I got the Specter 15.5 Airalite used for a great price and I really liked the classy non-plastic look of it - and the cockpit was a great, roomy fit. As a newbie to kayaking I prefer a little wiggle room. As I gain experience and confidence I will probably move up to a more snug fit for advanced maneuvering and rolling. Also as a newbie, I have found the rudder to be absolutely invaluable. I don't always use it because I am trying to develop some paddle control but in very windy conditions, confused chop, maneuverability, or when I get tired, I have been totally grateful to have it available. Additionally, it is awesome for maneuvering through the saltwater marshes. The primary stability still kind of freaks me out but I feel confident in the secondary stability. I have little to compare it to as far as speed, but it is quick to get moving with little effort and seems to move along pretty good with some effort. I thought it would coast better/longer when I stop paddling, but that's probably due to my weight. Now that I have some time in the cockpit, I will soon take it out on the open ocean water. I'm really looking forward to that.
The only drawbacks I would mention are the less than confident primary stability, the weight for a 15.5 ft 'Airalite', and (although the neoprene hatch covers have always remained watertight) the top covers over the hatches don’t stay completely in place.
Overall, for the great price, I am very pleased with my purchase of the Dagger Specter. I really do love the look of the Airalite. I am very happy with this being my first kayak to learn on this season – although, since I have definitely caught the kayaking bug, next season I will be trading up to a sweet, lighter, more advanced ride for big water touring.
Having other kayaks to paddle, I don't use this boat as often as I used to but I have taken many beginning paddlers out for their first time ever in the Dagger Specter and their favorable first experiences were formed by having a safe and stable feeling.
I would recommend anyone looking for a good used, stable, durable and comfortable boat to buy a Specter.
The Specter was among the first generation of thermoformed boats. Compared to today's thermoformed kayaks, it's about 10 lbs overweight, which is a significant disadvantage. One of the main benefits of thermoformed plastic is its light weight, but at 57 lbs the Specter is as heavy as it would be today in cheaper rotomolded plastic. And in fact there are rotomolded kayaks at that weight that have better paddling characteristics than the Specter.
So you won't be buying the Specter for its light weight. The next advantage of thermoformed plastic is its stiffness, which normally means a faster boat---but not in the case of the Specter. I agree with the reviewer who called this a "big, heavy, high-volume boat." You will feel the extra 10 lbs and bulky hull shape with every paddle stroke.
The cockpit of the Specter is suited only to a quite large person. Sitting in the boat with my knees bent, the thigh braces were about 3" above my thighs, providing no support at all. The cockpit is cavernous---plenty of room for comfort, but it would only provide good contact for a very large person.
The seat pan is comfortable. I don't personally find any backband comfortable, but this one is considerably better than most, and some people will like it. On me it didn't provide lumbar support, being too low. It is wider and more padded than most backbands. The ratchet adjustment for the angle of the back is easy to use while sitting in the boat.
The Specter has a shallow V, multichine hull. It has good stability, both initial and secondary. It doesn't have much rocker, so it racks straight but is slow to turn even on edge. It does feel stable on edge. This boat could be paddled by a beginner.
To its credit the Specter comes with a rudder. But I would not want to paddle this already slow boat with the rudder creating even more drag. The design of the hatch covers is poor, as mentioned by other reviewers. There are no perimeter lines, which is a safety issue.
In a nutshell, the Specter is not competitive with today's thermoformed boats.
Fit: I am 6'5", 240 lbs., size 15 feet. This boat fits superbly. Unlike my 17' Prijon Kodiak, where I have to remove the thigh hooks to fit in, this boat lets me use the integrated thigh hooks (which are perfectly positioned for me).
Handling: Leaning and edging are absolutely effortless. Secondary stability seems solid. Just finished a six hour intermediate paddling course where the Specter responded immediately to everything I asked of it. Pleasure boat wakes and jet ski wakes present no problem. Does side-slip somewhat in the wind but this is corrected through edging. Speed is good, comparable to other quality plastic boats. Tracking is a bit soft (perhaps due to the boat's maneuverability).
Outfitting: Seat and backband are extremely comfortable on multi-hour trips. Bungees are functional and conveniently rigged. As others have said, the external hatches do slip a bit but the bulkheads have remained dry. I am a bit concerned at the lack of perimeter lines and plan to add those this winter.
Summation: For the XL guy, I believe this to be an outstanding day tourer.
Overall a very satisfying boat, with enough space for a few days' worth of camping gear, perhaps not a full expedition to Antarctica but it does what Dagger says it will. Only gripe is the hatch covers sliding around some during rescue practice, but the watertight integrity is never affected. I'd recommend this boat strongly to anyone who can't afford a $2500 kevlar British boat but still wants to feel they made a good investment, and the Airalite material is a lot tougher than is generally discussed around here. 9 out of 10...one point off for hatch covers and no perimeter grab lines, but they're easy to add anyway.
I started out into the lake, and found it easy to handle, it tracked well, and was easy to turn. I was happy so far. I then started to see how it would go thru the water when I put some effort in the paddle strokes. The boat picked up speed, and still tracked well, but I noticed a problem, probably related to my weight it was carrying. The bow was curling the water up like it was a snow plow going thru snow. Instead of it cutting thru the water, the bow was pushing a wake up almost to the edge of the deck.... out at the bow of the boat.
After the test paddle, I talked to the shop owner about this, and he tried the boat after me. He is not as heavy as me, but he noticed some of this also. If you are around 200 Lb or less, this would be a great boat. Or if you are just looking for something more recreational than touring, You will do well with this. I like to get out on large lakes, etc, and just go, so this wasn't for me!
Just as a note, after the test paddle, I wrote an e-mail to Dagger commenting on the boat, and they never replied anything back to me. It has been over a month now, so I guess they are ignoring my negative comments. I was dissapointed on that. If you are lighter in weight, want a nice Rec kayak, take a look at this, as it seems to be a real nice kayak!