Submitted: 10-03-2006 by DVMPADDLE
I found the all purpose kayak I was looking for in the 2005 Seayak. I have been impressed by Prijon Kayaks since buying a Calabria two seasons ago. My opinion of the Calabria as a versatile, great handling rec/tourring kayak still stands, butI wanted my next kayak to be a bit faster and more efficient, particularly in bigger waves, while still retaining as much manueverability and as practical. Toward that end, I test-paddled a number of popular fiberglass touring kayaks. Although several were great to paddle, I kept coming back to Prijon for several reason. I also considerd the multi-purpose Prijon Touryak, but I preferred the lower volume and narrower beam of the Seayak (the better to accomodate different paddling styles).
I like three features common to most Prijon boats. The first appears in almost every review of Prijon Kayaks: the HTP plastic construction. Given the real and potential abuses I put my kayaks through (both on and off the water) I cannot bring myself to put money into a fiberglass boat. I would rather give up a little in weight savings and (supposed) top end performance to have a low maintenance boat that I can count on. The fact that the initial price of Prijon boats is lower than fiberglass is just a bonus. A second feature I like is the adjustable seating. I have paddle several excellent boats in which the fit just wasn't right for me. A third feature is the the hatch system. Whatever one thinks of the aesthetics (I kind of like them myself), the duel neoprene/hard plastic cover system has worked admirably. Granted, I do not paddle in ice cold salt water, so the slightly increased splash from the protruding hatch covers is not a consideration for me.
As for the Seayak in particular, I like the 2005 model's 34-inch key hole cockpit. That's a pretty generous cockpit by traditional standards, but the adjustable thigh braces keep the fit snug when in the boat, while the extra length down the middle aids exit and entry. It is still easy to reach gear in the deck netting and forward-mounted, "Deck Box" day hatch. This latter feature (which is really more of a neooprene sock), is far easier for someone of my limited flexibilty to reach than more conventional, rear mounted day hatches. At first I concerned that the day hatch would interfere with my legs while seated or during exits, but it is held in place by and internal hook,and it has not been a problem. I was also initally annoyed that the slight bulges created by the forward hatche and day hatch created a "saddle" where the deck netting lies. This interfered with my using that netting as a handy way to secure my paddle during rescues or at rest, but I created a quick fix by stringing a length of elastic chord between the D rings found at the base the hatch straps.
The Seayak has a high load capacity for its 16' length. I am 5' 8" tall and about 190 lbs., and most tour kayaks have to be in the 17 foot range to accomdate someone of my paddling weight I love the fact that I can comfortably load myself and my gear into such a compact hull. The Seayak achieves this bouyancy in part by being a bit wider than comparable boats (23" vs 21-22")but in part owing its trihedral hull. The only downside to this bouyancy that I have discoverd is when attempting such unnecessary manueveres as a "cowboy" re-entry. Out of the water, the Seayak's hull depth is comparable with that of other kayaks but unlike many touring kayaks, the depth of the Seayak remains pretty much the same along the length of the hull. This, combined with ample knee space may make the latest Seayak a bit too voluminous for paddlers at the smaller end of the spectrum, but it is more than fine for a broad range of medium size paddlers.
On the water, I found the initial stablilty to be comfortable. The lack of a pronounced keel and the angled panels of the trihedral hull make edging or leaning easy. At first, this also made the Seayak feel a little less stable than I was used to, but one quickly learns that the Seayak can be held at these angles relatively comfortably. Leaning beyond these angled panels (approximetely past the point where the deck perimeter lines meet the water line) is a bit trickier owing to the soft chine between the angled and vertical hull surfaces (and again the Seayak's bouyancy). In many recent kayak designs, it is not difficult to lean the kayak until the cockpit coaming is below the water line. However, while this may look impressive, it is worth pointing out that the Seayak carves sharp turn and performs other manuevers well without ever needing to submerge the cockpit coaming.
In beam seas, the Seayak's "rounded" cross section makes traversing beam seas relatively smooth. The Seayak's big ol' greenland-style bow slices through smaller waves with ease, while the hull widens sufficiently fast to keep it from "submarining" in larger waves (though admittedly, I have not been out in larger than 2'-3' waves). The Seayak both tracks and manuevers well enough in the following seas and mini-surf zones that I have been in, and I am looking forward to testing myself further in these conditions. I have yet to roll the Seayak, but other reviewers have, so I am confident that the Seayak will not be limiting in this area.
I find that the Seayak tracks well in both calm and wavy conditions. Weathercocking (which all kayaks do) is more noticeable when the winds are stong, but the waves relatively small. Edging or leaning on the angled panel is usually sufficient to take care of the problem, and though prolonged leaning can be uncomfortble, it has become much easier since I have learned to relax (think "reclining on a roman couch"). Once the waves have reached a certain height, I find that the Seayak tracks better again (perhaps the waves partially block the wind).
To keep my kayak as simple, clean, and maintainence free as possible, I opted for a rudderless Seayak. I intend to keep it that way, so I am not in a position to comment on the pros and cons of rudders vs. skegs (though I have heard good things about both the design and durablity of the Prijon's balanced wing rudder.)
After a season of use and abuse, both the hull and its fittings have held up well. I have had only one problem with a gasket that forms a water tight seal on the day hatch, and Prijon promptly sent me a free replacement part. Fixed the problem completely.
My gripes are confined to the metal posts that help keep the back rest in place (they pop out easily during entry, and are a bear to put back in place while sitting in the kayak), and the foot pedals that are only pegs when you don't install a rudder.
So far, I have taken my Seayak up and down narrow rivers with significant currents (though short of rapids); quiet backwater channels barely wide enough for the kayak; Lake Michigan, and a variety of different water bodies and conditions in between. While I may consider adding other kayaks to my fleet for running rapids or going on extended expeditions, I have no intention of giving up my Seayak.