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Picked up the Cordova after looking at the AE Expedition and Advanced Frame kayaks. Since I'm a very happy owner of a Spree 1 I thought I would give the Cordova a try instead. I was very impressed with the Spree, especially the high build quality and the Cordova is up to those standards. The Cordova won over the AE Expedition mainly for two reasons. The fact that the deck can be fully removed on the cordova, for those hot lazy day paddles, and the mesh storage bag on the deck. I found the one on the Spree to be so useful, and the AE Expedition looks hard to store water bottles, camera, etc. The bungies are too far forward.
The kayak is 10'10" and presents a more traditional kayak shape than the spree. The inflatable floor is the unique feature of this boat. Rather than the standard, flat I-beam floor, the Cordova's floor is enclosed within the hull, and when fully inflated gives the hull a deep v-shape. The enclosed floor also makes drying the boat easier than the Spree, as water doesn't get between the hull and the floor. It has two adjustable foam and nylon strap footpegs and the seat has adjustable straps buckling it to the side tubes. When softly inflated the kayak has a flat bottom, and more initial stability. Fully inflated it's a bit tippier, but gives more glide and better overall performance. When fully inflating the floor, take care to make sure it's lined up straight in it's shell, or the boat will track hard to the left or right.
The rear storage compartment easily fits a large footpump and a 24-liter drybag. It's not waterproof though. I have an Advanced Elements sprayskirt and it fits well around the inflatable coaming on the Cordova.
One strike against the Cordova so far. The top deck and rear hatch covers are very saggy, and will lay lower than the rest of the hull and pool water. The loose deck also makes the front bungees pretty useless. Can't get enough tension to really hold anything and if you put a water bottle on their it will make the deck sag even more. This is a bit of a trade off for having a fully zip off deck and there are additional d-rings on the tubes to compensate.
I'm 6' and 260 lbs and the boat handles me okay, with just a slight crease in the tube. I don't feel like I'm overloading the boat and I have leg room to spare. Overall a more comfortable ride than the spree but the back support is not as good.
Overall I'm pretty happy with it. Not perfect and I would still say the spree is a better bang for the buck. If you're looking to start with inflatable kayaking it may make more sense to buy two sprees for the same price. I got an amazing deal on this used, so I can't complain, but for the price, you may want to check out the Advanced Elements boats before taking a leap.
It is designed as an expedition touring kayak and tracks very well and certainly hit's that target very well. It is comfortable (I'm 6'1" 210lbs) and has footpeg-like supports at the bow. It has a zippered and bungie covered storage compartment (roughly 10"w x 16"l x 10"deep) at the stern (however this is not sealed and can get wet so recommend placing items in a drybag). The bow spray cover also has a mesh pocket, internal sleeve and bungie cords. This cover is zippered and fully or partially removable (nice for getting in/out with long legs), and encloses to a keyhole size combing. There are also D-Rings along the sides for securing other items.
One nice feature is that the floor chamber gives the craft different properties based on how much inflation you give it. Fully inflated, it is very rigid, and fully fills out the bottom (making it better performance - if a little tippy when sitting still - but otherwise very stable when moving). Softly inflated, and it's very forgiving and stable. Great for someone new or uncomfortable with initial tippiness.
The only negatives I really have is that it is difficult to really get the water completely out of the boat. If you swamp it in white water, it's easy enough to lift and dump water out, but you will need to towel out the water that collects in all the crevasses between the chambers when you are done.
I've scraped bottom, and hit rocks in the rough stuff and the craft barely shows any wear. It seems very ruggedly built.
A Spray skirt isn't yet available from Stearns, but from what I hear, the skirts for the airframe from advanced elements work nicely. This would certainly help with keeping water out in the first place.
All in all, I am very impressed with the B524 for it's adaptability.
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