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Submitted: 01-06-2009 by seauser
I found this site great as a resource to research my kayak buy so I figured best I contribute and help build the body of knowledge.
After much research on this site, other sites and in shops I ordered a Mirage 580 in medium fiberglass layup. My requirements were for a large and comfortable all-round kayak that was not 'twitchy' (something I could fish from and easily re-enter on the water). But I also wanted a kayak that I would not grow out of as my skills progress and that would be up to a week of island hopping or rough seas without leaving me wishing I had invested in something a bit more advanced.
The choice of the 580 was driven by this kayak seeming to be one that was not above a relatively new paddler but also one that was paddled by some of the most serious sea kayakers in the country. People seemed to rate this model whether they paddled the local river on sundays or spent several weeks at a time on the Southern Ocean. For its reputation and quality the price is excellent (its not really much more than many plastic boats). Being custom made I was sure that my long legs would have room - something that has been a problem for me in other boats that are supposed to be 'roomy'. Its reputation as a fast boat was a bonus for me rather than a major consideration in the decision.
The order was handled efficiently by email and the product on arrival was exactly as I had expected. The fit out is functional but fairly spartan (which I guess helps keep that price competitive). I intend to spend a morning with some closed-cell foam and silasec to pad out the thigh braces. The seat is straight fibreglass but surprisingly have not found that uncomfortable in practice and see no need to add padding. The kayak looks great with a nice gel coat and sleek proportions on the roof racks. It is a long boat although the highly flared bow means the water line is not as long as the measurements suggest. Given the width of the boat and only slightly above average length of the waterline it is interesting that it is regarded as fast and efficient to paddle.
I have given this boat about 150km of test paddling so far including time on a river, the bay and out to a local island. First thing I noticed with the boat on the water was the primary stability. This was only fractionally less stable to me than the 'beginner / rock-solid' boats I had previously tested. However those other boats were scary when up on an edge or hit on the side by an unexpected wave - you want to go over. On edging with water just to the sprayskirt the 580 was solid. The secondary stability has been confirmed on the steep and fast bay waves at about a metre we have here. While small these waves with their steep sides knock small things about. From a side angle the boat lets these waves slip underneath without disrupting your balance. Indeed I happily fished with rod in hand for a couple of hours on drift in such seas with waves parallel to the boat and occasional confused waters from powerboat wakes without feeling the need to brace or tuck away the fishing rod.
I had been led to believe that primary and secondary stability were mutually exclusive but to me at least, the 580 seems to score highly on both. Certainly it is a boat you feel secure in pretty quickly. And from my research I know it is the boat most popular for big ocean trips in Australia and is proven in seas well beyond anything I am likely to encounter. However this gives me confidence that the boat (the paddler is another story!) won't be found wanting if unexpected weather hits when on the water.
I have practiced my wet entry's and a cowboy entry was achieved from the first attempt. My rolling is still pathetic so no comments on that maneuver in a 580 from me.
Paddling wise the boat feels efficient. I can cruise at about 3.5 knots with an easy stroke that you feel you could do all day. On sprint the boat is much faster - but I have no measure of what the top speed under this effort has been. The boat picks up waves fine though it does broach easily on our short steep waves coming to shore. Perhaps this is the length and the standard rudder giving no purchase on these waves. A brace into the wave gives a simple broaching ride into shore. Wind has had no effect on the boat up to the 20 knot winds which is the maximum I have paddled it in to date. The bow slices cleanly through chop and waves without kicking up much spray.
I like the integrated rudder system and I find the pedal system feels natural. The brace bar with pedals above mean that you can constantly make minor adjustments with your big toes without moving your feet. The boat does not turn sharply - but that it was never expected to do. A lean helps a bit on the turn but you can only do so much. You can see the wake and feel a lot of drag with the rudder on full lock. Going straight or near to straight the rudder seems to cause very little drag. The rudder doesn't pick up weed - even in the thick beds in the river.
Criticisms? A bit more padding and comfort features around the boat would be nice for some but then this would no doubt impact on the competitive price. It would be relatively easy to put some plastic caps or tubing cut-offs over the exposed bolts in the hatches to ensure there is no risk of them snagging on gear. Some more decklines across the back (day hatch area) would be nice for those who use paddle floats (though I can't see myself needing to use a float with the ease of cowboy entry) or for the spare paddle. The foot pedals aren't the easiest to adjust though it is a robust and great-to-operate setup when in place.
Overall though I am very happy with the product (though it seems most reviewers on this site are happy with their boats - which means we mostly do our research well or are just really happy with whatever our own kayaks are!). I have no qualms about taking this boat out for long trips on the ocean and being comfortable and feeling secure. I like a boat that doesn't take take too much constant mental effort to keep the right way up in steep chop and gets from A to B with minimal muscle strain. The designers have done a very good job of bringing together a stable, highly seaworthy and comfortable kayak for a good price. I don't want to say a good compromise of features as it doesn't seem to compromise much (eg. how can the secondary stability be there with the primary stability and how can a wide, stable boat be proven to be faster than most?). It is easy to see why this boat dominates paddling groups and is the boat of choice for expedition sea kayakers in Australia.
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