Submitted: 04-07-2005 by GaryB55
This is for those who've heard or noticed that the Current Designs Kestrel and Necky Manitou have similar specifications, and especially for those that don't know which to consider buying. I own both. The Manitou came first, and although I enjoyed it immensely once I got used to it, I decided I'd enjoy a lighter but similar boat so this year I bought the Kestrel (hybrid version: a 12 1/2-foot boat at 30 pounds!)
The Kestrel is available in three different materials: a hybrid layup, TCS, and rotomolded plastic. The rotomolded version is a bit shorter, narrower, heavier, and less expensive than the other two. In addition, the TCS and rotomolded styles may be ordered in "High Volume" versions for larger paddlers so there are really five versions of the Kestrel to look at (plus the new 14-foot version).
For beginning paddlers, the Kestrel will feel more stable. The Manitou is plenty stable but it takes more time to realize that; I was unnecessarily nervous in the Manitou for several outings. The Kestrel doesn't have that unnerving "tippy kayak" feeling and the larger cockpit makes for easier entry and exit than with the Manitou. On the other hand, the Manitou is more efficient when moving through the water. When I paddle hard, the Kestrel will make a noticeable splashing sound at the bow while it pushes the water out of the way. The Manitou slices silently through the water no matter how fast I attempt to go.
Storage capacity, for both you and your cargo, is similar in both boats; however, the Kestrel has built-in paddle rests on both sides of the boat (the paddle lays against a shallow groove on the side of the boat and a bungie cord-and-hook keeps it in place - very handy). The Manitou has no paddle parks, but the seat is adjustable while you're driving. You can only adjust the Kestrel seat while you're outside of the boat. Both boats have footpegs. The Manitou pegs are adjustable from in front of the pegs (while you're in the boat); Kestrel pegs are adjustable from the far side of the pegs (I can't reach them while seated).
I've only paddled small inland lakes and slow moving rivers so there may be other concerns about both of these boats not mentioned here. For the beginner, fisherman, and photographer, my vote is for the Kestrel because of its roomy cockpit and stability. If you find you need to cross sizable millponds or river distances to get somewhere and want to be able to do so in a hurry, I'd suggest the Manitou.
Given the subtle differences, it's a close call. I have no choice but to keep them both. When someone makes a kayak with the recreational speed, functions and perks of a Necky Manitou, and with the sheer beauty, craftsmanship and lean weight of a Current Designs Kestrel, I'll only need one boat.