Submitted: 10-04-2004 by LSS
I have been paddling for a while but my wife is a relative newcomer to the sport. We just purchased a matched pair (well, almost; one blue, one orange sunburst(?)) of Dagger Charleston 15's. They are great.
The boats handle exceptionally well for their size and construction material. Acceleration is good and tracking, sans skeg is also excellent. I have not used the skeg except on one occasion on the Hudson River where a quartering wind was being particularly obnoxious. It turns fairly tightly for a 15' boat.
The fore deck design allows chop to easily break over the bow and, if you're not wearing a skirt, you'll end up with a wet bottom (perhaps, if the chop is bad enough you'll end up with a wet bottom whether or not you're using the skirt!)
Storage capacity is excellent for day trips and possible short multi-day trips. The hatch covers seem to work pretty well in keeping things dry within.
The fancy seat, for me, seems to be a mixed blessing. It is a little too sophisticated and, I fear that the pump/hose/valve mechanism may be short-lived. In addition, I don't find the seat particularly comfortable (I am 6' tall and fairly thin). This aspect will probably end up getting modified as I get more used to the boat.
Another "drawback", if you can really call it that, is the fact that there is not provision for fastening a back-pack or other "bundles" on deck, nor a compass for that matter. I very much dislike, if at all avoidable, drilling holes in boat. I resolved this issue by forcing wire-ties through the holes through which the deck bungees are laced and attaching a 1" ring (Home Depot variety) to each wire tie so that I now have an attachment point for a bungee cord or line to hold anything that I may want to carry on either the fore or aft decks.
Our use of the boats so far has been on lakes and estuaries near home (fairly bland stuff) and on the Hudson River for short stints. We are looking forward to more extensive "sea-trials" on bigger, rougher water but as the end of the season nears this may have to wait 'till next spring.
We have been using a Thule J-Type cartop carrier (usually without the front and rear ratchet ropes, only with the straps) and have had no indication of "oil-barreling" or deformations of any kind. We normally cinch those straps down pretty tight to ensure that kayaks stay in place in spite of my driving style(!?).
Overall, I would buy mine again and my wife, although very happy with hers, feels that a 14' version might have been a better choice.