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Submitted: 02-01-2006 by SergioO
I bought the Kestrel 140 (TCS) about a year ago. I was looking for a comfortable, stable boat for a variety of paddling conditions, from calm rivers and lakes to coastal areas. I live right on Biscayne Bay (Brickell Rd., Miami) and also have a home in North Florida, so I wanted a boat I could use on the Bay and in the Keys, as well as the many Florida rivers and lakes further north.
I bought the boat at Florida Bay Outfitters, Key Largo, Florida. They are great folks to deal with, they have a good selection of boats, and are located in the most beautiful kayaking waters in the US. If you're in the area, stop by and check them out.
They let me paddle a bunch of boats before I settled on the Kestrel 140. This boat just felt right. It was stable, light, responsive, well-made, comfortable to get in and out of, roomy (I'm 6'2", 190 lbs., with size 13 shoes), and it was just about the prettiest boat in this size range I had ever seen.
Every place I paddle it I get compliments on the Kestrel. The TCS material has a very nice, glossy finish and the lines look wonderful; it's much more attractive than the plastic boats, yet not as expensive as Kevlar.
Durability seems quite good; I've beached it on lots of rocky and shell-covered shores and the bottom looks pretty good after a year of use. It's very light, easy to carry and I can lift it onto my vehicle with ease.
I do mostly day paddles for fitness, and also like to fish and photograph wildlife. I use it mostly in the waters around Key Biscayne, the upper Keys, and many of the spring-fed rivers and coastal areas of North Florida. So far, it has met all my needs and expectations, and the Kestrel has allowed me to progress from a beginner to a confident paddler with ease. I'd highly recommend this boat as a first kayak to anyone with similar interests and needs. I've taken several friends out paddling, letting them use my boat while I rent and try out other models, and everyone has commented on how easy and comforting the Kestrel is to paddle.
The only trouble I had at first was when paddling open stretches on Biscayne Bay, with moderate to heavy winds and following or quartering seas in choppy waters. The Kestrel 140 would tend to weathercock and it was a chore to keep it tracking straight in such conditions.
Having rented other boats with either a rudder or skeg, I decided to add the Kestrel's rudder package several months after I got it, hoping it would help the situation. I ordered the kit and installed it myself without too much fuss.
The addition of the rudder system really made this kayak a pleasure to paddle in the open waters around Biscayne Bay. Had it not been for this addition I likely would have rated the Kestrel at an 8 or 9; as it is now I would have to give it a 10 since it handles all conditions with ease.
I cannot say much about the hatches since I do not really use them. The front hatch is very unobtrusive and follows the deck contours smoothly. The rear, rubber hatch is well-positioned when I carry fishing or photo gear. Both seem reasonably water-tight. The deck rigging also seems adequate from my limited experience. The cockpit is plenty large, probably larger than I need, and I found I had to add a half-skirt to keep annoying paddle drips to a minimum. The seat/backrest is OK for my build; I find I can paddle for hours without getting sore or tired. My only complaint about the seat is that it tends to creak at times when I shift my weight around.
These days I'm looking for a racier boat, something slimmer and longer and more challenging. I'd also like to try multi-day touring and camping. So I'm looking at some 17' kayaks in kevlar, though I'll definitely keep the Kestrel.
But for a quiet afternoon spent paddling on the Santa Fe or Wakulla rivers, poking around the mangroves in the upper Keys or Biscayne Bay, or cruising the tidal flats of the Big Bend area, the kestrel 140 cannot be beat. I spent one magical day ghosting along the Wakulla River, paddling among and playing with a group of about twelve manatees for several miles. It was an experience I'll never forget.
Do yourself a favor and try out a Kestrel. It's really a great boat.