Excelling in rough seas, surf and wind, the elegant Delta 16 offers a balanced combination of maneuverability and tracking. This nimble sea kayak stays the course in challenging conditions, holds a lively pace with ease and has plenty of storage capacity for multi-day exploration. With substantial rocker and a moderately concave sidewall, the Delta 16 edges with satisfying bite, and turns on a dime. At 16 feet, its performance envelope is best explored by a medium-sized paddler. Features include a low-profile front day hatch, Press-Lock hatches, our Contour II Seat System, and optional rudder or spring-loaded skeg.
I am the very happy owner of a Delta 16 sea kayak. This is one of my all-time favorite performance sea kayaks. It seems to me there are not a lot of reviews out there about Delta Kayaks' 16, so I am posting my review in the hopes that it will help anyone who is on the fence or interested in testing out a Delta 16.
I have been wielding a paddle since I was about 6 years old. I have over 30 years of total paddling experience and over 20 years of experience kayaking both on fresh and salt water. I love to paddle rock gardens and surf, as well as tour up and down the Washington and British Columbia coast lines, or any of numerous inland lakes and rivers. I have owned and paddled various whitewater and flat water kayaks over the years, and have developed very distinct tastes and preferences for design and performance features. I am discerning and critical of gear performance and will not give something a good rating if I do not feel it up to my quality standards - in order to make my grade it must achieve a very high level of performance and be essentially bombproof. While no boat or piece of equipment is ever absolutely perfect, occasionally, there are some things that come close. I should also note that I am not brand loyal but chose my gear based on performance, quality, and value where appropriate. I will only endorse gear or brands that I feel are living up to my standards. Prior to my Delta 16, I have been a big fan of several excellent boats made by Necky, NDK (Sea Kayaking UK/Nigel Dennis Kayaks), P&H Kayaks, as well as boats like the Valley Anas Acuta, Tahe Marine Greenland... to name just a few. I love British and Greenland style boats. Though there have been some excellent North American boats (Current Designs Solstice GT comes to mind), I love a boat that really dances and seems to move effortlessly and intuitively whether touring or playing in the rock gardens. Okay, you're not here to read about me but to gain a better understanding of the Delta 16...
Delta Kayaks 16 is intended to be what Delta labels a performance touring kayak. It definitely fits this description as it is a high performance sea kayak that can also swallow some serious gear without compromising performance and fun factor - and it succeeds very well. Before we get into specifics on the 16, let me say that this boat is a true pleasure to paddle and not only does it paddle well, it leaves you wanting more! Fun is a rather trite word to describe this boat. It does exactly what its designers intended it to do and very well at that. This is now my primary sea kayak and I wouldn't have it any other way.
This is one of the most popular of Delta's performance touring kayaks (15s, 16, and 17 currently). There is a reason for it as this boat performs. The Delta Kayaks 16 was originally designed with British Columbia's famous Skookumchuck standing wave in mind. While I have not yet paddled my 16 on the Skook, I have no doubt it will perform at a very high level. This boat is 16 feet in length but it has just enough rocker and hull definition that it feels considerably shorter when placed on edge than one would imagine. This boat carves beautifully! No matter how much texture there is to the water, glass, waves or serious chop, this kayak loves to carve!
I have seen a couple reviews that comment on initial stability being low or a bit tippy. I do not find that to be the case. Rather, I find the 16 to have excellent or very high initial stability. Perhaps this is due to my experience, but I find initial stability to be a non-issue. It is technically a hard chine boat, so initial stability should be quite good, much like in many white-water play boats. Secondary stability, the metric I am most concerned about, is even better than initial stability. This boat feels very sweet when laid on edge in a low or high brace turn. It carves so well I even enjoy carving s turns on glass - must be the snow skier in me... It responds very well to braced turns. Throw in an upright bow rudder, etc... and it is not sluggish but lively and responds without hesitation.
My Delta 16 is the version with a rudder - this a departure from my typical preference as I have preferred skegs for years - While it is good to have either a rudder or skeg if you get in high wind scenarios, I rarely drop my rudder. The boat tracks well without, in spite of the moderate rocker. It edges so nicely, and I tend to prefer edging to the option of turning with the rudder. It does turn the boat if you so desire, but I prefer to keep my rudder stowed in the up position and it only touches the water if I need tracking help in the wind, which is rare. Weather cocking is not really much of an issue. Any boat will weather cock if the wind is gusting hard enough or the person paddling is not experienced enough, though some boats are better than others in this area. Skegs and rudders do help in this situation. I find the 16 to have excellent handling in the wind and chop, even without the rudder deployed.
Because of the hull design, though a stellar performer on glass, it seems to come alive and just get better in rough water. Rough water is right where this boat is at home. Though higher in dry storage volume than many similarly sized British Style sea kayaks, the 16 does not sacrifice in handling, acceleration, or cruising speed in any way. It really is the best combination of the best of British and North American influence in kayak designs. It feels light on the water and is very maneuverable yet tracks very well. Even though it has the most rocker of any of Delta's performance touring kayaks, it still has excellent cruising characteristics and maintains glide very well with little effort. With its handling, this kayak is a blast in both calm and rough seas. To be honest, there isn't much you couldn't do with the Delta 16. It feels great and I find it to be a nimble, capable performer anywhere I choose to paddle.
The 16 has two main hatches which swallow an insane amount of gear, especially in comparison to most 16 foot Brit boats. Part of this is due to the curved bulkheads and the fact that the Delta 16 only has a day hatch (aka day pod) located in front of the cockpit. This means the day hatch does not impede dry storage in the stern of the kayak. It also moves the extra flotation provided by the typical day hatch bulkhead right into the cockpit, as the day pod protrudes into the cockpit between the paddler's legs. This is more centralized, which is a good thing for flotation purposes. I am six feet tall and 180 lbs with size 10 feet. I have not found the day pod to get in my way at all, and as far as I am aware, it is the largest forward day hatch on the market. It is also very easy to access - I do not have to stretch at all to access any gear in the day pod. It will swallow an extra layer, a DSLR (assuming you don't have a monster lens on it!) lunch, or various and sundry safety items. I have paddled with a deck bag for years before this. The day pod on my 16 is more than adequate so my deck bag gathers dust at present. I also really like the hatch covers - both on the prior generation and the current press lock hatches. It may sound strange, but I actually like the older hatches a bit better as the L shaped style latches make me feel slightly more secure in knowing that they are indeed latched on solidly. If that isn't enough, both the older and the current models have bungees that provide additional peace of mind. Regardless, both styles of hatches are in my view superior to typical rubber hatches found on the majority of Brit style boats. Rubber hatches do their job, but these ones are easier to use and seem more durable.They are especially easy to use on while on the water, something I can't say about other kayaks I have owned or paddled before. I have had no issues with any of the hatches leaking. As always, best to be safe and make sure you put anything you don't want getting wet in a dry bag. Still, no leaks as yet.
The cockpit feels comfortable and performance oriented. The cockpit combing uses a size 1.7 Seals spray skirt. Delta also makes a couple of nice skirt options for the 16. Thigh braces are excellent and unlike some ABS boats, feel stiff and very responsive. No troubles with rolling, bracing, or comfort. There is an aftermarket hip kit, depending on how much performance you want to crank out of the 16. If you are small, definitely consider it. If my size, you could probably get away without it, but if you are like me, my whitewater playboat has hip padding because it really does give you that extra performance edge. Go for the hip kit. Performance is great without it, but even better with. Seat moves about 4 inches forward or backwards and is very comfortable. I like that the adjustable back band is not only easy to adjust but that it moves with your torso as you take each paddle stroke. The foot pegs offer a gas peddle type steering (for rudder models). This allows you to brace and adjust the rudder at the same time without compromising your brace. This system is high quality and robust. Performance is flawless. Enough said. Both the front deck and rear deck are somewhat higher than other boats, but not excessively so. This provides more volume for storage and foot/knee room for the paddler as well as drier paddling in adverse conditions. The rear deck is still low enough for comfortable rolling and general goofing around.
Full perimeter deck lines and bungees for lashing gear, extra paddles, etc... are excellent and abundant. I like the compass mount on the older Delta 16. The newest version doesn't have the compass mount, but given the variety of aftermarket deck mountable compasses one can get these days, that is not a deal breaker.
I have yet to fit mine with a sail, but hope to post once I've done that. I was told that it is possible and given some suggestions by Delta on that subject.
Delta Kayaks' 16, along with the rest of their boats are constructed from a very high grade of ABS or thermoform plastic. To my knowledge, this is the highest grade of thermoform available on the market. While other manufacturers do make thermoform ABS boats. Delta currently makes the best version out there. Everything on any Delta boat is very high quality, from the thermoform ABS hull, hatches, and seat fittings, to the hardware, and other outfitting. There is nothing to sneeze at in the construction of these boats. They look beautiful, are durable and virtually impervious to solar degradation, and as Delta says on their website "They really do perform as good as they look."
There are lots of things that can be said about the different hull materials one can choose from these days. Depending on who you talk to it could get quite confusing and some information seems to be contradictory. Here are the simple facts: There are three materials to choose from: Composite (either fiberglass, carbon fiber, kevlar, etc... or some combination of these), polyethylene (usually rotomolded), or thermoformed ABS. On paper ABS makes the mark for best combination of performance and value. Composite is usually stiffer, lighter than poly but less durable to encounters with rocks and accidental drops, dragging across beaches, etc... Poly boats are heavier and more durable to bumps, but show wear sooner and are more prone to oilcanning/deforming of the hulls. Poly boats are also the most difficult to repair if they do crack/break. (it is possible to do plastic welding, etc... but that is another story). ABS lands itself right in the middle between the two. It is more durable than composite, easier to repair than any of the other options, while being much lighter than rotomolded polyethylene, as well as stiffer than polyethylene.
I personally really like thermoformed ABS - both in concept and in practice. While there are many excellent composite boats that I like, all of them are very expensive and though durable composites, you wouldn't find me dropping them on concrete just to see how well they hold up. There have been some excellent composite boats built to take a beating and still capable of carrying you back to your landing spot. However, damage to a composite boat can take a lot of repair work. ABS is easier to repair than any of the the hull options. It also doesn't involve innumerable microscopic splinters and cuts to ones appendages upon damage. Though composite is a bit stiffer, I don't find it to be materially so. And, the thermoform ABS that Delta uses is a very high grade that I honestly find very stiff. It actually seems even stiffer than some composite boats I have seen, though this is not a rule. There are some other excellent thermoform kayaks out there, but if you want the best quality - Delta seems to do it better than any I have found so far. I would have no qualms about using this boat and expecting as good or better performance from it as from a comparable composite boat. Honestly, the Delta 16 performs so well I don't stop to think about what it is made from so much as I think - this is a sweet ride!
I have seen a few comments about people doing things such as dropping the bow of their kayaks onto pavement or concrete and winding up with cracks in the hull. While this is unfortunate, it would not be a better situation if it were a composite boat or a polyethylene boat. Everyone I know who owns a composite boat is extra careful to avoid such situations. I would also like to point out that even a very high quality polyethelyne sea kayak could (and it has happened) crack upon dropping the bow directly onto pavement or concrete. Again no boat or material is perfect!
ABS is way more scratch resistant than poly. It will show small scratches, but no large gouges. It has even been documented how some Delta boats have had the misfortune of taking flight off of their proprietor's vehicle racks while driving down the freeway only to crash and tumble. Ironically, the Delta's survived with only mild scratches whereas the composite and poly boats did not fare as well.
Whichever camp you reside in, the facts are that the Delta 16 is a very high quality boat. Delta's reputation is excellent both for build quality, quality of materials, and quality of customer service. They are also made in Canada. In a day and age when nearly everything is being made somewhere else, something made in North America, let alone Canada, seems to be harder and harder to find. You would be hard pressed to find a higher quality product than that Delta turns out of is Maple Ridge factory.
The Delta 16 is made to suit the paddler who wants a high performance sea kayak more than capable of playing in rough water, surf, etc... and yet easily capable of carrying more gear further and more effortlessly than other boat in its class. All this while maintaining a very high quality standard and a reasonable price point. Anyone looking for a British Style sea kayak with the ability to be a true sea play boat and still go long distances comfortably owes it to themselves to test paddle a Delta 16. To my knowledge, there is not a boat on the market that more deftly combines the best of British and North American sea kayak design at any price point. The fact that it is such a high quality product and made in Canada is just icing on the cake.
I have had this kayak in all kinds of weather and have always felt safe. I have paddled the Broken Group and the larger ocean swells in the outer islands. However the two most challenging trips were one on Ross Lake in the North Cascades and Sechelt Inlet. Ross lake, when we started was rainy, until we rounded the point from the boat launch heading south. An awesome headwind with waves having 37km of nice straight water to build on, was waiting. Waves were between 2 and 3 feet. We paddled the 15km to Lightning Creek in 3 and a half hours and were done by the time we got there. Nice thing is the rain stopped. We were the advance crew for staking claim for the long weekend. The rest of our group arrived Friday. They arrived late and had stories to tell of the 9" to 12" trees that had blown over and blocked the road. We weren't surprised. Their energy was spent sawing and removing, then their paddle. The Sechelt inlet trip was sunny and warm, but the funneling winds coming down the inlets were reasonably intense. In this case they were rear quartering and my boat with the skeg tracked very well. The shore on these inlets is mostly rocky and steep so the confused seas generated were also a challenge. Again the waves were 2-3'. I don't go without when I kayak camp, and my deck is clear of material other than my map and spare paddle. I attribute this to the ample storage and when the wind blows in a low profile boat is certainly appreciated. Gear arrives dry. This trip was 108km in 4 days with the longest 34km from Tzoonie Narrows, through Skookumchuk at slack tide, and then back to Tzoonie Narrows. Good thing the seat is comfortable!
I hope Delta keeps producing this boat in its performance touring capacity rather than leaning towards a rec boat, we small people need these boats. I guess what I am saying is this boat swallows gear, goes fast straight, and handles the rough stuff while keeping me comfortable and gear dry.
Hatches are the most distinctive feature, and apparently Delta is still tinkering with them -- I have seen a recent review of an example without the rear day-hatch. It was hard to reach, at least to re-close, at least as ours came rigged, but maybe that's what a paddling partner is for. Agreed that the pod makes efficient packing difficult, but that's the trade-off for possible convenience.
We have had no trouble at all with leaks, and the other Deltas we have seen were also dry. Our "knobs" work fine though they are fussy and not attractive. One should be aware that the boat as delivered will not look like the one in the picture.
The forward day hatch is large enough to hold quite a bit of stuff, without getting in the way in the cockpit, at least underway. It has not hindered us during wet exits, but one may want to consider how the pod could affect re-entry.
The office-chair style seat is wonderfully adjustable but not well padded. I check periodically to make sure that the two essential knobs are not coming loose. The height adjustment is "quantized," unlike some other slot-type models which might not stay put so long but might give you some warning before shedding parts. I kind of like the cord-type adjustment for both the seat back and the skeg as being more nautical (i.e., replaceable without fancy hardware) than some. This is even more true of the carry handles -- our other boat, an Eddyline Fathom, has spring-loaded retractable toggles that can't drag in the water; but when I need to swim my boat, or just tie it down on my car top, the handles I want are the ones on the 16.
Our 16 keeps up fine with our Fathom, probably doesn't hold quite so much stuff but holds some things that the Fathom won't -- because of the big hatch covers. The Delta is more fun to maneuver. I'm 6 feet, 160 lbs, my wife is shorter; people bigger than us will want to make sure they have room in the cockpit, maybe particularly for feet including footgear.
We only considered ABS boats. I like the seats and the pedal adjustments in the Perceptions, and like I say we bought a Fathom too. But I don't like any of them better than the 16. That 9 rating from me is probably as good as it gets.
Obviously, a primary reason to buy a Delta is the thermoformed plastic: tough, slick, attractive, light weight, UV resistant, fairly rigid, and less expensive and less heavy than fiberglass. At 22 inches wide, this is one of Delta's narrower and ostensibly more efficient offerings.
I'm 5'9", 135 lb male, 52. I was only able to test paddle in calm water. Stability was fine. I found the maneuverability and edging to be quite good. Hull efficiency did not meet my expectations. While it would cruise along nicely at 4.6 MPH, 5 MPH took so much effort as to not be practical (in contrast, I get more than another 1/2 MPH from my 23 inch wide CLC Shearwater 16). I have to wonder if the concave sides and bottom facets add drag to the design. The full stems may be a factor here, too. I didn't get a chance to do anything meaningful with the skeg. It deployed easily. With just a jam cleat for the rope, incremental adjustment was not convenient.
The cockpit was not bad, if a bit larger than necessary. The sliding seat is a nice feature. I adjusted the position until my thighs fell nicely on the braces. I could have used some side padding. I do like having some room behind the seat for water and other things. The seat was not right for my bum, but, I have no padding, and factory seats generally don't work well. The seat pad had what appeared to be a drain area at the bottom -- but, there was no hole through the seat pan to allow water to escape! The seat back can be adjusted vertically while out of the boat, and the bungee'd hinge worked nicely. I found the single cord for seat back support and adjustment to be skimpy, and considered that the approx. 12-inch free end beyond the jam cleat might be an annoyance or safety hazard. And, shortening the cord would impair adjustability.
This is the only model where Delta has opted to include a front day hatch, and lock knobs on all the hatches. The front day hatch is a nice convenience. It is smoothly rounded on the underside of the deck, and does not at all interfere with your feet. The lock knobs work, but, they also leak. The knobs don't have their own seals, so, for example, the front day hatch would get a little water in it from paddle splashes. All of the hatch rims were nicely finished. Where my last thermoformed boat (a Perception) had the hatch edge pointed outward, Delta went to the trouble of turning the edges inward, to hide them and add rigidity. The main hatches are quite large. I was able to get the halves of a 230cm paddle into either hatch, as a test. The rear day hatch is a pod suspended under the deck. It seemed a little small. I didn't mind open space beside the pod, in the main rear compartment, but, the approx. 1 inch below it seemed wasted. Each hatch had bungees crossing over it, with hooks to quickly snap them in place. But, the combination of knob locks and bungees was a bit of a bother, and the bungees were so tight as to limit what other gear they could hold.