Submitted: 07-01-2002 by Lynda Sayce
I recently bought a kevlar Avocet. I've previously been paddling small river and whitewater boats, and wanted a fast, low-volume tourer for short trips on British waters. Before ordering the Avocet I tried a Dagger Edisto (too wide for me, and very slow), Perception's Carolina (ditto), Pyranha's Orca (ditto) and Mystic (nice boat, and very light, but the projecting internal fittings trapped my feet), Kajak-Sport's Viking (fitted well, paddled well, seemed rather shoddily made), and Nigel Dennis's Romany (didn't fit so well, but paddled beautifully). Then I tried an Avocet. It was faster and more responsive than the others I tried, and it was blissfully comfortable; excellent seat and thigh braces. The initial stability, unladen, was surprisingly good, and the secondary stability excellent. There's quite a lot of rocker, so the boat turns well, and this can be greatly enhanced with a strong lean. It's a fast and effortless boat to paddle, and glides along well between strokes. It also rolls easily, the low rear deck facilitates the lie-back at the end of a roll. The construction quality is really superb, and the deck layout is eminently practical and Valley's famed hatches are completely watertight. I find the main oval ones a bit of a struggle to close fully: you have to work your fingers hard around the lower rim to squeeze the last bit into the housing, but once down they really don't leak, even after rolling. The day hatch is easier to open and close, but seems equally watertight. It's the only hatch which doesn't incorporate a tether point: there's plenty of upper rim to drill through to attach a tether, though the rubber tends to close up after the drill has been extracted. Try drilling then poke an elastic cord through the partially closed up hole with a bradawl or similar. My boat has a skeg, which I've only found cause to use once, heading upstream and into a strong wind. It was very effective in keeping the boat solidly on course, though in less blustery conditions I've felt no need of the skeg; the boat tracks very well without it. The only detail I don't like is the backband. The demo model I tried was fitted with a Pyranha backband, and I'm planning to fit one to my own boat. The backband is easily and cheaply changed though, and the fittings to attach it are easy and accessible, so I've not allowed that small detail to affect my evaluation of the boat.