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Submitted: 06-01-2011 by nthome

This is my first sea kayak. It took me 3 years of renting and demoing to make up my mind. My top 2 choices ended up being the Nigel Dennis Pilgrim and the Valley Avocet LV. I am 5'4" and 149 pounds. In the end I chose the Pilgrim because I felt the most confident in it and had the best speed in it. I just got back from a 4 day trip on Lake Michigan. Conditions ranged from 3 ft waves or less, and 15 knot winds or less, with gusts of 20 knots or less.

Pros:
Looks great; low deck in both the front and the rear; comfortable seat (I prefer the molded-in backrest instead of the included but detachable back band); completely dry hatches even after 2 rolls; day hatch behind the cockpit; solid fiberglass layup - lighter layups are available, but I tend to be rough on my boats, so I went with the traditional layup; good speed (got up to 5.5 miles with a tailwind without really trying - was able to keep up with the other boats in my group, all of which were at least a foot longer); nice deck rigging, bungees for your extra paddle in the stern, etc.; dangling toggle carrying handles that won't pinch your fingers; tracks well with one exception which I will discuss under cons, below - I didn't use my skeg unless winds were 10-15 knots; good primary stability and excellent secondary stability.

Cons:
Seems to cock to the right. At first, I thought the bow was just turning into the wind, which would be normal. But at other times, when the wind was coming from a different direction, it continued to cock to the right. A more experienced paddler who has the Explorer LV wanted to demo it and she also found that it cocks to the right. Could it be that it is designed to be fully loaded, and I was doing day trips, so it didn't have enough weight? In a few weeks I'll be going on a 5 day camping trip and the I'll get to see how it handles fully loaded; foot pegs are comfortable and solid, but they are the traditional adjusting kind where you have to reach way into the cockpit and adjust them from behind - I prefer the kind where you can adjust them with a lever even while you are underway, if necessary.

Overall, I am very happy with this boat and I'd encourage anyone who is shorter or lighter weight to give it a try.

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