Submitted: 07-12-2004 by Benny74
Love the kayak. Just bought it 2 days ago after test paddling at Rutabaga. Tried the XL 139, Kestrel HV, and Prijon Calabria. The XL 139 was the slowest of the three boats. Found the Calabria to track not too great (without the rudder), but this may be due to my limited paddling experience (several months). Also heard from others that the Calabria weather cocks severaly without the rudder. I decided I didn't want to deal with extra hardware on my boat, cross the Calabria off the list. The Kestrel was a touch faster than the XL but it only had one hatch and was 1.5 feet shorter for tracking purposes. Kestrel felt like rock solid construction as well as the XL did. Both boats have comfortable high back seats.
The XL tracks well and turns decent. It does respond to a lean during a turn to speeds things up a bit. I got a great deal on my boat at Rutabaga in Madison, WI. $650 for a 2004, including a $50 Old Town factory rebate. The new cam lock hatches on the 2004 models rock. Easy to open hinges and you can "feel" them seal when they lock shut, although I have not submerged them yet for the real test. Had the boat out yesterday for a 2-hour paddling on a lake with a lot of motor boat chop. In 1-2 foot swells/chop the swept bow of the XL sliced through the waves paddling into them. Very stable ride paddling parallel to the waves as well. The Polylink 3 hull is very stiff and feels extremely tough. This boat will last for years. The 2004 XL has a padded seat and back rest. The back rest is high and comfortable, although almost too high to fit a normal my PFD (a Lotus Lola). The foot pegs are great since the adjustment arm extends toward the paddler so one can easily reach it for peg adjustments on the fly (although one does not function properly, see below). The cockpit size is extened but I found it not so ridiculously large as the Loons. Cockpit has plent of space for gear and room to circulate fresh air on your legs. I'm 6'1" 215 lbs. and the boat fits me perfectly.
Probably not the fastest boat I could have bought but it will serve well for fishing harbors and rivers of Lake Michigan, camping the Wisconsin River, and general day paddling, and I could not beat the amount of boat and features I got for the price. I can really rig this baby up as a kick butt fishing machine too!
Improvements that would have earned the boat a 10: Come with a paddle holder (will have to install paddle clips), a small (nickle size) dent in the hull bottom (not very bad so I am ignoring it), and the right foot peg adjustment tab does not lock in place properly on its own, you have to manually push it into the hole otherwise pressure from your foot will shove the peg all the way forward.