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Submitted: 07-30-2013 by rikjohnson
Having purchased far more used kayaks than I care to remember, I decided to take the plunge and purchase a new Old Town Dirigo 120 from a sporting goods store that was going out-of-business. Now, years later, quite a few years later, I find that the Dirigo has gone through a few modifications. But as far as I can see, it is essentially the same boat.
Basically, the Dirigo is a mid-sized rec-boat with excellent stability and decent cargo capacity. The soft seat (useful on long trips) adjusts in two directions allowing you to individualize your comfort. The cockpit is large enough to hold my small dog (the newer ones have that terrible over-sized cockpit opening).
Basically, I purchased the Dirigo because I like OT construction. Their multi-ply hull is incredibly strong and refuses to deform even in the Arizona heat. This also allows the boat to take incredible punishment like beaching or striking an underwater rock as the speedboat wakes lift and drop you.
The stern dry-hatch is large enough to hold almost anything, a good deal when most boats require you to unload your dry-bag to get the tent stuffed within.
The boat keeps up with 14-footers easily though a 16-foot will leave you behind. A multi-day trip down the Colorado River kept me in the middle of the fleet, slower than the Sea-kayaks, faster than the other 12-foot kayaks plus I could get into areas that the longer boats could not reach and it carried everything I needed and more.
So, why this one?
Because I wanted a boat that would do a multi-day trip and still do day-trips and the Dirigo 120 did both. I've done 5 days out of that boat (hauling 170# of gear with no problems) and I've taken it on a day trip with much smaller boats.
I HAVE made a few modifications that the Dirigo forgives easily. I shoved some closed-cell foam under the seat to prevent wear. Shoved the same under my heels for comfort. Added Pad-eyes and deck line all over the thing and even added a bow bulkhead and dry-hatch and the Dirigo took every one in stride. Even cutting a 9" hole in the fore-deck didn't harm the integrity or strength of the hull. My only problem is that after too many years of punishment, I finally broke the seat-back. But a phone call and $30 and I received the new unit a few days later which installed easily.
I do wish that they would put a bulkhead and hatch in the bow as most lunch breaks would allow my food to be on the beach instead of wading into the water to reach the stern hatch. But that is rare on a 12-foot boat so I added one myself. NOTE, do NOT try this unless you are very good at this sort of thing. I am, so could, and did but my warranty ran out long ago so no problem. Still, after what, a decade or more of punishment (I am very hard on my boats), my Dirigo is still as strong as ever, so why replace it?
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