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The Good: Very versatile-it'll carry a week's worth of stuff easy if you pack relatively light. Speed(not loaded) I do just over 4 mph average touring pace,top speed sprint i managed about 7 mph, maintainable fast pace(for a mile or so) about 5 mph. Unloaded it is very manouverable, loaded still manouvers decent, without using a rudder. Edges nice,very solid when leaned over. Strong secondary stability, in flat water i can put cockpit rim ~3-4 inches under water and still feel in control Handles chop good. I had it in ~1.5-2 ft steady chop with 3 footers mixed in and boat wakes up to 5-6 ft. Stays stable and bow will NOT pearl. Rolls easy. Hatches stay bone dry.
The bad: #1 it weathercocks significantly in quartering seas,though most kayaks do. #2 Quality is questionable-In first couple paddles, all the tethers came untied, neoprene hatch cover split a seam, factory forgot to put nuts on half the rudder mount bolts. The minicell foam glued to the underside of the seat was a bit too much, pushing the hull out a bit and the seat mounting nuts really chewed into the seat plastic.
My modifications to the boat: Got rid of the stock rock hard backband and replaced with a Prijon whitewater backband i picked up at a gear swap. Adressed the seat mounting and foam issues. Installed Seaward gas pedal rudder controls-solid footing is a night and day difference but i had to cut a good chunk out of the pedals to fit, all n all great footing but very mediocre rudder action-tradeoff i was willing to do. And outfitted cockpit with some foam.
All n all-it is good. By no means perfect so it gets 8/10. If i had the money i'd seriously look at the Seaward Cosma, or the fiberglass Elaho, maybe Prijon SeaYak.
The boat also rolls well, I actually watched a kayak rolling video and tried to learn to roll in my HV (a barge that doesn't feel anything like the standard Elaho) but never completed a roll. I tried it in the standard Elaho yesterday and got up on the first try. I rolled 12 times yesterday and the last 5 were consecutive. If a novice can teach themselves to roll a boat the boat MUST be easy to roll. The cockpit is very adjustable and comfortable once you get it right, however, it never stays that way for long. The backband gets in the way and tends to get knocked out of adjustment and twisted over very easily during rescues where you reenter the boat. I have this same backband system in my Elaho HV and I hate it. The adjusters get in the way. Why not just put the adjusters behind the seat where they are out of the way and stay put? Usually you just adjust your backband and leave it anyway.
My boat also has 2 other problems. My Elaho HV has very dry hatches but the standard Elaho has a day-hatch that leaks like crazy. The bulkhead behind the seat that separates the day hatch from the cockpit is the problem. The main hatches stay dry. The forward flush-hatch cover doesn't fit right and won't lay flush at the back end. I'm not sure that Necky's quality control is as good as it should be. I would give the boat a "10" if it weren't for the defects and cockpit outfitting.
All in all, this is a great little do-it-all boat that handles a variety of tasks well. I'm looking to replace my Elaho HV and a composite Elaho is one possibility. I'm also considering the P&H Capella, CD Andromeda and Gulfstream and the QCC 700. The lousy cockpit outfitting may steer me away from another Necky boat.
I was first drawn to the Elaho DS (drop skeg) a 15’ 9” long Poly boat as an alternative to destroying my “glass” Greenland style boat on the limestone littered rivers here in Florida. (Unlike the smooth texture of rock found in northern rivers, the limestone here erodes in a fashion that leaves the texture of a cheese grater, which will cut through gel coat and glass fibers in one swift sickening crunch.) Both my wife, (5’5” 135 lb.), and myself, (5’-10” 165 lb.), are fairly small, and finding longer boats with a small / shallow cockpit was also a concern.
The first Poly boat acquired in 2003 was what was then called the Elaho Rudder at 16’ 4” long. This boat gave the secondary stability I had become accustomed to with the Greenland style boats, was long enough for a good turn of speed, and tracked well without ever deploying the rudder. However the “spongy” foot controls were most distracting for me, having never had a boat with a rudder. My wife on the other hand, was used to ruddered craft and loved the boat. (So I lost that one to her.)
The next boat acquired in 2004 was one of the last of the Poly Elaho DS models. This boat has noticeably more rocker, is slightly narrower, solid foot braces, and the same excellent secondary stability. The increased rocker required judicious amounts of the skeg to be used for flat-water travel, but was quite maneuverable when retracted. Quartering winds require a little more skeg. But this is where trick is. If you allow the skeg to hang too low it conspires with the now empty skeg box to become a sea anchor. Marking the skeg cord prevents inadvertently lowering it too far and watching your paddling partners disappearing into the distance.
Never satisfied, I have now picked up what is now just called the Elaho, 16’ 4” long in Poly with the rudder, (The DS model is no longer made.), with the intention of installing the Seal Line Smart Track rudder controls. At first glance it looks like Necky had “cheapened” the boat up some from its original form, but most of the changes seem to be for the better. The seat is no longer the air adjustable model, (Which always leaked down on longer runs.), but a comfortably contoured foam seat with adjustable hip pads and thigh braces, which are a nice addition. The back band is now ratchet adjustable with two rather bulky levers and the back shock cords are attached through the cockpit top lip. The ratchets work ok for now, and the new higher cockpit mounting does prevent the back band from sliding down. However laying back is somewhat encumbered. The only disappointment is that the first boat had nicely made ABS bulkheads surrounded by a foam ring, (To allow for the dimensional changes of a Poly boat.), while the newer ones have minicell foam bulkheads surrounded by the same style of foam ring.
So buyers beware! There are two very different boats out there.
As far as sea kayaks go the Elaho is not a fast boat. It just does not have the length. Necky makes some very fast boats (Looksha II and III). What the Elaho does better than any other boat I have paddled of yet is perform well when it is not right side up.
The edge is rock solid, slightly more stable on an extreme edge than a Romany. Paddling 4mph I have turned this boat nearly 180 degrees with only an initiating stroke at the beginning of the turn. One stroke and and an extreme edge takes it around.
It also has a very low (for a stock boat) rear deck which makes lay-back maneuvers much easier on the back and more effective. I can easily fist roll this boat (closed fist)
The biggest criticism I have of this boat is the persistant bulkhead leakage. Plastic boats are a pain in the butt for manufacturers because nothing sticks to plastic well so foam bulkheads never stay sealed. Everyone seems to put up with plastic boats that leak but this is problem that should be solved. I have not purchased a plastic Elaho for this reason.
When buying the Elaho I compared it to the Necky Looksha and the Looksha Sport, both great straight tracking boats. The Elaho is a very sleek looking boat, and with its graceful lines and pronounced bow and stern rocker begins to approach the look and feel of a fiberglass boat.
The Elaho is a very playful boat, turns readily, leans well, sits low in the water and feels slightly tipsy at first. It is harder to paddle straight than more traditional Sea Kayaks such as the Looksha, but the retractable skeg compensates for this.
The guide who sold me this boat described it as a "surf zone" boat which is a very good description. The Elaho with Fore and Aft hatches plus a day hatch is capable of holding a fair amount of gear. Due to the thickness of the vinyl needed to support its complex shape it is somewhat heavy, weighing in at over 60 lbs. The only negative I see is the drop skeg sometimes sticks and its easy turning ability demands more paddling skill when trying to hold a straight course in windy conditions.
I paddled this boat for several weeks in the Hudson and have loved it as well as everyone who tries it. In addition it turns so easily, it is good for creeks and marshes. Had occasion to take it surfing in the Atlantic and it handled superbly, both in riding the waves and punching through on the way back out. It turning ability really helps when both catching and avoiding waves.
In short this is a great, fun to paddle, adventureous all around boat, but best suited for day paddles, short to medium excursions and surf conditions. Highly recommended for a paddler looking for a boat they can grow with.
Fit: The Elaho seems to have the best fit of any of these boats. It has a relatively low volume cockpit with enough room for my feet and a comfortable backband which is adjustable while paddling. The Looksha IV had a similar fit but with a slightly higher bow coaming and deck. The Cape Horn and the Magellan had a very sloppy fit. My wife had the same observations about the fit. I am 5'10" and 180 pounds and my wife is 5'6" and 150 pounds. One thing we noticed about this backband was that it had a tendency to slip and become looser. I attributed this to the fact that it was a rental that probably saw a bit of abuse.
Performance: The only faster boat was the Looksha IV. The Elaho accelerates well maintains speed reasonably well. We were not sure whether or not the Elaho was pulling right, but the effect was subtle. We thought it might have been a bent skeg. As for maneuverability, the Elaho excelled. The Looksha IV was far less maneuverable as well as the dagger and WS Cape Horn. The Elaho is easy to lean while inspiring confidence. If you want to spin the Elaho, you can quickly and easily raise the skeg and spin it on its axis.
Other Comments: We did some re-entry practice and found the re-entries in the Elaho to be very easy due to solid deck rigging and a smooth rear deck. The recessed fittings make it easy to climb on without snagging.
The deck on the Elaho was low enough that you would want a spray skirt in all but the smoothest conditions. It is easy for a quartering wave to wash a bit of water into the cockpit. I felt that the low center of gravity helped its stability. The low deck made it easier to maintain a low paddle stroke.
Stability: The initial stability is fair to good. The secondary stability is excellent. My wife and I felt very comfortable (as beginners) leaning this boat. It performed predictably. At one time when I was pushing the limits of the boat a wave hit me while I was leaning and rolled me over, but it was a classic case of a following wave knocking you over and I was paddling carelessly/playfully with the boat.
The Elaho displayed a little bit of weather helm (turning into the wind). It was easily manageable with sweep strokes or by manipulating the skeg. The low profile of the Elaho is very attractive. When cartopping the boat using stackers, we had a little bit of oil-canning where the bar wasn't resting against a bulkhead. The Elaho we had was orange and seemed to attract dragon flies.
When trying to get water out of the cockpit, we had trouble because merely turning it over didn't get all the water out. The hatches, on the other hand, were very dry even after some play with wet exits and reentries. The drop skeg makes a bit of noise as it moves side to side in the housing (see tracking and pulling right above).
The skeg is simple. I like that it sticks out the stern a bit, so a helper can coax it down without reaching under the boat (maybe) in the event of a pebble jam after a beach launch. The skeg drops by gravity, so it has to be a bit of a loose fit. I had to waggle my hips almost every time I deployed it, to get it to release from the skeg box. It dropped readily after the shimmy. At partial levels, the skeg clunks as it shifts in the box. At deeper levels, this one buzzed with a harmonic vibration as speed increased. I've encountered the same thing in sailboats with flat metal centerboards rather than streamlined shapes. I did notice drag from the skeg and a peculiar feel compared to my Alto, which has no rudder. Adding lateral plane aft does stiffen the tracking, but it also moves the center of lateral resistance, contributing to the feeling that one has suddenly hopped into a completely different boat. Depending on how far down you drop the skeg, the boat responds differently to lean because the fin is still in the water. Elaho owners might want to mark the skeg cord to correspond to different depths for different conditions.
I'm 5'8", 160 pounds, with "bike legs." Getting into the cockpit was a bit like putting on snug trousers. My feet were a bit cramped and my thighs were forced down and out, but I might have improved things by scooting the footbraces one more notch forward. The tight fit is great for the more dynamic uses of the boat. Also, someone with skinnier legs might not notice the boundaries as much as I did. With air in the low 40s at best and water only recently returned to liquid state (this written in early April in NH) I did not try any rolls, but I expect no difficulties. The deck profile is low and flat. Aft of the cockpit it's easily low enough for the paddler to lie right flat. Even I might manage a layback roll recovery in Elaho. And I have to say I'm far from expert at rolls as yet.
Necky's flat-bottomed hull gives an interesting stability profile. Initial stability is fairly solid, but the flat section is narrow enough that it doesn't inhibit the first lean. The low deck line allows even cautious paddlers to dunk an ego-boosting amount of cockpit rim while still supported by the secondary stability. But, as I said above, leaning is not needed and maybe not even helpful with the skeg up. That leaves all that stability for leans you might need in surf or peeling out of eddies when playing in current.I have yet to see what the low deck and all the doodads on it (hatches, deck lines) do in larger wave action. Recessed hatches mean those little neoprene berets will be working hard to keep things dry inside. All in all, it looks like a fun little package, though.
After demoing all of the above, I felt most comfortable in the Zoar and Eskia (very similar handling). I liked the Looksha, Eskia and the Elaho. Even though I was zig zagging more in the Elaho than in the Zoar, I decided to order the Elaho, figuring that as my paddle stroke improved, the zig zagging would diminish.
It took about 8 weeks to get the Elaho (due to some snafus in the ordering). Due to this mixup, my kayak shop (PaddleSports of Santa Barbara) generously loaned me a Looksha IV for a while. During my 8 week wait, I improved a lot. I really got attached to the Looksha.
Now my Elaho is here and I've had a chance to paddle it a couple of times. I'll compare it to the Looksha. The Elaho seems to turn much better than the Looksha but doesn't track as well. However, dropping the skeg helps the tracking a lot. At my low skill level, I can't feel any difference in drag with the skeg down. Both initial and secondary stability seem about the equal on both kayaks. The Elaho cockpit is a tighter fit, but very comfortable. (I really like the Bomber Gear back band.) I have adequate room for my size 10 feet. The Elaho hatches are a bit smaller, but there are 3 so I guess it's not much of a tradeoff. The flush mounted hatch covers are very nice. I haven't rolled it yet to report on how well they seal. The finish on the Elaho is actually nicer than on some other Neckys I've seen. It seems very well turned out.
The regret that I'm feeling is due to the fact that I just don't seem to glide as well in the Elaho. I feel too big for it now that I've put some miles on a Looksha. This is not surprising looking at the differences in length and volume. The score of 9 is probably not fair to the Elaho since I can't really knock it on any count. I knocked the 1 point off since I'm not totally thrilled with it (yet). Admittedly, this is my own fault for buying the smaller kayak.
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