Submitted: 11-08-2005 by Fishing-Diver
The ocean Kayak Sidekick. 2005 - First some background to help readers understand why we might choose the Sidekick.
My sweetie and I are recreational divers and fisherman. We live in Southwest Florida and we fish and dive the near-shore reefs and back-bay areas along the Gulf coast. We've each owned two other kayaks prior to our recent purchase of two new Sidekicks. Our previous kayaks were Walden Paddlers and small, lightweight stitch and glue sit inside yaks. We weigh 160 lbs and 195lbs. We're between 5' 7" and 6' tall. Our paddle excursions are rarely longer than about 4 miles round trip.
We've had our Sidekicks out on the water 5 times so far. We also test paddled the Sidekick twice before buying. With the intention to use our sit on top kayaks as a fishing, diving, and spearfishing platform, we were looking for a very stable hull with ample displacement for hauling gear and with luck many pounds of fish. We paddle our Sidekicks as solo boats only.
We've done two dives so far in the Gulf from our Sidekicks. One dive equipped with scuba gear and one dive was a freediving/spearfishing trip. The rear tank well is the perfect size to securely hold an aluminum 80 tank with weight integrated BC. The tank well's factory bungee system keeps the tank and BC secure in the tank well even when the boat gets rolled over and then righted. It's not difficult to lift/ drag the tank and BC into and out of the tank well and over the side while facing backward with both legs over the side. The 6 inch factory cockpit hatch with molded in bucket is a good place to secure your car keys and fishing license but the factory hatches on both our Sidekicks leaked so a plastic ziplock bag is a good idea for things you want to keep dry. The Sidekick comes with 3 paddle keeper bungees along the hull. Two at the cockpit and one forward and next to the child seat. The molded in groove that runs up the side of the hull and under each paddle keeper, traps paddles and spearguns against the hull very securely. The incredible stability of the Sidekick allowed my sweetie to stand up in the cockpit without falling overboard with a 1 foot chop on the Gulf. The boats displacement and stability allows us to crawl up to the front of the boat on our knees and deploy/ retrieve a ten pound anchor. The boats stability also makes it easy to sit sideways in the cockpit with both legs over the side while getting ready to dive. Getting back into the boat in deep water is relatively easy but takes a few practice tries to develop technique. The boats high and dry deck means you have to lift/ launch yourself up into the cockpit rather than sinking the hull to allow you to swim onto it. The extra displacement designed into the turned up bow makes it possible to store about 30 lbs of gear or fish on the front deck area without fear of a wave washing over the deck as you paddle into a wave. Things we added to the stock Sidekick to make it a better dive platform include deck bungee and additional deck loops for more bungee coverage on the front deck. A paddle leash so the paddle doesn't have to be stored on the boat while you get back onto the boat or are preparing to dive, BC/ tank leash so we could leave the scuba tank and BC in the water while getting on or off the boat. The factory hatch does not allow access to the inside of the hull. We installed a round 6 inch after-market deck hatch in the forward seat area so we could have access to secure dry storage within the hull for safety equipment like signal flares and a hand held marine radio.
Fishing: The boats excellent stability and high, dry ride makes for a comfortable fishing platform. I wouldn't say that the boat is designed to be rigged for fishing but creating rigging solutions wasn't difficult. I built a simple, removable rocket launcher style fishing rod holder from schedule 40 PVC pipe and fittings that plugs into the two scupper holes in the tank well and holds up to 4 rods. The extra deck loops and bungee we added to the front deck area makes storing extra gear easy. The tank well isn't wide enough for the standard milk crate storage container and I've not found a really stable way to add a standard plastic milk crate behind the seat. I use a small 9 quart plastic cooler, strapped down in front of the rod holder but behind my seat for tackle storage. The 6 inch after-market hatch I installed in the front seat/deck area allows me to store a small 12 volt power supply below deck for a fishfinder. The molded in cup holder between your legs is a useful feature. I made a removable mount for my hand held GPS unit from "pool noodle" foam. The mount securely plugs into the molded in cup holder. My GPS and fishfinder are both waterproof so paddle drips are not a problem. I also added deck loops near the bow and stern for an anchor trolley system for use while fishing.
This boat is not a speed demon. It's a bit barge like as kayaks go. The boats natural hull speed (low paddle effort) under our typical load seemed to be about 3.2 miles per hour on flat water (measured by GPS). We were able to maintain 3.8 miles per hour over a distance when we "dug in" a little. It comes standard with a second removable seat for your "sidekick". The hull design has a lot of hull slap (noise) in choppy water and gurgles a bit when paddling flat water. Loaded it floats in about 6 inches of water. The boat turns well. It may not track well for you until you learn a good paddle stroke. Taller paddlers will probably find a comfortable position for the seat. People with wide butts will probably find the cockpit fairly comfortable compared to some of the older Ocean Kayak cockpits. In choppy water we feel very safe in the Sidekick. It seems to be a very seaworthy "sit on top" kayak.