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Submitted: 04-23-2013 by SFJohn
First about me- I'm 6'2" 215ish. Been paddling about five years but at 62 not as adventurous as my adrenaline-fueled days. Advanced beginner-retarded intermediate at best.
Next the boat - 99ish 'glas, no skeg. Got it from a guy at an incredibly low price about three years ago. Minor scrapes and scars but when I wax it I still get comments from paddling buddies. Impeccable workmanship.
Now the review - in the context of full disclosure I own a few boats: Sirocco, Arctic Tern Hi that my son (6'8") paddles, a regular Arctic Tern (in progress), KajakSport Artisan Millennium Expedition, Sterling's Kayak Illusion, a home-built Sea Tour R (a Tom Yost design www.yostwerks.com), an older Folbot Greenland II, and several high-end whitewater inflatables... Oh, and my Scupper Pro fishing-and-general-messing-about yak. Not to mention I have demo'd around thirty+ other yaks. So I have some experience with different yaks. The Bou is my favorite. The Millennium is a better expedition boat - fast, tons of room, handles well for a big (18'3") yak but bobs like a cork with day-paddling kit. The Illusion is a finely tuned athlete, better in the surf and does everything well but is probably a better boat than I can really take advantage of. The Sirocco is a great all around boat and my first love that got me hooked on sea kayaking. It's the boat I put first timers in and the one I use for skills classes in the ocean and surf.
But the Bou... It does everything the many previous reviewers have testified to. I add my comments here purely as a counterpoint to previous reviews inferring that the Bou isn't for large paddlers. It can be. I paddled the Bou initially at a demo day. My initial impression was that it was too tight. The foot pegs didn't have enough range for me and that forced my knees hard into the deck. So I then tried the larger version known as the Isle. Just the opposite problem -I was swallowed by it. Felt like a kid wearing his dad's shoes. But I liked the way they paddled. So a year or more later this amazing deal popped up on Craigslist - could not pass it up ("Hi. My name's John and I'm a yakaholic"...) I took the boat home and immediately removed the seat, cut the front of the hangers back about 1 1/2" and redrilled the bolt holes. This moved the seat back and lowered it. Instant leg room and lower center of gravity. While I was at it I replaced the back band. I also padded the front bulkhead and use that as my foot rest rather than the pegs. Perfect fit!
I had hoped that moving my weight aft would help cure the weather-cocking others have mentioned, but it hasn't. It's my only demerit in the performance department. Just gets to be a chore to compensate on a long paddle in the incessant Westerlies we have here in the SF Bay. I'm sure with a skeg I'd be rating it a 10. But it handles the chop created by the wind-tide combat zones with ease. It seems to smooth out the lumps and bumps and just cruise! The same conditions that create drama when in a different yak are fun in the Bou. I find myself looking for the bigger waves and more confused water... Maybe there's still some adrenaline left after all...
But enough of this. The sun is out. The Bou is loaded. Let's go paddling!
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