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Submitted: 08-05-2011 by landtuna

"I do not like tandem kayaks."
Having claimed so for decades, I will drop that mantra because the Dirigo tandem proved a delight. I have paddled it with people of varying abilities. It could be a favorite among my eight other boats. It is relatively fast for what it is. Two experienced paddlers working hard can top 6 mph. Paddling easily with an inexperienced partner, the boat cruises at over 4 mph. The seats are comfortable and adjustable; footpegs can be adjusted while seated; the rear seat can be positioned far enough forward to allow fairly trimmed solo paddling.

The kayak is pleasantly narrow for a recreational boat and very stable. Most striking is the roominess, seemingly yards of space between paddlers. Dual cockpits provide a sense of privacy but offer so much open space that the feet of the stern paddler are in daylight. The design provides reasonable protection from spray. Intentionally paddling through boat wakes as a test, the kayak usually shipped no water. What the deck failed to shed, the cockpit coaming deflected. Aside from an occasional splash, the boat is generally dry. (I purchased two Seals Splash Deck skirts but found no need for them in warm weather and water. They will provide good protection in cooler weather while leaving a wide cockpit opening.)

The three layer polyethylene is much better than single layer poly. It is inherently buoyant and should resist the "oil-can effect" common with cheaper material, i.e., the tendency of the hull to deform. Listed at 80 pounds (seems lighter), the boat is easy enough to shoulder because of the easy grip the cockpit affords. I am an old 130 pounds and have no trouble loading it atop a car solo. Locking the seats in their forward positions and securing the seatbacks prevents the seats from unexpectedly sliding and changing the balance of the boat when carried.

The child "seat" has a structural purpose, serving as a wedge to support the deck against the hull. It is held in place by a pair of thumbscrews on the top and Velcro on the bottom. The Velcro is nearly useless. When removing the seat, both parts of the Velcro tape stuck to the seat, peeling free from the hull. And the seat should be removed periodically because the drain hole in its bottom obviously allows water to enter. Left in place, the dregs of water would turn foul.

Other shortcomings:
-The hull is quite soft, subject to pressure dents. Plan storage accordingly--hanging from wide straps or in well-padded brackets; not upside-down because the deck deforms.
-The rear bulkhead in my boat was poorly fitted. It is a thick piece of closed-cell foam glued in place with an adhesive that adheres poorly. It arrived partly detached. Some fussing with silicone sealant made it all right, but it is a bit shoddy.
-The knee braces are flimsy but comfortable.
-The seats adjust forward and aft, sliding on aluminum tracks, but if the seats are anywhere other than in their fully aft positions, integral plastic locks tend to slip on the tracks. Adding SS hose clamps around the tracks fixed that problem.

The Dirigo comes in a version with a rudder installed (and fancier seats), but paddled tandem, that is unnecessary. Paddled solo in wind, a rudder could be an asset. It is drilled and fitted for a rudder, so adding the optional kit would be easy.

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