Poucher Boote GmbH -
The Early Days
Today's "Poucher Boote GmbH" traces its roots to the small private manufacturer "KTW" ("Kunststofftechnik Wolfen"). In the early 1950s, "KTW" was already producing models like the single kayak E65 and the double KS75 in the city of Pouch, near Bitterfeld (former East Germany). 1954 - 1956 was a transition period under socialism, during which the company was called "KTW-Pouch VEB" ("VEB" = "Volkseigener Betrieb" = "Business owned by the People"). From 1956 onward only the name "VEB Pouch" remained, which was then finally integrated into the "Kombinat VEB FAVORIT Taucha".
By the end of the 1950s the range of Pouch products had expanded to include a variety of outdoor equipment: Tents and backpacks bore the Pouch logo, for example, as well as the famous boats.
Veritable fleets of folding boats populated the waters of the German Democratic Republic, as well as the other then socialist states of Eastern Europe during that period. Pouch boats were well respected among these craft, which also included the small "Kolibri", made by MTW Wismar ("Matthias These Werft"), the "Delphin" and many others. The boats lived long, pleasurable lives in attics, basements, garages and boat clubs, some permanently assembled, but always ready to be knocked down and taken off for an adventure.
Sad Slump in the Seventies
Starting in 1972, the former Eastern bloc countries began to experience drastic difficulties in raw materials procurement and distribution. The former German Democratic Republic was no exception. Quality control at Pouch increasingly had to take a backseat to the mere fulfillment of state decreed manufacturing quotas. Meeting the quotas became a nightmare in the face of worsening raw material supplies problems. The thick, robust elephant skin was the first victim, replaced by thinner material. It was at this time that the "RZ85 - Exquisit" was pushed into the market. The ribs on this model were made of non-marine (!) plywood, which immediately began to warp in all directions upon exposure to water.
In a desperate bid to earn hard foreign currency for the state, the boats were exported to the West in enormous, subsidized quantities. The Berlin based "Union Aussenhandelsgesellschaft mbH für Metallwaren und Sportartikel" (official state export "company" for "metal and athletics goods") even issued a color catalogue in English for this purpose.
Peter Schwierzke ("Western Folding Kayak Center") recounts that in the 1970s there were exports to the USA, too: When manufacturing operations at Klepper were temporarily shut down, Dieter Stiller of New York Kayak Center imported Pouch boats, which were sold under the name "Saxony 18" (so named because the city of Pouch is located in the state of Saxony and because of the boat's 18 foot length). This sad chapter in Pouch history gave rise to some hilarious accounts of deficiencies -- some very real, some much a matter of perception.
The Evolution of Pouch Boat Models
The original single kayak E 65 was born in the 1950s. At the bow and stern deadwood pieces were integrated into the hull, and were known as "Schwalbenschwanz" ("swallow tail") for the flared flanges with which the guided the frame into place. The boat sported the "Elefantenhaut" ("elephant hide"), so-called because of its thickness.
The double kayaks KS75 and WEZ80 (ca. 1952-54) stem from the same era. Rumour has it that the fast and straight tracking KS75 was intended for use primarily in sports clubs. It was so rare even in East Germany that each club was only allowed to keep one of them. No exports of these boats to the West was permitted because these were highly successful competition boats, used by the national team.
The double WEZ80 is still rarer than the single KS75. It is considered to be the "smaller brother" of the slightly later double RZ85, which joined the product portfolio from about the mid-1950s.
Over the years there were a number of small modifications, especially on the RZ85. Altogether there were four versions of the double RZ85, three of the single E65.
after the re-birth of the Pouch company, the new owner radically eradicated
everything other than boats from the company's product line-up. Then he
broadened the range of boats with the introduction of the very modern
"Touring Double RZ96" (first Pouch boat with full-length sponsons) and
the highly specialized "Falt-Eski" (Greenland style kayak).
A New Beginning - The Fall of the Wall
In 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pouch's folding boat production was on the verge of joining the wall's crumbling into the dusts of history.
Ingolf Nitschke, a former, much devoted Pouch employee and fervent kayaker, decided to take the risky plunge into Western capitalism by purchasing Pouch's manufacturing equipment and spare parts inventory. The fledgling business survived the first few years only because of its strong, quality oriented non-marine carpentry division. The boat business itself made losses and was kept alive as a pure labour of love by the owner and his dedicated team. How things have changed!
Since the mid-1990s boat building at Pouch has experienced a strong upswing. Ingenious innovations in Pouch boat technology, which spring from an unbridled enthusiasm to explore the possibilities of folding kayak construction, as well as the freedom of building for a receptive market, are the hallmarks of this upswing.
All models retain wood as the material of choice for all frame members. This is in keeping with tradition. However, the application of new types of metal fittings, as well as modern advances in design and construction, have taken the frames far beyond tradition. Pouch builds hulls out of Hypalon or PVC coated fabrics. BRETEX, first introduced on the "Long Touring E68", is scheduled eventually to replace canvas as the deck material.
Folding boat veterans and discerning paddlers of all stripes, are returning to the good old, traditional Pouch brand and take pleasure in the excellent quality and workmanship that befits its heritage.
Pouch kayaks are still built by hand, a time-honoured practice for most folding boat builders. Thus Pouch is home to about a dozen highly skilled boatbuilders. All of them are deeply enthusiastic about their products and are rightfully proud of them.
Today Pouch sells folding boats and related accessories like sails. The Pouch custom shop even builds replacement skins for other makes of boats. And of course Pouch keeps a full inventory of spare parts for the entire fleet of Pouch boats.
Pouch employees take great pride in their manifold achievements since taking the business through the transition back to private enterprise once again. The name Pouch has successfully reclaimed its place among the great folding boat builders!
We at Hoehn Associates are proud to bring Pouch products to you in the USA.
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