I have about 2 years of kayak experience. I’m not a professional by any means but I have traveled on the Mississippi River several times.
About 2 months ago I had been searching for a kayak for a friend when I ran across a buy on Craigslist too good to pass up, so my friend and I went in together and bought 2 of the Perception Carolina 15.5’s for $750( plus 2 paddles and 2 PFD’s). They were pretty dirty when I got them from sitting out in the weather for over six weeks, according to the previous owner. But after several hours of cleaning they were actually in really good shape.
I have two other kayaks an Old Town 17ft tandem and an older model 17.5ft Neeky Looksha IV.
Compared to them the Perception Carolina 15.5 is the best of both. It has a rudder which helps keep it straight in high wind conditions, but in my experience even in steady 7-10mph winds the Carolina 15.5 isn’t hard to keep on course due to its low profile in the water.
It’s extra length helps it track really well and it glides easily through waves as compared to the Carolina 12ft (which another friend of mine has) .
The thigh pads are well placed for a secure fit and helps you feel one with kayak. The boat is very stable even when loaded down with a good bit of gear for camping.
The Perception Carolina’s adjustable back rest height plus the ratchet system to tighten the back rest, makes it one of the most versatile and comfortable seats I’ve been in. There are a few minor things that needed to be addressed, mostly due to these being older used boats, such as replacing the deck bungee cords due to dry rot, a few of the tie down points being cracked, and the seats foam pads having some hardening and drying on the outside layer due to being exposed to weather. Once firmly washed, the foam layer underneath is still usable, but I will still probably upgrade them with the cloth material used on the newer model Carolina’s seat pads. The Rudder let down system near the cockpit was also damaged when I got them and I was able to repair it with a 1.5ft piece of paracord, so now it works fine. I also took the rudder apart and cleaned and greased the fittings with small amount of vaseline and it extends and retracts butter smooth now. The rudder cables were in great shape and work smoothly without any binding. The foot pedals are easy to adjust even while on the water and feel very secure. So if you can find one of these used and it’s in decent shape, they are easily worth $400-$500 each. Overall I am incredibly happy and consider this as the best investment in my kayaking hobby I have made to date. 11/8/17
The boat is comfortable, the thigh/knee braces are perfectly situated, the seat is as comfortable as a kayak seat can be, the adjustable foot braces have lasted these past (wow, has it been this long?) 7 years without a problem, and the hatch covers also keep out water better than I expected.
I have to add the kayak has always been stored in my garage. And, she's not seen a lot of action in the past two years since my hubby built me a cedar strip kayak (Spring Run by Redfish). But, when I want to do photography or for some other reason want more stability, out comes the Carolina!
She's about 70lbs, a bit heavy for me to put on my Jetta after paddling 5 hours. Other than that, NO COMPLAINTS! GREAT BOAT!
Steven, the owner of North Shore Kayaks, in Rockport, MA suggested that I try both the Carolina 14.5 and 16. Wow! What a difference! The 14.5 was pretty stable and the 16 even more so. I paddled the 16 around the inner harbor of Rockport for about a half an hour. Finally, I felt that I was in control of the kayak and not just struggling to remain in the cockpit.
Steve took me over to his boatyard and he only had one Carolina 15.5 (the 16 has been discontinued) with a rudder. As I'm not as concerned with the color of my kayak as much as its stability, the yellow and red boat suited me just fine.I strapped it to the top of my SUV and headed back home. A mere 50 mile jaunt.
I live on the Merrimack River in Massachusetts so as soon as I got home I put the Carolina in the water. The 15.5 was every bit as stable as 16. I paddled around for about 30 minutes and then heard a rumble of thunder in the distance so headed back in. Getting in and out on the riverbank was an order of magnitude easier from the Carolina than it was from the Sirroco.
This afternoon I was back on the river again. Spent the first hour and a half paddling up river at a lesiurely pace and the next hour floating back down with the current, smoking a stogie. I feel very comfortable in the boat. The rudders help to both keep it on track and navigate around the rocks and other features of the river. Another plus of the Carolina's geometry is that I don't need to have the spray skirt on when out on calm water. There is enough of the gunwale above water to allow me to edge slightly (I'm not a complete slave to the rudder) without taking on water.
I was able to drift close (but not too close) to some ducks and a great blue heron. I mimicked holding my camera and tracking while floating and got a feel as to how the boat would react with me moving around a bit. I now feel confident enough to bring my digital SLR and lenses (in a Pelican case, of course) out in the boat with me.
I found that I could get up to a reasonable cruising speed with just a few strokes. The only other company I had on the river was a jetski that passed by about 100 yards off my starboard. The Carolina handled the wake beautifully. Again, getting out of the boat was relatively easy. I had just got the boat up and locked on the rack when the first lightning bolt lit up the sky. Timing is everything.
I am well pleased with the Carolina after 3 hours total time on the river. As I expect to do most of my paddling on lakes, ponds and rivers, that means that the second time around, I made a solid choice.