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Submitted: 07-11-2007 by MikeT
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Every boat design attempts to answer a question. And since there are many different questions to be answered, there are many different boat designs. While no one boat can do it all, the T-16 has certainly met my paddling needs and exceeded my expectations. In this review I am going to tell you not only how wonderful this boat is, but also all the problems that I had with the T-16 and how I resolved them. But before I get into the details, I would like to briefly share my background and paddling goals.

I am a 60- year-old physical therapist, 5 ft. 7 in., a fit 200 lbs. and built like a fire plug, I have canoed in the Adirondacks, near where I live in the St. Lawrence Valley, for the last (12) years and kayaked for the last (7) years. I rate myself as an intermediate flat water canoe and kayak paddler. Before I got into paddling because my knees had become “tired” from overuse, I had spent (25) years in the West as a technical rock, snow and ice climber; high mountain backpacker and telemark skier. During the paddling season I am on the water every weekend, and also do a couple of multi-day trips. Often I kayak alone, as my wife and other paddling companions are far saner as regards the weather appropriate for boating.

My paddling goal, as I near retirement in the North Country, is to continue doing pretty much what I am doing now, but more frequently and with greater technical proficiency. I kayak mostly on large Adirondack lakes from late April (depending on ice out) to mid December (depending on when the last water freezes over). My favorite spot is Cranberry Lake, the third largest lake in the Adirondacks. It is 7,040 acres in size, with 55 miles of shoreline. Cranberry Lake is certainly not the North Atlantic, but with a maximum depth of only 38 feet and with 10 miles of fetch, when the frequent NW winds get up over 20 miles per hour, the confused waters can sure rattle your fillings! In early May, and then again late October I paddle in the Canadian Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River where the river opens up into Lake Ontario. Other kayaks I that have owned have included a rotomolded Perception Eclipse and a Current Designs Storm. In addition to the T-16, I currently own a rotomolded Prijon Kodiak - you never know when you might plan a trip that would require dragging a loaded boat across lots of rocks. Early this spring I added a fiberglass QCC-700 to the fleet – fantasies of going fast on long trips with lots of gear. While I like both of my other boats, I tend to spend the bulk of my seat time in the T-16.

I began paddling the T-16 14 months ago in May of 2006. For its relatively short length of 16 feet the T-16, like other John Winters designs, is a fast boat. It is a semi-hard chine boat that edges and turns well, with good initial and great secondary stability. Easily loaded, the bow and stern compartments provide plenty of dry storage for week long trips. At 6 months and again at 12 months I had to re-caulk where the rudder cables enter the boat, other than that there have been no water problems in either bow or stern compartments.

Though seldom needed, the Kajak-Sport Navigator rudder has performed well; however, the rudder housing appears “flimsy” looking in a space age plastic sort of way. The reliability of the Kajak-Sport pivoting rudder pedals proved to be quite another matter. These large, foot-shaped, gas-pedal type rudder pedals had a poor angle of throw, and were crudely constructed of plywood. At 2 months one of the connectors that hold the pedals to the rail bracket failed. Mike Steines, owner of Enlightened Kayaks and always a delight to deal with, immediately replaced the pedal.

Over the winter, I retro-fitted a set of Sea Dog pivoting rudder control foot braces. Unfortunately I ended up being a beta test site for the Sea Dogs system’s teething troubles, and without the above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty interventions of Chuck Leinweber of Duckworks Boat Builders with the manufacturer, I would probably still not have a rudder system I could trust. There was one final issue with the rudder system. To allow for rudder cable tension adjustment, a piece of nylon cord connects to the rudder pedal and engages with a plastic cleat that is connected to the rudder cable. The cleat did not provide a secure connection; wrapping duct tape around the cleat proved to be the solution to that problem.

The T-16 is 24 inches wide with a commodious cockpit. Even with my full figure, I ended up needing hip pads and other minicell foam outfitting to achieve a more positive contact with the boat. The cockpit coaming and the thigh braces are made of a light material that flexes easily. While these same components are used on several other manufactures’ boats, they do not inspire confidence. I would recommend taking particular care when securing the T-16 to a vehicle if using tie town straps over the coaming. The back band was comfortable. My only issue was the lack of a way to keep the back of the back band from twisting. Solved the twisting problem by gluing a minicell foam block to the floor of the boat, running a bungee cord loop through the block and then with more bungee cord, securing the back band to the loop. That Comfort Max seat was sure comfortable, at least until the day in June of 2006 on a week long kayak camping trip on the St. Lawrence River, when a breaking wave landed in my lap and thoroughly soaked the open cell foam inside the seat cover. Think of a large, very wet sponge trying to support your butt - not a pretty picture. After that experience, I kept the original seat cover, and made a very comfortable seat out of 1 inch minicell foam base with a Seal Line Touring Seat velcroed to the top the minicell. A Seal Line Kayak Support Cushion, velcroed to the floor of the boat to prevent a yard sale in the event of a wet exit, completed my seating system. Since Seal Line stopped making the Touring Seat in 2004 it may no longer be readily available. If you can’t find a Seal Line Touring Seat, try using a Seal Line Discovery Seat Cushion velcroed to a 2 inch minicell base.

The quality of my T-16’s exterior finish does not please the eye. It appears as if the people doing the thermoforming for Enlightened kayaks are in the process of mastering their craft. If Mike Steines can improve the exterior finish of the T-16, he will have manufactured a boat that looks as good as it paddles.

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