Submitted: 11-22-2005 by DWH
I purchased a heavily used (and abused) ex-rental 1998 plastic Perception Shadow 16.5 in December of 2003. In spite of its age and high miles the boat was still in good usable condition. I discovered the front bulkhead to be leaking a bit, but it was easily sealed with Marine Caulk. If you want a tough, mid-volume boat for the smaller paddler that won't hold you back on learning new skills - you should look at the Shadow.
The first day or two in the boat I thought it was tipsy and wondered if I should have bought a wider boat. Within a week it felt fine and after only a few more outings I was very comfortable in it. In comparison to other mid-volume boats I've tried I think it has a very good combination of moderate initial stability; substantial and predictable secondary stability; speed; and maneuverability. Keep in mind that this is a boat that is designed to carry up to 250 or so pounds so it may need some ballast if you are under 150 and not carrying gear. I am six feet tall and 170 pounds and the boat is too small for me in only one way: I don't have enough room for my size 11 neoprene booties to stretch out. I've paddled it with full camping gear and it still had reserve buoyancy.
I've read reviews that say these boats don't track - and I firmly disagree. With proper paddling technique the boat tracks very well with the rudder out of the water and enough ballast in the back to trim the boat. With me - around 10 pounds of day gear pushed all the way to the back of the rear compartment puts the boat into perfect trim. I can sit sideways to a current with a breeze blowing the opposite direction and the boat doesn't weather cock at all. I never use the rudder and will buy a boat with a retractable skeg next time. The boat responds very well to lean and sweep turns - much better than most boats over 16 feet with rudders. I've used it on lakes, rivers, creeks and protected bays. I've done no surf zone or open ocean with it, but the classic Greenland design hull will probably rise to the challenge when I do.
I did not find the original rigid plastic seatback comfortable and replaced it with an adjustable backband - big improvement! The molded seat itself has been very comfortable - I've added some hip padding.
I find the boat easy to reboard front or back after a practice wet exit - and I can plunk my butt down into the seat and still pull my legs into the keyhole cockpit (remember I'm taller than most people who will use this boat.) The rear deck is rigged for paddlefloat support - which is far more important to a beginner than the hull's rolling ability.
All in all I think this is a great beginner's boat that can take you much further along in skill development than many others. I have only one criticism of the construction - all of the reinforcing washers for the deck fittings in this 1998 boat were non-anodized aluminum - which are somewhat salt corroded now. Hopefully Perception changed this in later boats. Even so, they have stood up fairly well and have years of life left.