I paddled a lot of boats before selecting this one... We are now a three kayak family... I have a CD Expedition which is a great boat for expeditions where you want speed and unbelievable capacity.... My other boats is a CD Storm, which is a great beginner boat although the rudder system leaves something to be desired... now for the boat to be reviewed... I love it... great in surf, turns on a dime, accelerates quickly and is almost as comfortable as my Expedition. I don't think the quality is as good as my Expedition... just doesn't have that perfect finish that CD has... It's light, given it's Kevlar, and is my boat of choice in waves and day trips (or even shorter multi-day trips...)
The skeg has a design problem... if it gets stuck (which it will do), it is very easy to kink the cable and then it never really works right after you straighten it out... I have noticed that Valley kayaks are now using some sort of solid steel cable that doesn't seem as likely to malfunction.... Dagger needs to look into this... If you can afford the Kevlar, do it... the boat in Kevlar is so light it is amazing...Pros: cockpit felt like it was made for me(5'10",200). Longer seat for excellent thigh support, contoured thigh braces and the always desired Rapid Pulse (formerly PD Designs) backband (if its gotta a back REST, sink it!). Nice finish. The secondary stability was so good, on a static brace I closed my eyes and damn near took a nap for 10 minutes until a Coast Guard helicopter curiously appeared overhead! But then my friend in his Romany was doing the same...Incredibly manueverable, but then again it is only 16'. Easy to pack, (mine had no skeg)Fairly light.
Cons: Deck height contributed to major knuckle dusting too often. A lot more work in a following, quartering, or beam sea than a Romany due to the flattenning of the hull between the hatch areas, where the Romany tracks great with the shallow v hull. Small scratches show fiberglass early, whereas the Romany will take deep scratches, then can be sanded out, and wet sanded until the hull looks new again.( of course you'll have 10 yrs. of sanding to do before the Romany gets down to the original weight of the Meridian. Life's a trade-off). Leaky hatches. Just accept it. Kayak Sport is not VCP. (why does'nt everyone go to fore and aft VCP ovals like Nigel Foster's Silhouette,etc?) Hardware from semi-recess deckfittings are exposed, waiting for unsuspecting drybags, etc. Bulkheads are to weak to mount a foot pump on. Broke plastic footbrace on first day of 5 day surf trip in Florida. Spent the rest of trip with foam packed against weak bulkhead. Bummer. Agree with other reviewer!
re; cheesy rudder-skeg thing on Sitka and Lattitude. I thought it made so much sense to do the boat in a 17ft edition, but how can you take it seriously with that little gimmick of a stern. If you can't fit into a Romany, or simply don't want to deal with the weight, get your Meridian with a skeg.I've had my Kevlar Dagger Meridian with skeg for about a year now. I absolutely love it. Although I've paddled many different boats both larger and smaller, I'm happy with my choice. At 6'0 and 165 the boat is the perfect size for me. Initial and secondary stability are perfect, allowing for the boat to handle rough, rolling waves with ease.
At 22 inches in width, this hull may be slim for some, but provides for excellent speed and gives the boat an awesome "snugness" factor, which I personally favor.
As far as tracking goes, with the skeg "enabled" the boat goes dead straight even at a maximum sprint. I am constantly amazed at how effective the skeg is, and plan for my next boat to have one as well. To make minor or major course changes, just pull up the skeg, change course, drop the skeg again, and voila... you're on your new heading. For loooooong trips, the skeg is indispensable and reduces fatigue immensely. I've found myself a few times trying to make slow speed 180 degree turns with much difficulty, only to realize the skeg is down, once you put it up, the Meridian is very easy to turn.
*Sidenote- if the Dagger people are listening* Get rid of that cheesy rudder thingy on the Sitka and other boats, either put a skeg on it, or nothing at all. I avoided buying a Sitka specifically because of it.**
Storage capacity is limited, but if you are in a "REAL" expedition mode, I think you could live out of it for 1 month. There's plenty of room to stock it with essentials, a tent and plenty of freeze dried food. I hope those complaining about storage capacity are not trying to stick the kitchen sink in it. ;) I've also tested the handling of the boat while it is fully loaded. If you'd like to try this at home, just fill both bulkheads half full of water, and paddle it around some. The Meridian handles very well with the added weight, although stability does diminish.
Hmmmmm.... another plus... since it's Kevlar, its a light, stiff, and very durable kayak. As with any boat, there are many personal preferences, so before dropping $2600 on a boat, demo it for at least a full day.
All in all, two thumbs up.