Submitted: 08-12-2002 by GA
My wife and I bought a used demo P&H Easky from Pro Canoe in Greensboro, NC for my birthday. The boat was $850 in gray smoke finish (new $1,200). Although I would not recommend others do this, we bought the boat before a test paddle because it was such a good deal and had a 30-day return guarantee.
Selling Points: I was sold on the design because it was a rather rigid plastic boat with a skeg. I find rudders cumbersome and confusing (paddle on the left while pressing the right foot?) with the rudder foot pedals lacking leverage points which seem essential in a boat that requires maintaining your balance. This was the only sea kayak in my price range that had a skeg.
P&H's design pedigree and the solid build of the boat were also attractions. The British P&H uses a three layer roto-molded polythene, resulting in a lighter, yet rigid boat versus regular molded plastic. You can't push this one in with your thumb like most plastic boats. This is supposedly the same process used by Old Town, according to the salesperson. However, P&H applies this process to serious touring boats.
On the Water: On the water, the boat was wonderful. With a push from my lovely wife I made my maiden voyage with ease. As I am still learning to paddle, the skeg was down most of the time, unless I wanted to make a quick turn, which was rather easy due to the smaller size (almost two fee less than the RM Capella). The skeg greatly improved tracking and stability. What's more, the built-in skeg can be partially deployed as conditions warrant.
The design proved efficient, knifing through waves and going where I pointed (when the skeg was down). With the skeg up, my poor paddling skills were more transparent as the wind and waves on the Pamlico Sound sent me in the wrong direction. However, the skeg was always there to tame Mother Nature. It tracks as well as I expected for a boat this length (15'), and far better than the recreational tubs I paddled before.
In my second trip out, the waves were kicking up about a foot or so with white caps. I was able to paddle through them going out and then use the boat's quick turning to ride them back in for some tiring fun! The boat responds well to aggressive paddling, carving turns and leaning back. I'm too new to execute these techniques well, but like a good sports car, I can tell the boat has way more to give than I am ready to explore. My wife really enjoyed the boat, although she launched during the worst chop of the day. She definitely appreciated the skeg's help, which forces you to turn with your paddle.
Comfort and Stability: The boat is very stable and still able to carve turns when I was feeling more daring. The seat bottom is comfortable, and the backband proved better than expected. I was able to lean back or forward to relieve pressure as I paddled. I may get a slightly larger backband, but I found the band easier to use and more conducive to actually wearing the boat, rather than the recreational idea of sitting in a boat.
The thigh bolsters were the best of any of the handful of boats we've tested. However, I found they cut into my circulation after about an hour. Stretching inside the boat helped. And, although the cockpit appears plenty large, I could never find a comfortable foot position for long. I'll play with the pedals and maybe switch to a water sock instead of a shoe to see if that frees up more toe room for fidgeting. I'm 6', 175 lbs and wear a size 10.
Another negative is the fact the sharp cockpit edges cut into your hands when one person carries the boat or when you fail to carefully slide your legs in. The actual hole seems as small as the Capella, although the Easky is one inch wider overall. Additional padding or sanding down the edge will probably help.
No bulkhead leaks were found after about an hour of paddling, although I suspect there's a leak around the screws holding the foot pedals which I will investigate further.
Equipment: I do find my 220cm Aquabound AMT Expedition carbon paddle a little short for this boat. I'm 6' and the boat is 23" wide, but I think a 230 may have offered a little more leverage. I find myself pulling the paddle rather than levering it. The short paddle seems to demand aggressive paddling, which is fun for a bit, but tiring. I'll have to work on my paddle strokes, I'm sure.
Pro Canoe only offered the Aquabound Seaclude (or Seaquel, can't remember which) for $90 or a fiberglass Werner Camano for $235, with no paddles in between. The entry-level Aquabound felt like a log and the Werner felt like a q-tip. Seeing my joy holding the featherweight Werner, my wife said "you can get it" in the resigned tone of a woman over budget. With 10 years of marriage experience, I knew to keep looking for a less expensive paddle.
Eastern Mountain Sports offered good deals on paddling gear, so I was able to outfit the boat with paddle, float, map bag, pump, phone bag, skirt and other goodies for about 25% less than list price. My wife got our MTI Comp II PFD on clearance for $30 at Pro Canoe. Although it's an XL, it fits both of us snugly.
Conclusion: The P&H Easky captures what is good about a small British sports car: little, stylish, just fast enough, maneuverable, and quirky but with useful features that make it fun all around. We needed a serious sea kayak that could help get us out of trouble if the wind and waves kicked up, but would be manageable and rugged for exploring around the Pamilco River near the NC Outer Banks, all while being affordable. With its unique rigid and durable triple-layer polythene hull, skeg and reasonable price, the P&H Easky was the right boat for us.