I own 2 Sapphires, one with and without a storage hatch. I definitely prefer the storage hatch...for consolidation of valuables in a capsize situation. I find many of these reviews accurate about the full length keel - it is flawed. On flat water, you will grow tired of steering, this boat cannot track straight for more than 20 feet without paddling. Its overall shape feels 'blunt' as though it could be streamlined. The boat keeps its senses though, and doesn't choke in tough spots. 4 foot drops scare the paddler more than the boat, and chaotic becomes routine as the boat stays predictable in tough stuff.
Big pro's: 1 boat, very many uses. Comfortable enough to spend 5 hours in it. Decent storage for a boat this short. Brave enough to tackle any element.
Big con's: it won't track...oddly goes backwards better than forward. Holds a ton of water in a capsize event, and can be challenging to get back into after a wreck. Cockpit is so big, no skirt won't buckle with that much water on it. Too tippy to stand up in. Never got mine to roll, just so easy to fall out of that giant cockpit.
I've never sat in a more 'touring' or 'whitewater' - at the same time - rec boat. It feels 'featured-up' much like a bigger boat, yet doesn't become driftwood in crazy class III chaos.
I've been pleased with the Sapphire's versatility. I've had it out on a flat river with major current (and out it's mouth), open ocean, ledgy coastline, tidal flats with lots of currents, marshes, quiet river. Though I have to work a bit harder than my friend with the 17 ft. bullet kayak, I'm much more maneuverable than he is. And, I can follow my wife down whitewater. You don't get a 9 foot kayak for the tracking; go longer if that's what you're really after. Given how short this thing is, I'm impressed with where it _does_ successfully go.
I don't think this boat is unstable at all, having tried quite a few others. Its 6 or so inches of flat side give it a high tipping point, you have to really lean it over to tip it. It's very comfortable and roomy but adjustable to box yourself in when you need to tighten up the ride. Sealing compartment. Overall, I'm pleased with , can take it out to many settings. I agree that a 9 footer in the water beats a 16 footer on the rack.
I would NEVER put a kid or novice in this boat - it is very very tippy and unstable for a recreational kayak. If you do get hung up on some rocks because of the keel, you have to be VERY careful or you'll swamp the boat. It is manueverable - that's what sold me on it originally - but it tracks very poorly. I pretty much have to paddle continuously to keep it in line. Again, it may be ok on a lake, but its no good on the small creeks and rivers where I commonly kayak.
I live in a city and needed a boat that could fit... well anywhere I wanted to put it. I went to the local kayak store and asked about the LL Sapphire, the sales person quickly talked it down and then moved on to showing me boats at double the price that I could hardly lift let alone fit in my apartment. After sitting in all the other kayaks in the show room just to amuse him, I bought the LL Sapphire and have not regretted it.
The size and weight were exactly what I was looking for. At just over 35 lbs it is easy to car top, and simple to store. I wanted a boat that was small enough to use every day if I wanted and so far I have. With my weight it sits rather low in the water so a spray skirt is necessary in rough conditions, but I have found nothing that it can’t handle. The fully adjustable cockpit makes it comfortable for any size person. There are no thigh braces however you will quickly figure out that if you pull in the foot rests one click, the under side of the deck is a suitable replacement, allowing you to roll, instead of bailing out if capsized.
It has great stability, yet it’s only 26” wide, so it’s not a bear to move in the water. You can even paddle up river with relative ease which is hard to find in a no frills rec. boat. As far as tracking it is a great mix between straight lines and ease of turning, making it capable of crossing some distance of water, or having a great time in the surf. It’s a fun boat to own.
A 10’ kayak in the water is better than a 16’ kayak in the garage any day!!