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Submitted: 10-04-2004 by clydeo

After 40 years of canoeing, I finally broke down and bought a kayak, an Old Town Otter. I have been taking groups of 8-12 people down the local rivers (Susquehanna and Juniata). Most of these people have never been out on the river before, and need easy, stable boats. The rivers themselves move along at a pretty good clip (about 3 mph), so we just generally float along, enjoying the scenery. I have been using 17 and 15 foot Grumman canoes on these trips, but I have discovered that teens don't want to paddle with their siblings or their parents; they really want their own boat. The Old Town Otter seemed to offer the same simplicity, stability, and durability of my Grummies, so I picked one up to see how well it would work. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by the little yak: it delivered far more than I was expecting.

First of all, it tracks amazingly well (for a 9 foot boat). Even though I had never paddled a yak before, I had no trouble whatsoever keeping the thing on course. The slight "V" in the bottom seems to do the trick, keeping the boat straight without the need for constant corrections. Even in a 10-20 mph breeze, the boat stayed on course, and went where I told it to go.

Secondly, it handled moving water just as well as the slower stuff. Just playing around, I stuffed the bow into an eddy to see how well it would "eddy turn", and the boat ending up turning so fast that it almost tossed me out into the river (my fault, not the boat's; I was expecting a much slower response. After all, my Grummies never turned like that!).

Thirdly, the boat was very stable. I leaned it over to the edge of the cockpit, and it came right back up when I wanted it to. I was easily able to do some fishing and some bird watching, without having to worry about flipping.

All in all, it was a very fun first ride. Even the seat was comfortable (especially when compared to the solid aluminum seats that I am used to).

Is the boat perfect? Of course not; No boat is! I am not overly large, just 175 or so, but the boat felt a bit crowded. I have read the other reviews, and have noted the many references to foot braces, but I don't think that there would be enough room for them in the bow in my case. The bow seems to plow through the water more than I am used to, and the boat truly is slow. The most serious fault, from an open boater perspective, is that the boat doesn't have any storage capacity. There’s hardly enough room for a lunch and a change of clothes. This is not the boat to take on a week end camping trip (unless you have some canoes along to carry all of your stuff, like I do).

But all in all, the yak IS absolutely perfect for what I need. I am thinking that I just might need to get three more of them in the near future. It sure is a lot of boat for a very a small amount of money.

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