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Submitted: 11-08-2004 by mhackett
Caribou-S in fiberglass. My first hardshell single and I didn't try any others so won't offer any comparisons. I bought it based on recommendations here, on usenet, by the dealer, and because when I walked in the store it was the best-looking boat there.
I've been mostly happy with it, comfort is good (5'10", 180lbs). Very nice deck rigging, including for spare paddles, either front or rear. Stability is reassuring; have yet to need to do an actual "brace."
Tracking is where the "mostly" comes in. If you search the forums you may stumble over a number of discussions where I've complained about a bit of wandering during light-air smooth-water conditions. The skeg of course can cure this but with the cost of some loss of glide and slower turning. Okay if you really need it for heavy wind, not ok when you don't think conditions should warrant using it.
Many comments said after more seat time you'll learn how to make it track. Well, after a full season it never happened. It was not a matter of not knowing how to get it back on line, it was just annoyance over how quickly it wanted to veer off line in the first place. The tracking just felt unstable, in anything other than a headwind.
Many owners, especially of the pre-skeg versions, talk about adding 10-20 lbs of weight in the back to improve tracking behavior. I use mine only for few-hour day trips and wanted to avoid this hassle. I did experiment though. I rigged 9 lbs of scuba weights on a stick that I could push way to the back, thinking the further back it went the less I would need. This was not good, boat was too heavy in back and the bow bobbed over waves most ungracefully.
After that I tried really hard to like using half-skeg most all the time, but just couldn't. So recently, back to the weight idea, this time I used just a 3 lb weight, again pushed back as far as it would go. Well, I'll be darned, it is pretty amazing what this does. It seems to balance the boat such that it responds more quickly to subtle leans to stay on course, and you can also feel turn-carving behavior respond to leans forward and back. It's like this is how the boat was meant to feel. Maybe I just have heavy feet, who knows. I'd guesstimate this moves the center of balance of the empty boat back about 5 inches. Very importantly, for me, it can be shoulder-carried to/from the water with the weight in place. I don't think this much weight hurts the rough-water riding behavior to any noticeable degree.
So, with that, I'm a happy 'bou owner and expect to keep it for quite awhile.