I picked up my Seaward Quest from the original purchaser who had owned it for 14 years & had done coastal paddling with his wife from his backyard on Discovery Passage near Campbell River. Both he & his wife had Seaward boats that appeared to be in excellent shape. (Hers was an Ascente). He told me that they regrettably had to sell their boats because they were moving to Ontario and could not bring them along.
I have since put enough hours in this kayak that I am now motivated to do a review on it. The first thing I noticed printed on the hull was the word 'Kevlar'. That explains why I can load and unload this 19 foot kayak from my SUV with ease by myself. Some of the reviewers had mentioned the Quest to be a bit on the twitchy side. I think I find the Quest a little bit twitchy those days I am a little bit twitchy. Cut down on your coffee. I think you have to learn how to relax in this kayak. If you can't relax you will not be able to balance and maybe this kayak is not for everyone. Another thing about sea touring kayaks is they were meant to be ballasted with cargo. That puts a little more hull in the water and takes some of the nervousness out of this kayak. This narrow V bottom kayak is also very fast. If you are a light person (as I am) there is very little of this hull in the water even though there is 19 feet out of the water. That also can make it very lively. I sit lower in this kayak than other kayaks, on a comfortable foam pad against the hull that helps with the stability.
If you're kayaking in December on the British Columbia coast you need to be cautious and prepared for the ocean conditions to change fast. I bought this kayak on it's reputation for speed and a hull designed to handle rough water. It does wind cock a bit but some ballast will help reduce it. I have been told by other Quest owners the rudder will reduce the wind cocking. I personally do not use a rudder much on this kayak and intuitively will work with my paddling skills. I guess if I am having problems and it's no longer fun I will then deploy the rudder.
Some reviewers questioned the long sweeping bow and what the purpose of it was. I was caught in some short steep waves in a nasty tidal bore during a southeaster at the entrance of the Puntledge River on Vancouver Island. I think that long sweeping bow saved me from being swamped by a few 2 meter standing waves. The kayak broke through the curlers and lifted up and over wave after wave until I was able to get near the beach in the back eddy. Besides me being a little nerve racked this kayak proved its seaworthiness. Please do not go out and test your kayak in tidal bores unless you're ready for self rescue. I have skippered many different fishing vessels off the BC coast and you learn that different shaped hulls behave different in wind and wave conditions. A kayak is no different. The Quest, with a skillful paddler, is a fast and seaworthy kayak but it is not a kayak that I would recommend for a beginner. The roomy cockpit is an easy access and exit. I would say it is the perfect fit for a bigger guy. I have fine tuned it by adding a little high density foam next to my hips because I am a skinny guy at 5'9" and 155 lbs. It works.
I have experimented with different weights of ballast in different locations in the hull. When putting 20 lbs. of weight in the forward part of the back hatch and 15 lbs. in front of the seat, the kayak settled down in wind chopped tidal rips as well as following seas. I will give this kayak high marks running in the trough of a swell and turning around in rough seas. It is still necessary to have good paddling and bracing skills.
The Quest is probably the best tracking kayak of all the kayaks I have paddled. This kayak normally has a longer turning radius which is a trade off for the excellent tracking. It is easy to lay the kayak over and edge a tighter radius turn. I have had this boat over pretty far but it always came back and has never dumped me. I have found that with most of these touring kayaks putting some ballast in the back hatch helped reduce the broaching when getting it on the stern quarter. I am not long distance touring in the winter months and average 10 to 20 miles in a day at most. Because weather can come up quick I want to get my tides right and the maximum speed out of this kayak. This winter I spent most of my time in this kayak with out ballast or cargo because I can cover distance in a shorter time. I think that has honed in my paddling skills and the kayak has also become an extension of my balance when I am out every day. I think in the end it is a testament of the seaworthiness of this kayak. As mentioned by the other reviewers there are oodles of storage in the hatches. The Seaward hatch cover system is one of the best I have used and is as good if not better than the Valley hatch system I have in my other kayak. It is easy to remove and put back on as well as keeps the water out.
The few Quest owners that I have spoke to not only love this boat's speed but also rely on it's secondary stability. I would have to agree with them. There is very little negative stuff that I have read on the reviews of the Quest. I am spending more time in this kayak than my other 3 kayaks. I just can't seem to get enough of it.
There was a small problem with the resin finish on the inside of the kayak from when it was built quite a few years ago. I got a hold of the folks at Seaward and brought it to their attention. After sending pictures of the problem they suggested that I bring the kayak down to their factory in Chemainus on Vancouver Island so they could have a look at it. I have to mention that I have shipwright experience working with fiberglass and epoxy. When I went down to pick up the kayak it looked like a new kayak. They refinished the inside with a coat of resin and reinforced the inside hull where necessary. They polished the deck and charged me minimal cost for all new top rigging, rudder and keel strip. We have to remember that this was not a new recently purchased kayak. I was very impressed with the quality of the work they had done and Seaward's focus on customer service. I got a chance to tour the factory and look at the assembly line from the beginning to the finished product. There is a lot of detail they put into these kayaks and the finish is flawless. I admire the pride and skill these craftsman put into their work. I think we would all want to buy a kayak off of a company that cares and stands behind their products. Seaward got it's start in Summerland, BC, in the late eighties and is now in Chemainus on Vancouver Island. They are one of the last of the smaller independent companies in the Pacific Northwest.
Because of the craftsmanship, performance and lifetime warranty, this kayak deserves a 9 plus and I am already thinking of investing in another Seaward boat.
Paddling for miles is a dream. The 19'length can be tedious in attempting tight turns and the rare functional use of the long bow above water line has me questioning it's value when paddling beam seas and wind.
As a multi-day cruiser it is steller: lots of room and the long stern and bow storage accommodate folding camp table, chairs, fishing poles, large tents, etc. and the aft deck holds my spare paddle without blocking access to the cargo hatch. Seaward workmanship and bombproof design is really exceptional (I shopped Current Designs, Valley, NW and others). Seaward is also a great company for accessories and repair parts. My Quest has the old ThermoRest seat which I prefer for long days. My only real issue is tendency to weathercock (I live in the Columbia River Gorge).
All the other comments seem right on, but there is a simple trick about initial stability with any boat that feels twitchy: lower the seat. Someone at Quest suggested replacing the foam seat with an inflatable pad and it made all the difference. I let most of the air out, so my bum is almost touching the hull. With this set up, the boat feels solid, even empty. Should I ever need to use the seat as a paddle float, I would need to inflate the cushion - a small price to pay.
I've owned more boats than I can remember, but settled on this one and have never looked back. My only complaint is that as I get older, the boat seems to be getting heavier. Sadly, there's not much the folks at Seward can do about that.
I love this boat for the construction and on multi-days. I never feel relaxed when it is empty, it is not a beginner boat.
The boat was part of Seaward's demo fleet and had 5 years of abuse when I got it and even though the gelcoat of the hull had been repaired it still performed like a new one. Another proof of Seaward's exceptional workmanship.
As mentioned in other reviews, this is not a beginner's boat. I was an early intermediate when I got the it and the first time I sat in it, I was very nervous. I used the paddle and brace technique a lot at first, but after a 100 miles in all sorts of conditions, I seldom use it anymore. I just learned that the boat will stay horizontal in just about any kind of sea with just a little hip movement where other more "stable" boats gets rocked from left to right.
Being tall and light, 6' and 175lb and this being such a high volume boat, I felt that it was sitting too high on the water when empty and I couldn't lock the stern in the water with a lean in windy conditions. So I strapped a 30lb weight just behind the back bulkhead and it solved the problem right away. Remember that this isn't meant to be a day boat, it's an expedition kayak meant to be loaded. Also, this is a very high boat 14" so it's not well suited for paddlers with a short torso or small a bum. I had to add 1/2" of foam underneath the seat to get the crest of my hips just above the cockpit coaming. This also means that leaning on the back deck can be hazardous for your back so practice your screw roll. This boat is very narrow and you can really wear it which makes side rolls like the screw roll quite easy.
After just a few strokes, you will know the Quest is a fast boat. I made several outings with good double paddlers and I could keep up with them where all the others would fall behind. It's also very easy to turn even if this is a 19' boat. It's so easy to keep on it's edge to lock the stern or to turn and the fairly important rocker makes it quite agile. I can't recall ever deploying the rudder. On the down side, being an agile boat means it has a tendency to weathercock, however it's easy to correct it as part of your forward stroke and when fully loaded, the weathercocking almost disappears.
In short: Fast, nimble expedition boat for taller experienced paddlers. Needs to be loaded for day use but agile enough to play with. Very seaworthy. This boat will not throw you around in waves. High quality material and workmanship. With a little care, this boat will perform flawlessly for years.
Initial stability "feels" a little loose but the secondary stability is the greatest. My first year of kayaking I took her in an 18 mile race on Lake Superior in VERY rough conditions. I learned real fast that day how well the Quest performs. There were many capsizes that day and people, more experienced than me, dropping out. I credit the design for the success I had in just finishing the race that day.
There is plenty of room to pack just about anything you want to take with and it still performs well fully loaded.
The quality of the workmanship is very apparent. Beautiful work. It also is a very tough boat and has held up well. I have had the opportunity to contact Seaward's with questions and was answered immediately. The impression I have of them is that it's a great company. I couldn't be happier with my boat.
Since then I have had an opportunity to demo many other kayaks...just to compare and I haven't found one that I like as much as the Quest.
I started whitewater kayaking 2 years ago and I am on my third WW boat. Sea kayaks I know I'll only have one...my Quest.
The boat was a guide boat for an outfitter that was lent to me because I was more experienced. Considering its age and use, was in terrific condition...a testament to the quality of construction. The comments here on the Quest's performance are my impressions on that trip. I fit in the boat just barely and needed to turn sideways to rotate my big thighs in. Once in, I was comfortable. The kayak has moderate initial stability and very good secondary stability. Yet the "V" and narrow hull makes it somewhat twitchy. I loaded the boat up to improve that and it helped. Fortunately, the boat holds a lot in its two compartments. The deck is nicely laid out as well with plenty of grab lines, etc.
The kayak is very fast and accelerated nicely. The boat was a easy to turn by putting it on the slightest edge but in windier conditions more edging was needed to get it around. In a 10-knot wind the kayak definitely weathercocked for me but that may be an experience issue. I did not employ the rudder and did not feel that I needed to. It tracks fairly well.
Overall, this boat made a good first impression. However, I never did get fully relaxed in the boat although I paddled over 12 miles that day in a variety of wind and sea conditions. I did keep it upright. That is to say, this would be a terrific kayak for an veteran and for an intermediate to work into. The reviewer who commented on the paddle-brace technique was right on. I was most comfortable when my forward strokes were also in effect braces. That required a modification to my stroke that wore me out, particularly my shoulders (and I have a very good stroke technique). Hope this helps anyone considering this fine kayak. It is worth a test paddle.