I bought this boat in very used condition. The first thing I noticed is that it is a little heavier than my other 50 pound boat, but it is still an easy and comfortable carry. It has a very comfortable seat but the strap on the seat back caught my shirt one day and made it very hard to get out of the boat. I had to tear the shirt! I deducted two points for that and now am careful about clothing that could get caught in the boat.
This boat turns really well when you edge it and it is easy to edge and reasonably fast for a 15 foot boat. The bottom will hog out after years of scraping over stuff and being tightened too much on the roof racks, but it doesn't seem to affect the speed or handling. The skeg works well and whenever you might want help going straight it is easy to deploy. I rarely use it.
The cockpit is pretty large and comfortable I think a big paddler could easily fit in this boat. I'm 225 and 5'10" with size 12 feet and there was way more room than I needed everywhere except for the feet. I didn't feel locked in by this boat so if you wanted to roll it or surf it, you might want to put in a lot of paddling for thigh braces and hip pads.I've owned the Walden Passage for about four/five years. It's a fine workhorse of a kayak, although hardly elegant. I love the fact that it has a skeg (I don't like rudders). This makes life easier in certain conditions, though I don't resort have to resort to it as a general rule. I dislike the cockpit design, which makes outfitting with knee bracing rather awkward (but not by any means impossible). The foot braces are perfectly acceptable, at least in my model, though the seat could certainly bear improvement (I've been meaning for two years to put a back-band in). The hull will oil-can when on top of a hot car--best to carry it keel up in such conditions. Still, the plastic corrects easily with the addition of some weight, and I've never had a hint of this problem on the water. The rear bulkhead leaks, which is an almost universal issue with plastic boats. That's what Marine Goop is for!
I've never taken the boat into blue water (i.e. full ocean, exposed), but I've had it a mile or two offshore in the bays of Maine without incident. I've used it for touring in the Adirondacks (up to five days), and for hopping islands off Norwalk, CT a couple of times. I'd not hesitate to do the cross-Sound paddle in this, though I'd use my flotation bags for and aft, for safety.
For the length, if paddled well, I can keep up (or surpass) a 17 foot Necky sea kayak, tolerably well paddled, or indeed most kayaks. I don't know how this can be (speed is proportional to hull length) but it is--maybe I have good technique, or perhaps it's some nuance of the design, or maybe both. Best of all, I can bring the boat through fastwater bumping the occasional concealed boulder, over scratchy rocks for seal launches, etc. There are probably little bits of red plastic from the boat all over the NE, but the hull integrity is still just fine. I just can't see treating a lovely composite or fiberglass sea kayak (much as I occasionally crave one of these) this way. The fact that the Passage was inexpensive lets me do this with a clear conscience.
Secondary stability is OK. I have tipped the boat once leaning it, but I don't think I was bracing carefully. I've never attempted to roll it--come to think of it, I've come out of it precisely twice.
I believe the boat is no longer being made under this name, as Walden went out of business. This was my first boat, and for that it really has been great. Very stable, inexpensive, large cargo capacity, comfortable and controllable. Not too hard to learn to roll and dry enough with a good neoprene skirt. Problems I have had; foot pegs stink. I replaced mine with some aluminum ones which work much better. Bulkheads leak. Some of the deck fittings leak, straps behind cockpit can't handle paddle entry well. Can be a real bear to control in cross currents. The hull oil canned after a month (bent in under cockpit.)
Honestly I think if I knew better I would have bought something else. I've paddled Prijons and they so kick this boats butt and for basically the same price. I will take this boat into open water without hesitation, but it ain't all that.I am very pleased with the Passage. I have had it for three years. I find it easy to paddle with good carry, or glide, for each stroke. The initial and secondary stability are very good allowing me to fish in salt water for stripers and blues. The straight line tracking is pretty good, I find, like one of the others, that mine has a tendency to curve to the left if I don't make some sort of correction, even on the glide it will curve to the left. Sometimes I will correct for the left curve by leaning the hull slightly left.
The cockpit is roomy enough to accommodate my 6'2" 250lb frame. The seat is very comfortable and the backrest is very supportive.
One of my only complaints is the apparent lack of buoyancy in the bow. Compared to a other kayaks that I have paddled this seems to take more water over the bow. It is helpful to have something in the forward bungee cords to help divert water away from the cockpit.
The hull seems incredibly rugged and flex free. Easy enough to carry over the beach to launch or put on a roof rack.This is the ride I've been waiting for! After buying my first touring kayak (WS sealution II) I realised that rudders were not for me. I wanted a Skeg boat which really narrowed the field. I also wanted inexpensive which meant polyethylene and used. I found my passage on Ebay and it fit the bill. The boat tracks extremely well, even with the skeg up. With the skeg down it tracks like its on rails. The bow seems very buoyant...it goes OVER the waves as opposed to going THROUGH them. A much drier ride than what I'm used to. There is plenty of room for me (6 ft, 163 lbs, 33 inch inseam) It is wide enough to offer excellent initial and secondary stability but skinny enough to be nimble etc. The overall quality seems fine especially considering what these sell for.
The cons: The plastic seems to have billions of air bubbles in it. The surface of the boat is pock marked with a billion small holes. Very rough and probably causes measurable drag. The bottom part of the seat is hard plastic and molded to the shape of a butt. If your butt happens to fit that mold exactly, then you should be fine. But, if you happen to be a little wider then you get jabbed in the hips with the hard plastic part of the seat. I think if I raise myself up about 1/4 inch, by placing a gel pad on the seat, then I should be fine.
Overall, the most perfectly suited kayak for me yet. If they made it in kevlar I'd start saving my pennies today.I've been paddling my Passage for a few weeks now and recently spent a weekend paddling wood/glass boats at CLC. After paddling several other boats, the Passage seems very impressive for its size. Tracking is a bit weak with the skeg up, but with the skeg down, it tracks as well as any of the longer boats I've paddled. I find that I use the skeg much of the time. The Passage is also quite maneuverable and responds well to leaned turns, particularly carved turns on the outside chine. Weathercocking is minimal; just enough be an aid in maintaining a heading when paddling in a moderate cross wind. I've had the boat in a stiff wind and waves up to 2' and it handles them with aplomb. Despite the wind and waves, I never felt unstable. Actually, I thought it was a blast, though my paddling partners weren't so enthusiastic.
The cockpit has plenty of leg room and it fits me well (6', 170#, long legs, size 11 feet). There's enough room under the foredeck to mount a pump, float bag and possibly additional gear, without interfering with entry or exit. The seat bottom is very comfortable and the standard seat back isn't bad either. The seat is not very wide; I don't need to pad it on the sides as all. The coaming holds a spray skirt securely. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I've had no problem with the coaming and I like the looks (it's more like a 'glass boat). The hatches seal tightly and must be "burped" on warm days. The rear hatch is close to the cockpit and is readily accessible when sitting in the boat. Coating the hatch lips and covers with 303 makes them very easy to install and remove.
There was one flaw in my boat. The front bulkhead was installed crooked, but still provided any airtight seal. I removed it and reinstalled it in the correct position using silicone sealer. I've made a few of modifications and enhancements:
- I installed breather tubes in the bulkheads, to eliminate air pressure buildup. I simply poked a sharpened wire through the foam, then inserted a section of thin tubing into the hole (the type of tubing that comes with aerosol sprays like WD-40). This provides enough air flow but won't allow any significant water in.
- I replaced the seat back with a Rapid Pulse backband, which is more comfortable.
- I added a rub strip to the keel line using 1/2" wide automotive door molding.
- I adjusted the skeg for increased travel. You can easily adjust it to the point where the cable begins to show when it's in the fully down position. As long as the upper edge of the skeg doesn't show, it won't snag on anything when paddling in reverse.
- I sealed around the skeg pivot bolt with silicone sealer, to prevent any seepage.
- I move the seat back 1" to try to improve the tracking and to compensate for my long legs. This is very easy to do.
- Overall, I'm very please with the Passage. Aside from the handling characteristics, I think it's also one of the nicest looking plastic boats on the market. There isn't another plastic boat that I would rather own (my next boat will be home build wood & 'glass).
- BTW, the Walden neoprene/nylon spray skirt is great! It fits perfectly, is easy to put on and seals well.