Submitted: 07-31-2009 by Monkeyhead
I purchased this boat about a year ago, after trying several others. My previous boats are a polymer Wilderness Systems Sealution and a Chesapeake Light Craft Chesapeake 16 - both excellent boats in their own right. I was looking for something that was lightweight, as I generally go solo and have to take the kayak off and on a pickup truck, something that I could camp out of for several days if need be, and something that would be reasonably quick for the more common day trips that I do where I want to get out to an island or other distant destination, have time to do some exploring, and then get back before nightfall. The boat is ideally suited for these purposes.
I have to admit that I was a bit worried about space after popping the hatches and looking inside. Although it is a good bit longer than my CLC Chesapeake 16, there is less apparent volume/length owing to the lower profile deck, narrowness, and skeg box in the rear hold. Nonetheless, I packed everything I needed for a 5 day voyage and had room to spare (not much, but I probably could have geared up for 8 or maybe even 9 days if I needed to). Note that I do not pack my tent or sleeping bag in their own dry bags. This takes up way too much space IMO. Instead, I cram those types of items up into the bow and stern stems. As I was camping on Gulf of Mexico Islands (Horn, E and W Ship, Cat), I did not even use the sleeping bag, but had I been somewhere colder, I probably would have put that in its own dry bag. However, I had full faith in the gold standard Valley hatches and have found them empirically to keep the compartments bone dry. Of course, on an outing such as this, I was not rolling or playing around in the surf, but have on other occasions and never found any leakage.
All the way around, the outfitting on the boat is very good. I believe that Necky is a component of Johnson Marine, so one would think that they are not feeling their way along as they go...and one would be right. They know their s@#t. I really appreciate the day hatch. It is plenty roomy, perhaps excessively so as I found that I packed all I needed for a day trip and used the remaining space for other items that could have gone into either the rear or forwards hatch. I am 5'6" and found also that their was room in the cockpit, ahead of the footpegs, for more items.
The boat has rock solid primary stability. It is not at all tipsy. I find (@190 lbs) that I can't get too far into a lean to explore the secondary stability, because the boat just doesn't want to go over that much. I can push it, but it feels to me that the zone of secondary stability is somewhat narrow and when I really push it into a heavy lean, I either push it too far and go over, beyond the last stability point (where I can remain upright only with a brace) or just have to be very careful to not go beyond that point. To me, it just seems hard to stay balanced when near the tipping point. You have to use a lot of force to get it to that point, and then you are in danger of going over. Their website suggests that the boat does very well with leaning and edging and so on, so demo it for yourself and see what you think.
The boat is reasonably quick - quicker I believe than my Chesapeake, but not a speed demon. My GPS indicates a sustained touring pace of 4 mph (3.47 knots). I demo'd this boat together with a Wilderness Systems Tempest and a Seda Ikkuma and found it to be slightly faster than both. I haven't had it out in howling wind, but have been out in moderate winds and found that it tracks very well. In fact, with the skeg all the way down, I have found that it can lee-cock.
I've already mentioned the ample room of the cockpit. Combined with the excellent primary stability, this allows me pretty much lay down in the cockpit, with my head rested on my folded up PFD which I place on the aft-deck during a late afternoon coffee stop) and sip coffee for an hour or so, gently bobbing with the waves.
So in short...quality craftsmanship, very solid primary stability, hard to explore secondary stability, moderately fast, excellent tracking, ample storage for the conscientious, disciplined packer, lightweight (but if you look at the YouTube video, it can clearly take a lot of abuse), and it also looks nice IMO. This is almost the perfect boat for what I do, given that I can afford only one boat.