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Load Capacity and Cockpit:
Through grad school, where I studied fish in river systems, I carried a lot of heavy expensive gear in swamps, ponds, big rivers (Lower Arkansas River), and small creeks. The large open cockpit is great for managing equipment, notebooks, lunch, etc without having to get out and shuffle things. From the seat, you can reach all the way forward and aft to the bulkheads.
For fishing, the same thing goes. There's plenty of space to put things and still access them. I can have several open tackle boxes plus lunch, water, and a camera easily accessible between my knees.
I've taken a couple several-day floats in my Voyager. It can hold more gear than you would actually want to load it down with. It has near the gear capacity of a small canoe, but doesn't have the maneuverability or stability to paddle with 100 lbs of gear. That said, it keeps its stability for extended float trips quite well, and could still handle Class II rapids when I packed it right.
The seat is pretty comfortable for an extended sit. I don't have much padding on my tailbone, so an additional thin pad or inflatable cushion goes a long way. With the footpegs in the most comfortable position, my knees are against the ridges of the gunwale and cockpit edges. This gets a bit sore after a long day, especially in conditions where I brace a lot. A foam pool noodle split open and tucked along the cockpit edge helps, and there's room inside to place hip and knee braces.
In open water, it does tend to weathercock a bit. You won't want to paddle across a big lake without some kind of rudder. Without wind, though, it tracks very straight in most conditions. The moderate keel and moderate rocker together will cause you to turn a couple degrees per stroke during straight line paddling. When turning, I can typically turn about 90 - 100 degrees for each strong sweep stroke with a good lean. For comparison, a sea kayak would take several strokes to do 90 while a creek or play boat would turn 180 - 270 with a single stroke. In flat current (i.e., moderate - fast with no whitewater), its handling peaks. There's nothing more enjoyable than paddling this thing down a smooth, swift river.
I've had this in relatively tight Class III without swamping. I've done 3' to 4' drops easily, but you have to lean way back. It eddies out surprisingly easily. If you're prepared for the eddyline and get the bow in quickly enough, you can do a full 180 degree eddy out in a pretty small space. Peelouts are a lot harder, so I generally orient myself downstream before getting back into the action. While it doesn't spin, roll, hydraulic, or do any play moves, it surfs like a champ. Because it doesn't 180 easily, I like to run a wave, eddy out, and then paddle back upstream into it. Once you get the bow into a foam pile, it does most of the work for you and pulls you right into position and surfs itself. This boat punches straight through haystacks and standing waves rather than riding up and over them. You will get wet. When this boat gets sideways in a rapid, you will probably swim. Be smart, use airbags, and find one of the few spray skirts that fits. IT'S NOT A WHITEWATER BOAT.
All in all, it's a great boat that has done everything I've asked and surprised me with what it's capable of. Take care of the hull, as it will oil can if you leave it sitting upright on the ground or rack it upright. It's not inherently weak, but it is keeled just deeply enough to bend.
The Voyager really fit the bill. No too big and not too small. Easy to lift and move around. It tracks pretty darn good too! Lotís of legroom and space for storage. Awesome HUGE cockpit opening. Comfy adjustable seat. Well made and should last for a long time. The Voyager seems to be a boat that a kayaker can grow into. Stable and forgiving for a newbie and advanced enough for an experienced boater. I plan on keeping mine for a long time and eventually modifying it for fishing. Way to go, Old Town.
It's a factory 2nd and the flaw is where they cut the edges of the cockpit but the molding almost covers up the flaw. The Voyager handles my weight very well, and takes a little getting used too for me as the Voyager "feels" very tippy compared to the Otters - but you can tip and recover easily. Where on the Otters they don't tip very easily, but when they do they don't recover usually. On one outing I paddled across Great Moose Pond in Maine from our camp to a relativeís camp. Per http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ it was 2.5 miles round trip. There was white caps that broke over the kayak going there and coming back with the wind and against the wind. Looking back, for my skill level, I should not have been out on the water in that weather - but it was my first weekend with the kayaks (I bought a Twin-Otter too) and I didn't want to stay off the water.
The kayak handled very well in the waves and wind. Once I got used to the feel of the kayak and the way it handles the feeling of it being tippy went away as I learned to trust the kayak. I'm rating it as an eight out of ten because it took a little getting used to before I felt comfortable in it but I will admit that the uncomfortable feeling is because I am used to wider, flat bottom canoes and kayaks than this model. Other than that, it is a very good kayak and handles a large person like myself very well.
I previously owned an Old Town Pathfinder canoe and find the kayak much easier to keep on course. Being of single layer polyethylene construction they are relatively light at 45 lbs. making them easy to load and port. However, SLP is the least stiff of the kayak and canoe materials and will deform if stored or transported incorrectly. Ours have been mis-shapen but have come back into shape over time.
Also of note is that we had to return one of our kayaks due to the top front of the boat being thin and unable to hold its shape, especially when it got hot in the sun - apparently a manufacturing issue. The other kayak was fine. We exchanged the kayak the next day without any problem.
These kayaks have been a blast and I highly recommend the Voyager. We wanted entry level kayaks and for the money ($379 ea.) we couldn't be happier.
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