I upgraded to a 2002 Perception Carolina from an inflatable kayak. The first thing I noticed was how quickly the kayak accelerated and how it just glided through the water. For the most part it is stable once you are seated, though I did capsize it while getting out one time. It was quite challenging getting back in. I have rented hardshell kayaks that were more stable, though not as quick. I suspect that the more expensive and faster kayaks are even more prone to capsize for which reason I believe this to be a good one in which to learn. I am 6'3 and found it a little challenging to get in and out of the cockpit. I found the best way to make an exit is to put both hands behind me and push the kayak forward while lifting my hips upwards so that I'm sitting on top of it. I use the same method to get in, though in reverse.
The only issue I had was that I couldn't bend my knees enough to be able to use the rudder pedal. My solution was to lengthen the wire hooked up to the rudder so that I could move the pedals down 2 inches. This did the trick, however rudder now has less travel. In time I plan on finding a better solution to the rudder problem.
I am a larger paddler (6'5"), so needed to fit a suitably sized boat, but found the ocean touring boats to be a bit too long for my needs, as well as too narrow cockpit areas. The Carolina 14.5 has generous cockpit and legroom. Stable boat. Rudder, two hatches. Overall a great choice for the larger recreational to intermediate kayak-er. Highly recommended.
Personally, I give this yak 5 stars. I love that it can carry so much for my day/multi-day trips. Also I feel that it tracks well and although it's a longer boat, it is still light enough as and sleek enough to get moving with only a couple paddle strokes. Naturally it takes a bit more to make it turn sharply because of the length, but all around I'd say it's my favorite yak those reasons. I just love the efficiency of it all.
I got interested in kayaking when I moved to Tennessee from Florida. My first purchase was a Perception Acadia 11.5 which I paddled for a year. Wanted a bigger boat, so decided on the Carolina 14.5. I had a lot of fun in this kayak as I could cover more territory in my day trips. After about 12 years, I had health issues which forced me to sell my Carolina. Not thinking that I would be paddling again, I had surgery and after about four months, started feeling better and had a great desire to get on the lake again. Starting all over again and after much research, I decided to go with the Carolina 12 as I am more familiar with the Carolina line of Perception kayaks. The 12 is much lighter, but lacks the speed I had with the 14.5. At 66 years of age and taking things slower now, the 12 serves my purpose, but I sure do miss my 14.5
I love nature and nature loves kayakers. I'm just sorry I didn't try this sooner. hopefully we will be able to one day kayak with the killer whales. I've heard its something you will remember for the rest of your life. We have also purchased 2 smaller kayaks for river runs and now I'm loving both types of kayaking. I'm so glad I live in the SF Bay Area because there's water everywhere even during this horrible drought.
A while back I reviewed my Carolina and after a number of trips, here are a few additional thoughts.
Once you get used to the tippiness, it paddles well. I had no trouble with wind or waves or wakes though my dog tended to move from bow to my lap when the boat rocked.
It is a fast boat, even loaded with all of my camping junk! Able to keep up with the longer boats if I push it, easily able to keep up if they don't push it. It goes upriver easily and although turns like a truck, once you learn to anticipate, that problem vanishes.
Like me, my daughter finds the cockpit to be tight and we both wish for a larger one. If you like spray-skirts, the small cockpit is good.
The big thing is the thin hull which leads to oil canning.
I had to add sliders onto my storage racks to prevent warping and when I reach the put-in on a hot or even warm day, my saddles cause a deformity in the hull that takes a while to pop out. I don't really care but some people do.
For someone used to a smaller boat and looking for a longer boat for longer camping trips, it is a good upgrade.
For someone used to a better boat, this would be a step down. I intend to keep this boat as a loaner once I find an affordable Tsunami 14 which is my dream boat.
Now I can glide across a lake and keep a straight path against crosswinds and current without shortening my trip through exhaustion. I slip quietly into wildlife grounds and snap pics with ease. My Carolina is so maneuverable that I can get into tight places and then take on the entire lake comfortably.
Recently I moved onto a resort canal system. This is where the shorter length 14.5 pays off. I can navigate quickly and cruise comfortably to enjoy, without disturbing, the wildlife in my backyard. I fully intend to launch from my coastal beach, but for now I continue to enjoy the ease of speed and quiet arrival into nature. For all the inexperienced, youthful and more mature kayakers, this is the rig for you!
Ok, negatives, the cockpit is small. After dealing with the 'fat-boy' cockpits you find on all rec-boats, getting into and out of the Carolina was a chore. Eventually I learned the skills but....
Second was the boat was a bit tippy! But that is to be expected and it didn't take me long to get used to it so another Colorado trip caused no concern.
Also, being narrower, my sleeping pads no longer fit between the seat and sides but are now on deck.
The small round hatch caused me to rethink my packing options as I was used to the larger hatch on my OT Dirago.
And finally, those extra 2.5' didn't give me as much extra cargo as I expected when compared to my wider Dirago... and turning a longer boat made me think about a rudder-kit.
Ok, these are to be expected. so on to the good.
On the Colorado, I was easily able to keep up with the longer and faster boats. Once I realized that I could slingshot off a whirlpool, I left the rest behind.
Once I repacked for a smaller hatch, and recognized that the extra length was compensated by the narrower width, I was able to rethink my packing strategy and get my usual gear inside. I also cut a foam pad and anchored it to the bow for my Min-Pin who quickly got used to the tippiness.
Ok, the goods and bad.
Is it a good boat? Yes.
Is it perfect? No.
Does it do the job I want? Yes.
What would I change?
I'd make the cockpit a bit longer to make entry/exit easier. And make the stern hatch cover larger. Aside from that, it's a decent camping boat which is what I wanted.
For the price I paid, the Carolina is a good boat to learn in. It is tippier than my wife's Prodigy, but I prefer the Carolina's smaller cockpit opening. If you can find one for a similar price, I'd recommend picking it up. The 24-25 inch width is wide enough to give beginners a secure feeling of initial stability, but it still encourages one to work on their mechanics.
My dealer replaced a 13.5 Carolina Airlite with this model (no rudder), when I had trouble with the airlite material on the previous boat. Though it is heavier and less responsive than the airlite, it is much more durable and grows on you. I have paddled it on Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and in numerous rivers.
I have since purchased a boat for more serious touring (along with a more serious investment) but before doing so, loaded with camping gear I kayaked around Grand Island in Lake Superior with my 14.5. with no problems. I also kayaked the chain of lakes on Drummond Island, MI and from there out to Harbor island with equal success.
I may replace it for a shorter river boat, but this past weekend on a river with many turns I found I was doing as well as some of the other paddlers in 8 and 10' boats. It's flat bottom makes easy to get over close to the surface logs and shallow areas without getting out of the boat, but the sharp bow and stern helps in maneuvering.
I would recommend this boat for beginners who want to get a taste of kayaking before they invest big money in the sport. I would give it a 9 out of 10 for this. A 9 as I haven't compared it to every boat out there.
I've had it out about once a week for day trips this spring – trying to learn how to paddle and getting into shape. I did replace the paddle that was sold with it with a Werner Camano very quickly.
The Carolina 14.5 fit my 6'1", 200lb. frame fine. Almost too much room. Am tempted to get some foam padding to for the hip and knee area to tighten up the fit so I can try more advanced maneuvers other than paddling in a straight line. It doesn't come with any.
The boat has very good initial stability. Haven't come close to tipping over while paddling which was reassuring as I learned how to kayak this spring and did not want to wet exit nor learn how to reenter the boat while the water was so cold. I live close to the Kentucky River, so have and will do most of my padding there and nearby on mostly flat water. Tracking is better than I expected. Maneuverability is less than I expected. Takes a good while to turn, but haven't tried carved turns yet. Speed is OK I am up to about 8 miles in two hours with no breaks. Could probably average 3.5 mph on longer trips with breaks. Wish it were a little faster. Cargo space seems ample, although I haven't taken it overnight yet, and I have fairly light hiking quality camping gear.
Plastic seems to have held up well. No hint of oil canning yet, but came with lots of scratches – I'm sure I've put on a few at entry/exit points. Bulkheads and covers don't leak. Seat, backband, and footpegs are very basic. Gets uncomfortable after about an hour or so and you have to shift around to get feeling back in your legs and feet.
Overall, I think it works well at what it is advertised to do. A good day touring, occasional overnighting kayak for the novice/intermediate paddler.
All in all - a great boat for the price.
I love this kayak for when I am going on a longer trip, as I find it is very comfortable and stable. It tracks well and moves quickly with little effort. I'm a large gal, but it's a roomy cockpit. It's harder to get in and out of than my larger Perception (America), but it's still not that difficult. My biggest challenge is that the shell gets bent up pretty easily when carrying on my car.
The long trip was 7 days in the Everglades, four days were spent in the ocean and 3 in the wilderness waterway. I had quite bad weather the first day, and do not have a skirt, but because of it maneuverability and design, I only filled it once during an 8 hr paddle. It stayed afloat and upright so I simply continued to paddle to an island where I got out, dumped it, sponged it, and continued. With a skirt I think I would have simply ignored the breaking waves and punched through rather than try and correct for each break. Oh yeah, my gear in the hatches stayed dry.
I carried 8+ gallons of freshwater, food, camping gear, and some fishing gear. I still had some room at the beginning for more gear. I only had one bag on the deck in front of me for the cameras, sunscreen and lunch. It tracked well even with the weight.
If I was in freshwater with a water filter, I think I could have carried enough food for multiple weeks.
Getting in or out from the elevated platforms (chickee’s) required some balance as I basically had to stand in the boat while holding the platform, but was not difficult.
My only con is the foot room. I wear shoe size 9.5 and thought it was a bit small. Stretching the legs was difficult in the boat. Otherwise I love this boat, it is easy for me to lift to the SUV top, rotomold plastic can take a beating. Handles weather great. It is still small enough that a strong stroke can effect quick maneuvering.
The first thing that struck me was the glossy finish. In my opinion, the solid colors look much better than the combo colors - much more glossy and resemble the duralites. I wanted yellow but had to settle for red. Now I match my wife's Pungo 120 and feel like a dork.
I liked the boat during my demo, but man-o-man, my new one really impressed me. I've been paddling in the Delaware lately and there's nothing like a gigantic oil tanker riding up your butt to make you appreciate a decent kayak, especially when your last few adventures were in a SeaEagle inflatable (don't get me started on that). It sits nice and low to the water, the seat is comfortable and it tracks fairly well. Although, when I first got in it, it was pulling to the right alot. I spent some time fidgeting with the seat and footpegs and think I got it right. The rudder makes a huge difference in the wakes and wind but has you compromising speed when in use. For that reason, I usually keep it up so my friends with the $2000 kayaks keep crying that mine is faster than theirs.
Overall, for what I picked this baby up for, I'm pretty satisfied. Now I can cruise for chicks along the Delaware in a decent whip...holla at ya' boy!