Submitted: 07-01-2011 by RLJ
First off I am a 5'-11.75" and 255# novice kayaker. I got the Tribe 11.5 SOT because I want to be able to get in and out of the water to swim and get cooled off while kayaking and I read that a person should plan on capsizing at some point (good advice - surprising how many people I talked to in the paddle club said "I don't plan on capsizing" - go figure, who "plans" on capsizing?). I figured that I probably couldn't get back into a SINK easily if at all (in my shape) and that there would be times when I want to kayak alone (I plan to kayak calm lake water for fun and exercise - though the possibility still exists with this kayak to float the numerous creeks and rivers in my area - river floating is very popular here - ARK/MO/OK region).
This is my first kayak and the very reasonable price was a major motivating factor in choosing this kayak over others, though not exclusively so, and I tried this kayak out on smooth calm water before buying it. One of the features I like most about this kayak is the self draining scuppers located in all the right places: seat well, both fore and aft storage wells and, of course, where your feet go (I hesitate to call it the cockpit?). Also I really like the molded hand holds amidships on the gunnels - very sturdy/durable and not in the way! It sets atop my sedan (hull up) very well (the slight rocker almost matches the car top contour - enough so that padding is only needed in the middle) and it rides quite securely tied down with two 15' straps in the middle and paracord at bow and stern. The replaceable skid plate is a pretty good idea too.
I just got this kayak, but on the first day I racked up over three miles on it (I'm a GPS mapper so I know almost exactly how far I went too, it wasn't just a guess) and have the sore muscles to prove it! As far as a "workout" machine I got exactly what I wanted - a kayak that wasn't exactly a barge (though I have referred to it as such in jest) - it has decent tracking (this is coming from a complete novice though - as I haven't actually experienced "good" or "excellent" tracking as far as kayaks go) and maneuvers well enough for it's weight and length. I'm not sure how it will handle in moderate or heavy wind, but in fair wind situations it seems to behave well.
For my experience level and purposes it is a very good first kayak. The only cons I can think of might be the lack of protected storage in the bow and stern tank wells with bungees (though this didn't bother me since I am using it recreationally for swimming and exercise).
I bought a 2010 model so it didn't come with any kind of seat (I'm no masochist but I suppose it's my old school upbringing that makes me think that it isn't possible to actually be "getting exercise" while sitting in a seat more comfortable than my camping chair) or scupper plugs. So that might be a drawback for some folks (although it is kind of a good thing that both seat and scupper plugs can be purchased separately at a later date when funds are available) I think of this kayak as a "fair weather" machine for sure. A couple of times I thought that a seat back would have been nice, though I was able to just lay all the way back and rest when I needed to - the stability of this kayak is very good - you can sit with your legs over the edge and it won't throw you out. It could be fished out of easily with the right accessories - and any handyman with access to web articles about attaching stuff to plastic kayaks could do it and save $$ if need be. I plan to paddle and swim with mask and fins mostly though and this product fits the bill nicely. I would recommend it to others who have this purpose in mind for a kayak.
Incidentally, I was able to re-enter the kayak once I remembered to let my legs and feet float up toward the surface of the water first (though it wasn't as easy as I though it would be in my less than stellar physical shape). I got the blue fade color which I like really well, though I notice it doesn't come in red - a really cool kayak color. If I'd had the money I would have bought a longer yak - like the OK Prowler 13 (tried that one out at a local lake a couple weeks before - really liked that one), but for the money this Tribe 11.5 seems to be made of good quality solid materials and workmanship.
I'm not a big fan of the "pull starter" bow and stern handles, but they have held up to carrying and tie-downs thus far. If Perception incorporated molded handles fore and aft as they have amidships, then this would be the perfect recreational swimming platform!