If you paddle the west coast of North America then you probably know that the Mariner Coaster is truly a "legendary" kayak. I have had a Mariner Express for a while and love it but wanted something small and nimble for rock gardens and surfing. A friend found a craigslist ad for a Coaster in the Seattle area and I bought it. I took the hung seat out (too small for my butt - I'm 6' and 215lbs). The previous owner had used this Coaster as it had been intended to be used and the boat had been badly beaten up with five (5) holes and fractures; some as long as 8 inches.
The Coaster's initial stability is high so you can stop and look around without fear of the boat tripping you up. The secondary stability is also high and the kayak can be turned 180 degrees with one sweep stroke. The boat is so stable and safe that it's the regular ride for a 7-year-old girl. Even my wife likes paddling this boat!
The Coaster excels in rough conditions and, like the Express, seems to float over waves with a minimum of fuss and wet. It surfs well and is controllable and stable while surfing. You never have the feeling you're going to broach or slide off the wave. It's fast enough to keep up with or ahead of most paddlers... it seems to effortlessly move at 4 or 4.5 mph but anything beyond 5mph requires a lot of effort. The boat tracks well and a raised knee or slight hip tilt is enough to correct its heading. Rolling a Coaster is a breeze. It's also light weight (about 35lbs) and I can literally pick it up with a hand on each end of the cockpit, raise it over my head, and put it on my car's kayak rack.
Mine has no bulkheads or hatches so if I used it for a long trip I'd load it using many smaller drybags (I like the ones with the clear window in them). I don't mind this system as it means I can put longer items in without a problem. But since the Coaster is only 13' 6" you won't be able to take as much as in a Telkwa.
It's not a "pretty" kayak but if you own one on the west coast make sure you keep it under lock and key. They are in high demand; especially in San Francisco, and there are thieves who specialize in finding and stealing popular kayaks.
Go to YouTube and search for "coaster" to see a video of a guy in Denmark playing in a rock garden with his Coaster.I've been paddling a standard lay-up fiberglass Mariner Coaster since March 2002.
Bought this boat sight unseen because Mariner Kayaks only sell direct to the public and I was no where near them to demo one. I wanted a short boat that was designed for rough water and had the capability of being used for kayak camping and fishing. The review from Sea Kayaker magazine in the summer of 1994 suggested this boat would meet my requirements. Furthermore, the boat received a positive testimonial from Tsunami Ranger and Coaster owner John Lull, which added more credibility. You can see this boat in action in John Lull's book "Sea Kayaking: Safety & Rescue" and the video "Kayaking Ocean Rock Gardens--A Tsunami Ranger Guide". Based on these reports and a positive gut feeling, the decision was made to a purchase a Coaster.
Did a two week solo circumnavigation of the Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior back in May 2002, and the boat did a fine job. I was able to cover up to 25 miles per day with a 300 lb total displacement (I'm 5' 6", 160 lb). Seas from one to two meters were handled surprisingly well. No real problems in quartering seas. Matt Broze suggested that I keep the stern heavy for more control. The boat was able to carry enough camping, fishing and safety gear for a comfortable trip. The lack of a front bulkhead actually is an advantage for me due to using an extra large custom made tapered drybag that can be loaded up in camp and quickly inserted into the bow.
Have done other short and extended kayak camping trips following that with equal success. The boat's volume is 90 gallons and can easily accommodate luxury items to make the experience more pleasurable. I particularly like fishing from the kayak. The boat tends to ride over smaller waves, thus allowing me to fish with the spray skirt off. Portaging the 40 lb or so kayak is easy due to its shorter 13' 5" length. Furthermore, once camp is set up, this little boat can be used in its element to surf any nearby waves.
It's a simple boat without a retractable skeg or rudder, and thus easy enough to perform repairs on in the field. My Coaster has a rear bulkhead, so I use a float bag in the bow along with a seasock. The standard perimeter decklines that the Brozes put on are really nice for safety and securing extra gear. Taught myself how to roll this boat from a book in less than one weekend.
I must admit that it is an odd looking kayak, but the first time you go diving into the trough of a big wave without burying the bow you appreciate the design a little more. It is an expensive boat, but I'm the type of person that will keep the boat for twenty years to recoup my investment.I got a used Coaster a few weeks ago. I've heard a lot about them, their handling in waves, surfing ability, and how well they track in wind. It's true, it's true . . .
Great sea kayak at 13'5". Took it in 5 knot current, open water, and boat wakes /wind waves in excess of 6 feet. Never felt unstable or out of control. Caught a few smaller 'rip' waves and was pleased.
A few days later took it out to a point break. Caught some smaller waves (2 - 3 feet) and stayed on the wave for 100 yards or so. Seems to stay balanced regardless of the conditions. In a 5 mile paddle in strong current, I stayed ahead of the group. Everyone else was in 16 - 17 foot sea kayaks. They had trouble keeping straight, being tossed around by the wind/waves, and were constantly having to balance.
I had to retrofit the seat. The one that came with it was too tight. I'm 6'2 and 240. Found another seat that fit the boat and me better. Now it is wonderful. No bulkheads so I have two LARGE float bags. Rescues are fairly easy. The small stern tends to submerge a bit during a paddle float. The smaller cockpit (31 x 15) makes it a squeeze to get past the coaming. Once I'm in, the fit is great.
Mariner stopped making these a couple of years ago. If you can find one, they are worth the price if you want to get into rock gardens, surf ocean swell, and play in tide rips.