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Submitted: 07-25-2013 by patrickinss
Living in Atlanta presents many opportunities for paddlers. Salt water (the Gulf or Atlantic Ocean) can be found after a 5-6 hour drive. Flat, class II and below rivers are abundant as well as class III+. With all of the lakes being man-made we don’t have 5-10 mile wide stretches that you find elsewhere and the lakes are rather calm. Having grown up paddling a canoe I didn't know whether I wanted a 10' play boat, a 17' sea kayak or something in between. I also wondered if a touring kayak would be too constricting for a leisurely afternoon paddle and whether or not a recreational boat would be too stable and boring.
If you paddle you likely enjoy other outdoor activities. I'm no different, I enjoying camping, hiking and backpacking, so I was looking for a kayak that fit the following criteria:
• stern hatch, possible bow hatch – at a minimum it had to carry a tent, sleeping bag and food for a weekend trip
• 12-14' touring kayak with maximum empty weight of 50lbs
• price under $1400 new
• not made in China
After borrowing boats, demoing at festivals and renting over a three year period (I paddle a lot, don't think I'm a once a year warrior) I narrowed my choices to a select few models. In the end, the Straight fit the criteria. I was leaning towards the 14' boat until I gave the 12'er a try. I'm 5'10" and 165lbs and the 12' boat is what I went with. I've paddled this boat for nearly four months and have no complaints, not to mention the boat gets many compliments.
It has great initial stability with a fair amount of gear in the hatch, in a dry bag stuffed in the bow or empty. Unlike many other 12' boats it has a hull that lets you get on edge. I'm able to maneuver as well as any smaller boat. I've run the class II Hiawassee, played around longer in eddies and tougher stuff and opened her up in the flats to catch-up with friends that left earlier.
The boat is easy to put on the roof of my Outback. I've portaged a few long hauls and didn't grow tired with it on my hip nor over my head. For those wanting a rudder I'll repeat what I heard from a senior paddler, "Learn proper paddle strokes and skip the rudder on any boat under 14'." Sage advice, not to mention you save $200 and 5 pounds!
Safety is a concern for all paddlers since we can't breathe water for very long. The boat has deck lines on the bow, enabling an easier self or assisted rescue. Look at the 8-12' boats on the river and you won't find deck lines any place.
The hatches are typical, if you get the boat swamped they'll leak a bit but no hatch is 100% sealed. The stern hatch is very easy to access while in the boat, btw. The decals come off way too easily.
Ultimate test is on the water or is it a service call? I had an issue requiring me to contact customer service. The contact cement they use must be weak. Both of the foam padding parts on the thigh brace came loose after one month. The company sent new thigh braces and they arrived within a week. They also sent hip braces too even though I never mentioned that item. I've been lazy and haven't replaced the foam nor have I put additional contact cement on the loose portion. I think the production person may have skimped on the glue as the remaining area is secure after much use.
Still to review – a salt water paddle and high winds.
If you want a new, fun, inexpensive all around boat for $800 or so (USD) I'd high suggest you give the Straight a look and certainly don’t discount the fact it is only 12'.
PS - I often wonder in reviews what the 2nd option would be so I'll share mine with you. If I was to buy another 12' boat I would get the Delta. However, I bought the Straight, spray skirt, cockpit cover and carbon paddle for the price of the Delta.
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