Submitted: 05-02-2006 by William Menke
Polyethelene, 18'6" length, 94 pounds weight.
While another reviewer has dubbed tandems 'divorce boats', my wife and I have found them very copasetic. They enable us to paddle together, without the otherwise inevitable widening of a gap that would occur if we were each paddling our own single-person boat.
We have put a bit of effort into our teamwork, and can now paddle synchronously without much attention, and for long distances. The relative long inter-cockpit space on the Northstar means that a mis-stroke by the stern paddler (usually me) does not lead to the forward paddler being struck (which would not be good for marital relations).
As other reviewers have pointd out, 94 pounds is way too heavy for a kayak, especially if one plans to transport it car-top. I have a very well-practiced ritual for getting it atop my van, which uses some custom-made guide ropes, but still the process is never easy. I also use a standard two-wheeled kayak dolly for moving it to the water. Note, however, that the weight of the Northstar is not exceptional, even compared to some of the composite boats made by the major manufacturers. The only truly light-weight tandem that I'm aware of is the Bullitt by West Side Boat Shop, which at 45 poulds is less than half the price of the Northstar (but its quite a bit more expensive).
Once in the water, the Northstar handles exceptionally well. Its quite fast: my wife and I, using wing paddles can maintain a speed of 6.2 m.p.h. more-or-less indefinitely. It's extremely stable: we've never even come close to capsizing, even in the rough chop that one encounters off the coast of Maine. It ride pretty high in the water. A big wave will, of course, break over the deck (we always wear skirts), but the boat never submarines. And, compared to a single, it's incredibly spacious, with ample room for both seating and gear. We mostly do day paddles, but once took a three-day trip with it. It was, with camping gear, pretty heavily-laden, but still performed well.
Other than the weight, the only other gripe that I have is that I would really prefer front-paddler steering over the rear-paddler steering used by the Northstar and most comparable tandems. I couldn't count the number of lobster bouys that I collided with, because I couldn't see past the brim of my wife's hat!
Overall, I'm rating the Northstar a 7. It VERY GOOD, but rather too heavy.