Submitted: 04-30-2008 by bobqajaq
I love my 96 fg Caribou without a skeg which I bought used from a friend with hardly a scratch. Unfortunately, it blew off my Malone rack several years ago in a big wind as I was reaching for a strap bouncing about two feet high. I learned you always load with the wind blowing your boat into the rack. Luckily all it needed was gel coat in a few spots.
I paddle about 175 days a year and recently the use (not abuse and probably saltwater) caught up with it. My cockpit coaming became detached from the deck so I called CD and was put in touch with a terrific young man named Josh. We dropped the boat off in Winona on our way to visit our daughter in Minneapolis on a Friday and picked up the boat on Tuesday. Josh fixed the cockpit at no charge- covered under warranty, put in a keel strip in white that is hard to detect(came in on Saturday to complete), put in some fiberglass patches in the hull and cleaned up my crude gel coats. It is like a new boat. Plus we got a tour of their new factory. Was I impressed and grateful.
I learned to roll in this boat (skipped the river boat step because it is so comfortable) with a Greenland paddle (Feathercraft- great customer relations,Theresa is terrific) We spend 6 weeks in Feb-March at Indian pass FL where my brother with his NDK Greenlander Pro kayak and I paddle everyday in all kinds of conditions. My 'Bou surfs better than the GP,is only a tad slower at sprint speed (he is 2 yrs younger), but cruises just as effortlessly, rolls as well, and is a lot less nervous.
For a 63 yr old guy I appreciate its generous primary and secondary stability especially when we spot an alligator in one of the rivers. It does require some edging in 15+ mph winds but it does so easily. I figure that make me a better paddler and it works my obliques. If Chris Duff and his group can paddle around Iceland in skegless boats, I guess I can. It cruises at 4.5-5, 5.5 workout pace, and 6-6.5 all out. We did a 3 day 60 mile trip down the Wisconsin river and I was able to easily take everything I wanted. Plus it is an all day boat - very comfortable. Looks great especially knifing through the water with its hard chines and is a good boat for almost any level of paddler. However my 6ft 6in. son doesn't fit in it. I'm 6'1", 185lbs and my 11.5 water shoes wear quickly on the outside heel although I have another notch or two on the pedals. Luckily he fits in my Valley Skerray which is a nice all around boat, but a barge compared to the Caribou.
If this boat ever dies, I'll get another one maybe in kevlar because I'm a van guy and I'm not getting younger. Maybe without a skeg. My friends who paddle NDK GP's, Romany and Explorers love this boat. If you get one, get a greenland paddle-everything from rolling to sprinting to paddling all day is easier. You'll never go back to your euro paddle.