Submitted: 12-15-2007 by EdZep
First, the good news. The hull is great. No, it's fantastic! It tracks well, with the long waterline and pronounced, rounded keel at front and rear allowing only mild direction shift under heavy paddle strokes. And, the kayak is quite maneuverable. Certainly, there is no need for a rudder to facilitate turns under normal conditions. And, best of all, this SOT cruises nicely at 4 1/2 MPH, only 1/2 MPH slower than my Perception Sonoma 13.5 and Pygmy Osprey 15.7.
I've been a SOT hater from the beginning. I've been out on an Ocean Scrambler XL a dozen or more times, and always felt like I was paddling a log. But, I've got family members that would like to try paddling, and I cannot put them in my other boats. The Sonoma is too tippy, and the Osprey would be too hard to turn. And, the outfitting in my boats would be too tight for them. I needed a SOT. But, I needed a SOT that I would actually enjoy using, myself. Over the years, I've always gotten numb feet, and often numb butt, in spite of trying different setups. I figured it was time to consider paddling a SOT, and would consider trying a sail setup in the future. BUT, in addition to good paddling characteristics, I needed a boat that would be relatively light and under $1000. I like the tough, slick, weight-saving Airalite material of the Sonoma, so wanted similar material in a SOT. And, I preferred a tankwell+hatch design. My prospects narrowed to one boat, the Phoenix 140.
I had to buy the boat sight unseen, as there are no kayak or Hurricane dealers within many miles or hours. I got this one as new old stock (reportely 2006, first run, and under warranty), with factory installed Navigator rudder, for $695 via an Ebay seller. Some of the issues noted in this review may have been addressed in following model years.
The seat pan is comfortable, angled back a bit, and sits high enough to stay dry from water pumping in and out of the single scupper hole for the cockpit. With me 145 lbs. and sitting still, water came to about an inch below the cockpit floor. While paddling, maybe a cup or two of water remained present in the lower area between the seat pan and scupper hole. Less than half that much accumulated in the tank well. This has been during excursions in fairly calm water. I guess a few cups of water is a minor deal, but, it seems that the bottom of the cockpit floor could have been designed so that the scupper hole was actually the lowest point, so that water would not accumulate at a place one might rather have mostly dry. That's where I had had my bottled water and snack. I finally realized the raised "shelf" behind the seat pan was a better location for these things.
I found that my butt held up well with just a thin seat bottom, and my feet did not get numb, since positioning was more flexible than in my other boats. My feet only contacted the foot pads at the top edge, so stiff-soled shoes would be recommended.
I'm not sure what to make of the caulking on this boat. It's white, and runs around the outside of the hull, filling space where the top and bottom sections are joined. The white caulk also appears inside the bottom of the scupper holes, and as a sealer where the 6-inch hatch is mounted. It might actually be 3M 5200 marine adhesive, as it seems more substantive than mere caulk. The glue or epoxy or whatever that actually bonds the sections together is darker, and is visible inside, through the hatches. The white caulk may be for looks only, or may be for waterproofing. Either way, it seems to be an avenue of deterioration or failure that I was not expecting. For example, this boat was apparently stored on a moist surface, judging from the 3/4 inch of mildew at the bottom of the scupper holes. The mildew cleaned up nicely on the plastic surface, but will not clean off of the caulk.
Now for the real gripes. The inset pad eye moldings represent one of the most ill-conceived "refinements" ever designed into a kayak. As most users will use aftermarket seats that attach with brass snap hooks, most users will sooner or later come to the same conclusion. The idea for the insets must have been streamlined appearance, or, possibly strengthening the pad eye mount points with complex curves. BUT, a seat supporting brass snap hook attached into this depth will exert abrasive and leveraged forces to the kayak hull and to the pad eye. The result will have to be worn areas or holes and/or broken pad eyes. Before I could even go on a maiden voyage, I had to attach loops of nylon line through the pad eyes, to which the brass snap hooks can attach. This allows the snap-hooks to ride 3 to 4 inches away from the pad eyes, where they do not contact the kayak. I resent having to do this. I will consider adding a new set of pad eyes in the future.
There are a number of problems related to the rudder system. I could have done without the rudder, but recognize its benefits for bad conditions or use with a sail. At any rate, it was part of the deal.
Problem #1: The rudder sat about 15 degrees off of vertical alignment with the boat. It turns out the 2 threaded insets in the hull for the mount are not lined up vertically (and are both slightly to the right). This kind of careless workmanship drives me nuts. Used a moto-tool to grind one of the holes in the mount bracket to a slight oval, so the rudder now stands upright.
Problem #2: When the rudder is retracted, there's nothing to keep it from abrading the kayak. In fact, there was already a worn area when I got the boat, from rudder blade vibration and movement.
Problem #3: There's nothing to keep the retracted rudder blade stationary when paddling. This makes it impossible to alternately brace the feet for most powerful paddle strokes. I temporarily solved #2 by putting a self-adhesive 1/8" rubber pad over the contact area. I have ordered a $3 V-block which may solve both #2 and #3.
Problem #4: The rudder is not centered when retracted. Sort of unavoidable, due to the large tankwell incorporating the rearward/center area where the deploy/retract cord would normally be routed. Instead, the rudder retracts in line with the right side of the tankwell. Compensate by setting the right foot pedal back an additional notch.
Problem #5: The control cables should be 2 inches longer. I'm 5'9", and have the foot pedals at their furthest positions, and my still-bent knees are just out of my way for paddling. There are about 6 inches of room molded into the foot areas, beyond the furthest foot pedal position; 2 inches of that could/would be used with longer rudder cables.
Problem #6: There are no quick disconnects to allow removal of the rudder assembly. With the unit attached, you can't even flip the boat on the lawn to clean the bottom without abusing the rudder, and especially the mount bracket. I'm going to look for light stainless quick-connect links to put between the rudder eyes and control cables to allow rudder removal. They will also add an inch or so to the cable length, to party address problem #5.
In summary, the Hurricane Phoenix 140 has an excellent hull for general purpose sit-on-top performance, and a great overall design, sullied by some baffling design issues and oversights.