Submitted: 11-01-2011 by james hunt
To begin with, I have very limited experience on a kayak and have only tested a handful. OTOH, this might be an advantage as my thoughts are not skewed in looking for things that may or not be there.
I just got my 2008 Cobra Navigator XF from a private party sale. The boat came fairly well equipped with anchor trolley, anchor, rope, live bait bucket with pump, battery, case, charger. It was also rigged with what I guess are thigh straps, a fairly sturdy high back seat. The weight is supposed to be around 44 lbs, with a length of 12.6 Ft.
Loading: Not so bad for going solo, but a little awkward for me probably owing for my lack of experience. I carried it to the driveway by heisting one of the thigh straps over my shoulder. I used a Hobie, Quick Strap, soft carriers to attach to a naked roof of a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. Getting alongside the car, I was able to lift it high enough to get the bow on the roof, then gently turned it over hull side up and swung the stern over and centered the load. I had pre-strapped the Quick Strap to the kayak before attempting to load it. In time, I think this will not be much of a problem, but I will invest in a set of kayak wheels or at least a padded four wheeled furniture dolly as I know I would tire easily going any distance.
Launched from a boat ramp without problem getting most of its length afloat before hopping on settling into the seat. First impression was it glided very smoothly and I was moving at a good pace within a few paddle strokes. It seemed to track fairly straight and hardly ever required a correctional stroke. The conditions were relatively mild but there were a lot of power boats at speed out in the middle of the bay. (Mission Bay San Diego, near the Hilton). It plowed right through the boat wakes and did not take on water. The front scuppers did allow a bit of water in the molded in foot holds but not enough to make it uncomfortable. The rear scuppers were plugged and made for a dry seat and tank well. The boat seemed fairly fast for its size almost as fast as the Tarpon 160 I had previously tried, but did require a bit more effort. I had a bit of aching in my thighs and felt it also in my upper body. I am assuming this will get better as I become a better paddler or at least I hope so. The Tarpon 160 did not tire me as near as much as this one did, but still it was bearable and I had paddled for about two hours straight.
Maneuverability: I was a little disappointed in its sluggish turns using sweep strokes. It would immediately turn, but required a few to make it around even 90 degrees. Using a rudder stroke, holding the paddle alongside the stern did cause a fairly pronounced veer to the same side. (using a feathered paddle). I learned that if I executed a wide sweep stroke immediately followed by a reverse sweep on the opposite side, it would turn in place but obviously lost all forward mobility and sort of stalled, which I guess is what it is supposed to do. (Remember, I am very new at this). I thought the Tarpon 160 turns easier and it is a good four foot longer!
Stability: Seems to have a great deal of initial stability and felt pretty solid although I did not really try anything really aggressive. Also I did not really crawl around much, but it felt stable enough that I felt as though I could access the forward A hatch and turn around enough to retrieve a bait from the live bait tank behind the seat (I did leave it at home this trip so I cant really say for sure).
Tracking: as mentioned above, this boat tracks straight and true, barely a trace of wobble unless I get more heavy handed on one side or the other. I am more of an upright paddler, reaching for the beginning stroke, keeping it very close to the hull. Pushing with the high arm while pulling the with the lower during the first third of the stroke with a fair amount of power (hope I am describing that right).
Wants: This boat needs adjustable foot pegs as the molded in ones limit you.
All in all, not bad at all for a 12.6 foot boat.