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Submitted: 08-20-2001 by Two Dimes

First of all, my rant on the numbers: A boat you dislike so much that you plan on getting rid of is not an "8". If "5" or "6" represents the fat part of the bell curve, that boat should be rated a "3" or "4". If someone gives a boat a "10", I don't expect to read "shoulda" or "coulda" remarks. For a "10" we expect you to describe perfection. Period.

O.K. I've calmed down. Now on to the Savannah: This is my second kayak, moving up from the Pungo; my previous experience being with open boats. I was looking for something with better sea-keeping characteristics, more speed, the ability to carry some gear, and yet still be able to do mild river paddling. I set my sights on boats in the 14' to 15' class. I didn't want a keel or keelson, didn't want a flat bottom, and I wanted a more rigid plastic formula.

I was surprised at how many boats I eliminated on the showroom floor. If my size 10s touch top and bottom in the space between the foot braces, I'm not thinking this is going to be a boat I'll enjoy spending a long day in. Then based on the narrative reviews here (forget those useless numbers) I focused on the Savannah since expedition- and rudder-rigged it just cleared $1,000. It felt good in the showroom, and after a drive to Annapolis for spin around the harbor, a little plastic moved from my wallet to the salesman, and big piece of plastic ended up on my roof rack.

My first water test was on the Potomac between Noland's Ferry and Point of Rocks. It seemed to hold a line well, turned well for a non-rockered boat, and was noticeably faster than the Pungo. It doesn't seem to have bad habits. The narratives seem not in total agreement regarding the initial vs. secondary stability. (My point of comparison for secondary stability is my 18.5' Lincoln Kevlar canoe, which rolls 15 degrees one side or the other almost instantly, and then holds like it was Velcroed to the carpet.)

The next weekend the weather gods didn't cooperate, but I got to drill 24 holes in the deck and install deck lines. That helps you get over the "new boat" thing.

The second test was off Mason Neck in the tidal Potomac. On real flat water, you can pick a speed and just hold it there. Frankly, I didn't see much difference between leaning in and out of turns - this hull is a soft semi-multi-chine, and I don't think it has such specific turning characteristics. I didn't use the rudder until I got into some more open water and was dealing with mild confused chop. There was a stretch, with the predominant sea off the rear quarter, when the rudder really helped - I need to do some more experiments in some different sea states, and also some timings with the GPS.

The seatback is just fine. Any higher and it will interfere with ingress and egress (one of the advantages of a plastic boat with a decent sized cockpit is that you CAN pull onto the beach and hop out to see neat stuff), and higher would interfere with the PFD. I can scrunch down with my feet on the front bulkhead and do a lazy lowrider, if so moved. The padding for the thigh braces is fine…There when you need it, but not intrusive.

Things to improve: The vexing thing (Do you hear the masses, Dagger?) is this foot brace/rudder pedals issue. At just under 5'10' and with size 10 shoes, I'm smack in the middle of the North American male demographic. With the foot braces in their last detent, they are just a little short of where I want to be. This doesn't make sense. (One thing you can do is put a split ring on each of the rudder cables where they attach to the quadrants.) A little more bow flare would also be nice.

Summary: This was a good boat to move up to. The Pungo will still be around as a guest boat, when I know I'll be in and out a lot, or when I need a more open cockpit for things like photography. (The Savannah probably rates a solid "7", but in keeping with the inflation around here, I had to move it up one notch.)

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