Submitted: 10-04-2004 by Ga.FamilyKayaker
My wife and I as well as our three daughters ages 4, 8, and 10 recently began enjoying family kayak outings, mostly in large recreational boats such as Acadia II tandems and Sundances as well as Swiftys and Americas.
For my wife's 40th birthday, I arranged time off work for both of us while the kids were in school so that we could take a formal kayak introductory lesson together. The instructor outfitted both of us with Manitous for the day and we both really enjoyed the experience and purchased one shortly thereafter. Other reviews have expressed concern about rescue re-entry with the high seat back; when we were performing paddle float rescues during the class, neither of us had particular difficulty getting over the seat and we represent a size range from 6"1" 210 to 5"7" 130. Our instructor did say he had drilled new holes to lower it slightly more than the factory fit, but I still don't think the lowest available "stock" position would be a problem for re-entry.
We purchased the Manitou for ourselves, but our instructor assured us that our older kids would enjoy paddling it as well. We wanted to get a good intro boat for them, but were concerned with the width and lack of tracking length found in typical beginning rec boats like the Swifty. My 8 year old paddled the boat for the first time with me yesterday and has now foresworn her previous affection for the America 11. She really loves the boat and had no trouble beginning the outing by paddling one mile upstream in a somewhat slow but by no means still river. When I told her I would be posting a review, she said, "Be sure and tell them that it feels really fast and I like the way it leans but won't roll over. It's easy to turn, but I had no trouble keeping it straight." It sounds to me as if my 8 year old is getting a good lesson in tracking, carving turns, and secondary stability from the Manitou. We will probably wind up with another Manitou in the near future.
Some notes about the Manitou: the high seat back is very comfortable, but does make fitting a spray skirt problematic. I had to return the initial skirt I purchased because it stretched over the seat back creating a seam of fabric that dug into my back. It was no trouble finding a skirt with a more relaxed fit (a Gull), but I would recommend testing the fit in the boat before purchasing. I don't let my daughters use skirts yet and they have no trouble staying dry. The boat is very well made and is the only "rec" boat I know of with perimeter lines and good paddle float rigging. My rear compartment has stayed dry and the Manitous from our lesson also stayed dry despite a lot of wet side up time during the course. Despite a boat weight of only 45 pounds, the plastic is high quality and does not seem to scratch and scrape quite as readily as other boats. All the deck fittings are recessed into the plastic within the hull: a really nice touch for an entry boat. There is no paddle park, but I added one with a fitting just behind the front bungee.
The neoprene hatch cover has a bit of a learning curve, but goes on easily with a little experience. The plastic hatch cover is tethered to the perimeter line, but the neoprene one isn't. I used 2 mm cord to tether mine and keep it from getting lost. The foot braces are metal and feel more secure than plastic ones I have used; they also adjust easily while in the boat thanks to tabs that are in front of the braces themselves. The seat and seat back are very comfortable and both my wife and I can adjust for good fits with the thigh braces. The bow and stern handles are on the ends of the boat where they should be for easy access while in the water. The handles themselves are quite comfortable and, unlike rubber handles, do not chafe with car topping bow and stern lines. I did have a little flaking of the bow foam flotation, but that was easily fixed by duct taping the corners while I had the float out to install flotation bags. Bags are probably not absolutely necessary with this boat, but I am neurotic about installing them wherever there are no bulkheads.
This is a great boat for my kids to start off with, but I must admit that I enjoy paddling it as well and have spent very enjoyable hours in the cockpit. The Manitou is much more of a true kayak than other entry level boats. It is fast with good tracking for its length. It leans well and carves into turns and is stable without being stodgy. While I look forward to a bigger boat sometime in the future (Elaho?), I am thrilled to be starting our family's kayak education with a Manitou.