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Submitted: 05-09-2011 by PJC
I have had my Tarpon 160 Angler for a couple of years now and am very satisfied with it. I shopped around quite a bit, looking for one boat that could do most of what I wanted to do. I still plan to get a lightweight sea kayak when I am able - for covering more miles and day trips traveling the sounds, but I will still use and enjoy this sit-on-top in the warm or cold weather for overnight camping, fishing, and wet frolics with my grandson.
It is heavy, but so am I (220), and it is worth the little extra exertion to load it onto my Honda Fit, where it has shown no negative effect on my mileage over long hauls. I would not want to have to carry it by myself for any distance at all, even though I can pretty easily carry my canoe of the same weight for 100 yards on reasonably level terrain. The choice with the Tarpon is to drag it or get a friend to help.
I have taken it on multiple day paddle/camping trips on salt water with strong wind and tides and on creeks and rivers (no whitewater yet but plan to take on class II-III soon) and have easily carried all my own gear, water, food and fishing gear for three days.
With all the camping gear, it is a little cramped for serious fishing (when you are actually catching fish) but it can be done with creative space management. For camping the front cargo bay has plenty of room and I just insert a contractor bag before loading my gear. There is always a little water sloshing around but not enough to weigh anything. If I am taking a pack I just bag it and stuff it in empty first, then load my hold gear into the contractor bag so I can access it easily just by opening the hatch. The small hatch in the cockpit is mainly only good for sticking snacks, telephone, etc. that you want to access while paddling (though there is room for more), and since things put in there can travel down the hull interior out of reach if the boat is tilted enough, this must be considered. In rough water your phone in there could become impossible to reach if you did not ensure that it was fixed in place. This can be managed as is, but it would be an improvement to have an insert for this compartment. The stern deck stowage area can handle a lot of stuff, from a cooler to a passenger if necessary. It is amazing how much stuff you can pile in and on this boat and still make good speed without much added effort.
This boat has great stability and surprisingly good speed. I am old enough (52) and heavy enough to not have the knees or the balance that I once had, but I have never turned the thing over by accident or fallen out that I can recall. It is stable enough to stand up for fishing or climbing on to/off of a high dock or pier. I live on Bogue Sound in eastern North Carolina, and go where the tides and wind are often strong, but I also use the boat on rivers and creeks.
No matter what your use for the boat, I would recommend the rudder. It can easily be raised when you want it out of the way, but the boat handles so nicely with it, you will use it even when you don't really need it. It is worth the cost. My only real gripe -- the cup holder and cockpit side pockets are too small for my Nalgene bottles. I guess I should just take beer or soda. That and the cockpit stowage are why I give it a 9.