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Submitted: 07-07-2004 by TB

After 3 years of driving highly customized Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro Tankwell in all but white water environments this 6', 200# avid angler made an unexpected, and some would say irrational about-face to a new boat.

OK SPTW is a 14'9" x 26" 55# fast, long-distance touring vessel believed by many to be THE boat for fishing (before Prowler and Drifter entered the market in 2003). New boat, BigYAK is a 2004 new addition to Ocean Kayak line-up of single Sit-On-Tops. Nothing like it has been built before: 9'8" x 34", 47#. (It is the widest beamed boat except for Cobra Fish'n'Dive which boasts 36", but with 12'6" length and 57#).

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Boat is very wide, extremely well finished. There is not a single rivet in it - stainless steel screws and brass threaded inserts that are molded into hull. Very sturdy padded handles with neoprene base lining on the sides. Flat rectangular storage behind the seat, no front hatch, optional center hatch which I declined to have installed. Hull design is remarkable: very elevated cockpit, bottom is completely flat in front 50%, there is a strongly pronounced keel-like crest in the rear 50%. Very interesting.

PADDLING TEST
Stability - I had no idea that a kayak can be so stable. I stood on it and it was almost good for casting (wouldn't try it in rougher water though). One has to sit side-saddle and lean forward for the boat to begin tipping, but there is ample warning period before the point of no return. Transition from seated to horizontal position is very easy (instant relief from sore back). Rolling from back to belly is absolutely secure.

Dryness - Not a drop of water inside the cockpit. I repeat, not a single drop. Scupper holes are level with water. Seat is very wide and cannot possibly retain water by any means. No rivets and no hatch means unprecedented watertightness - upon removal of threaded plug from the bow one hears a faint Pfffft of escaping air.

Comfort - The footwells unlike OK SPTW have straight-through flat-bottomed trough on the inner side. That means one can stretch legs without digging the heels at certain intervals. Extremely comfortable. Large flat area where front hatch is located on boats like Caper would easily accomodate supermarket-type cold storage bag with ice. Keeeping fish problem is therefore easily solved (in case of multiple fish in 25" class). Rear storage space is exceptionally accessible and more than sufficient.

Acceleration - Longitudinal gains of speed are poor due to boat's instant turn in response to power stroke. This boat was designed to avoid surf-swamping by instant bow direction adjustment, not by running over swells like OK SPTW. Since acceleration in kayaking is used primarily in last-second avoidance of swelling waves, this judge deems it fairly unimportant in case of the BigYAK.

Speed - Poor by comparison with OK SPTW. Fully adequate for fishing. Addition of rudder should improve the speed by probably 25% or so. Unlike in longer boats, rudder deployment would not require cables and complicated hardware. Strongly suspect that maintaining comfortable speeds would require re-learning to paddle this different hull and may in fact be more fuel-efficient per mile than OK SPTW.

Maneuverability - Excellent, to the point of amazing. Zero-radius turns are accomplished instantaneously, without counter-stroke. Boat maintains steady forward speed by paddling with bare hands, which never worked on OK SPTW.

Fishability - In a word, superb, provided one changes tactics from those akin to tournament bass fisherman (lots of gunning and running, electronics-intensive style, long distances covered) to those of jon-boats (slow, methodical work of sure fish-holding spots, slow-trolling of livies). Boat design promises excellent stability in anchored setup (in front of a drop, ledge, hole or breakers). OK SPTW tended to sway widely and would almost require twin anchors for secure hold, which is impractical. Speed of put-in deployment is second-to-none. Compact truck bed secures the boat in less than 30 seconds by means of 2 bungees. No straps, no humming at highway speeds, no rack. Boat sticks out 21 inches past the bumper's edge - no need for red flag.

Additional Remarks - Equipping the boat with thigh straps is more than recommended if surf rougher than 2-3 ft is to be traversed. A lot of careful thought went into this design. It is doubtful if the boat has many areas for improvement when used according to its purpose. I love the boat, if my verbosity obscured the meaning for anyone. Gave it 9 because nothing is 10. TB

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