Submitted: 08-25-2003 by Nonsense9
Update to my July review. I again rate it about an 8.5 based on what it could be for the price, material, design, and suitability for intended use as a fishing/touring kayak on lakes and medium-to-large rivers.
I will dispense with most off-water comments as they don't apply to the kayak, but with the user. On the water, this kayak has been great. It tracks reasonably well, avoids weathervaning, glides very well (I usually find myself needing to brake more than accelerate!), and turns reasonably well. No oil-canning, no warping, no scratches deep enough to cause any concern whatsoever--this after (at last count) 15 trips into rocky rivers, lakes with unimproved landings, and hauling it over logs and sticks to get to one particularly tasty fishing spot.
The cockpit is large enough to fit two fishing rods at about a 75 degree angle in front of the seat while other gear is between the knees and/or behind the folding seat. The rear rigging has served to hold the rods while under way (fit the butt-ends under the bungee cords) and to hold anchor/rope setup when necessary (just slip a loop of anchor line under the rigging, and you're set; pull on the loop when you want to haul anchor and move). Water bottle fits nicely by fitting it behind and to the side of the folding seat; it also stays cooler there.
I don't need to worry about hatches leaking--there aren't any! However, you can fit 6-foot fishing rods inside the hull, and other bags I just clip to a rope and slide them inside the hull; when you want them out of the hull, just pull on the rope. In extreme situation (i.e., I don't trust other people not to steal my stuff or the kayak), I have been able to leave all my gear in the kayak and carry it back to my car. This gets heavy, so the PFD over the shoulder helps a lot.
The carrying handles have worked fine, and double as transportation tie-offs. Stability of this kayak--especially for the speed that it allows--is excellent. The only time I shipped water was intentionally leaning over as a test, and watched the water spill over. Very forgiving for a fisherman, while allowing a good speed, glide and turning compromise. At times I have considered adding additional front deck rigging, but found enough ways around it that I decided against it. The clean, uncluttered deck allows me to fish and handle rods without snagging rigging, losing gear, or finding other ways to make a fool of myself. I have helped a friend unhook lures from his front rigging and made up my mind that it was more of a bother than it would be worth. I did find it helpful to bring mini-clamps along to secure the rods in back (branches like to steal rods when you aren't looking). Clip a clamp to the butt section after it is under the bungy cord, and the rod stays put.
Again, this is a very high 8.5 rating, and I don't think anyone else offers a basic hull like this one at the price without sacrificing something. I also don't give 10 ratings to my kayak just because I'm new to it and I love it. The only way I would really be happier would be if it came with a rudder/skeg or Old Town found a way to make it 10 pounds lighter--and again, I don't know of another kayak with the Castaway's features that offers either lighter weight or a rudder for the price: No-dent, no-warp, insulated hull; avoids weathervaning; tracks/glides/turns well; allows enough space for gear but still small enough cockpit to brace knees for leaning, edging, and turning; good footbraces that are solid, yet easily adjustable while in the cockpit and underway; and still my favorite: $400. To give you an idea of what a deal this was, there is currently a new Castaway on Ebay that hasn't met the reserve price at $500 NOT INCLUDING SHIPPING!
I would still like more speed, but I realize that I enjoy the compromise that the Castaway offers in stability, glide, handling characteristics, and ease of cartopping. I never have to worry about the rudder or skeg being down or damaged, because it doesn't have one. The folding seat is unpadded, but durable, well-shaped and comfortable. It needs padding for longer trips, but this customization is up the individual user's preference. When my lower back hurts, I simply draw my knees up for 5 minutes, and it goes away. Having a lumbar support there seems like it would interfere with proper paddling technique (torso rotation), so I am satisfied with this.
I could be satisfied with other kayaks I have tried, seen, and read about, but I am really glad I bought the Castaway. I would sell various and sundry other possessions before I would part with it!