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That said, I think the Manta Ray itself is a fine kayak that performs perfectly, as a kayak. I can maintain 4-5 mph based upon a friends GPS readings for miles at a time in 1-2 foot waves with the wind at my back. Paddling the yak is effortless and it tracks straight. I regularly out distance other kayaks that sail with me.
It's a very stable platform for touring and general usage but you must have extraordinary balance and agility if you are going to attempt stand up fishing with this boat. It's pretty heavy at 77 lbs but it will carry a lot of gear so that's a worthwhile trade off.
The Manta Ray elicits a lot of positive comments whenever it is sitting on my Thule rack. I have been happily delayed from entering the water as I answer the questions invariably asked at launch points. Kudos to Austin Kayak and Canoe for their help in shipping it to my door free of charge and being available for continuing customer service. The small wheel mounted aft helps tremendously when I move the MR by myself. I'd buy another.
This kayak has good glide and is reasonably fast. I can paddle long distances easily. The large rear tankwell hold my tackle bag and still has room for an ice chest or bait bucket. The initial and secondary stability is great and it does well in surf or flat water. My brother mostly uses this boat, but for surf fishing, I grab it when I can.
I used the 14 many times and then early this year I noticed that it seemed heavy in the water only to find 2 cracks under the seat by the not used scuppers (they don't go through to the inside) I was first told by the dealer that I'd get a new one from the factory was happy for that but really didn't want a new boat as I love this one, but the factory said no as I'm not the 1st owner but the second. When I bought it from a dealer I was assured that they have a lifetime guarantee which my new 12 says in the book that came with it so now I'm hoping that the new 12 doesn't break in the same spot. I have patched the 14 three time now with Flex epoxy which was recommended by the dealer that tried to get me a new one and it hasn't worked, it's good for one ride then it peels and leaks, have done the repair as it says in the package and no good.... very upsetting as I do love the boat. So if buying used flip the yak and look at the scuppers under the seat. Other wise they are very good boats as all the others here have stated.
Installing my Hummingbird fish finder was easy with the large front hatch, and the way the dashboard is made, its easy mounting the fishfinder there. The anchor trolly is easy to set up and use. The rodholders are placed well. The boat is very durable, and rides very dry. Great boat for fishing in big water and also loves glass smooth lakes. Can't beat it!
The really nice hull design allows this kayak to turn quickly at slow speeds and track and glide well once you are moving. It's very maneuverable compared to a WS Tarpon 14 or OK Prowler 15, but not as much as a Mad River Synergy. I think it's rated for class III whitewater, but I think you'd need some good whitewater skills before trying to move this large 14 footer through class III rapids or anything that is very technical. I never put thigh straps on mine, but they would help if you planned to do very much whitewater with the Manta Ray.
The boat really likes glassy water and performs admirably with little or no wind (great glide). Once you get in an 8 to 10 mph breeze, it will start to push you around and can become a bit of a hassle needing quite a few correction strokes. Once you get into the 15 to 20 mph winds you have to keep the boat aligned with the wind most of the time. It does really well in 2 to 3 foot waves, but the accompanying wind creates some resistance moving against it. It is definitely not a sea kayak and you'd have a tough time keeping up with long-boaters in rough conditions.
The high sides are part of the problem in the wind, but they do come in handy in whitewater as it's pretty hard for the current to grab the edge and pull it down even when you get up against a strainer. It is a forgiving boat in easy whitewater conditions. The Manta Ray also has a very shallow draft. With about 250 lbs on board, it only needs about 3 to 4 inches of water to avoid scraping. It can handle areas where a Pungo 14 can only dream of going. This also helps make it a great fishing platform. Then you consider the huge tankwell, the numerous areas for rod holders and anchor lines, as well as the little console area for holding small items, it really is a well thought out design for those who want to rig one up as a fishing machine.
The other great thing is the storage capacity of these kayaks. You can load a ton of stuff inside the large front hatch and another ton in the tankwell. It would be a great boat for multi-day camping on the river. The new 2009 model has a few upgrades that I have mixed feeling about. I really liked the old LiquidLogic seat design, but I think the new design may actually be better. I broke a seat in a 2007 model and they seem to have reinforced the hull right under the seat with the 2009 models. The new footpegs are easier to adjust, but the big pad feels mushier than the old, standard footpeg design. Overall I liked the older design better and may remove the big pad from my boat.
I also noticed that the new seat changed my footpeg setting a couple of notches, so someone with very long legs should be good in the Manta Ray. My inseam is 33 inches, so if yours is under about 38 in., I think you will be comfy in the newer design.
The metal hook for the paddle keeper is much better and less likely to dig into your leg or grab at your clothing. This was a needed improvement as it was annoying in the 2007 model.
The recessed cleats on the front hatch and in the tankwell are still a bit of a pain to use. Putting the shock cord back in place in the front requires running the cord up the edge first and then snapping it in. It shouldn't be that difficult.
The scupper plugs come with the new design and are welcome. I generally won't use them, as the ride is dry, but they may come in handy sooner or later. They also removed the seat scuppers. This means that water can't come up into the seat (yay!), but also means that it can't drain from the seat (boo!). Once you get water in the seat, you sit in water the rest of the day. This rarely happens on flatwater, so it isn't a big deal. If you run much whitewater in it, the scuppers would be nice to have.
They are also sanding the raindrop (question mark) LiquidLogic logo off the bow and the hatch covers which just looks a bit weird. The small hatches feel tighter on the new boats and I'll likely use them more often for small items.
Overall the new 2009s are a better design and should be more durable. The weight is still in the 60 to 65 lb range, so this isn't a light boat to lug around. It's a two person carry most of the time, especially if it has any gear in/on it.
This is not a dedicated fishing machine, it's not a cargo hauler, it's not a whitewater boat, and it's definitely not a touring boat, but it can do all of those things to some degree and that's what makes this a really versatile boat.
I have had her out in conditions ranging from glass flat to 2 foot whitecaps. She is a very stable and predictable boat in all conditions. In calm water she is not the fastest or most responsive boat out there but has no trouble cruising at 3+ mph. In light to medium chop she tracks well and has a lot of inertia. In large chop the handling will loosen up a little when she surfs but nothing that some small corrections can't handle. When heading into larger chop she tracks well but has a tendency to pound the waves a bit, so it can be a wet ride.
The primary stability is excellent but loose enough to allow the boat to react to the water. The secondary stability is also excellent. Even without knee straps I can heel her over enough to dip the gunnels in the water.
I bought this boat because I wanted a boat that would accommodate my dog. She is a 60 lb border collie and she rides in the stern tank well. Her presence in the boat barely changes the handling or trim and I am convinced you could load this boat with all the gear you can think of and hardly notice it... I hardly notice 60 lbs of MOVING weight in the stern.
Overall the Manta Ray 14 is an excellent boat for someone looking for a large capacity versatile craft. Due to the size and weight of the boat it may be a bit too much for a smaller lighter paddler both on and off the water.
2nd test: Getting back in after turtling
While the MR14 was upside down in the water, I felt it was a good time to test my ability to get the boat right-side up and clamber inside again. I chose to kick myself up over the hull, reached over to the opposite side, grabbed the handle, and righted the boat by flipping it over toward me. Very easy to do.
Once the boat was right-side up, I put one hand on the gunwale closest to me and one hand on the gunwale furthest from me, kept my COG low, launched myself up over the seat area so that my mid-section was across the seat area, turned my body so my head was aiming toward the stern and my feet were toward the bow, and then twisted so that my butt fell right into the seat in the correct position. Easy enough.
3rd test: Moving forward
After getting back into the boat, I wanted to see how far toward the bow I could scoot without upsetting anything. I hung my legs over the gunwales and scooted forward. I scooted up to the console and judged my balance: no problem. I kept scooting forward up over the little console and sat just behind the forward hatch: no problem. I kept scooting forward and actually sat on top of my forward hatch: no problem. This tells me that I can VERY easily store things in the forward hatch, scoot up to it while on the water, open the forward hatch, and be able to EASILY open the hatch and reach in for whatever is in there.
4th test: Moving backward
Scooted back to the seat and thought I should see how far back toward the stern I could move. I used the gunwales to lift my butt up over the back of the seat and sat on the small rear hatch that's directly behind the seat: no problem. I then kept moving backwards and plunked my rear into the well area where my crate normally goes: no problem.
5th test: Standing in the cockpit
Next, I tested my ability to stand up. This was my first attempt at standing in ANY kayak. No problem. I was able to stand up without any issues. There were 2 other larger adults and 3 small kids in the water...so the water wasn't dead calm...but it wasn't all that rough, either. Needless to say, I wouldn't dare try fishing from this position. It would afford a quick stretch of the legs after long hours on the water or to sight something in the water, but I wouldn't try to paddle or pole from this position. If I practiced standing enough, I could probably get used to it and be able to stand with confidence for longer periods of time or for paddling. I don't think I'd try this in rough water, though!
6th test: Standing on the rear deck
Okay, so this test is a little silly. I had 2 people steady the boat for me as I moved into position and stood up on the small rear deck area immediately behind the seat where the small rear hatch is located and before the boat drops into the rear well area normally reserved for crates. After standing up fully erect, my 2 partners let go of the boat and I was able to stand there. It took a lot more concentration and I didn't do it for very long before jumping into the water...but at least I did it.
I absolutely LOVE this boat, but it is quite heavy. That will turn some people off. I don't mind the weight because I have a proven method for car-topping my kayaks that enables me to forget all about weight issues.
I decided to drop the rating to a 9 due to its weight that might turn off potential buyers. The Manta Ray has one of the MOST comfortable seats I've ever been in. Not quite as good as the Ultimate or Magic seat, but still VERY good. This boat is rock-solid stable, has tons of room, easy to find places to store things, lots of space to mount accessories, and is a VERY dry ride.
If you need a beater boat for fishing, this is probably the one. Huge dry well in back and stable as a rock.
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