Submitted: 02-25-2011 by Les Moore
Got a slightly used Tampico 135L about 3 months ago. I've paddled over 200 miles with it so far in and around Puget Sound on a mix of flat water, 25 kt winds with waves, short exercise paddles, and up to 20 mile days. Though I've canoed for years, this is my first kayak. I added custom knee braces, thigh braces and a shorter seat back. Overall it's an excellent boat for its class, though it has some limitations, especially if you intend to move into a full-sized sea kayak eventually.
Pros: A well-made, seaworthy little boat. It gets up to speed quickly and is effortless to paddle at leisurely speeds (less than 3 kts). It's pretty stable but also responsive, easy to lean and turn on a dime. It rides waves fairly well with a tail wind and has only mild weathercocking. The cockpit is very easy to enter and exit due to its large size and the seat is comfortable (and tall). The boat is easy to move because of its light weight. There are plenty of deck lines and chords for your stuff. Two bulkheads make it a real, albeit little, sea kayak, with plenty of storage room for shorter trips. If you add knee and thigh braces, this boat will roll pretty easily.
Braces: This boat has no knee braces, which are mandatory for more than casual paddling on calm water, or for rolling. I cut knee braces from 1/4 inch polycarbonate sheeting, bolted and ABS epoxy glued to the flat underside of the cockpit combing. The braces are padded with gray closed-cell foam, contoured to my knees, then contact cemented to the underside of the braces. If you plan to do rolls, then thigh braces help take up extra space to the sides of your hips (its a wide boat).
Seat back: The high seat back of this "recreational" seat is comfortable to sit in. However, the high seat back makes it harder to rotate your torso and difficult to lean back and rest on the rear deck. If you plan to do lay back rolls, then switch out the seat back for a shorter variety - I fashioned a shorter crescent-shaped seat back using the same materials as the knee braces.
Hatches: my forward hatch leaks minimally, even after repeatedly rolling in a pool for an hour. The rear hatch, in contrast, leaks 2 or 3 cups of water in the same pool session. I stopped the majority of the leaking by lashing a tight bungee chord around the neck of the rear hatch cover, which squeezes the sides of the cover against the hatch combing. Storing your boat with hatch covers off may help.
Speed: Over 3 kts or so, a small bow wave starts forming. At 4.5 kts, the bow wave is noticeable and about as fast as the boat can cruise comfortably. Above 4.5 kts, it's a lot of work to keep the boat at speed. If you plan to do more than paddle around leisurely, you will likely hit a speed wall with this boat as your skills and endurance improve.
Directional stability: the boat tracks fairly well for not having a skeg or rudder, especially in light winds. A skeg would be nice when quartering into moderate to strong winds as weathercocking increases (keeping the deck clear of stuff helps). A skeg would also help for riding bigger waves because there is some tendency to broach into the wave troughs. That being said, a little extra work, leaning and corrective strokes will keep it going generally straight under windy conditions.
Considerations: if you are looking for a short, light, responsive, well-made and seaworthy little boat for casual touring, this boat is a good option, especially if you ad knee braces. If you want to move into a full-sized sea kayak later, you may outgrow this boat quickly, especially if you value speed or do exercise paddling.