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I'm 5'9 and weigh between 160-180lbs. I have adjusted the seat all the way forward to accommodate my height, and have my thighs fit the thigh braces correctly. I would not recommend this boat for paddlers under 5'9".
I have only truly needed the rudder on a handful of occasions in high wind or strong tide flow situations. All boats weathercock a rudder is NOT substitute for good paddling technique.
I took my boat for a 4 day solo camping trip to Assateague MD. I had plenty of room for my gear for 4 days which included sleeping bag, tent, sleep pad (stowed in a dry bag on rear deck) and enough fresh water for 4 days (close to 2 gal per day, no fresh water in remote area), several Duraflame logs (limited wood on island) and other standard camping gear. On a side note the boat does track much truer under heavy loads, but it sacrifices the maneuverability of this nimble boat.
In large chop it is a wet ride but, kayaking is a "water sport".
I have paddled this boat in comparison with larger and smaller boats. It keeps up speed with the big boys (18') and maneuvers as well as many of the smaller boats (14'). I can easily turn this boat in its own length.
Stability is solid, for both primary and secondary. I can say now that I have several years in this boat I would trade some primary stability for a little more ease in edging this boat on some days. I do also fish (sometimes with a fly rod) from this boat and on those days I appreciate the primary stability.
The seat is the most comfortable I have found and reduces the fatigue I have felt on long trips in other boats.
Overall I love this boat, and I was disappointed that perception discontinued this great boat. If you are in the market for a quick, maneuverable, sea kayak capable of handling a wide range of water from rivers to lakes and out into bays and coastal ocean conditions this is a good choice for the medium to large paddler. Now that the boat is out of production you will probably be able to find a good deal on this boat on the used market.
I guess my biggest gripe is the weight. I loved the shape and look of this kayak, but at 65 pounds, and my 210 pounds, and 60 pounds of cargo, you are paddling in excess of 335 pounds. Try pushing that around in a shopping cart! So, I bought a smaller, much lighter kayak (29 lbs!) and will give my impressions of that one later this summmer. The Vizcaya is a comfortable, stable kayak for inland lakes and rivers, and is a good beginners kayak, but just be young and strong enough to lug it around and just pray that you don't have to paddle it into the wind or far from your put-in after your arms are worn out.
I paddled about 30 boats at a local 'demo days' and tried a few others afterward. Had planned to get a Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 17, but was a quite worried about it's 'oil-canning' reputation. The fit and seat was great. Wrote the factory to get a copy of the warranty, but was told that it was not available at that time. Decided to look elsewhere.
Thought that the Prijorn had the best quality plastic and hardware in a boat in my price range, but couldn't find one that had the right combination of storage and stability for my rookie ability. Also tried a Current Design Storm. Liked the look and stability of this boat, but had enough room for a co-pilot in the cockpit - way too big for me.
Anyway, got a good deal at REI on a closeout Perception Vizcaya. Have paddled small and large rivers and lakes so far. Calm water sometimes, swells up over a foot occasionally. The boat is feeling better and better for me. It rides the waves well, but was a bit squirrelly when I first used it. I have learned to trust the secondary stability and I feel better about it. Have done my wet exit and assisted re-entry drills now and know the boat a lot better. I like it.
The adjustable seat is good and comfortable. Plenty of room for an even longer-legged person. Like the cockpit padding. The hatches and especially the day hatch are nice. The only slight down side is storage. I know that at 16'2", it would not be as big as my friends' 17s, but the Vizcaya's bow and stern shape, do rob you of usable storage. I do plan to do a 5-day river trip with friends. That, I expect will be crowding the boat, but 1-2 day trips should be fine. And as a day tourer, this boat is perfect.
For the price this is a wonderful boat. It was the right choice for me.
The Vizcaya tracks extremely well. My boat came with the rudder installed, and I have to admit, it's an addictive component. With the rudder down (pedal activated) the boat is quick, and effortless to move. With the rudder up she is stable and nimble at the same time. For a beginner, it seems a little unsteady at first, but the secondary stability is great...and you'll get used to it within the first couple of trips.
The boat has a wonderful day hatch feature, and incredibly comfortable seat and the largest cockpit of the boats I tried. It also has full deck rigging and is, well, just beautiful. So far I've paddled it in several locations and I am simply enamored with this kayak. I can't imagine a better purchase!
Second test boat Dagger Savanah. test paddled 3 times, I loved this boat. I listened to a friend and we discussed realities/ fantasies of paddling he was looking for a longer faster open water boat. I tried the Carolina (same basics as the Savanah) nice fit very stable, functional boat... NOT a speed demon. Not the Open water boat I was looking for even though it was a Great fit!! I was looking for a Better fit for more open water with expedition qualities.
My first solo paddle: 4 hour out in Egg Harbor NJ (around OC) Wilderness Solutions Sealution. (16'6" long 22 1/2" wide if memory serves.) the bay was choppy at best (2' 1'2" swells), & that day had a nasty head wind and no experience! the boat was great. but I was looking for a bit more capacity, for the long run... I was SOLD on at least a 16' boat! Now I sat in my Vizcaya(factory specs 16'3" length 23 1 1/2" wide 400lb payload)! I'm 163lbs 5'9" (when I test paddled I was 170) a shorter paddler may have problems with the thigh braces. I need the seat all the way forward. On the Maiden test paddle I felt the speed difference over the 14' and the 16' boats I had paddled that day. (and previous test paddles). I've paddled my Vizcaya in Lakes, Canals (with and against current) and In the egg harbor bay again a series of 12 paddles in just over 3 months! I have NEVER NEEDED to deploy the rudder! She tracks well, for me and, Is very responsive to a lean (I've had her on her edge and found a sweet shelf point that lets the water just nip the coaming). I have no problems with this boat tracking well, or turning well, just watch your seat position in relation to height & weight!
Let me stress she is a great boat for the beginner to the more advanced paddler ( I have spoken to the guys at the Jersey paddler and all of them I have talked to like the speed and agility of this boat!) No I don't work for the Jersey Paddler but if you are a new paddler in the area please talk to them they will help you!
I miss my BO-oat she's in dry storage right now in my buddies garage all alone... let's get together for a paddle in the spring!
Anyway, I was so disgusted with the boat's tracking (or complete lack thereof) that I returned it and I am still looking for my next yak.
Value: 10 of 10. You probably won't need to add rigging, backbands, thigh brace pads, or other customizations.
Ergonmics: - 10 of 10. Great for larger people. Huge cockpit opening (for butt first launches from shore), good thigh braces, excellent and adjustable one piece seat. Recessed deck rigging won't scrape your knuckles. Soft grab handles won't bite your hands. No stupid, heavy hull stiffening steel bar down the middle (unlike the Eclipse).
Handling: 8 of 10: The narrow, low volume bow makes for a wet ride. The boat tends to plow through wakes and waves instead of riding over them. Wind waves get sliced by the narrow bow and splashed back into your face if you are going straight upwind. The boat turns on a dime (with or without rudder) and is very responsive to trimming. I'd rate hull speed a 7 out of 10, and tracking an 8 out of 10 (generally good for a 16 foot kayak, and 9 of 10 when rudder is down. Good initial stability and good secondary. Very stable when hit with moderate beam waves. Holds speed reasonably well for a 16, and can keep a good pace with little effort and a big paddle (Werner San Juan). No noticeable weathervaning in light winds (unlike Eclipse).
Looks: - 10 of 10. Most "shapely" plastic on the water.
Cargo hauling: 7 of 10. The narrow bow and stern look great, but will limit capacity. You can't stuff a tent or sleeping mat all the way into either end of the boat (too narrow). It does have a neat day hatch, which is separated by a mesh divider, which can be removed. It also has a second "tie down" strap over the rear hatch cover for extra gear.
Materials: 9 of 10. Hull is made of stronger plastic than some other boats (e.g. CD boats), and has molded in keel line to keep shape and resist oil canning. Seat is new tech, one-piece foam covered plastic, and is very comfortable and strong. Seatback will not fall out and get in the way (or get broken) like CD or Necky boats.
That said, the "professional" magazine reviewers will probably pan it (loose handling). Other boats are faster (CD Storm, Eclipse, Looksha IV - all 17s), or track better (Storm, Eclipse, Narpa, Zoar, Looksha), or have more precise turning (chined Looksha IV).
The other boats have seats that break (Storm/Squall), or are heavier (Eclipse, Storm/Squall, all Neckys) or are slower (Narpa, Zoar). The others do have more cargo room, and the Neckys will probably last another 5 years longer. So its a question of what you want.
If you want a fun, comfortable, lively and well thought out 16, try it out.
I found the Vizcaya to be the most compfortable kayak that I've ever been in, which is important when you consider that you might paddle anywhere from 2 to 8 hours at a time. The boat tracked great, I never dropped the rudder. While it seemed a little tippy at first, I quickly adjusted to it especially once up to speed. The boat was surprising responsive to turning when rotating the hips. Because I did not have a spray skirt I was not able to try rolling the boat, but I was impressed with the comportable thigh braces which felt like they would be a great asset when rolling. I liked the day hatch, and again the seat was great. I can't end this review without saying that this boat is also great looking. Overall, I'm very impressed. I'm hoping to get one soon.
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