Submitted: 07-24-2007 by canoedancing
I test paddled the Dagger Approach on Saturday and liked it well enough to buy two of them, one for a friend. Stable, easy to turn, comfortable, dry hatch, not easy to roll, not especially fast. The dry hatch cover is tight, foot pedals are good quality, foam piller in front is solid. Seat is molded plastic with a thin seat pad and the back band is typical less expensive Dagger outfitting, useable but not especially comfortable so I bought a NSI Reggie to replace the stock backband.
We tested it yesterday on the 5-mile section of the James River at Balcony Falls. I was impressed with the stability and ease of turning. It is slower to accelerate than a typical recreational kayak or whitewater kayak. It handled the rock gardens well but it tends to dive into the wave trains for a wet ride so the spray skirt is a necessity in Class II-III. The Seals 2.2 nylon spray skirt with adjustable tunnel tends to leak a bit, but the Mountain Surf neoprene skirt is just fine.
I ran a dozen Class II and two Class III rapids yesterday and felt secure and in control all the way. Now that I have a little time in the boat I won't hesitate to use it in bigger water such as the Upper New River Gorge in West Virginia. I would say the boat is not heavy duty enough for the New River Gorge Class IV-V.
I weigh 215# with my pfd and paddle and the Approach rides low in the stern. I could pass over rocks with the bow and midsection and scrape at the stern. This could be corrected by either weighting the front end or moving the seat forward which will not be easy because it is molded into the boat.
I carried 5# of gear and 8# water in the dry hatch which probably affected the stern load. On the way out I put the water and gear in front of the foot pedals and that made a little difference, not much.
The boat surfs very well, front, side rear. Edges are not grabby. It's too big to spin on a wave as a WW kayak will. Tends to pearl in bigger waves. Carved turns into and out of eddies are smooth and effortless. Attaining is a bit more difficult than in my white water kayak, but not a big thing.
On the lake at the end of the run I could only go 2.5 miles per hour with the skeg up. Pushing beyond that speed kicks up a bow wake that pushes the bow off line and requires extra attention to steering.
By putting the skeg down I could push the boat up to 3 mph before the bow wake became troublesome. This is about the same cruising speed that is comfortable for the Dagger GT 7.5 whitewater kayak and the Esquif Paradigm whitewater solo canoe that were paddling beside me. We were able to carry on an easy conversation while maintaining 3 mph with a steady, easy cadence.
At the end of 4 hours of playing in rapids and practicing ferries, peel outs, eddy turns, back paddling and attaining I wasn't sore anywhere, which means the boat fits me reasonably well and there are no pressure points. There is a lot of room in the cockpit so I could move around and stretch my legs for comfort. Overall it is a very nice little boat and I'm pleased with it. I will use it as a introductory level student kayak on rocky rivers.