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I have only been out a handful of times with it and is hands down superior to any that I have rented or borrowed, I can not recall most or them pelican and a castaway are a couple that I have been on. I also have played a little in the choppy surf on the Texas coast and is plenty stable. Fishing and messing around in the bay have been its primary uses. There is abundant storage both internal and in the HUGE aft well. With out a doubt I would not hesitate to recommend this kayak to anyone if they were still available.
The only reason for not ranking it a 10 is that I do not believe that there is anything that is perfect.
It's heavy and long (13' and 60 lbs) so if you had to lift it onto a vehicle, you may need 2 people. I keep it on my dock and slide it into the water and then pull it out when finished by myself, so transport wasn't a concern when buying it.
What I like about the Search is the Comfort Seating System, deep well in the back with bungees, side storage pockets, paddle holder bungee, and the molded cup holder. I've taken the deep well bungee off and carried a child back there and the yak was still stable. I've also had my large Shepherd aboard and there were no issues. I've never used the hatch - its way too far to reach and awkward. The hatch placement is the only reason I haven't given this yak a score of 10.
I mainly use the Search for snorkeling and cruising up and down the south coast on the island of Roatan, where I live. I'd highly recommend it.
The comments about initial stability are, in a word, wrong. It is not as stable as say an Ultimate 14 but definitely a stable boat. I sold my Search after 3 years of hard usage and regretted doing that so this year, I found a new leftover Search 13 at the insane price of $550 out the door. I bought it and am overjoyed with it ...again! Unless there are major changes in the newer kayaks, this one will be my keeper for life.
I am a long legged 225# dude and this boat, unlike others in it's class, fits me well. I did take off the foot pegs since I had them at the very end of the rails anyhow... other than that the boat is a great fit and I LOVE it!
The reason I'm not giving it a 10 is the carrying handles. They are on elastic bands which in nice, as they retract, but the handles are slick plastic and uncomfortable; I can't carry it too far before I have to put it down and re-arrange my grip. I plan to change them out for bigger rubber handles. Other than that, I am really happy I bought the Search 13.
Downside, the good tracking means it is harder to turn. And the rear tankwell takes on water routinely, so anything in back is subject to soaking. A little extra height there would have been good. I'm 5'10", 220#, and the legroom is excellent and the ride is only a little wet.
A really nice ride that, for some reason, seems to be a bit of a secret.
The only draw back for me is it is a bit cumbersome to load. It's not all that heavy, but seems awkward to handle -- but a snap with two people.
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