I picked up an 06' Blackwater 12.5 which has good and bad points.
The Good: Ample sealed rear storage, good deck strapping, air adjustable seat, with the skeg up it maneuvers nice in fast moving water, with the skeg down it runs nice in calm water. The price was great.
The Bad: The boat won't track in open water with the skeg up. There is no drain plug. Mine doesn't have knee or thigh braces. A little on the heavy side.I've had the Blackwater 12.5 for over two years. In that time I've paddled numerous calm rivers and lakes. The fun starts when you get comfortable enough with the boat to take it into the surf. My first time out was rough, but coming from my stubby little intro boats, the 12.5 was far easier to control. By my second trip out I'd learned to roll it 2 out of 3 times. Expect to get plenty wet in rough water. After getting comfortable in the chop, I now routinely take it out in rough swells. The boat will handle reasonably well in anything less that 6 feet and I'm considering trying it in worse. Last March I took the boat out on Galveston Bay with 4'-5' swell, high wind and intermittent showers. I paddled out to Redfish Island (roughly two miles) and never even tipped over the bait bucket which was balanced on the rear hatch.
The boat will do whatever you want it too. It's built like a tractor and laughs at rocks and oyster beds. The 12.5 is not the best choice for multi-day trips on open ocean, but has served me quite well on four-day trips downriver. I would feel comfortable in this boat for longer trips on open water, but the group will most likely have to slow down for you. While the wind is not too hard to overcome, ocean currents can turn paddling into more of a chore than you're buddies with directional rudders have to deal with. I bought the boat because when I want to get on the water, I don't want to deal with a 17' plus monster, want to worry about a rock ending the life of a $2,000 boat, and I want to feel confident alone and a long way from home. The Blackwater has served me well. The sexier boats catch my eye regularly, but I've never felt at a loss out on the water.While this boat is a step up from our Aquaterra Keowee, it does have some major drawbacks. First, the boat "weather vanes" to the wind. Second, since the boat is a high volume boat it does not handle the chop. Going into the wind is fine. But all other paths result in the boat sitting on top of the waves. Leaving the boat to pick its own direction. I cannot imagine what a day on one of the big lakes would be like. An ocean day trip would be even more frustrating.
I use the boat several times per week on a large reservoir. It is fine for relatively calm flat water. It also works well on calm rivers. The boat has adequate storage for day trips. It is also very stable (at a cost [see paragraph II]). The Blackwater is very forgiving. It does not take long to learn the characteristics of the boat which allows the paddler to be able to control the boat (in the right water) without the drop skeg in relatively short order.
Overall I give the boat a 6.5.