It tracks really well (even without the rudder) and it does pretty well with speed. It does take some effort to keep up with people in skinnier and longer boats, but that's to be expected.
It has performed really well for me in wind (with minimal weather cocking). Of course, if I had the rudder that would likely not be an issue at all. I have not yet had it in waves much bigger than 1 or 1.5 feet, but it's done great in those conditions. It cuts through the waves great, does well in trailing seas, and has kept me upright when I've been caught off guard by the wake from power boats.
The Carolina 16 is great for tall people. I'm 6' 3" and mostly legs and it was one of the few boats in this price range that accommodated my legs and size thirteen feet. I'd like it more if it was a few inches narrower, but I can't complain too much about that.
My only real complaint is that both bulkheads leak a little. After practicing wet exits and rescues in the pool for an hour or so, there was a decent amount of water in both the bow and stern compartments. It's not a big issue, more a minor annoyance. I do have to leave the hatch covers off to let it dry out, or it gets a bit funky in there.
The only other issue is that the added volume of the cockpit means that you're pumping out that much more water after a capsize.
The other issue is that the plastic does seem a little soft. The Carolina already has more scratches than the Necky Alsek that I upgraded from.
If you're a big/tall person get the 16, if you can fit in something faster/sportier, go for it.
The Carolina (with rudder) has a feel of speed to it in the water...like it wants to cruise! The inflatable seat is awesome. It holds it air forever it seems, and adjusts whilst you're in the cockpit. The wider beam in the 'yak took some adjustment for me to roll adequately, but is a perfect platform for photography and the occasional fishing cast. Very, very stable.
I am lucky, the thigh pads off the rack fit me perfectly, although you can customize a bit here. Lots of room for overnights. The foot pedals are easily adjusted and work well even with my large feet. I'm pleased with the purchase and look for this to serve me a few years. At 60#, I can hoist it on the Yakima setup on my pickup without problems. Plastic is attractive if a little soft maybe.
I've been kayaking off and on for several years, and this is the first one I've ever purchased, so I did a lot of research before I bought it.
My first time out with it was amazing. I've always wanted a Carolina, but the first time I actually took it out I was thrilled with how fast and fun it is to paddle. It took little effort to paddle a few hundred yards on calm water. I have a fairly cheap paddle, but it didn't really matter, as it felt like the kayak just wanted to cruise.
I put it through its paces in a bay off the Gulf of Mexico (Naples, Fl area). Despite 7 knot winds and a decent current, I made great progress. I then took it into the Gulf to see how it handled 1-3 foot chop, and it easily smashed though the waves with little splash in my face. I was a bit surprised by how well it handled in rougher waters, especially since there was a small craft advisory as the afternoon progressed. Current yanked the back end around some, but I'm sure with the rudder that might have eliminated the drift.
Overall, the Carolina is an awesome kayak for anyone who wants to day tour in water that might get rough once in a while. I imagine it'll be great for short overnight trips, too, as its storage space is ample enough. Hatch covers are attached, so you don't have to worry about them floating away. I'm not sure I'd take the kayak somewhere for a week-long trek, but it'll at least do the job if you want to camp on an island for the weekend.
The inflatable seat adjustment is also a nice, helpful feature, though I'm told it's been even more refined with the latest models.
Besides all those features, the kayak isn't that heavy at about 60 lbs. I can handle it myself. Better still, it's only about 25 inches wide or so at the cockpit. If you're tall (I'm 6' and skinny), it's a perfect fit.
I researched all of the available kayaks. I decided that one of the most important features that I needed was space for all of my gear. I decided to purchase the Carolina 16. I am not disappointed. I can cram a weeks worth of gear into it with no problem. I also like the way it handles. I have no problem with stability, full of gear or empty. It does respond to leaning when I turn it, and the rudder is pretty good. I did have a screw come off of the seat strap, but that was an easy fix!
Live in Texas, and I'm still trying to solve the issue of not having a cooler! Tried the soft-sided cooler, but that only works overnight - even with dry ice. I carry both my personal equipment and our general camping equipment (tent, stove, lantern, flashlights, etc), while the girlfriend can only carry her own gear in the Edisto. Love the load capablity, would recommend it to anyone looking to pack it in for a week....
I do not have a lot of kayaking experience, but this boat handles well (I was on relatively calm waters) and has good speed for a plastic boat. I did not have a spray skirt on, but was able to lean and hold the boat so that the water was at the edge of the cockpit. I found the boat to be very stable. The storage capacity is also a nice feature. I prefer the upgrades that Perception has put on the 2004 model (rather than the older style on the rental I had), the dual density hatches, upgraded seat and movement of the seat back adjustment mechanism to the thigh brace rather than in the mid cockpit side location. While the boat is a bit heavier than some smaller boats, it was easy enough to get off the truck, carry to the water and reload on the truck single handed.
While I may one day build a Pygmy Arctic Tern High, which would provide a bit more foot room, I think that the Carolina 16 is a very nice plastic boat. I am still evaluating my options, but I may well buy a Carolina 16.
I am also larger than most, so the room was necessary, and I found it to be more than enough, even though much smaller than the recreational kayaks. I cannot see myself going back to recreational kayak again, the boat is that much better. The storage space on this baot is generous, giving plenty of room for supplies for a summer camping trip.
I highly reccomend this boat to any larger paddlers (height and/or weight) and to any looking for a little more room in the cockpit of a touring kayak.
My glass boat has a skeg, the Carolina a rudder. I'm don't like rudders and this one is no exception I can turn fine without one and the rigging puts mush in the foot pegs. I employ a foot shove technique in my stroke and don't like the give or the affect on course when the rudder is down. I pop up the rudder in all cases, except when a skeg effect is required. The Carolina turns surprisingly well for a boat without edges, and even responds to sideslipping technique. Still, it tracks well and isn't oversensitive to wind. The seat and backband are comfortable, although the bottle holder is almost useless. Do they ever test-paddle their boats? You'd think they'd notice.
The interior is very roomy. The bungies are well placed and self-rescue is easy. While it has decent thigh braces, it doesn't roll that willingly. It's a bit wide for that, but that's where it gets its stability. I expected to have to cart this around, but a shoulder carry is practical if the launch isn't a long hike.
Since this was not to be one of my "primary boats," reasonable price was a criterion. You expect to get what you pay for, so here's the nitpicking. The hatches are the rubber snap-on bottle cap variety and not that big. I'd say that the Carolina is more of a touring boat than the Napali, and the latter has a much more elaborate hatch design. The Carolina's hatches are also untethered, so don't let them get away from you.
The plastic seems somewhat soft, but there's a couple ridges to minimize flex. Taking into consideration what I paid, it's a great boat.