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I found the cockpit to be slightly on the large size with a high foredeck, I'm 6ft skinny, a lower volume version will be available and I look forward to seeing that.
The hatches are valley rubber, front is a round and the rear is slightly oval and large, I could get my Eckla trolley in the stern without taking it apart, I'm a fan of the simpler two hatch design. a little extra thought could have gone into the placement of RDFs on the rear deck as there is nowhere to park a split paddle.
There is a carbon stiffening rod that runs the centre section through both bulkheads, this makes it very hard to seal the bulkheads and my front bulkhead leaks water from the cockpit into the front compartment, NS/Valley say the kayaks are air tested, but as this is the third kayak I've had from them with leaks on the bulkheads/hatch rims/cockpit coaming, I don't believe them. If you're buying a valley/NS boat have it double checked before laying out cash. Apart from this the quality seems pretty good.
Overall very impressed...
Construction: single layer polyethylene roto molded plastic, twin wall poly bulkheads (x2), hull stiffening composite keelson (runs bulkhead to bulkhead)
Features: Full perimeter deck lines, fore/aft deck bungees, fore/aft rescue toggles, VCP 10" Round Front Hatch, VCP Club Oval Hatch Aft, cable push VCP Skeg, cockpit rim mounted thigh braces, Werner Footbraces, independent floating full back band, fore/aft twin wall poly bulkheads, composite keelson.
Fit: Sitting into the kayak on the floor entry in was ample enough for my 33" inseam legs to not make contact with the front coaming. Side to side fit with the OE seat pads was comfortable enough for my 33" waist where I did not feel that I would need additional padding to ensure good contact with the sides of the seat. Unbuckling the seat shims would give me an additional .75" of room side to side. I'm not sure what that would equate to in waist size. The Werner foot pegs are simple enough and a well known rail system which felt right in this kayak. The thigh braces are a molded plastic form on either side of the cockpit rim. A small slot allows for some adjustment (perhaps 1" fore/aft) of the position of the brace. There appears to be enough plastic to allow for elongation of the slot for greater range of adjustability. For my size I would have brought the thigh braces back closer for comfort where as my 5'2" wife hopped in and contact was perfect. Everyone is built different. The North Shore Standard Seat is installed on this with a taller back band on a velcro adjustment strap that is easiest to modify from out of the cockpit. This is simple and effective. One noticeable construction difference is the use of a carbon/fiberglass keelson running form the front bulkhead to the aft bulkhead. I'm familiar with this from a Necky Kevlar Thasis from years ago which was a glassed in wood dowel. Definitely reduces flex in the length of the kayak.
On Water Feel: Wonderful! Ok more detail; For a compact sea kayak this did not feel like a balloon around me like some popular 14' day tourers which is why I'm applying the term Compact Sea Kayak. The stability range felt much more like the longer fiberglass North Shore Atlantic. Predictably forgiving high up on edge. From the amount of rocker in the bow/stern profile heeling the kayak over resulted in effortless skidding turns to the point of where a bow rudder seemed unnecessary to get a sharper turn. My wife commented that on a skidding turn the kayak would turn 180 degrees within its length. On an even heel tracking was straight ahead and at quite good speed and glide for a relatively short kayak.
Terms to describe the on-water character of this kayak would be well mannered, playful, comfortable, rugged and above all Fun!
Pricing: $1350 skeg version standard. Stern fittings for rudder installed but no rudder option is available at this time.
If you are looking into the typical Day Touring length kayak you need to put the North Shore Aspect on your Must Paddle list before buying and consider stepping up what to expect in performance from a 14'9" kayak.
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