I have two Gaspe 16' kayaks from Clearwater Designs. Let me preface this review by saying... I LOVE THEM. I have owned them for 12 years and they have taken me safely through my many adventures. Flat water or big water.
Pros: It is a good price for a great quality boat. The Gaspe is stable, forgiving and when healed over properly can turn on a dime for a 16 footer. I do the majority of my paddling sans rudder, however in high winds the rudder is easy to deploy and flawless. Set it and forget it. The Gaspe takes take big waves over the bow like a champ and following seas over the stern don't even reach the cockpit. There is a ton of storage space and I have taken it on 5 day tours. Under normal conditions I have never had the hatches leak on me. Having ended up inverted now and then happens and any leakage is so minor as to be wiped out with a sponge when I got to destination. The life lines are well place and the bungy tie downs on the decks work great. It is a Canadian...
Cons: Honestly this boat has very few cons. The hose for the backrest pump comes off the hose every now and then. I have moved my hose and pump to the side of the seat instead of at the front. My pull lines for rudder deployment have stretched over the 12 years and I have had to tighten them up.
LAST WORDS: The Gaspe is great bang for your buck. I have kayaked for 42 years and owned these kayaks for 12 years and they are hands down the best kayaks I have ever owned
1.Right off the bat, the seat, the changes were easy enough to make, but from the factory it is not great, there is little adjustment, and the access behind the seat is very limited with the support structure for the backrest in the way, once removed however, there is a fair amount of storage behind the seat.
2.The hatches, they leak horribly, not an issue in calm flat water, but anything more than a few inches of chop will result in water in the storage areas.
3.The rudder system, although it does do what it's supposed to do, and does it quite well, the sliders on the foot braces tend to bind, and this is apparently a common problem with this boat, common enough that there is apparently going to be an instructional video put out by the manufacturer on how to fix it!
No boat is going to be absolutely perfect for anybody, and there are little things here and there that are apparent on any boat you may paddle, but these for me were "the big 3" on the Gaspe.
1.The speed, this boat is rather wide for a touring boat at 25" (also making it very stable), but it does have a rather long waterline for a 16' boat making it very efficient through the water, the width may make it feel a bit cumbersome to get up to speed, but once there it is very easy to maintain making it great on long trips!
2.The hatches, before you say it, yes I know I complained about them, but the fact is, they are very large with squared corners instead of the traditional oval and round hatches making it very easy to load tons of gear. The rear hatch is large enough we actually had a 7 year old girl sitting in the back facing the rear like a miniature "rumble seat"!
3.The value for your money, I know the manufacturers website lists the MSRP around $1400, look around, you will find it for less brand new, I managed mine for about $1000 with a paddle, and that's not far off from what I've see elsewhere. You will have a tough time finding this much boat for anything less than $1500 unless you are buying used!
So, why a seven? Yes I said I like this boat a lot and I do, now. The fact is I HAD to make changes to this boat to make it work, the seating didn't work for me and the hatches leaked, but they were relatively easy fixes.
I probably should rate it higher but I feel this to be more of an entry level touring boat, great for someone new to kayaking who isn't quite sure if a touring boat is what they're after.
This boat is very confidence building for anyone who paddles it enough, but anyone looking improve their skills and move beyond recreational paddling or light tripping, will very quickly outgrow this boat!
Very nice fit in the kayak. I'm 5'11 and 175 lbs with disproportionately long legs, and it gives plenty of room. I can get in and out of it easily without shoes on.
Stability - Excellent stability.
Tracking- Great tracking. In strong winds you can expect normal weather-cocking. Rudder really helps in high winds. Rudder also makes it very easy to navigate in small areas, surprisingly maneuverable.
Speed - Comparable to other touring kayaks of the same size.
Storage - Front compartment access is a bit small. Hatches are effective at keeping out water. The shape of the top of the boat is angled and it makes it a bit more difficult to attach other gear onto it, but it's not that big of a problem.
Comfort - The upgraded seat is pretty comfortable. It has a useless cup holder in the center that places the drink too far into my crotch.
Rudder system is plastic and feels kinda cheap. I wish it was aluminum like on the higher end boats, but I doubt it's really needed for the purpose. The rudder lines also feel like that have some elasticity to them, which I don't like very much.
Water breaks over the kayak really easily, a spray skirt is a must in high winds.
All this being said, I would highly recommend it to someone looking for a kayak of this size. I would buy another one.
I really like its superior speed, manouverability (most of my paddling is with the rudder up) and ability to hold its track even under adverse conditions. The boat's stability was very evident when I test paddled it in heavy waves in Lake Ontario. The boat is well made and so are its finishing touches. The hatches do not leak.
One potential problem I can see with this, as with other plastic boats, is deformation of the hull if left exposed to the sun on land. A simple remedy is to provide shade. Car toppers beware.