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I like to keep a small cooler between my feet for snacks, but the boat narrows so much, it is impossible to fit the smallest lunch bag down there. You have to put it in the hatch, which is difficult to get to moving, or have it under your knees.
If you add a half skirt for a cupholder , you can't step onto the boat without removing the skirt first or stepping into the seat and twist yourself around to get in (not desirable if you have sandy feet, then a sandy seat). I did not notice any benefit to having the skeg and I was last in the pack though I was paddling the whole way. Either of my other two boats would have been quicker.
I returned the boat. Though the store manager grumbled when he found out his clerk promised me it was returnable when I bough it, he took it back. I will look for another Pungo as it tracks much better, even without the skeg, and has the space at the foot area I prefer.
Now, I do have a friend who loved it so much he went out and bought one, but he's used to Otters. So, I guess it depends upon what your used to and what you're expectations are.
If you are going upstream or into a current, it plows terribly. It's slow, no glide, and even w/the skeg the boat doesn’t track as well as it could. If you are going to spend $400 to $600 on a boat, you’re better off getting a used Wilderness Systems boat. You can’t go wrong w/the recreational boats. I have a Pungo 120 and a Tsunami 140, and believe that both are a good value for the price.
Try the boat first whatever you do, and talk to someone knowledgeable about kayaks (not the staff at Dick's or any other department store)!!
As others have said, the skeg needs a little bushing out, but if you are mechanically inclined enough to remove a bolt and add a couple of plastic washers, this is no big deal.
I ran the South Fork of the New River on Saturday and I love the boat. I don't have any seat time in rec boats to compare it to (other than a Keowee 2) but I thought it tracked well without the skeg, and even better with it down. I thought it was responsive, considering it's length and almost no rocker. Plenty of room to squeeze a soft cooler between my knees, I'm, 5-10, 175#.
The boat is stable enough for me to surf a class I while your legs are out sunning on the deck. The dry hatch leaks if you roll the boat. It didn't come off, but it allowed a couple of inches in there after rolling twice in a class II. I'm working on fix for that though.
I was going to get an Old Town Dirigo, but it was 130$ more. I think it's great boat for the price of 499$
What don't I like - at 6'0, 205 lbs I am pushing the upper size limit on this boat. The Montour has moved on to be my wife's boat and it rides much better in the water at her weight than mine. That said, the cockpit fit me pretty well with little adjustment - again compared to other rec boats I was able to "lock in" much more. One really annoying trait made worse by riding low to the water is the bow wake and general noisiness of the hull. This is not the boat if you dream of silently sneaking up on wildlife, at least not if you plan on doing that with much speed. I also wish the seatback was lower or it was easier to swap out for a backband. Carefully consider your PFD and how it interacts with the seatback. This is a real problem for my wife with her shorter stature.
I've paddled the Montour up and down my local lake, on rivers with Class I and II rapids, through salt marshes, inlets off the Chesapeake Bay and very briefly past the entrance to Murrell's Inlet into the Atlantic - okay, this was inappropriate. The Montour allowed me to experience all of those things, taught me a lot and made me much better prepared for my next boat purchase. Not bad for $349.
I've always been comforable in this kayak, and it handles well in all conditions with good primary and excellent secondary stability and fantastic maneuverability. I've had it out on 3 foot waves in Duluth Harbor without a problem, and it actually surfs quite well, with just enough speed to catch up to waves.
The only downside is listening to the gurgling sound off the bow when you are at cruising speed ~4-5knots. Sometimes it is soothing, but it can also scare wildlife away before you have a chance to see it. It does go away at lower speeds though.
The skeg is a very nice touch, and it helps the boat to track very well considering its short length.
I have also noticed slight bows in the hull where the seat is mounted to the hull. Haven't look to see what is causing the bow, but it doesn't affect how the kayak runs. Other than that skeg fix it has been a really good kayak. Great looks. The weight is good too. Easy to carry around. I am 5'11', 180 lbs and find no problems with the fit of the Montour. I most run small rivers and calm lakes.
Since I was favoring a responsive boat, I decided to buy the Montour 12.0 from Dick's, and give it a try on a pond (they advised their return policy was liberal, so I could "try" it and return it if it didn't fit my needs. Red/Orange/Yellow fade is the only color available for the 12.0.
I have been very satisfied with my purchase. In my opinion, this boat is an improved version of the Dagger Blackwater. The nose of the Montour is turned up slightly more, which reduces the "submarining" effect I noticed on the Blackwaters. Other than this, the Montour dimensions, features, and handling are nearly identical to the Blackwater.
I've enjoyed the maneuverability on my local river, and the slight rocker allows me to hop over the occasional log. The skeg helps moderately for the straight flatwater stretches, but I seem to forget about it most of the time.
I would suggest taking a look at this kayak, if you're considering anything similar to a Blackwater. As I indicated, you will have a hard time finding information on it, since it is made exclusively for Dick's Sporting Goods. The price & features fit my needs well.
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