Submitted: 12-06-2012 by Noel
When doing a review I think it is important to give the reader an idea of your paddling experience. My intention is to do a sincere review that is relative to my experience. My dad had a lot of influence on my interest in paddling whitewater rivers in northern Alberta during my youth. He was an expert whitewater canoeist and instructor. I continued to paddle the big rivers and whitewater through my teens and early twenties. I am lucky to have survived some nasty spills in these rivers considering we didn't have the survival gear we have today. I got into river kayaking in the eighties. I had long gaps in between where I had to give it up because I was self employed on my commercial fishing boats. When I got back into kayaking my focus changed from rivers to ocean kayaking. I have four kayaks and share them with my family and friends.
I picked up my Seaward Quest from the original purchaser who had owned it for 14 years & had done coastal paddling with his wife from his backyard on Discovery Passage near Campbell River. Both he & his wife had Seaward boats that appeared to be in excellent shape. (Hers was an Ascente). He told me that they regrettably had to sell their boats because they were moving to Ontario and could not bring them along.
I have since put enough hours in this kayak that I am now motivated to do a review on it. The first thing I noticed printed on the hull was the word 'Kevlar'. That explains why I can load and unload this 19 foot kayak from my SUV with ease by myself. Some of the reviewers had mentioned the Quest to be a bit on the twitchy side. I think I find the Quest a little bit twitchy those days I am a little bit twitchy. Cut down on your coffee. I think you have to learn how to relax in this kayak. If you can't relax you will not be able to balance and maybe this kayak is not for everyone. Another thing about sea touring kayaks is they were meant to be ballasted with cargo. That puts a little more hull in the water and takes some of the nervousness out of this kayak. This narrow V bottom kayak is also very fast. If you are a light person (as I am) there is very little of this hull in the water even though there is 19 feet out of the water. That also can make it very lively. I sit lower in this kayak than other kayaks, on a comfortable foam pad against the hull that helps with the stability.
If you're kayaking in December on the British Columbia coast you need to be cautious and prepared for the ocean conditions to change fast. I bought this kayak on it's reputation for speed and a hull designed to handle rough water. It does wind cock a bit but some ballast will help reduce it. I have been told by other Quest owners the rudder will reduce the wind cocking. I personally do not use a rudder much on this kayak and intuitively will work with my paddling skills. I guess if I am having problems and it's no longer fun I will then deploy the rudder.
Some reviewers questioned the long sweeping bow and what the purpose of it was. I was caught in some short steep waves in a nasty tidal bore during a southeaster at the entrance of the Puntledge River on Vancouver Island. I think that long sweeping bow saved me from being swamped by a few 2 meter standing waves. The kayak broke through the curlers and lifted up and over wave after wave until I was able to get near the beach in the back eddy. Besides me being a little nerve racked this kayak proved its seaworthiness. Please do not go out and test your kayak in tidal bores unless you're ready for self rescue. I have skippered many different fishing vessels off the BC coast and you learn that different shaped hulls behave different in wind and wave conditions. A kayak is no different. The Quest, with a skillful paddler, is a fast and seaworthy kayak but it is not a kayak that I would recommend for a beginner. The roomy cockpit is an easy access and exit. I would say it is the perfect fit for a bigger guy. I have fine tuned it by adding a little high density foam next to my hips because I am a skinny guy at 5'9" and 155 lbs. It works.
I have experimented with different weights of ballast in different locations in the hull. When putting 20 lbs. of weight in the forward part of the back hatch and 15 lbs. in front of the seat, the kayak settled down in wind chopped tidal rips as well as following seas. I will give this kayak high marks running in the trough of a swell and turning around in rough seas. It is still necessary to have good paddling and bracing skills.
The Quest is probably the best tracking kayak of all the kayaks I have paddled. This kayak normally has a longer turning radius which is a trade off for the excellent tracking. It is easy to lay the kayak over and edge a tighter radius turn. I have had this boat over pretty far but it always came back and has never dumped me. I have found that with most of these touring kayaks putting some ballast in the back hatch helped reduce the broaching when getting it on the stern quarter. I am not long distance touring in the winter months and average 10 to 20 miles in a day at most. Because weather can come up quick I want to get my tides right and the maximum speed out of this kayak. This winter I spent most of my time in this kayak with out ballast or cargo because I can cover distance in a shorter time. I think that has honed in my paddling skills and the kayak has also become an extension of my balance when I am out every day. I think in the end it is a testament of the seaworthiness of this kayak. As mentioned by the other reviewers there are oodles of storage in the hatches. The Seaward hatch cover system is one of the best I have used and is as good if not better than the Valley hatch system I have in my other kayak. It is easy to remove and put back on as well as keeps the water out.
The few Quest owners that I have spoke to not only love this boat's speed but also rely on it's secondary stability. I would have to agree with them. There is very little negative stuff that I have read on the reviews of the Quest. I am spending more time in this kayak than my other 3 kayaks. I just can't seem to get enough of it.
There was a small problem with the resin finish on the inside of the kayak from when it was built quite a few years ago. I got a hold of the folks at Seaward and brought it to their attention. After sending pictures of the problem they suggested that I bring the kayak down to their factory in Chemainus on Vancouver Island so they could have a look at it. I have to mention that I have shipwright experience working with fiberglass and epoxy. When I went down to pick up the kayak it looked like a new kayak. They refinished the inside with a coat of resin and reinforced the inside hull where necessary. They polished the deck and charged me minimal cost for all new top rigging, rudder and keel strip. We have to remember that this was not a new recently purchased kayak. I was very impressed with the quality of the work they had done and Seaward's focus on customer service. I got a chance to tour the factory and look at the assembly line from the beginning to the finished product. There is a lot of detail they put into these kayaks and the finish is flawless. I admire the pride and skill these craftsman put into their work. I think we would all want to buy a kayak off of a company that cares and stands behind their products. Seaward got it's start in Summerland, BC, in the late eighties and is now in Chemainus on Vancouver Island. They are one of the last of the smaller independent companies in the Pacific Northwest.
Because of the craftsmanship, performance and lifetime warranty, this kayak deserves a 9 plus and I am already thinking of investing in another Seaward boat.