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Express Reviews


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Mariner Kayaks, Inc.
Express Reviews

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For starters, let’s…

Submitted by: acadia on 1/8/2018

For starters, let’s acknowledge that the Mariner fan club tends to cheer any boat designed by the Broze Brothers. To hear them tell it, these boats are an evolutionary step beyond other designs. The Express is a very decent boat, but it’s by no means the pinnacle of kayak evolution.

Let’s start with the good. First off, Mariner construction is excellent. The boat is strong where it really counts (solid end pours, beefy seams), but light enough to carry. Second, a lot of thought has gone into the hull to balance several characteristics: maneuverability, tracking, speed, surfability. The result is that the Express is pretty darn good in all four areas, which is an impressive design achievement. Third, because of its short length and high volume bow/stern, the Express is a good boat to have in confused waters. Fourth, all that volume also translates into lots of space for gear for trips.

Now the less than good parts. The Broze Bros felt that hatches and bulkheads were leak-prone, heavy, and totally unnecessary, so they built their boats without them. The entire kayak industry felt differently, with the Brit builders in particular demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that bulkheads can be made strong and hatches can be made waterproof, and expedition paddlers the world over showing their preference for such hatches. In short, the Mariner position, while exotic, is an evolutionary dead end. Having tripped out of an Express for several years, I can’t tell you how big a hassle it was to have no hatches. That, plus the need to use a seasock for safety, drove me crazy.

Another Boze design philosophy was their condemnation of skegs and rudders. Again, they considered them failure-prone and unnecessary. And again, the entire industry moved in a different direction. I’ve had my share of jammed skegs or rudders that won’t deploy fully, but I’ve also spent enough time tripping in big winds or confused waters where either a rudder or skeg saved me from fatigue and frustration. With its blunt stern, the Express could easily take a rudder, and due to its cockpit placement, there are occasions when it could definitely use one (see below).

There are other drawbacks to the boat. The high rear deck impedes layback rolls. The cockpit might have been large for its time, but compared to modern boats it’s a bit short. This means that people with 32” inseam or longer will have to contort themselves when getting in and out. Finally, in high winds (30 knots) this boat will leecock, which is no good at all, requiring the paddler to load the bow heavy. That wouldn’t be a huge problem in a boat with a front hatch...except this boat doesn’t have one. A rudder would solve this problem too...

So while the Express was a classic of its time, it needs a fresh look. Adding bulkheads and rubber hatches would be a vast improvement. Adding a rudder would make this a very complete all-rounder.


Now that I've had my Express…

Submitted by: paddler232179 on 3/10/2008
Now that I've had my Express for a year and put 170+ miles on it last season, I feel better qualified to review it. Last September, at the Port Townsend Seminar, I paddled around the point and into town. On my return I noticed two paddlers about a mile away. By the time we reached the seminar beach I had overtaken them and landed first. When they saw me later they said, "Yeah, we saw you blow past us. Those Mariners are fast kayaks." For a 16 foot kayak, that is impressive performance. I'm 65 years old and these guys were in their 30s and 40s.

I mentioned that I had a high volume kayak for touring. My son and I went on a trip up to Upper Priest Lake in Idaho and he took the high volume boat. I packed gear into dry bags and stuffed them up into the hull (no hatches). I was amazed to discover that I could load almost as much as the 18'6" high volume expedition boat. The fat butt of the Express - which makes it surf so readily - also lets me easily carry enough gear for a trip. Even more surprising, when the wind came up he took more water over his boat than I did!!!

It's fast and it can carry a load and it loves to surf. So how about handling? Well a friend came up to visit and I gave him the Express and a few tips on the sliding seat. We took an hour paddle on a local lake and during the paddle the wind came up and he had some issues with weathercocking. A simple shift of the seat position solved that problem. No rudder, no skeg... just scooch back or forward until the problem goes away and keep on paddling. Adjustments to your heading are accomplished by a quick edge to one side or another without changing paddle cadence. After a short while it becomes second nature.

The Mariners are, at least for now, available again ( but if you can't find one new and see one advertised used, buy it! You won't regret it.


I have a large expedition…

Submitted by: paddler232179 on 8/8/2007
I have a large expedition boat and wanted something lighter and easier for one person to handle. The Express certainly has fit the bill for me. I've put 40 miles on it since I bought it (used) 4 weeks ago. I've done paddles in the San Juan Islands and near Shelton, and several workout sessions on a local lake. I've had it in 4' boat wakes and turbulence, in 15kt winds, and so far it's handled very well. No bulkheads, but I'm not going to use this boat for long trips so I stuff flotation bow and stern. My sliding seat has a pan-head screw that hurts my hip so I will have to fix that but otherwise the seat adjusts well and allows me to change trim (like from cruising to surfing) in a moment. At under 50lbs (fiberglass) it's easy for me (and I don't walk that well) to launch and retrieve. They're back in production with boats in kevlar. I would highly recommend it if you want a well-balanced, easily moved, lightweight boat that can take on the weather.

I have an Express in…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 9/22/2004
I have an Express in Kevlar/Carbon, which is a light 40 lbs or so. I love this boat. I'd use this boat for anything except very long trips, where I'd prefer a Mariner II, or for dedicated serious rock gardens, where I would use a Coaster. But the Express is a great no compromises boat in between these two. Mine has no sliding seat and so far I have not missed that -- it is so well balanced and maneuverable that it doesn't need it, except perhaps to balance a poorly loaded boat on a multi-day trip. Going with the foam seat as I have saves about 8 lbs of weight.

If you are looking for the…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 11/14/2002
If you are looking for the most seaworthy, sea kindly sea kayak made and have not considered the Mariner Express you may well be settling for second best. I've had mine since April and have found it everything the excellent Mariner web site says it is. Tracking, turning, edging, surfing, it does is all. The best thing about it is the worse the weather gets the better the Express gets. The unique deck rigging is ingenious in its flexibility. Paddling the Express you get the feeling every aspect of the kayaking experience has been thoughtfully considered and attended to. Call the shop and talk to the owners/designers of Mariner Kayaks Matt and Cam Broze. Explain what you want from your kayak. Listen to what they say. You are quite likely going to end up with a kayak better than you might have imagined. My expectations were sky high when I got mine and my expectations were surpassed. If ten is the highest rating available this kayak is easily a twelve!

I picked up an Express after…

Submitted by: Scottb on 5/6/2002
I picked up an Express after owning 5 other kayaks over a 12 year period. I bought it sight unseen and without paddling one beforehand. I chose this kayak after carefully considering what I wanted a kayak for. I wanted a rough water boat that does good in the surf and paddles through wind and chop with ease. I wanted a boat that was easy to roll. I was not too sure about buying a boat that didn't have bulkheads or hatches but after using this boat for the last six months I feel that the bulkheads and hatches I have on my other boats are just added weight with no real use. I use full sized float bags coupled with a sea sock and I have found this system works great and makes loading and unloading a breeze. The more I paddle this boat the more I like it. I am 5-11 and 215lbs. and the boat fits me perfectly without any additional outfitting. Any bigger and this might might be too small. I wanted a tough boat and Matt talked me into his fiberglass hull. Makes a tuning fork kind of noise when it comes crashing down off the top off large waves. It is sub 50 lbs and I like it. This boat feels great in windy conditions. As controlable as any other I have paddled. It is not particulary fast in my hands but it aint slow either. A very happy medium would describe it's speed. It makes me smile when I paddle it. But then again I smile in an inner tube.

This is best all around kayak…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 11/19/2001
This is best all around kayak I have ever been in for varied ocean conditions. I have owned more than 30 boats over long paddling career - and this is the boat I would keep above all others. Simply the best handling rough water boat I have seen. Surfs wonderfully (but not as good as Coaster). Easy paddling effort for miles and hours. Moving seat allows changing positions. Once you understand how hull dynamics work, the directional stability is fine. This thing loves rough water.

I got the Express sight…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 5/9/2001
I got the Express sight unseen 8yrs ago on the recomendations of a few experienced paddlers. The Express is a very full boat for it's length with more volume in the bow than any other kayak I've seen. It is a very secure kayak in rough waters, very well balanced with regards to weathercocking but with an inexperienced paddler the bow will blow down wind. I started to learn how to paddle with this kayak after paddling for 4yrs previously in other boats. The lack of front bulkhead can be a problem if one doesn't keep floats maintained. Good boat for surf launchings and landings.