This boat works well on moving water- it handles well and maneuvers well. It's not a great tracking boat for open water, and I'm not too impressed with the skeg. We've had it on class II rapids and it's handled them just fine. A bulkhead would've been nice to have, at least in the back.
The bow is low and kind of rounded so it pushes some water which slows it down a little. It's medium length and slight rocker makes for a maneuverable boat in creaks & light whitewater but with the skeg down it tracks well for a relatively short boat. The open cockpit is nice for recreational paddling, fishing and photography but not so much for whitewater - I have a light spray skirt for winter paddling. Blackwater's hatch has plenty of room for an over-nighter and if you get creative, more gear can be stowed in the cockpit and on the deck.
In a nutshell, I love my Blackwater - at 16 years old, its scratched, a little oil canned but still paddles well, in fact my oldest son has claimed it for his own. But if you want a fast boat, keep looking; whitewater boat, keep looking; expedition boat, move on... but if you want a solid little boat that is up for almost anything (non-extreme), you'll love this boat.
I'm sure I could do an overnighter with the ample storage in the rear hatch, and maybe a three day trip with some paring down of my gear...no lanterns, big coolers, etc... It's also as I noted above, a much harder poly than my Perception, so it doesn't crush on my roof rack on hot days. I like this boat very much and would surely recommend it.
It is very stable - forget about eskimo rolls - and quite maneuverable. It needs the skeg down to track straight, but it turns pretty well with it down. Up, you can literally spin in place.
I'll keep this boat until some catastrophe puts an end to it. However, I'm looking for a second boat, in part due to its limitations: the skeg has a bad tendency to hang up, so one must turn way around and stretch to try to free it up or perhaps ask for help. the skeg is also either up or down - no easy adjustments.
it also does poorly in chop. dagger re-shaped the nose on later models so they cut through chop. mine either submarines chop or bounces about on it - neither are comfortable.
Because of these limitations, I'm looking at the new Dagger Alchemy or the Necky Manitou 14 to get a bit more speed and comfort in open water. Still, for exploring swamps and marshes, the 115 can't be beat!
The flatter hull shape would make the Blackwater a better choice for shallow rivers, especially if the bottom is rocky. The V-Bottom Pungo bottoms-out a lot and takes a beating on the rocks.
The Blackwater's seat isn't bad, but isn't the Pungo's Phase3 either, by a long shot.
I don't like the noise as she plows through the water, and the glide and speed of the Pungo isn't there, but it's still not bad. Losses here are a trade-off for the better shallow water characteristics and turning ability.
The bottom/hull seems a little thin too and the roof racks dent her up pretty good. It comes right out, but I don't care for that and would worry about it on a longer trip.
Storage area is dry, and I didn't detect any leaking. Enough room for all my overnight stuff, both in the bow with the foam out, and in the dry storage hatch.
Nice boat for the money, and does the job. Light years better than those all those darned recreational "toys", and a better investment.
With the skeg up, the boat turns very easily, and quick. I was most pleased with the speed of the boat. I really wasn't expecting it to be fast, but it did exceed my expectations, especially straight into the headwind. I'm anxious to get it in some faster water to see what kind of performance it puts out, but by my judgments so far, it will be good.
I only have one complaint. I'm, about 6'1, 180 with a 34 jean length and a size 12 shoe. My feet were cramped. This provided some tension around my hips and outer thighs. Without my shoes on, the foot braces were perfect and I was very comfortable.
Overall, I really couldn't be happier! I think I will have this boat for a long time, and be very satisfied.
-I have tried out similar products of rec. boat design by Perception, Old Town, and Liquidlogic. The Blackwater outperformed all of them, especially the OT and Perception.
I chose the Blackwater 11.5 as a kayak suitable for 3-4 day river trips that can handle Class 2 whitewater as well as coastal paddling.
After spending a week paddling on the Virginia coast over the new year I have a better feel for the boat. In open water and 20 mph winds it tracks straight with the skeg down although it's noticably harder to turn. The boat itself was comfortable and stable in these conditions as I even anchored and fished.
I surfed with it in the ocean a bit (not too long in 48 degree water) and found it to be just fine. Definitely looking forward to more surfing in warmer weather.
With the skeg up it's quite maneuverable. I used to run Class 3-4 in a whitewater kayak and I'm very satisfied with this boat in Class 2 water. With flotation I'd run Class 3 in this boat without hesitation but realize it's not going to perform like a whitewater kayak. But it's nice to have confidence in the boat in case I run into unexpected whitewater on a multiday river trip.
Stowage capacity was a big unknown until I finally tested it. I'm very pleased with the boat's capacity. I pulled out the bow foam to allow gear stowage up in front of the foot braces. Here's what I loaded suitable for a 3 day trip (approx. 25 lbs of gear): Sealline 30 dry sack (including a 20 degree sleep bag and Thermarest 3/4 pad), solo tent, 20 ltr dry sack for clothes & rain suit, 1 gal water jug, one sealed container (5x5x7), small 4.5 ltr dry sack, 6'x8' lightweight nylon tarp, and medium size food sack. There was just a bit of room to spare for maybe 2 small 4.5 ltr dry sacks. My fishing gear was stowed on the deck.
The only negatives are the barely satisfactory foot braces, a poor seat that I've already removed and the inflatable back support leaks air. I contacted Dagger and they're sending me a new valve. However, I was told the 2005 model have a new seat design, more like a Thermarest mattress which should be a definite improvement.
So that's why I give it an 8. Overall, I love the boat with just a few modifications and expect to get many years out of it.
Blackwater: I wanted a boat to generally screw around in;lakes, rivers, surf. My other boats are both long and fast, but not as manuverable as they might be. Got the Blackwater at the beginning of the summer.
Comfort/fit; The cockpit is a bit long. Like Todd I installed thigh braces and they're a little closer to my knees than I'd like, but they function well. Also added hip pads and a mesh bulkhead up front to hold the split bags in place (made from velcro & screen door material)Also padding for my heels. The seat seems to fit my ass.
Speed: Not a problem for me, not as fast as my other boats, but not that slow either, at least while paddling. It does not have the glide of my other boats but I don't have a problem keeping up.
Tracking: Great with the skeg down, but I usually paddle with it up because it's more fun. Weathercockinig is not nearly as bad as I thought it might be.
Manuverability: Very good. Not a playboat, but once a turn is initiated it's pretty carvey.
Surf: I held off on reviewing this until I got to surf it. Fun! I had no problem catching & riding waves. With the skeg up the boat wants to broach and it takes some doing to prevent you're perling (and you will), but once you're surfing you can even get a bottom turn it. With the skeg down it does a nice job of traditional surfing using a rudder stroke on the off-side. I got my longest rides in that way. I need a better spray skirt with a bar for this long cockpit though. The bulkhead leaks. I've tried re-siliconing it and will try again when it dries out tonight. All in all this boat does everything I want to do pretty well. I'll probably still get a surf specific boat because you can never have too many boats, but I'll always hang onto this one.
I did have problems with the leaking as others have. In fact, I took one back because the bulkhead had separated from the bottom of the boat and was leaking pretty bad. By the time I got the new boat home, it had done the same thing. I think it's a combination of the way the boat is secured to my car rack and the silicone used does not do a very good job of bonding the two pieces, but only provides a seal. I used some Gorilla Glue to bond the material and siliconed it to keep it water tight and have had no problems thus far.
I've never paddled a pure touring kayak, but I have little trouble getting this boat around some rather large lakes. I've done a couple 8-10 mile trips with mine and I'm still amazed with how easily it gets across smooth and rough windly lakes alike.
Overall, I'm very happy with mine. The only complaint I have is with the seat. My butt goes numb after about an hour. I got an aftermarket seat cushion and I'm now in heaven. Hope this helps.
I bought this boat for my wife ( 5'3", 110 lbs.)when I bought myself a Carolina . They were on sale, and cheap ! I 'd been waiting for years to snag a good deal on "real" kayaks, but it never turned up. We weren't getting out much in the 1970's era, kit-built Folbot double ( AKA Pig Skow )that I built with my dad as a youngster. Finally I said - "Rec boats are good enough, I can always build some Pygmy kits later if I need better boats."
I live about a mile from the Patuxent River. I'm getting these boats out almost every weekend. When I go myself I take the Blackwater. At c. 40 lbs. it's an easy lift off the truck and into the drink. Try that alone with 16' and 63 lbs. (+) of Carolina in a 20 mile-an-hour wind - Not fun! It's not fast on the water - but we're looking for some exercise, eh ? It'll weathercock badly in a light breeze, so don't plan on going too far. The proud bow with it's wide sweep won't keep spray out of your face heading into a stiff breeze either. The skeg is necessary for directional stability in open water, but once retracted it allows sharp turns in meandering tidal creeks. It can be leaned a bit for turns, but it ain't like there's hard chines down there. It's generally comfy overall ( dig that inflatable lumbar support ) but does have a high cockpit coaming ( no trouble for me at 6', but the wife struggles a wee bit at times ).
Overall, if you can scoop one for a discount and you plan to use it for it's INTENDED PURPOSES ( skip any manufacturers highly optimistic descriptions of their boats )- I recommend it heartily.
Tracking - 9: tracks as well as could be expected for this length and design (of course, put the skeg down!)
Maneuverability - 9: turns as well as could be expected for this length and design (of course, put the skeg up!)
Speed - 5: plows a little, but who cares? There are better options if you want to stick to lakes and estuaries.
Stability - 8: fine once you're in
Seat - 4: ditto with the previous poster's comment that it would really be nice to have a WS Phase 3 seat. This one is just too hard on my skinny butt. I added some padding, which helps.
Value - 10: paid $470 WITH TAX at Galyan's when they were running a deal a few months ago. Beat that!
Few more observations: I've noticed no leaks from the bulkhead. I imagine Dagger has addressed that issue, as ours (we got 2 of 'em) have a ton of silicone glue around them. If they did leak, they would still be easy to plug up.
Also, I've had no problem with knocking the skeg ball out, mentioned by some other reviewers. I think this might help some folks: put the string OVER THE TOP of the hook, so that the ball hangs below the hook. And if you STILL knock it out, then you can always tie a loop in the string, and use that loop instead of the ball. As noted by some of the other reviewers, you may on rare occasion need to adjust the string length of the skeg. I have a suspicion that the string length is not checked very well. In any event, I did have to adjust one of ours (which wasn't difficult).
One of our black rubber hatches has oxidized to nearly gray. That doesn't hurt anything, but looks pretty cheesy (and didn't deter me from buying it anyway).It has enough space for camping, and is a pretty good fit for my 6', 170 lb. frame. I fish a lot, with no problems. But I only carry one rod.
In summary, this kayak should NOT go barreling down a class III-IV river (most people should abandon trying to do an Eskimo roll in it), nor circumnavigate Lake Superior. There are better options than the Dagger Blackwater 11.5 for those situations. But for a value-conscious and jack-of-all-trades type product, it does very well. I'd give it an overall 9 except that that seat is just too uncomfortable. Many people will have to do some customization of that seat.
The sealed bulkhead leaked from day one and has gotten worse with time. The sealant Dagger used has dried, cracked and separated from the boat and the foam bulkhead, rendering the boat as if no bulkhead was installed. Definitely not worth the extra money for the Expedition model in my opinion. I've taken this kayak through rapids up to Class III and it does fine for me. I don't seem to notice the plowing that others have mentioned. It turns quite easily and handles quick turns well. I really like the lip on the cockpit and rear hatch that catches most of the water.
The drop down skeg needed adjustment right away which included adjusting the knots in the skeg rope. I hit the platic ball on the end of the skeg rope often without realizing it which is a pain in rapids and faster water. The seat in this kayak is the worst I have seen. I added padding immediately which has helped but I feel like Dagger forgot they needed a seat in this kayak and added one at the last minute the cheapest way they could. I would not purchase this kayak if I had to do it over again. Dagger needs to do some refinement and they would then have a nice kayak.
This summer I have fished a lot, done 2 camping trips and run several rivers with sections of class II rapids. I am using a nylon spray skirt in the rapids. The boat has performed well. On rivers I go mostly with folks in solo canoes and have no problem keeping up. I must be lucky because my bulkhead doesn't appear to be leaking. Once I swamped the boat ( 5 inches of water in the cockpit) when I got jammed between two rocks while ferrying across the river and it still didn't leak. Regarding comments about the speed and cruising, I will admit that on flatwater (non-flowing) you do have to keep paddling - it has very little glide. However, for me this isn't an issue as I'm not paddling long distances on flat lakes. My longest distance has been 3 miles and it took me an hour and 20 minutes - no wind that day.
I find the boat very easy to turn and very easy to paddle in a straight line. I am 5'5" and 145 lbs and paddling with a 220cm Seaquel paddle. The skeg helps me tracking on flatwater but I rarely use it on moving rivers. Some have complained about the skeg line holder being in the way. On my very first trip I had a horrible bruise on my right arm just below the elbow from constantly bumping it. However, after advice from other paddlers and a bit of reading on paddling technique I have not had any problems since. I do not lean back in the seat when I paddle. I sit up straight and my back doesn't even touch the seat back and my arm never hits the "holder".
The boat has stood up well to abuse in rocky rivers. I did one trip where we did a 2 mile long shoal area of very shallow water bumping over many rocks. The hull has multiple scratches but in my opinion they give the boat character. If you want a serious touring boat this isn't it and if you want a serious whitewater boat this isn't it. . . but if you just want to get out and enjoy the water and nature and get a bit of exercise in the process it is a great boat for the price.
I also had trouble with the rear dry storage compartment leaking from the get go. Not a lot, but enough to be a nuisance. The front floatation was knocked out the second day after I swamped the boat in a rapid. It came out very easily after that. My biggest problem was with the skeg. It never did work right. It wouldn't deploy as it was supposed to. I loosed the adjustment screw as far as I dared but that didn't help. Finally removed the two rubber bushings on either side of the skeg at the pivot screw and that seemed to help the most but it still got hung up for some reason and I had to beat on the rear of the kayak with the paddle to deploy it.
As mentioned by others I was also continuously knocking the skeg release ball out of it holder so it seemed that the skeg was always down when I wanted it up and up when I wanted it down. A real pain in the derrier. I was very thankful that the dealer took the boat back so I didn't loose any money on it.
I shouldn't be so pessimistic. If you never do any creeking and only stay on flat water and don't care too much about responsiveness or speed, then this may be a good boat for you. Make sure that the skeg works properly at the dealer when you get one.
-It is bit of work to move this boat. Still more efficient than a canoe, but you never get the sense that you're just cruising across the water effortlessly.
-The plastic tab that holds the skeg line is poorly placed. I hit that with my forearm/elbow on a regular basis when hard paddling. And yes, as noted the skeg line does shrink and requires adjustment.
-Bottom is thin. I'm not sure what the norm is here, but I feel like the bottom is always a little mis-shapen and should be stiffened up a bit for more efficiency. I've only been in a few recreational kayaks, though, so I don't know what the norm is. Old Town kayaks were definitely more rigid. Maybe its tough to make a stiff flat bottom boat, but it does feel like at a minimum, the material under the seat, that carries most of your butt weight, should be thicker. ?
-No drain plug. Clearly an oversight on a "crossover" boat that is intended for light whitewater use. Anyone who hits any light rapids is going to pick up some water.
-11.5 cockpit is wider at the front than the 10.5 and probably all the newer sizes. Skirts that fit the 10.5, don't fit the 11.5
-11.5 does not include the drain notches around cockpit and rear storage cockpit that drains collected water (as found in the 10.5). 11.5 was the first boat and it looks like Dagger did not upgrade the mold when they came out with the other sizes.
-Would be nice if this boat included even a portion of the padding that can be found in the Dagger Crossover.
-The boat is a LOT of fun and fits its market as advertised. The boat is great to fish out of. Easy to get in and out of in a few feet of water which says something about its stability. Also a lot of fun in light rapids. We've had plenty of fun surfing in these boats, going through small rapids and when I get a full skirt I'd love to try learning to roll it.
-Great storage capacity. Love the tie down bungees on the front and rear deck of the 11.5. Plenty of deck storage space and holds a good bit below as well.
-Stable with your feet in the boat, on the boat, or dangling in the water!
-Appreciate the bar behind the cockpit for cable locking the boat to a roof rack.
-Skeg works great. Boat spins on a dime with skeg up, tracks pretty nice with the skeg down, although it still slightly pulls in one direction or another. Still MUCH better than a whitewater boat.
I bought this boat because I wanted to play and fish and am able to do both. Wish it had a few more features for the money, but its still fun. This boat will probably get me into kayaking as more of a sport. So, they should either drop the price and figure its an introductory SUV of kayaks or keep the same price but add some nicer features. Maybe combine this and the Crossover into one boat that better fits both markets.
Overall, though, read this as a positive review. I'd recommend the boat for purchase.
He suggested a recreational kayak. I thought there were only whitewater kayaks for the "hardcore" whitewater people and sea touring kayaks. After researching several models that he had available I chose the Blackwater. Since purchasing the boat in mid-March I have done two river day trips, one overnighter and two lake fishing trips (with my boyfriend in his Dagger Delta that he purchased a month after I got my Blackwater).
The first time I ever put the boat in the water was for the overnight river trip. I'd never paddled a kayak before in my life. I fell in love with the boat. It was very responsive and easy to handle. A couple of whitewater kayakers were on the trip in their canoes and gave me some paddling tips.
I have had no problem with leaking of the bulkhead - but haven't taken on a lot of water either (I used a nylon sprayskirt). On the lake I had no problem paddling into the wind or with cross wind. One trip we had a lot of jet skiers and water skiers in the area and even in their wakes the Blackwater handled well.
For fishing the cockpit is large enough that I was able "fiddle" with the equipment without much difficulty. (A Velcro strap attached to the bungee cords on the front deck held the paddle nicely while I fished.
Regarding the "plowing" some people have mentioned I did experience that the first time I was on the lake but found that it was related to my posture in the boat. If I leaned forward and really "dug in" with the paddle it plowed but if I relaxed a bit and paddled less forcefully the boat just glided over the water.
I am very pleased with the boat so far. I haven't done much "whitewater" yet (are that isn't my primary interest) but the little I have done has not been a problem and it is good to know the boat can handle it.
This is our third (Walden Experience, Great Canadian Swell), and is already my favorite (Walden is daughter's favorite, Swell is wife's).
All in all, a very nice kayak, accurately rated for capacity, and well made (no visible defects). I would definitely recommend this as a great all around recreational kayak.
I have the expedition model which includes a rear bulkhead and hatch. I have found that the bulkhead tends to get small leaks in it and if you plan on submerging (or accidentally flipping) the boat, water will get in through the hatch. I'm not talking about gallons or anything but it does add up. The Blackwater has a very large cockpit. I had thigh braces put in and let me just say they should be called knee braces. The cockpit is very long and wide. If you plan on rolling, be careful. The seat is not attached to the plastic seat molding very well. When you reach a certain angle, the seat slides making it quite a nuisance to roll. Actually, nusiance is not the right word. It doesn't make it harder. It's just that it should be better secured.
With all this said, the price is right. If you are looking for a boat to paddle on calm water or very slow moving streams, this MAY be the boat for you. Give it a "test paddle" if you can.
This boat does exactly what I wanted it to do.. be short, go slow and be stable. If I want distance or speed I will paddle either my Necky Kyook or my Wilderness Systems Sealution XL (composite). If you want a light weight easy to maneuver slow boat that is stable and fun to paddle on lazy rivers, small creeks or other small bodies of water I recommend it. Price was right $500 plus tax. Seems well made save for the seat which is a punishment chair.
Stability is surprisingly good, even in nasty chop and swells. I put on the spray skirt and become fearless. Yes, I take a lot of spray in the face when going into the wind and waves. But, have no complaints about spray in calm water.
Tracking with the skeg down is good. But, I've found I like tracking so well, I may get a longer kayak. Before first outing, I adjusted the skeg line so it would drop 1/2 inch more, to where it looked designed for. A month later, in chop and rollers, I found it wasn't tracking at all. On shore, found the skeg line had stiffened and/or shrunk, and was barely dropping. I had to cut and patch onto it with line I had handy.
Early on, I noticed the entire hull had slight roughness. Took 600 grit sandpaper to it, with rubber sanding block... made it nice and slick with little effort.
The only problem we have found was during Eskimo roll attempts in the swimming pool, the bulkhead on my son's Blackwater leaked (water entered when the spray-skirt gave way and during wet exits). That seems to be a an issue for this model in other reviews that I have read. I don't think it is a big issue though and should be easily corrected by the owner. We are using the Blackwater mainly for river running and camping on the Brazos, Trinity, and Guadalupe rivers. We are anxious to get some swift water, but in Texas, we must wait for rain!
The Blackwater is very light and easy to transport. We carry them in the rear of a short bed pickup with only about 16 inches extending past the tailgate of the truck. We also have a 5' x 12' trailer that easily and fully accommodates both kayaks and gear.
Two things: the bulkhead in the expedition we bought leaks. I saw in reading the other reviews someone else had this problem. Our local shop owner is contacting Dagger for a fix. #2, the skeg line was maladjusted and had to be readjusted to get full deployment and retraction.
I love the cockpit. The Santiam was cooking so sometimes I'd just pull my legs back and cross them and float with an occasional stroke to keep going straight. Very comfortable.
I'm glad we got one of each, they're both fine boats.
One complaint so far, the seal bulkhead in the back leaks. haven't figure out where the water is coming from but it looks like i'll have to reseal it myself. i would have expect to do this in about a year, not new.
The price was right also, $500 plus tax.
If anyone needs a paddling partner in Central Texs drop me an email.
My initial thoughts were the basic requirement of recreational kayaks -stability. After that, I considered my personal ability potential and wanted fast over stable, straighter over turning ability, and secondary stability over initial stability.
In the water this kayak behaved as my mind expected a kayak to behave. Good glide, good side sliding, very maneuverable, and quiet. After reading many of the product reviews and 10 is perfection, then nobody seems to make a bad kayak or canoe. I've changed the rating system to my expectations being 5, above 5 being "better than expected" and below 5 is not going to happen.
Tracking: 5 as expected, excellent in calm water, use the skeg when windy or choppy.
Speed: 5, as expected. The width is narrower than the average recreation kayak.
Stability: 7 Fear of tipping over is still there when entering and exiting. What fun! Once in, very stable.
Comfort: 6 Better that expected stay in the cockpit for hours and enough room inside to move around.
Foot pegs: 8 Yep, they're there and are easy to adjust even while on the water.
Looks: 7, it looks like a traditional kayak
Utilitarian stuff: Shock cords on bow and stern, big storage hatch with good seal, and a security bar to lock the kayak up to something.
It comes down to making the jump into the paddling world. Just lace up your Nikes, go down to the store, pull out your wallet, and 'just do it'.
I found the Blackwater to be well designed. I think the best feature is the drop down skeg which poises inside the kayak. When in really tight or shallow areas, I can quickly raise the skeg the gain maneuverability. When I need the skeg, a quick pull and release of the cord drops the skeg into position. I imagine that with another knot in the cord, I can have an intermediate position for the skeg.
I bought this kayak for week long camping/fishing/paddling trips in the lakes of the Adirondacks. The boat is rated for at least 280# of payload, and thus can safely carry all my equipment. The seat, although utilitarian, is quite comfortable, and the back can be adjusted to suit personal preferences. There is plenty of room behind the seat for easy access to stored items. Deck cording is provided by Dagger both fore and aft, and proved to be quite useful. Neither compartment leaked, however I did seal the recessed deck fittings with silicone beforehand. This was because the drill-holes made by Dagger for the shockcord did cross into the underside of the deck, creating an easy point for water to enter.
All in all, I found the kayak to be quite easy to paddle, track, and turn. In choppy water I found the Blackwater to be quite stable.