I recently purchased a new Dagger Alchemy 14.0L. This boat is made from roto-molded polyethylene and weighs in at 53lbs. This boat brings my fleet of paddle craft to 8 including two canoes, to plastic recreational kayaks, two plastic 14' transitional touring kayaks and two hand built cedar strip sea kayaks with another strip boat under construction.
I had wanted a plastic transitional touring kayak to fill the void between the slow and fat recreational kayaks that my family uses for bumping down rocky class I streams in Georgia and the high end cedar strip sea kayaks that I have built over the past few years. I wanted a kayak capable of up to class II river use where rocky shoals are common but also for bigger, slower rivers where reasonable speed is needed but also to be able to do some coastal day touring where crossing bays would be encountered.
I sat in about every 14' boat made including offerings from Wilderness Systems, Perception, Necky and others and then found the Dagger Alchemy 14 on the Dagger site. The description and reviews on Paddling.net made it sound like the boat I needed to try. However, I was not able to find a dealer within a 250 mile radius of Atlanta who had one I could sit in or paddle. So, after about a month of continuing to pour over the specs and reviews, I decided to order one, having never touched one. Not recommended and I broke my own rules on this one...
I picked up the Dagger Alchemy 14.0L Friday night and paddled it for a couple of hours Saturday morning. I paddled on the Chattahoochee River from just below Roswell Road up river to the shoals at Island Ford (about 2 1/2 miles) against a moderate current (estimated about 2+mph). It took about an hour and 15 minutes to get there and about 30 minutes to come back paddling easy.... Quite a workout.
So, what did I think about the boat??? I liked it a lot. It's a fairly loose tracking boat but can be paddled on a straight course without the skeg down if you are paying reasonable attention. If you stop paddling, it will broach fairly quickly without the skeg down but that's true of most boats and not a problem. With the skeg down, it tracks relatively true when you stop paddling. It turns easily with paddle strokes and if you lean it a bit, turns quickly.
I'm 5'11", 165lb and size 12 feet. I found the cockpit roomy enough that my feet were comfortable (wearing booties, not water sandal) and I could easily pull knees up through the coaming for a stretch or to exit. The seat is nice and comfortable with an adjustable backband and adjustable thigh support. It's not a recreational seat with a high back but a seat with a low back band so you could execute layback rolls (assuming the paddler has the skill). The seat bottom has an adjustable thigh support that I found quite comfortable. I could easily adjust the backband, the thigh support and foot pegs to "lock-in" the boat if needed by paddling conditions.
When you deploy the skeg, you immediately notice a slight bit of drag and the skeg tends to bang a bit against the sides of the skeg box as you paddle and put pressure on alternating sides of it. I found the loose fit of the skeg a bit annoying but if I had a tail wind or was paddling in following seas where the tracking was really needed, I could easily ignore the sound as a reasonable trade off for being able to stay on course... The skeg deployment "slider" worked very smoothly.
I found the primary stability to be excellent so a novice could easily paddle this boat and grow into it's capabilities. It makes leaned turns easily and comes up to speed quickly, has lots of storage and is comfortable. All in all, I think I'll be quite happy with it...One might wonder why Confluence would position a "touring kayak" within its moving water brand. One would only need to paddle the Alchemy. This paddler is a short-legged 5'10" with size 11 feet. I went with the larger model because of my "bike rider" thighs. I paddle 2-3 times a week, open and white water.
The search was for a mid-range boat with some performance and versatility. The significant rocker of the Alchemy (somewhat unusual in a 14-footer) caught my eye and turned out to be the decisive factor.
The hull is of reasonably good quality, with decent rigging and grab loops. I'm not a big fan of pop-on hatches, but don't see them as a major drawback. The skeg control is well recessed and functions reasonably well. When you want help going straight, it makes itself known.
Overall, the outfitting is above average. The seat is comfortable and the backband permits laying back. I favor this over a chair back seat that impedes torso rotation. With the performance this boat is capable of, I'd have preferred a ratcheted backband or something more easily adjustable from the cockpit. The thigh braces will satisfy most paddlers. But, anyone who wants to throw this around will want to engineer something more aggressive. The footpegs are easily adjustable, but I have some reservations about the durability. Nothing has broken, but I like something more substantial to kick at.
I believe they missed the boat with the stiffener that runs along the keel. They could've incorporated a bottle holder there. This is a boat you'll want to take into bumpy stuff and you won't enjoy your bottle rolling around.
This boat invites you to dive into the foam and have a ball doing it. The rocker provides ample spinnability, but lay it over on an edge and you've really got something going. Decent speed, predictable stability, unreal maneuverability and rolls like a log. Have a blast in the surf zone, rock garden or on a moderately fast moving river.
This boat is hard to classify. It paddles something like a long "crossover" kayak with harder edge. If I was going long and strong with a load, I'd take a different boat. But, if you want a fun rough water craft without busting up some expensive composite or the credit card limit, I'd slide in here.