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Submitted: 08-02-2007 by mdidley

This is a 14 foot "pack" style solo canoe. The seat is molded foam, about 2" off the floor for stability. It is designed for a double blade paddle. I have had (and still have one) several high end kayaks over the last 20 years and paddle mostly big water in lake Erie and the Niagara river.

In an attempt to take a very young and active 60 pound dog paddling, I happened onto the pack style boat which has been perfect for the purpose. This particular model advertises exceptional stability and I have to agree. The dog started a wrestling match on flat water and we stayed upright - this youngster still needs training or behavior modification. The weight is claimed to be 25 pounds and I have no reason to dispute that. It's a light boat.

I did go to Hornbeck and try several boats. The 16 foot has great speed and glide due to longer length and narrower width - have to get one - but it's not stable enough for the young dog (but plenty stable without the dog or with a smaller dog). The dog and I have paddled big water with big 3-4' boat wakes and steep wind-driven chop with no issues. The fine entry and smooth transition to full body keep out most spray under anything less than the worst conditions and the hull shape keeps all serious water out. Inland or small water paddlers will likely never even see spray. There is no paddle boat made that won't take spray in the Niagara River when the wind blows 15+ against the current and stacks up a steep chop at rapid intervals. After 2 months we have not had a mishap. Our previous trips, even in sit-on-top kayaks, were comical and very wet.

The boat performs well with the dog and better without the extra 60 pounds. I don't need to move the seat to adjust trim with or without the dog but the adjustment range is part of the dog option package offered by Hornbeck. I am 5'10" and 220 pounds. Keeping my weight low with this boat design is what creates the exceptional stability. Getting in and out is as easy as anything out there. I launch from beaches or boat launches with the boat parallel to the shore - the dog steps over the side and sits on the foam pad that comes with the dog package. I stand alongside and sit directly into the seat using the seat back and paddle shaft across the gunnels as hand supports. The boat is stable enough to just pull the legs in after that. Getting out is the reverse of this. The dog can lay (preferred) or sit and stability is good. An experienced paddler on calm water can tolerate the dog standing but it is not recommended. The boat keeps up with 14-16 foot kayaks easily even with the dog on board for social paddles.

The paddle is a 260cm Werner Kallistite double blade also purchased thru Hornbeck. I had a 240cm but it is too short for the width of this hull. The staff was great, letting the dog swim in the demo area and try out boats. It was windy and all the demo boats blew away while we were there, a testament to the durability of the light construction. It is a treat to lift compared to even a kevlar kayak (typically 45+ pounds). There are no practical downsides for performance with a dog or loaded with gear - it's the widest solo from the 3 builders that make this style of boat. It's so great to rack or carry I rarely take a kayak out any more. A narrower or longer boat would give more speed but less stability - this is counter to my desired usage. Finish could be better but is not what I would describe as poor.

The rating reflects the hull being perfect for my desired purpose - paddling on big or small water with an active 60 pound retriever mix without mishaps. I would not hesitate to take a well trained 100 pound dog in this boat. The wife has less issues with the paddling outings if I take the dog so it's a double bonus. As the dog calms down with age I will have my eye on the 16 foot and may even sell my kayak. There is no comparison to racking or carrying a 25 pound boat and it racks well on just cross bars. See the Hornbeck website for various carry options. They have this down to a science. Based on prices for kevlar kayaks or canoes from the major builders the Hornbecks are a great value.

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