It’s the time of year when being in, or on the water looks attractive again. Long summer evenings, bank holidays and hazy sunsets conspire to draw me closer to the shore. A dip after work or a day at the beach are one thing, but I’ve always fancied the independence and adventure of a boat, even a small one.
The founders of start-up company Onak wanted to use a canoe in the city. Transporting it was the challenge though, so they came up with the idea of a foldable, origami-style gadget that’s a canoe in a case. They successfully raised the money required on crowd-funding website Kickstarter and now ship these urban-use canoes around the world.
The Onak arrives in what looks like an elongated roller-suitcase. The case is about 4 feet long but slim at only 10 inches deep. It has wheels and is easy to pull along behind you. In fact, it’s remarkably light and at 37 lbs you can pick it up easily to carry up steps.
Once I was at the water’s edge, I clipped off the lid and took out the seats, straps and border bars. The entire case folds out flat on the ground and this is the hull of the canoe ready to be assembled, or rather shaped.
The two sets of aluminium borders slide in easily together and I flipped the canoe on its side to attach them. After tapping them gently in to place there are a few straps that tighten to secure the borders on the edges. Next I needed to attach the included seat to straps connected to the edge of the hull. As I tightened these, the hull squeezes up a little and the whole thing begins to look like a boat.
With the seat attached I folded in the nose, which was perhaps the only fiddly part of the assembly process. Then there are more straps that pull tightly across and back to enhance the robustness of the boat. After securing everything a couple of times, I was ready to go.
It’s hard to believe that only half an hour before this boat was a case in the boot of my car. With a little trepidation, and with my lifejacket firmly on, I pulled the boat towards the water. Pushing off from the water’s edge was not quite terrifying, but I waited for the worst to happen. It didn’t and I smoothly flowed into the waiting stillness of the lake.
The hull is made from a custom polypropylene honeycomb composite material. Onak say it’s about ten times stronger than regular polypropylene and it has a special coating that is scratch resistant and reduces drag in the water.
This is a good sized canoe with room for two adults and a child. It measures 183 inches long and 33 inches across, so as well as a small family there’s plenty of room for gear or picnic essentials. The hanging seats are comfortable and despite my initial concerns it feels strong thanks to the hi-tech design and support ribs and straps.
It’s more expensive than entry level canoes but one niggle is that the adjustable paddles could be included rather than sold as optional extras. Overall though, it is remarkable fun. The idea of having a canoe in the boot, or even on a bike would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
Technology has made this kind of project possible, and whether it’s a gentle paddle down a canal or a day fishing with the kids, maybe it’s true and there is nothing half so much worth doing, as messing about, in origami boats.
From: €1295, more info: onakcanoes.com