Submitted: 06-29-2006 by chpaton
When I unwrapped the boat I found everything to be in perfect condition. The fit and finish was fine. I was surprised to find a stainless steel rudder bracket factory installed.
As the boat is a 2003 model it did not have a skeg installed and supposedly has more rocker than the newer models (both of my other boats have some rocker, one considerably more than the Tracer so I'm a bit perplexed by the concern voiced by some reviewers). However, based on my experience with unruddered or skegged boats with rocker, and reviews here and elsewhere and advice from an aquaintence who has a Tracer, I decieded to it would be wise to add some tracking assistance over the winter.
I obtained and installed an Ocean Kayak rudder and Sealine foot braces with toe controls. Turns out to be a worthwhile investment.
My experience to date indicates the following: The Tracer is a well made, easily manoeverable kayak. The cockpit is generously sized making it fairly comfortable for a 6'1" 196#, size 11 shoe, not so limber 57 year old man to get in and out. The seat is nothing special but seems reasonably comfortable after several excursions. The way the seat is installed will allow easy modifcation (moving it fore or aft an inch or two either way) or removale and replacement.
Primary stability will feel a mite twitchy to those coming from wider rec. boats or SOTs. However that is just a matter of perception. It's primary stability is a about what you'd expect for a boat of this type and design. A friend of mine summed it up by saying it felt a little more tippy than his Cappella, but less tippy than his Sirus. It's secondary stability kicks in as you take the boat up on edge and seems fairly solid (I still have some learning to do in this area so be advised)
The boat is very manoeverable with the rudder up - you can turn it quickly. You need to mind your forward stoke to stay straight. It does have a tendency to weathcock easily. With the rudder down it's a different story, the boat tracks well, responds quickly to the smallest rudder corrections, and still turns well. Winds on the stern quarter are no longer problematic. Deploying the rudder does not seem to add any appreciable drag maybe due to the rudder blade's foil shaped cross section and limited wetted surface (it's short).
The boat seems to glide fairly well and has a fair turn of speed. It might not be the fastest 16 to 17 foot long sea kayak out there, but it's not the slowest either.
What I like so far: Cost; Material (Trylon seems very rugged and scratch resistant); Weight (at about 50# it's easy for me to cartop single handed); Fit & finish; Ease of paddling
Minor complaints: Cockpit combing rim is close to the deck making it difficult to use sprayskirts with thick rands or bungees. I had to modify the bungee knot on one of my spray skirts to get it to fit. No thigh braces - not a big issue for me as with my size and leg length I can brace my knees under the deck at the cockpit rim edge. Could be a big problem for a smaller paddler. I will add foam to get a more secure fit for my knees. Front bulkhead position is way too far forward. I have long legs (34" inseam) and on my other boats have my foot braces on the furtherst stop. Not so with the Tracer - there is at leat a foot between my foot pegs and the front bulkhead. I can streach out my legs full length and still can't reach the bulkhead (lot of extra water volume to pump during resuce practice,etc).
Final word - this is a great boat for the money. Even at full MSRP it's a bargain. If price were THE major rating factor I'd give it a 10!