I've only had the T16 for two weeks, but I am so pleased with it, I had to write this. I previously owned three sit on tops, and had been a customer of Mike's when he manufactured Tribalance Kayaks.
I am a fisherman and free diver, and the Tribalance had fit the bill for a couple of years. I always felt like the odd man out, with real touring or cruising kayaks, although the Tribalance was pretty fast due to its narrow beam. The limitation existed in the fact that you had to have the outriggers in place at all times. I wanted to be a real kayaker too, so I went for the T16.
I am a large paddler 5'10 and 223 lbs., former college athlete, but at the tender age of 65, I had some doubts about balancing one of these sit ins without outriggers. I have the outrigger and fishing package, and now have had the opportunity to use both. I practiced in my pool here in Jupiter, FL to get the feel for the boat. The initial stability surprised me! Next I taught myself to do a wet entry with a paddle float after intentionally dumping the boat. No problems exiting the cockpit in a roll and with Mike's rescue paddle slot, I soon mastered the re-entry.
Today, I did my first sea trial without the outriggers, in the intracoastal waterway, its very wide and beautiful green water from the proximity of the inlet. Lots of boat traffic in the channel provided lots of wake practice. Secondary stability seemed even better than my wide sit on tops. I never felt out of control regardless of my tack angle in the wakes as they rolled into the shallows. Even did a little wake surfing, and had a very nice 5 mile paddle. I can't wait to get this boat to the keys for touring, fishing and diving. I have to thank Mike for giving me an entire new venue to pursue. My only negative thought on the boat concerns the seat acting as a giant sponge if you roll the boat, but it is the first seat that has allowed me to paddle in comfort with no numbness, sciatica, or leg pain. I have to give Enlightened a big thumbs up.Every boat design attempts to answer a question. And since there are many different questions to be answered, there are many different boat designs. While no one boat can do it all, the T-16 has certainly met my paddling needs and exceeded my expectations. In this review I am going to tell you not only how wonderful this boat is, but also all the problems that I had with the T-16 and how I resolved them. But before I get into the details, I would like to briefly share my background and paddling goals.
I am a 60- year-old physical therapist, 5 ft. 7 in., a fit 200 lbs. and built like a fire plug, I have canoed in the Adirondacks, near where I live in the St. Lawrence Valley, for the last (12) years and kayaked for the last (7) years. I rate myself as an intermediate flat water canoe and kayak paddler. Before I got into paddling because my knees had become “tired” from overuse, I had
spent (25) years in the West as a technical rock, snow and ice climber; high mountain backpacker and telemark skier. During the paddling season I am on the water every weekend, and also do a couple of multi-day trips. Often I kayak alone, as my wife and other paddling companions are far saner as regards the weather appropriate for boating.
My paddling goal, as I near retirement in the North Country, is to continue doing pretty much what I am doing now, but more frequently and with greater technical proficiency. I kayak mostly on large Adirondack lakes from late April (depending on ice out) to mid December (depending on when the last water freezes over). My favorite spot is Cranberry Lake, the third largest lake in the Adirondacks. It is 7,040 acres in size, with 55 miles of shoreline. Cranberry Lake is certainly not the North Atlantic, but with a maximum depth of only 38 feet and with 10 miles of fetch, when the frequent NW winds get up over 20 miles per hour, the confused waters can sure rattle your fillings! In early May, and then again late October I paddle in the Canadian Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River where the river opens up into Lake Ontario. Other kayaks I that have owned have included a rotomolded Perception Eclipse and a Current Designs Storm. In addition to the T-16, I currently own a rotomolded Prijon Kodiak - you never know when you might plan a trip that would require dragging a loaded boat across lots of rocks. Early this spring I added a fiberglass QCC-700 to the fleet – fantasies of going fast on long trips with lots of gear. While I like both of my other boats, I tend to spend the bulk of my seat time in the T-16.
I began paddling the T-16 14 months ago in May of 2006. For its relatively short length of 16 feet the T-16, like other John Winters designs, is a fast boat. It is a semi-hard chine boat that edges and turns well, with good initial and great secondary stability. Easily loaded, the bow and stern compartments provide plenty of dry storage for week long trips. At 6 months and again at 12 months I had to re-caulk where the rudder cables enter the boat, other than that there have been no water problems in either bow or stern compartments.
Though seldom needed, the Kajak-Sport Navigator rudder has performed well; however, the rudder housing appears “flimsy” looking in a space age plastic sort of way. The reliability of the Kajak-Sport pivoting rudder pedals proved to be quite another matter. These large, foot-shaped, gas-pedal type rudder pedals had a poor angle of throw, and were crudely constructed of plywood. At 2 months one of the connectors that hold the pedals to the rail bracket failed. Mike Steines, owner of Enlightened Kayaks and always a delight to deal with, immediately replaced the pedal.
Over the winter, I retro-fitted a set of Sea Dog pivoting rudder control foot braces. Unfortunately I ended up being a beta test site for the Sea Dogs system’s teething troubles, and without the above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty interventions of Chuck Leinweber of Duckworks Boat Builders with the manufacturer, I would probably still not have a rudder system I could trust. There was one final issue with the rudder system. To allow for rudder cable tension adjustment, a piece of nylon cord connects to the rudder pedal and engages with a plastic cleat that is connected to the rudder cable. The cleat did not provide a secure connection; wrapping duct tape around the cleat proved to be the solution to that problem.
The T-16 is 24 inches wide with a commodious cockpit. Even with my full figure, I ended up needing hip pads and other minicell foam outfitting to achieve a more positive contact with the boat. The cockpit coaming and the thigh braces are made of a light material that flexes easily. While these same components are used on several other manufactures’ boats, they do not inspire confidence. I would recommend taking particular care when securing the T-16 to a vehicle if
using tie town straps over the coaming. The back band was comfortable. My only issue was the lack of a way to keep the back of the back band from twisting. Solved the twisting problem by gluing a minicell foam block to the floor of the boat, running a bungee cord loop through the block and then with more bungee cord, securing the back band to the loop. That Comfort Max seat was sure comfortable, at least until the day in June of 2006 on a week long kayak camping trip on the St. Lawrence River, when a breaking wave landed in my lap and thoroughly soaked the open cell foam inside the seat cover. Think of a large, very wet sponge trying to support your butt - not a pretty picture. After that experience, I kept the original seat cover, and made a very comfortable seat out of 1 inch minicell foam base with a Seal Line Touring Seat velcroed to the top the minicell. A Seal Line Kayak Support Cushion, velcroed to the floor of the boat to prevent a yard sale in the event of a wet exit, completed my seating system. Since Seal Line stopped making the Touring Seat in 2004 it may no longer be readily available. If you can’t find a Seal Line Touring Seat, try using a Seal Line Discovery Seat Cushion velcroed to a 2 inch minicell base.
The quality of my T-16’s exterior finish does not please the eye. It appears as if the people doing
the thermoforming for Enlightened kayaks are in the process of mastering their craft. If Mike Steines can improve the exterior finish of the T-16, he will have manufactured a boat that looks as good as it paddles.The Enlightened Kayaks T-16 replaced my Old Town Adventure 139, a solid boat I put hundreds of miles on. I was looking for a reasonably priced boat that was faster, lighter, and more comfortable than the 139 that could still handle my 6'2", 215 lb frame and size 11 shoes. T-16 is designed by naval architect John Winters, and it shows. It's water line is longer than many 17' boats, so it cruises significantly faster than the 139, is plenty stable, and tracks and steers very well. The cockpit is quite roomy with a lot of adjustment, and the thigh pads and simple, very comfortable seat finish it out nicely. I've not rolled the boat yet, so can't say how dry the hatches are, but they are fully gasketed and cinched tightly down, so I suspect they stay dry. The plastic hull holds it's shape well in the water and is very rigid. At only 49 lbs., it is 7 lbs. lighter than the 139, despite being 27" longer. Unfortunately, I can't rate it's finish work as highly. The hull and deck have a number of minor waves and blemishes that give it an unrefined look up close compared to the 139. The hull/deck joint is similarly uneven, albiet sealed. Standing back, however, it's gloss looks impressive, and it's lines are very nice. Mike at EK told me these irregularities are par for the T-16, a result of his less expensive molding process.
In summary, if you are willing to sacrifice a little cosmetic refinement, this boat is hard to beat at any price.Before purchasing this boat, I was using two SOT’s to fulfill my two primary kayaking missions: fishing and exploration day trips. I had been looking for a new fishing kayak and if it had not been for Paddling.net and their T16.0 contest, I probably would have bought either a Malibu Kayak X-Factor or a WS Tarpon 14. However, after reviewing the Enlightened Kayaks website, corresponding directly with Enlightened Kayaks and after acknowledging that this kayak offers the ultimate in flexibility, I took the plunge and ordered one. The T16.0 I purchased included the outriggers, the fishing kit, thigh braces, and the pivoting foot pedals. I’ve been kayaking over three years on oceans and marshes with winds up to 25 knots and have never seen a need for a rudder so I felt this was unnecessary. I’m 5’ 11” and weigh about 210 pounds.
The big day arrived when the kayak arrived in a huge box. I was immediately impressed with the quality of the main boat. The thermoform plastic results in a gloss finish that looks great. Enlightened Kayaks boasts a 49 lb basic weight and while I didn’t get out the scales it was clearly a noticeable difference from my couple of 60-65 lb SOT’s. During my initial walk around of the boat, I was not as impressed with the outrigger assembly, which is comprised of two pontoons connected together with three outer tubes and two inner splicing tubes. The tube cuts on the original assembly were poorly aligned and the push pin holes were elongated resulting in a sloppy / loose feel. To Enlightened Kayaks credit, I made note of this to them and they immediately sent out a replacement tube assembly that met my expectations.
My boat arrived just before I was leaving on a trip and wanted to take the kayak for a paddle before departing so despite some rather foul weather, I took the new boat out to try out the various “options”. First launch was with the outriggers in place and sitting in the cockpit. As advertised, the stability with the outriggers is outstanding. Even with the outriggers on, this kayak gets up to speed quickly and is fast. The next attempt was using the SOT seat and sitting on deck behind the cockpit. This mode is the “fishing” mode with the ability to sit high or stand for casting. The wind was extremely strong and I found in this configuration the bow of the boat was riding out of the water and acting like a weather vane. I literally could not get the boat to change direction and broad sweeps of the paddle could not be used because of the outriggers. I ultimately had to climb in the cockpit to regain control. In these kinds of conditions, my conclusion is that ballast in the bow is required. Since this initial run, I’ve found that a 2.5 gallon container of water works great in the forward hatch and I’ve not had control problems since. The final run of the day was with the outriggers off and sitting back in the cockpit. I was immediately impressed with how stable this boat is even without the outriggers. Its large cockpit allowed me to straddle the boat and then plop down in the seat. Then I brought in one leg at a time without even coming close to tipping. While this is not a conventional way to get in it works great here in Savannah where most of my launches are from concrete ramps so being able to saddle up in 1-2 ft water is great. Again the boat accelerated nicely, tracking was a breeze even with the wind and current. After my trip I made another short run in the T16.0 with the outriggers in place and sitting in the cockpit. This trip was to try out a new sail. The T16.0 and sail combination work great with no issues.
Feeling comfortable with the boat, I then decided to try a trip of 17.5 miles. This was the first chance to get a real sense of speed of the boat. I was able to average 4.4 mph in this boat (this was going with and then against the current). A similar trip in my WS Freedom would not likely exceed 3.5 mph average at best so it was a noticeable speed difference. I did not stop to get out throughout this trip and found as advertised the seat in the T16.0 to be outstanding. I did not have any back ache or other problems which a trip of this length would normally entail for me with the SOTs. I felt so good after this trip I went out the next day and completed another 7.5 miles on rough water. I’ve installed a GPS on the forward deck to track my speed and every time I take the boat out I am amazed at how fast the boat moves.
As noted above, I originally bought this kayak for fishing. I’ve had the opportunity to go fishing four times now and the configuration works great. The ability to sit on the back deck just aft of the cockpit works perfect for fishing (now that I use my 2.5 gallon water ballast). My water bottles, cooler, tackle box and other stuff all fit nicely in the forward portion of the cockpit and are easily accessible. For fishing I remove the main seat and use a different SOT seat which was provided as part of the fishing package. While sitting on the rear deck, the rear hatch is also accessible. I’ve found a good place for the stringer, holding all those fish of course, is around the outrigger tubing and an aft perimeter line. It took a little while to get used to standing but now that I’ve done it a few times it’s not so bad.
The T16.0 truly has delivered the flexibility I was looking for in a kayak. The fact that it’s a great looking boat, built tough, has great speed, and well thought out features doesn’t hurt either.Enlightened Kayaks has a very attractive entry in the 16 foot touring category. Made from Duralight, looking like a finely finished fiberglass craft, this sleek touring boat turns heads. The "fit and finish" are exceptional. Initial stability is good, secondary is excellent. I am 6'4" 205 lbs and find the craft more than adequate for my tall frame. The foot pedals that are for stability and also control steering for the optional rudder system have slots that would accommodate a person even taller than me. Size 12 feet are also not a problem on the pedals or inside. Storage is plentiful (and very dry) in latched forward and aft compartments. The seat is NASA-style foam that conforms to your anatomy which you will find more than comfy, and the seatback is highly adjustable. The deck rigging is well thought out and plentiful fore and aft. I have several yaks and use this one on inland lakes and rivers (Cuyahoga) and look forward to some trips on Lake Erie when the weather kicks up. It is responsive, quick and easy to maneuver. My skill level is not expert, but I am beyond a beginner.
The boat is capable of adding an outrigger system, which I do not have, but can see how it would not only fit perfectly into the deck design but would also be fun.
After having looked at just about all the available entries in the 16' touring category I chose Enlightened and am delighted that i did! The company owner, Mike, is extremely helpful and a true Gentleman. Look around as I did, then buy Enlightened.
For Northeastern Ohio buyers you can pick up your craft 45 minutes east of Cleveland at the manufacturing location. Oh yes, you can't beat the price of this fine craft!