Width: 30.5 in.
Capacity: 375-400 lbs.
Weight: 60 lbs.
SRP: $699 (with center hatch)
I did my "field test" over the course of 3 outings on 3 days, starting on New Year's Day (2004) - what a way to start the new year ! I launched from St. Pete Beach (close to the jetty) - made 2 trips to the Don CeSar and back (3 miles round trip) and 1 trip over to Shell Island (1.8 miles round trip). I'm 5' 9", and tip the scales around 230. The water was pretty flat except for the last trip to the Don and the wind and boat traffic made for a bumpy ride. But that also gave me a chance to test the kayak in less than perfect conditions.
Comfort/Ease Of Use:
This kayak was very easy to get in to. I was able to simply sit down about where the hatch is and just scoot back in to the seat. The cockpit is very roomy, and since the foot rests are adjustable, it didn't take me long to adjust them and the seat, and 'fit' the boat to *me*.
Initial stability is great. I had no worries if I wanted to sit sideways, reach around to the bait bucket/cooler. Secondary stability is equally as good. Even in surf and boat traffic I never felt tippy, to the point where I didn't really give it much thought.
This kayak also offers a very dry ride. Even when I'd nose it in to a wave (intentionally, flooding the cockpit), it'd drain quickly through the front scuppers and the seat would soon be dry. During these outings I'd have my digital camera, GPS, bottle opener, in the huge center hatch, and had no problems accessing it. In my old yak, I was constantly plagued by lower back pains. However, in this kayak, I just paddled - back pain never entered the picture.
This is a HUGE improvement for me, makes me want to paddle longer when I go. I don't know if it's due to increased stability, a better seat, or a combination of the 2.I just know it was a lot of fun just to get in the kayak and go.
Handling/Speed: No issues here - I was able to turn it about as easily as my Emotion Exhilarator (11' 3"). It's set up for easily installing a rudder system, but I wouldn't see myself using one much. Even though the hull is relatively flat, it tracked well. I was able to maintain 3.5 to 4.0 mph according to the GPS without a lot of effort.
For what I like to do, it's perfect. I like roaming areas like Fort DeSoto (both in the kayak and wading), using lures or live bait, and sometimes I just want to paddle up to the Don to clean out the cob-webs. I also wanted some storage for overnight camping trips to Shell Island.
The kayak doesn't come with any rod holders, so I used the ones provided in the seat (Sea Air Sports high back - optional).
Since the kayak is so stable, I had no problems sitting sideways in the seat to access the rod holders or the bait bucket. I was able to cast lures as hard as I wanted with very little rocking. During my test I was unable to catch any live bait, so I just filled the bucket up with water and paddled - I never felt like there was anything back there.
Then it got hot, so I paddled back in, dumped out the water, put a bag of ice and 4 Corona's in the bait bucket and went back out - no bait, no rods, no problem (great for those "cob-webs" I mentioned earlier). The 'dash' for mounting electronics will work well for me because it's out of the way. Plus, having that big hatch so close to the dash will make wiring chores much easier. For my fishing and short touring needs this kayak will serve me well.
We all have to make our mark on our kayak, I'm certainly no exception. I ordered an optional hatch (slightly smaller than the standard center hatch) and I'll install that on the front deck when I install a Scotty rod holder and electronics. Installing that hatch will reveal a HUGE storage area up front. At some point I'll install an anchor trolley as well.
It comes with a no-frills paddle keeper, which definitely comes in handy, works great. Since this boat is almost 3 feet longer than my previous boat, carrying it and balancing it was certainly different.
Luckily, the side handles are placed in the proper place, so I was able to lift the kayak, and balance it on my head for the short walk to the beach from my house. For longer hauls, I'd certainly use my dolly.
The middle eyelets for the bungee harness are open At Tom's Top Kayaker Shop. So, you take the cord out of the eyelets and the tank well is completely open. Then load it with whatever, then put the cord back. This is much easier than trying to weave something through stationary cords.
I ordered my boat in yellow, and it's definitely "hi-vis". When my wife and I paddled to Shell Island, we were certainly seen by approaching boats.
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