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This kayak is a good fit for Alaskan waters with the strong tides and weather that comes up fast. I am a photographer so the high primary and secondary stability suit the type of activities that accompany my kayaking. I am also a big guy at 6 ft. 2 in. and size 12 ft. I have no problem fitting into the keyhole cockpit.
The kayak has more than enough water tight storage for 7 day trips (the longest I have been on). The skeg controls the minor weather cocking. The kayak is lively enough and maneuvers easily with its rockered hull but still tracks amazingly well with the skeg partially down. It has surprisingly good speed with minimal effort which I think is important on the longer trips.
I tried the Valley Etain out when I was in Seattle but I couldn't make the adjustment. I had tried the Aquanaut back east and did not mind it. There are so many kayaks out there and I have kayaked a few of them on recommendation or research but I still have the Skerray. There is probably something out there that might be better but I really have no complaints about this kayak except maybe one. It seems most people that buy British boats eventually change the seat configuration if they are doing long hours touring. I had to have my back band changed while I was still in Maine to a more ergonomic padded full seat because of the excruciating back pain that I had experienced. I could not handle the long hours touring in the kayak until I changed the seat. The good thing is there are replacement seats available and it is an easy fix..
The basic specs on the kayak are: Length -17 ft. 8 in.. Width - 24 in.. Weight - 58lbs. Depth - 12.5 in. Cockpit - 28 in. by 16.5 in. The Skerray has two VCP oval hatches and a round VCP day hatch with a total hatch volume of 395 liters. There is a Suuntu compass mounted in front of the bow hatch. The adjustable skeg slide lever is on port side in front of cockpit. The kayak has very clean and simple rigging configuration with all recessed fittings.
This kayak has been a good fit for me. I would realistically say it deserves a nine out of ten.
This is a kayak for big guys. I am not. I am 5 ft. 10 in. and 175 lbs. I fit in the keyhole cockpit with no problems. My size 11 feet have good clearance. I have had this kayak on 3 to 5 day tours on the west coast of British Columbia and Alaska. I have been in duck pond gentle swells and big gnarly seas. This kayak could tell stories about the nasty rough seas encountered while touring outside waters. Not a lot phases the Skerray.
It does not need a big load on to be stable. Both initial and secondary stability are incredible. It is a great surfer and takes it well broadside. It does not corkscrew in a following sea because of the rocker and shallow V hull design.
When I first purchased the kayak I was concerned about the flared Greenland bow and stern catching the wind. It had less wind cocking than my other tour kayaks. You controlled it by adjusting your skeg leaver. The recessed slide leaver in front of the cockpit, is connected to a heavy duty stainless aircraft cable and gives precise adjustment.
The kayak has very good speed. It is also very maneuverable with the skeg up and rolling on edge considering the 17 ft. 8 in. hull & 24 in. beam. The weight is 58 lbs. This is a very strong, well built kayak that has been on the rocks with no damage other than scuffing. The kayak has a Greenland lower stern deck. There is a compass and rope cam cleat on deck.
It has the typical back band you find in other British boats with an ergonomically shaped plastic seat. It is good for aggressive day paddling in the surf and rolling but not something I like to sit in for the long hours we spend on multi-day tours. I need something with upper lumbar support. I have added a piece of PE plastic and a 2 in. thick foam pad up against the combing that still allows me to get the skirt on.
It has the larger oval hatch covers on the bow and stern hatches. The 3rd. stern day hatch is bigger than most. This is ample storage for a British kayak. The hatch system is water tight. There is an under deck storage net in front accessible to the paddler and a small net on deck next to the day hatch.
I had a chance to paddle the roto-mould version of the Skerray and found it a very different kayak than the composite model. It was a good looking kayak but didnít track as well or have near the speed of my kayak. It also sat lower in the water. It was more maneuverable when edging, (could turn on a dime) and a fun boat to play around in. I still wouldn't trade boats.
I have tested a lot of tour boats in the last 20 years. Some are fast, some real good trackers, some very maneuverable and playful, some just good sea boats and so on. The Skerray Excel is a big improvement over my previous tour kayaks. Of all the boats I have owned and tested I have yet to find a tour boat as close to perfect for my style of paddling as the Skerray Excel so it gets a ten.
The first thing I can say about the Skerray was it didn't take me long to figure this boat is a lot more maneuverable than my Quest. I also own a Nordkapp H2O and was expecting a similar feel to this kayak because they are both built similar from that Greenland design. It actually had more initial stability so it didn't take long for me to be relaxed. I got a chance to test the secondary stability as we got into bigger seas and was quite comfortable in the boat. My buddy didn't fair as well in the Quest and took longer to adjust to the kayak.
I did notice I needed the skeg down in a following sea or wind. It is too rockerred to hold a course without it unless I was going into the wind or swell. It wasn't a problem once I learned how much skeg I needed to use. As the other reviewer mentioned the lever is easy to reach in front of the cockpit and easily adjusts to how much skeg you need.
The Seaward Quest is considered a fast kayak but the Skerray had no problem keeping up to it. My buddy had done some work on the back band in the Skerray and I had to fool around a bit to get it right for myself because of the long hours we were spending in the kayaks. Fortunately I came prepared for these problems and had brought some blue foam material with me. By the end of the 2nd day I had the seat dialed in.
My buddy told me the dimensions of the kayak are 17 ft 9" by 24 " I am not sure of the depth but I had no problem getting in and out of the Keyhole cockpit and there was lots of room for my size 10.5 feet. I did not find this kayak much different in weight to my Nordkapp which is around 56 lbs. The other reviewer said it was 57 lbs. I am medium built at 5'10" and got more comfortable in this kayak as the trip progressed. The trouble is we hit some westcoast westerly winds and tides the 4th day and my buddy wasn't as comfortable in the Quest. He wanted the Skerray back so we switched. I finished the trip in my Quest and he was back in his Skerray.
After three 8-hour days in the Skerray, I would give it very high marks for seaworthiness and comfort. Something also I will mention is the Skerray is of high quality construction and the detail is impressive (the same as my Nordkapp). I prefer the Valley hatch system over other kayaks I own because they are so easy to get in and out of and don't leak. The Skerray had the same three hatches as my Nordkapp but held a lot more gear.
Because it handled open ocean and weather I would recommend this kayak to anyone wanting an incredibly stable touring kayak. I told my buddy if I could sell a couple of my kayaks I would be interested in buying the Skerray. I think after the trip he is having 2nd thoughts about selling it.
I have several years and a 1000 miles of paddling in this kayak so I will try to give an honest assessment and review from my experience. The only other review on this kayak on Paddling.net said the kayak's weight was 75 lbs. When I first lifted the kayak I thought it was under 60 lbs. so after reading the other review I weighed it. This kayak weighed 57lbs. on the scale. The older Skerray XL in the other review had rope to a rudder. Some of the other fiberglass Skerrays I had read about had a rope and bungie cord skeg set up. This boat is obviously lighter and a big improvement with heavy stainless steel wire to a skeg. It has the third hatch which I think the earlier heavier models did not have. I think Valley made heavier kayaks in the early years of their manufacturing. The Skerray is only two pounds heavier than my Pintail which I do not find heavy. I can test that these are very strong built kayaks for their weight.
The Skerray XL is a high volume sea touring kayak. It tracks well for it's medium rocker but is still quite maneuverable & is amazingly seaworthy. My Valley Pintail is similar in behaviour except I find the 24" width gives higher initial stability in the Skerray XL. Both the Pintail and Skerray have great secondary stability. It find it edges easy and turns very well for a 17.8 ft. kayak. The skeg leaver is typical of the newer Valley kayaks being located (out of the way) on the port side in front of the cockpit. As I had mentioned I have had the Skerray out in rough windy conditions on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The kayak has minimal broaching in a quarter sea and wind cocking is much less than my Seaward Quest. Both are alleviated with the use of the skeg.
I have owned several British kayaks and I am not a fan of the back band seating because I find the system not great for back support or posture. I have incorporated a new seat into the back band, thus improving my back support and posture. My 5 ft. 11 in., 190 lb. frame fits well into the cockpit and I find it is not a problem getting in and out. My size 11 feet are not a problem.
This boat is not a dog as the other reviewer had described his. It is much faster than the rotomoulded version which I had tested previously. Believe me it has good speed as compared to the other kayaks I have owned or have tested. I have never had to excert myself keeping up with other experienced kayakers. I bought this boat after testing it and comparing the the quality of finish and detail of my Valley Pintail (another beautiful boat). I would give it higher marks than my Tempest or Quest. The hatches and lids are easy to access and dry as compared to my Telkwa.
My other kayaks are between 21 and 22 inches wide so this is the widest I own. The Skerray like other Valley boats is designed to roll and I have tested it though my Pintail is a little easier to roll. I have put many hours in the Skerray. This is a strong boat and has been tested by accident on the rocks with no signs of damage other than a little scraping on the gel coat. I have since added a keel strip for peace of mind.
I think this would be a very good guide boat for the volume in the hatches, it's durability, all round maneuverability and stability.
I have owned some west coast built kayaks by Nimbus, Necky, Wilderness Systems, Seaward, etc. This boat can easily compete in most areas with these boats and is my favorite of the bunch. There is not a lot of these boats on the west coast so some kayakers mix it up with the Nordkapp or Pintail. They all have similar lines and are good looking kayaks.
I don't like to give ten out of ten on the kayaks I own which are all good kayaks and excel in many areas but might need improvement in a few. Other than the improvements I had to do in the seat, this kayak deserves a 10 because of the quality of the craftsmanship & durability, the maneuverability & it's seaworthiness. If you can find a more recent built Skerray FG I would highly recommend this kayak for either a newbie or an experienced kayaker wanting to do multi-day tours.
The seat was one of the best I have sat on. Nice support for the legs and shaped just right for myself. The thigh braces were also good. It was equipped with a rudder which was controlled by a tiller bar that was mounted on flanges glassed to the hull. This was a clean design as no holes were needed in the hull for bolts to hold foot brace tracking. But this also created a problem as the bar was held with bolts which you needed to remove to move the tiller bar forward and back. You cannot adjust the bar while on the water so when your legs cramp you are out of luck.
The Skerray XL is for big paddlers which I am not being 5'9" and 190lbs. Even though the cockpit fit fairly well and I had good contact. The handling of the Skerray was very confident inspiring, which it should be at 24" wide. I have paddled many kayaks and this one made big water (lake Michigan, Superior during high winds) seem boring. Secondary stability was outstanding.
This is not a stiff tracking kayak and did weathercock quite a bit and this is where the rudder helped. You could put it on edge to hold course but at 24" wide this took effort. As far as speed is concerned this is a VERY slow kayak. I no longer own the Skerray as I could paddle longer distances, using less energy while carry more in a QCC 500.
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