting film about America. “It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t enjoy this sweet, terrifically amiable documentary,” writes Mike Schulz in the River Cities’ Reader, a newspaper serving five cities along the upper Mississippi.

Passion for adventure

“When we started our film company, says Phillip, “we wanted to do and document the things we’re passionate about.” Adventure is their passion, and they did it on a shoestring. “Kayaking down the Mississippi is a fairly inexpensive venture although you’ll need to commit a significant period of time to complete such a journey.”

Business-and-adventure partners Phillip (left) and Ryan (right) at the Mississippi River headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota about to embark on a 2,300 mile journey in Sea Eagle kayaks.

Business-and-adventure partners Phillip (left) and Ryan (right) at the Mississippi River headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota about to embark on a 2,300 mile journey in Sea Eagle kayaks.

Boating for weeks on end, and camping nightly at the water’s edge, meant they had to pack all the camping gear any adventurer would need for an extended trip, plus all their cameras and video gear. Ryan and Phillip chose twin Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Kayaks. “We took a test run in a Sea Eagle,” says Phillip, “and decided we really needed two boats to carry us and all our gear.”

Experimenting with various loading arrangements, they found their best plan was to ride and paddle in tandem in one 380x while towing their boatload of gear behind them in the second kayak.

“The 380x can carry a lot of gear,” says Ryan. “It can carry 300 lbs. of stuff, gear, tents, cook stoves, computers, video gear, backpacks, food, clothes, even solar panels to charge our cell phones.”

The choice of serious adventure boaters

Sea Eagle’s Explorer Kayaks are the kayak-of-choice for serious adventurers. Watch Sea Eagle owner, Ted Pasternak, navigate white water rapids in his Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak.

Phillip and Ryan were serious boaters, but not experienced ones. They gained their boating experience along the way. “We didn’t have that much boating experience,” says Phillip. “We didn’t know what conditions we were going to encounter. But we made the decision early to err on side of safety. People advised us to get longest boat we could. They told us they’re the fastest and had the most space for our gear.”

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? You have to be ready for anything on an extended kayaking trip. The 380x's stability was much appreciated by Phillip and Ryan when storms hit near Natchez, Mississippi.

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? You have to be ready for anything on an extended kayaking trip. The 380x’s stability was much appreciated by Phillip and Ryan when storms hit near Natchez, Mississippi.

Ryan agrees, “We’re certainly long haul boaters but not professional boaters at all. The 380x is the perfect boat for all kinds of conditions” from bottoming out in shallow waters up north to crossing Lake Winnibegashish — a 67,000 acre Minnesota lake the Mississippi flows through. If we’d been in hard hull kayaks, I don’t know if we’d have made it. The performance and stability of the 380x are incredible. I love that boat.”

“I’ve always wanted to do X”

“Lots of people have great ideas for adventures,” says Phillip. “They’ll say, ‘I’ve always wanted to do X.’ Most peoples’ dreams are usually doable – but they haven’t done them yet. It’s basically a matter of really wanting to do something and going out and doing it.”

“There’s a spiritual pull to adventuring,” Ryan told us. “Human beings look for experiences to learn about ourselves. We like being challenged; we want to see how we’ll react to see what we’re made of. The idea of journeying is part of every culture in the world.”

Adventure a week at a time

Not all adventurers can clear their calendars several weeks or months at a time to live their dreams. But dreams are still doable. “We ran into a three- generation family boating the entire Mississippi as we were,” says Phillip. “But they couldn’t take three months off; they did it one week at a time. They boat to a certain point in a week’s time, then start from that point a year later. “They’re living their dream a week at a time and will eventually navigate the whole river.”

What’s next for this pair of video camera-toting adventurers? “I want to try white water kayaking,” said Ryan. His passing comment, like “Let’s boat the Mississippi,” may be the start of a new adventure documentary film. Watch for it at a movie theater near you!

ECO-ADVENTURE BY BIKE & KAYAK – An Unstoppable Combination

His kayak carries his BIKE across water, then his bike carries his KAYAK across the land!

Gary carries his BIKE in his BOAT. "Lake Asnen was our favorite lake in Sweden’s Smaland province, filled with trout, perch, and pike for sustainable fishing, great bike tracks to explore the wild and scenic waterways to enjoy crossing in the 465. We used a BBQ cover to protect the base and sides of the kayak from all our bikes and luggage. "

Gary carries his collapsible BIKE in his inglatable Sea Eagle BOAT. “Lake Asnen was our favorite lake in Sweden’s Smaland province, filled with trout, perch, and pike for sustainable fishing, great bike tracks to explore the wild and scenic waterways to enjoy crossing in the 465. We used a BBQ cover to protect the base and sides of the kayak from all our bikes and luggage. “

Gary carries his BOAT on his BIKE. "Touring across Sweden with the ultimate setup – Birdy Bike, Oxtail trailer and Sea eagle FastTrack 465 in tow. It's easy to pack this bike-and-boat combination and it's comfortable to ride."

Gary carries his inflatable BOAT on his collapsible BIKE. “Touring across Sweden with the ultimate setup – Birdy Bike, Oxtail trailer and Sea eagle FastTrack 465 in tow. It’s easy to pack this bike-and-boat combination and it’s comfortable to ride.”

The ingenuity and innovation of many people came together to make possible it possible for Australian adventurer, Gary Muir, to take a memorable trip across parts of Scandinavia on his Bikes & Kayak Expedition. This is a story of how his go-anywhere boat-and-bike combination came to be.

“In 1994 I had been involved as Project Leader in the planning of the remarkable Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk situated in the fragile Tingle Forest of Walpole, Western Australia. This 40-meter high walkway through an ancient forest soon became an internationally recognized ecotourism icon allowing people a unique way to enjoy and protect some of the largest diameter trees in the world.  This attracted some planners from America who were impressed with the walks’ eco-engineering and became inspired to plan for one in their own forest – home to the greatest trees in the world – the might coastal redwoods.

A bright idea: boat and bike combo

I was honored to be invited to America from Walpole to consult on the planning of a Tree Top Walk near Brookings, Oregon by the Curry County Canopy Walk Team in 1998.  It was on this trip that the idea of traveling using both a bicycle and a kayak in combination as mode of travel first came to me.

I offered to look for potential sites for a walk in the coastal redwoods and I was given a mountain bike to explore with. I rode through the wilderness from Cape Blanco in Oregon into northern California. To do this, I needed to cross and explore a number of rivers including the Rogue, Chetko, and Klamath. At the Klamath I met some new American friends who offered me the use of a canoe. Boating was a great way to travel – but as I went down the river I worried about my bike being left back at the launch area and wished I could bring it with me.

I then started to dream of a way to link the two modes of travel together – biking and boating – so I could explore land and water together on the same trip!  I bought a cheap orange canoe to put my mountain bike and gear in, and raced down the river with very little room to spare. It was very unsteady and I nearly lost everything. The bike-and-boat combination was a good idea but I had the wrong bike and the wrong boat.

Right bike, right boat

The bike was far too big for the boat, and trying to carry the canoe on the bike was even worse. It was unstable, far too heavy, uncomfortable, and dangerous. After falling down on a misty road in the redwoods I abandoned the canoe and gave up the idea, but with every yearly trip I did, I wished I could work out the dream set up – the right bike and the right boat.

I needed a sturdy stable kayak that could be folded or deflated down small enough to fit on a bike, and a bike small and strong enough that would, in turn, fit in the kayak. The revelation finally came when a friend and I tried to be the first to cross the harsh Mongolian Gobi Desert on a tandem bike. Customs fees to get the tandem into China proved far too expensive for us but inspiration struck when we saw everyone in that area on folding bikes.  We bought a couple and tried them in Mongolia. Fantastic! Don’t ever underestimate the performance of a folding bike.

Mongolian inspiration

As I was going across the Mongolian steppe and having to cross rivers, my American dream came back to me – I could see that a folding bike would easily fit into a kayak. But one issue was still nagging me: could a folding bike carry a kayak?

I began to search for the perfect kayak-and -folding-bike combination. Another issue with the folding bikes was the lack of suspension but I found the ultimate – a front and back suspended Birdy folding bike from Germany. Now I needed a kayak! Inspired by folding bikes, I wondered if anyone makes a folding kayak.

It doesn't get any better than this -- a beautiful sunset and a great adventure in a Sea Eagle FastTrack.

It doesn’t get any better than this — day’s end and a beautiful sunset in a Sea Eagle FastTrack.

Chatting online around the world, I found the most highly recommended inflatable kayak was the Sea Eagle. When I went on the Sea Eagle website it just jumped out at me – the new FastTrack. I first thought of getting a couple of the smaller 385 FT’s for my next adventure – crossing the Scandinavian wild with a friend. And then I saw the 14′ 2″ Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack – Crickey! We could both fit in along with two bikes and gear, all in the same kayak instead of needing two. The online reviews of the 465 were all great. I noted Sea Eagle delivered to Australia and ordered a Sea Eagle 465 Fast Track straight away.

My dream was coming together as long as I could find the right bike trailers that could carry the kayak behind one bike and another trailer that could take the camping gear behind the other bike!  The Sea Eagleʼs weight would be around 25 kg with paddles. There are heaps of bike trailers out there – most of them connect onto the bicycle’s rear axle. I tried the Wilderbeast trailer from our Mongolian trip but it was too wobbly when riding, especially downhill. Undaunted, I kept looking for something better.

Trailer, too

Finally, I found the Oxtail trailer from Portugal. Instead of attaching to the bikeʼs axle, it attaches to the seat post and has the capability to take the kayak’s weight and more.  Reviewing the online videos of its performance, I knew it was the one, especially as it, too, could be folded small and would fit in the kayak with the bikes and camping gear.

The exciting day arrived in our little town of Walpole, Australia – the post office rang to say my Sea Eagle kayak had arrived. That night I set it up in my coastal shack with some Swedish and Belgian friends and tested it at night in the bioluminescent waters on the Nornalup Inlet – a perfect vessel!

Gary's biking-and-boating expedition was very challenging at times. "The storm shot from my iPhone was while Steven and I were crossing Lake Immein in southern Sweden."

Gary’s biking-and-boating expedition was very challenging at times. “The storm shot from my iPhone was while Steven and I were crossing Lake Immein in southern Sweden.”

The 465 would easily fit our gear and folding bikes. I bought another Sea Eagle FastTrack kayak and had it sent across to Europe where I was to pick it up with the two trailers and join my two best Dutch friends – Yashna and Steven. Yashy had come across Mongolia with me. We first tested the kayak without the bike.  We kayked in our 465 following most of the watercourse used during the Elfstedentocht – a famous 200km, 11 city speed skating course in north Netherlands’ Friesland. The Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack kayak was the perfect, comfortable vessel and performed well though we got very cold in the wild wind and rain.

Over a decade after the idea first sprang to mind back in northern California, Steven and I were ready now to test the ultimate bike-and-boat setup exploring the Scandinavian wilderness and lakes using our German and Chinese bikes, Portuguese trailers, and the legendary American Sea Eagle 465 Fast Track inflatable kayak!

Folding bike, folding boat, folding trailer

The bikes handled the weight of the kayak and luggage with ease even up hill. Best of all though was rocking up to a Scandinavian lake, pumping up the SeaEagle in no time, whacking in the bikes and trailers with our camping gear and be kayaking across the spectacular waterways in minutes, trawling a lure behind for dinner.

The international ingenuity that made this trip possible was due to the passion of inventors and engineers who were dedicated to produce unique bikes, trailers and kayaks that would ultimately work together as one allowing adventurers to experience the world’s wilderness by water and land.  This parallels the team who planned and built our Tree Top Walk which, like the Bike and Kayak together, allows eco-tourists new means to appreciate the wild that promotes interaction without impaction on our environment.

Though the American Canopy Walk is still to be built, I look forward to coming back over to the US and doing my dream tour with my folding bike and SeaEagle 465 Kayak combination to explore the  wild Redwood forests and rivers and one day enjoy a tree top walk there.  That really would be the ultimate eco-tourism experience.

— Gary Muir, Sea Eagle owner & outdoor adventurer.

Gary Muir currently runs his own ecotourism company, WOW Wilderness EcoCruises,   in Walpole, Western Australia. He was nationally recognised in 2002 as Australia’s top EcoGuide. He worked as an environmental manager for 12 years specializing in Nature Conservation and Recreation Tourism and Planning. He held the world record for running the 1000 km Bibbulmun Track  raising money for an invertebrate biodiversity project, researching ways to manage fire in the environment. Gary continues to combine his eco-projects and outdoor adventures around the world with his international team of friends.  

Do YOU have Sea Eagle stories and photos to share? Please email us — our readers want to know!