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Submitted: 11-29-2007 by rickschuster

My wife and I purchased a Manitou II early this spring and after a full summer of use, I can give it a great rating. We also purchased a Manitou 13 at the same time, so that we can comfortably go out with our six-year-old son on day-trips. The two kayaks together have been a perfect fit for us -- my wife will normally take the 13, while I'll sit in the back of the II with our son in the front. The adjustable seats are great because I can slide both seats just a little ways forward to balance our weight better, and with my son only paddling a little bit in front, I can be in a slightly more central position. I've taken it out solo several times and find it performs nicely with the seat all the way forward, though as a solo kayak it feels heavy and slow compared to the Manitou 13. It is surprisingly easy to paddle solo though (or with a kid in front who's not paddling much), and I can easily keep up with my wife in the Manitou 13.

I find the seats comfortable, and making some adjustments throughout the day can keep you stay more comfortable than keeping the seat in one position. The seat adjustments work well -- I think the straps are a better solution than the cords that Old Town uses for adjusting these same seats. And being able to raise and lower the seat back is really nice. The foot pegs are easy to adjust and work well. I wish it had some thigh padding inside like the Manitou 13 does, though -- although it's a wider cockpit and you might not always want your legs pressed against the sides in the Manitou II, it sometimes is helpful, and would be more comfortable with some padding. I might try to add some to it.

The hatch works well; the roomy cockpit is nice for fishing or fitting some extra gear in; the recesses for paddle float rescue work great -- we've tried it out just to make sure we'd be able to get back in if we ever capsized; the bungies are nice for strapping in some gear like a bilge pump; the drink holders in the seats are great to hold a bottle of water instead of having it roll around on the floor. The kid's jump seat is easy to remove to give yourself more cockpit room, and we've never used it -- three of us have gone out in it a couple times, but the kid just sat on a boat cushion on the floor.

We tried several tandem kayaks at a few different demo days, and this one seemed the best fit for us, it tracked the best, and seemed the easiest to paddle. At one demo I tested the Pamlico 145T and the Manitou II side-by-side -- both had rudders, but I flipped them up to also test without rudder, and the Pamlico 145T that we tried did not track nearly as well as the Manitou II -- it seemed to turn back and forth a lot with every stroke, while the Manitou II went much straighter. And the Pamlico seemed to me to just move slower, though I don't know how true that really is. I do know that on the Pamlico we tested, the seats were somewhat stuck in one position and were hard to adjust, and I believe when we did get the seat moved forward, the foot pegs would not move far enough forward.

We opted to buy the Manitou II without a rudder, and we're happy with it -- we're paddling lakes and rivers and I think the rudder just would be more weight and hassle to care for than it'd be worth to us. For some people in other circumstances, I'm sure it's well worthwhile. There have been very few times when I've been in heavy wind that I wished I had a rudder to help keep going straight, but being someone who's used to canoeing more than kayaking, I find if pretty easy to compensate for the wind by just changing paddling technique a little (and I'm not a highly accomplished paddler). And turning the kayak sharply and quickly would be easier with a rudder, but again, that wouldn't be worth it to me -- I can turn it easily enough just with some simple paddling technique -- for my recreational use, it's fine without a rudder, but someone looking for more serious performance than me (or using it in coastal conditions certainly) would probably want the rudder. I'm just starting to learn to "edge" the boat to help turn more easily.

The Manitou II is fairly heavy to move around and load (compared to a solo kayak, but all tandems are), but I can load and unload it by myself on our SUV using a Thule Glide-and-Set rack. By placing a bath mat over the back edge of the roof, I can lift the front end up on the mat, then move to the back of the kayak still on the ground, lift and slide it forward onto the rack easily. I'm tall and thin, not terribly strong, and it hasn't been difficult for me. And I made a cart out of an old jogging stroller axle and wheels that makes it easy for me to cart it by myself -- carrying it by myself any distance without the cart is very tiring.

Our family has had a great time kayaking many lakes and rivers in these kayaks, and I'd highly recommend the Manitou II for anyone looking for a tandem that probably handles a little better than most other recreational tandems. If it were just my wife and I, we'd probably have two Manitou 13's instead, but for the three of us this is a great solution.

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