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Submitted: 01-12-1999 by Forrest Brownell

Offspring of a vintage whitewater slalom boat and built by SEDA in Kevlar and 'glass, this elder statesman among touring kayaks is now almost alone in its class. Not a cut-down sea touring boat, the Vagabond is a big (14'), beamy all-rounder. Flat amidships, with a v-section bow and a u-section stern, the Vagabond turns better than it tracks, though a good paddler won't find it hard to keep it going straight ahead.

And the Vagabond is roomy. Boasting an oversize cockpit -- there's room for you to pull your knees up; you can even find a place for your cigar -- there are few boats easier to load or enter. No hatches to leak or lose, and no rudder to foul or jam. Simplicity itself.

There is a downside, of course. No compromise is perfect. On days when the wind threatens to snap the tops off the pines you'll wish you had that rudder. In heavy whitewater you'll wish that you could make the big cockpit smaller. And if you only weigh 100 pounds and never carry anything but a sandwich and a camera, you'll be better off with something else.

For long tours in mixed water and all weathers, however, the Vagabond can't be bested. Deck cargo? Tie it on. Ten days food? No problem. The complete works of Anthony Trollope? Be my guest (but get the paperback edition). Sea kayaks and their offspring are wonderful things -- light, lithe and fast -- but there are still places where you'll want the "heavy brigade." The Vagabond is just about the last of that breed. Happily, it was also one of the best.

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