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Submitted: 11-16-2005 by Oliver Kody
My first experience kayaking was on Lake Washington in Seattle, where I lived briefly for two years in the mid 90's. Kayaking on the lake was a growing recreational outlet for many of us young urbanites, and rentals were always widely available and quite reasonable. Living in a small apartment on top of Beacon Hill over looking the downtown, I never seriously considered purchasing a kayak of my own. Having since moved to the Carolinas in '97, most of my more recent paddling excursions have been by canoe, traveling tandem with my wife. Some of these favorite outings have taken us through the Adirondacks in upstate NY, interior lakes in Nova Scotia, and more locally, the quiet waters of NC's eastern marsh lands.
I became more interested in Kayaking again in recent months as a recreational outlet - something I could do on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I wanted a versatile boat that I could take to open lake or comfortably navigate a class I or II river. Knowing myself, convenience was also a primary concern. Here I wanted something that would not require a lot extra pampering; something I could quickly throw into the back of my '95 Chevy Pickup and be in the water within a few minutes. In essence I was looking for a lighter, more compact and DURABLE kayak that would fit my lifestyle and sensibility.
After researching the net and then visiting my local outfitter, I narrowed my search to a few boats that best fit what I was looking for. The final two choices were the Necky Manitou Sport and the OT (Old Town) Sport. My wife claims that I tend to be rough on my equipment (whatever it happens to be). Thus I knew I'd do better with a boat that could take the occasional bruise and scrape and not require major cosmetic surgery every year or special pampering. The Necky just feels tough, and it would be pretty hard to break it if I tried. I know this is a boat built to last.
At first however, I was heavily leaning more towards the OT Sport - a fine craft in its own right. I was thoroughly impressed by the OT's overall streamlined design, unique contours and sporty good looks. Climbing inside, I felt this boat fit me like a glove - very well suited for my smaller 5'5 140 lb frame. Compared to the Necky the OT cockpit is quite a bit smaller and somewhat shorter in overall length. To adjust for the wider conformation of the Necky, I placed two 1'' foam pads on the knee rolls, this made for a more custom fit for my body type. Then after spending some time in both (on the dry dock), the more open, less cramped cockpit design of the Necky seemed more appealing.
From my research, and general impression from other enthusiasts whom I have encountered, the Necky Manitou Sport proves to be the better performer in the open water and a better all-around kayak when compared to the OT Sport. Since recreational touring and open water travel would be primary use, TRACKING ability was one of my foremost criteria in choosing the Necky over the OT. This advantage is probably due in part to the Necky's slightly longer frame and well designed built in keel. The OT Sport's hybrid design, apparently draws more characteristics from a true dedicated white water craft, which has a shorter, more streamlined build, and a lower overall profile. Its paired down keel, though adequate in a river setting, would probably not suffice in the open water. However, the OT does provide a more aggressive "drop down" rudder which can be manually adjusted as needed for better tracking. The Necky, built somewhat wider, is probably also more stable than its cousin. That is not to say that the Necky is not a nimble performer in white water. True, if white water where my sole passion, I would probably select a dedicated whitewater kayak versus a 'hybrid type' like the OT Sport or the Necky Sport - something I might consider down the road.
Overall I was quite impressed with Necky Manitou Sport. My open lake "test drive" was a blast and the boat handled exceedingly well despite a moderate cross wind. My personal choice was the Necky, however, take a good look at the OT Sport to compare for yourself. Whichever you choose, I know you will enjoy it as much as I have...