Submitted: 09-19-2005 by Cooldoctor1
I have now to update my review of this yak; see prior. Now I have added a rudder. The rudder was the Prijon Wildwasser newer version (high density plastic, not metal), and took about 60 dedicated minutes to install. Required three holes to be drilled into my "rudder ready" Calabria, but this was not hard or as unforgiving as I thought. The rudder mechanics are smooth, and it is well made; the $199 plus shipping price however at 20% of the boat price is steep. The rudder cables attach neatly to the foot pegs, and there is a means to adjust the cables length "on the fly" while paddling with a tension strap that makes minor adjustments, or if a change in footpeg placement for other paddlers. The workmanship of the rudder seems very good, and the plastic is very heavy duty. The parts, mechanics, ropes are very fine; not chincy.
Once paid for and installed, I paddled for over two hours on a local lake and observed several things. First, my impression of the rudder-up Calabria being a poor tracking vessel was confirmed. Many say -"I want to learn to paddle correctly rather than have a rudder". Be my guest. I mild breezes 5-10 mph, that rudder-up Prijon starts rotating like on a pivot before I can get the opposite paddle in the water! It tracks well for a while, then boom, starts to drift substantially. I have paddled every weekend for two years, and many years in canoe as a kid -- not an expert, but I know poor tracking when I see it. Now, put new rudder down, and big improvement! The rudder goes up and down well, and when down, tracks very well. In fact, without using the foot controls it can be a tad hard to turn at times; this is a new sensation in this whirling dervish of a yak. I experimented with eyes closed, and after 30 seconds of paddling without the rudder, I could literally be going 90-180 degrees (yes, almost all the way around in the wrong direction) off course. With the rudder down, I was pretty much on target to a point on the horizon. As a newbie to rudders, though, I will say that I do not love that my yak --pristine, one piece, rattleless, and simple-- now has a mechanical unit with guide-wires, control ropes and a blade. Some message board posters suggested that rudders can break, I used to say, "How?" Now I know. My immediate test run in my backyard pond pulled a cable out of the foot peg due to a loose screw. Easy fix, but a pain in the butt. So, simplicity goes to the wayside when you add a rudder (a skeg would be nice, but not available on any Prijons). Another key: the rudder DOES give drag. It is small but perceptible. I used to think, "How can a Washington quarter thin rudder give drag" Answer: when you pivot it, ever so slightly (10 degrees), there is drag equal to the entire surface area. Even perfectly straight, drag noted. If I was blinded to the rudder position, I think I could still, just barely, tell that it was down by the drag. Add that times two hours or all day kayaking, and we may have an issue. The footpegs work well with the gas pedal controls; even applying heavy pressure on the footrests, the pressure goes on the axel pedal, not on the gas portion thus not an issue for rudder control.
All in all, a fine kayak made better with the rudder, but I suppose I am not much of a rudder kind of fellow, and would prefer the silent, sleek lines of a yak with no moving parts as opposed to the rudder. I concur with reviewers below that the Calabria requires a rudder. I question though if the Calabria is the right vessel for everyone as it is really middle ground…not a super speed stealth (and even dowdier with the rudder), and a little long for creeks and streams, yet a tad short for large water. My Capri(s) plus a longer seaworthy boat might have been the key for me.