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Submitted: 09-26-2003 by Pete

Similar to other reviewers, I'm figuring a 5 is average, 10 is extremely exceptionl, and 1 is something kayak shaped that floats... I'm 185 lbs and 5'8. I purchased the roto version at $750 in great used condition as a first kayak over an open bow solo canoe due to expected better handling in cross winds and foot plus waves. Even at only $750 I'm disappointed in both a comparison to a solo canoe, as well as vs other kayaks that I've paddled. Two different beasts, but this thing is as good as neither. The cross wind performance is dismal, though even with the rudder deployed it's on par with solo canoe speed (less comfortable though). The thing, when empty, wants to turn upwind in even modest breezes. The seat can not be adjusted rearward enough to compensate (and there is too much non keyhole space up front when adjusted completely rearward), my usual fix is to add weight via water in milk jugs in the rear hatch, change directions though and you need to change the setup. This kills the handling and causes it to ride uneven (uphill) in the water meaning futile effort to get over what it decides is crusing speed. The cruising effort, however, is not monumental as the wetted surface is low given the sweeping front and rear ends. That translates into less top speed due to only about a 15.5 ft waterline. The seat always causes my right leg to fall asleep in any adjustment (never the case with other kayaks I've had). A new seat will be added when I can get the time to cut a foam one (may allow for more rearward positioning as well). Leaned turns are vague, and worse when loaded with the required balast to keep it from weathercocking. Paddling on one side repeatedly is the best way to get it turned when loaded (and then only with no wind). Rudder can be deployed, but reduces speed significantly. Undeployed it sits as a sail on the rear deck further contributing to the weathercocking. The surprising thing is that despite the high deck forward the seat, and the lack of control for even averaged size paddlers due to vague knee bracing possibilities, the wind still acts mostly on the rear section. I will experiment with rudder removal, to improve wind handling, but have little confidence this is the underlying issue, possibly leaving the rudder deployed all the time and shortening it will be the best compromise. In short, a tub. Sort of the kayak version of an old town penobscot 17, trusty and ultimately capable, but certainly at a price of more effort than most other offerings that aren't pure toys and less comfortable (though a bit more seaworthy) than a solo canoe would be. Ton of cargo room though, so if you're looking for a barge that cruises easily, go for it.
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