Robert O. Hess: I took my new Innova Sunny out today for the the first time, and must say that I am very,very pleased so far.
To begin with, I just love the light weight - 29 pounds. Even my kids could carry the boat to and from the water together. The boat is also fast to inflate, maybe 10 minutes. Total set-up time is just about 15 minutes. I leave the fin installed, which is no problem as long as the fin is allowed to stick up when the boat is rolled up. And when we were done, I simply deflated it, rolled it up, and threw it back in the trunk of my car.
I am also very impressed with the space inside this little boat - it is after all 2 feet shorter than my Scupper Pro. On our first outing today, I was sitting in the back seat, my 10-year old daughter in the front seat, and my 7-year old son behind me in a third seat (my Surf-to-Summit GTE Elite fishing seat), which we attached to D-rings right behind my seat. The Sunny has lots D-rings all over the place - awesome.
All three of us were very comfortable. I used my thin XSL seat on top of the Sunny inflatable seat for better hip support, which worked out great. Because the inside of the cockpit is fairly narrow, leg support is quite good too. My feet comfortably and firmly rested against the front seat (providing additional back support to my daughter, as well). This allowed me to use the second, smaller footrest for thigh support. Altogether, I felt quite comfortable and well-connected to the boat that, frankly much better than I had anticipated. I can actually see myself paddling the Sunny for more than just a couple of miles like we did today.
The kids loved the boat too. They were very comfortable, and sat or lay down in different positions when they weren't paddling. Especially my son in the S+S GTE seat was living the good life back there. But the front seat is quite spacious too, and my daughter managed to lay down either facing forward or backward and be comfortable. The kids also tried standing up in the boat, without any problems. The boat is rock-solid. My son even climbed around me over the rails to sit in front of me for a little while. This was significant because he tends to perceive boats (i.e., my SP) as tippy, and later said that the Sunny was "not wobbly."
This illustrates once again how important comfort - perceived and actual - is. If a boat is or feels uncomfortable, whatever its other merits, they really don't amount to much because no one wants to paddle the boat for more than a few minutes.
Speaking about other merits, the performance of the Sunny is no less impressive than its space and comfort. Paddling by myself with two kids in flat conditions (we paddled in a marina) is a bit harder than paddling my SP, but really not all that much. With even the slightest help from my daughter (this was her first day using a double-bladed paddle - a 220cm Werner Sprite with a kid-sized shaft and blade) for more than just a few strokes), I felt that we were moving at least as fast as I would have on my SP paddling alone. I haven't paddled the Sunny solo yet, so can't say anything about that yet.
Another performance feature I was even more thrilled with was tracking. At least with the three of us in the boat and the fin installed, the boat displayed hardly any weatherhelm in about 10-12 knots of wind from abeam. I had been worried about this and, frankly, expected that the boat, being an inflatable, was going to be all over the place. But it wasn't. Amazing. I guess that little fin really does work.
Well, as you can tell, I am quite happy with the Sunny. We plan to take it (and my SP) on a week-long camping trip to Catalina Island in August, where the kids will have ample opportunity to paddle the boat by themselves in calm, clear water in a playful way over a period of several days. My hope is that this will raise their level of enjoyment, comfort and skill to the point where they'll want to go with me more often. We'll see ...
For anyone considering the Sunny as a family boat: I give it two thumbs up! And you know how picky I am when it comes to boats that were not designed Tim Niemier, don't have the words "Scupper Pro" on the side, etc ...
Jordan: I love my Innova Sunny. I just came back from about an hour paddle and, as always, the boat is a ton of fun. It's not perfect, as I'll note later, but pound for pound, it's hard to beat, and that's one of its virtues. I can pick it up completely outfitted in one hand, carry my paddle in the other hand and easily walk from my van to the water. In minutes I'm underway. By contrast I put my Scupper Pro on a rolling cart, load it with pfd, paddle, etc. and roll it to the water.
The Sunny, although certainly not fast, for an inflatable is pretty quick on the water, at least as quick as my Scrambler and with the skeg installed paddles as if on rails. A few forward sweep strokes and the boat easily turns to a new direction where it stays once again on course. One of the attributes that I never can describe is if a boat is "lively." I love my Scupper Pro dearly, but it's definitely not lively unless the water is very choppy, and then it excels. The Sunny is lively in flat water and paddles well in pretty choppy stuff.
The boat is built well and after three years of ownership, it has no tears, punctures, frayed edges, etc. and using a foot pump it can be pumped up pretty tight almost to the point of becoming basically a rigid boat.
As I have the boat rigged it's very dry on flat water and that gets to areas in which the Sunny could use some work. Although the next few faults may be killers for some people, for me they are part of owning a boat because I consider modifications to suit my needs part of the deal. Although the Sunny is described as a "double" or "tandem" boat, it's a little short for two adults. I use the boat most of the time for either a solo daytripper or with one of my small children as a passenger. Second, the seats that come with the boat don't meet my needs. I have cut thick closed cell foam (the kind used to outfit whitewater kayaks and sinks) to form both my seatback and my footrest. I sit on an older type IV seat cushion which puts me above the water line and above the level of my feet. This posture allows me to use a better stroke and because the Sunny is soooo stable, being above the waterline hasn't negatively affected stability for me. Basically I only use the one piece hull of the Sunny and use the seat and footrest that I constucted to suit myself. With these modifications, however, she "rocks."
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