Submitted: 05-24-2005 by feltman
This is my third boat and by far the best fitting in terms of both comfort and performance. My previous boats were larger expedition types and my storage needs rarely require more than an overnight kit. I am 5’9”, 165lbs, and this is my third year of paddling.
Looking in the day boat class I considered the Romany, Avocet, Chatham16, and the Viking. When it came down to the best combination of speed, comfort and quality of construction there really wasn’t any contest. The Viking’s build and finish quality was far superior to the Brit boats (and much lighter, a nice bonus)—just run your fingers along the underside of the combing seam in the cockpit: perfectly smooth. Its speed easily exceeded all three. I also believe it is the lightest by a few pounds. Though I don’t think it turns quite as well as a Romany or perhaps the Avocet, it certainly turns very well and edges nicely. Despite it’s somewhat deeply vee’d hull I find it to be quite stable and I can fully relax with the paddle down (though on the choppy lower Hudson river reaching into the day hatch requires some balance and concentration.)
I’d love to tell you that since getting the Viking that I am suddenly a faster paddler and lead the pack on trips, alas I still struggle to keep up—though this certainly has more to do with the operator than the equipment. However, on my GPS, I get up to and maintain cruising speed much more efficiently and actually top out at about 1/3 kt. faster than my previous 17 ft British expedition boat—every little bit helps.
I find myself edging more in this boat, not because it needs it to turn, but because it holds edge so well and responds quickly. I have spent reasonably long stretches in the Viking without the skeg down, using edge control to keep her straight, something I never did with my other boats. When deployed, the skeg control was faultless and easy to trim for beam wind and such.
The bow volume was just right bobbing over well spaced chop and plowing through the short stuff without too much wash over the deck. I am more comfortable in a following sea in this boat even when paddling empty than my previous ones, that’s a relief. It surfs a bit better too with minimal broaching.
I am excited to roll this boat but the water’s still a bit too cold for me.
The cockpit is comfortable. The thigh braces hit me in the right spot. The back band needs some tweeking to make it sit right—I still don’t have it perfect yet, but I might just go get an aftermarket one. There are lots of nice thoughtful touches like the rear of the combing which is perfectly contoured to support your back while leaning backwards; the oversized pivoting foot pedals which are dynamite; the overbuilt molded handles; the paddle-float rescue bungee system; and the pre-tied internal lanyards on the hatches.
The hatches are, of course, Kajaksport brand and are super watertight—maybe too watertight as they can be a real pain to put on and off.