Submitted: 09-26-2001 by KCD
MMy blue Perception America, purchased 1/01 (name of "Waimanalo") is my 2nd kayak. I've paddled it 10 months now and I like it better and better. I bought my 1st kayak, a Perception Sierra, in October of 2000. I chose the huge cockpit in both cases because I'm 250++ lbs. and I ---and the beginners I take paddling who use my boat---enjoy ease in entering and exiting. The large cockpit also gives me many options while paddling on a long trip, like folding my legs in front of me and paddling "tailor-style" for a while, or putting my feet up on the deck. I was sold on the America when, in a 3/4-day private lesson, I got my Basic Sea Kayaking certificate paddling an America for the first time. It is similar to the Sierra, but the Sierra is 11'1" and the America is 13'4". Those inches make a big difference in tracking and speed. I can easily keep up with my husband's Carolina which is 14'7". You seem to get a lot of bang for your buck with each stroke. (I use a Lightning carbon-fiber paddle that I bought on sale from Lightning Paddles --- it was blemished and looks a little "off" but paddles like silk.)
The America edges well for such a beamy boat and it's rollable---- by no means the easiest to roll, but it's possible. I don't have a roll yet but am developing some reliable braces.
I am 5'3" and female and find its 52-lb. weight fine for solo cartopping ("Kayaking for Women" by Shelley Johnston has some excellent tips), but a bit much for long carries (read: "long drags"). My husband and I dislike all of perception's seats and replaced them with backbands which are lower than the boat's deck---- this means if you have to re-enter the boat from the water it's much easier than clambering over a seat back that's sticking up gouging you in the ribs and diaphragm. Self-rescue is reliable in this very stable boat. I found the seat front somewhat uncomfortable due to the tipped-up lip (a common, and yucky, perception plastic boat feature). Right now I get by rolling up a jacket and stuffing it in the gap between the seat lip and the hull, but I'm thinking of going to kayakfit.com and buying some hard-cell foam to glue in there permanently. I had a custom neoprene sprayskirt made by sealsskirts.com; this is fantastic for breaking waves, cold conditions, or roll/rescue practice.
The America has plenty of room for storage, yet you can keep up with the shorter (i.e. 14-foot) touring kayaks. I chose to use floatation bags and not get a bulkheaded boat, though I'm thinking about adding a rear hatch. For sloughs, lakes, class I and II rapids, and bays (>3-foot swells) it is a great boat. It did fine in class 2 rapids, being stable, yet very nimble for being quite wide. Most of our trips are half-day trips of less than 10 miles. Fantastic for bird watching and fishing. Without a rudder it does weathercock. We took a long trip down Tomales Bay and had about a 12-knot wind at our back on the return trip with 1--2 foot wind waves. Every other stroke was a correction stroke, but I attribute that as much to my need to have a greater repertoire of strokes as to not having a rudder. It's your choice and depends on where you'd be going out to paddle.
For a larger and/or taller paddler this boat is comfortable, stable, and yet a good enough tracker. Any boat is a series of compromises and this one does it well.