My first kayak; and one I…
My first kayak; and one I shall keep for the foreseeable future. I chose a relatively light and expensive first boat, because I'm too old (52) to mess about in so-so stuff and upgrading later. Later is now...!
The S14 is a Chinese, handcrafted and quite well-finished kayak; with a seat and back that are well adjustable (although not very easily so), even though not quite the most comfortable seat I've sat in. Between your legs, there's room for a drinkbottle; although it's not a one-hand operation to remove or, especially, re-position it.
As opposed to the seat, the footrests are very easily adjustable indeed; but could have been a bit larger in surface - as they tend to really dig into your feet on longer trips. For now, I'm using Teva sandals with quite sturdy soles in order to relieve that pressure a bit. On top of the footrests, there's a toe-pressure operated set of levers that can operate the optional rudder. All cable-guides are already in place. With the adjustable (on one's right hand just outside the cockpit) skeg though, and the moderate length of the boat, a rudder is not really a necessity here; in my view.
I've recently acquired a Gearlab Deck Pod, so that even with a closed spraydeck, I wil have easy acces to hydration - through a Platypus bladder that I have fitted it with (the 2L version is a perfect fit inside).
Moving the S14 about when making walking transfers to higher or lower waters, overruling the (very busy) locks in the waters I have nearby, is reasonably easy thanks to its moderate weight. It's also just a very nice boat to look at, I get compliments on it almost every time I'm on the water. It's available in several colour-combinations, that all have a shiny white hull in common. As well, it's available in several grades of sturdiness and lightness. The 2 Kg. lighter carbon version will set you back a whopping lot more than the regular Advantage (a fiberglass sandwich construction) model, so that's not a choice many will make.
Now, just a few months of patience before I can start enjoying my second season with the Stellar!
The Stellar S14 kayak is a…
The Stellar S14 kayak is a serious, high performance design in a fairly small, portable package that offers a lot of compromises that could help it find its way into the racks, and hearts of a lot of potential paddling families. This boat is for people who want a light, responsive, maneuverable boat with potential issues in terms of storage, transport but don't wish to sacrifice a lot of performance. It also has a lot to give to someone looking to increase performance over what very stable recreational boats can deliver but still maintain some (but not a ton) of stability and isn't ready for the silpheed but tippy upper end Stellar models.
I am tall, thin and in good shape at 6'4" and 185 looking many years younger. Unfortunately I am not the steadiest person out there and this boat doesn't track well at all. I felt that there was no way to keep this boat going straight so I could barely get it on plane that it would go this way or that, always where I didn't want it to go and the boat is tippy enough you have to be careful not to give it big inputs so I had to "brake" with the opposite side paddle and felt like I couldn't really go that fast. Realizing that I could deploy the skeg was a total game changer and once that was down I was off to the races.
Since my inlaws own a Tsunami 140 that I have been paddling for many years at their place and from knowing the market a bit and reading other reviews I think that the S-14 is a great next step. If you're familiar with this "family hauler" type boat that is widely used and are looking for a lighter, easier to carry, more crisp and responsive boat you have found it. I must caution the prospective buyer that the S14 isn't that stable. You WILL feel very tippy. The S14 is stable enough to take your shirt off, have a meal or take pictures but the difference in the Wilderness boat you can do it with your eyes closed. In the Stellar you will have to be careful and meter out your every motion. Rough waters are a bit anxiety provoking because you do feel getting rocked around a lot by the chop. The secret is to let go, not resist, and PADDLE. Once you get going with the skeg down the tippiness gets a lot better and this is the best part of the S14. The maneuverability is very nice. This boat turns fairly easily even with the skeg down and you can fight weathercocking by just edging the boat. There's a huge feeling of lightness, sprightliness and refinement. Like a fine, expensive wine this boat has a multidimensional personality that gets better as you lay into it, explore and get to know the full spectrum of everything it has to offer.
The sales description is very accurate in that this boat paddles like a longer kayak, it certainly melts the miles faster and all else being equal I get to any place I want a few minutes sooner in this one than the Tsunami 140. Dealing with the learning curve is totally worth it as this boat is quite fast for its size. I can pass just about any "normal" kayaker out there like they are standing still but if you're advanced enough to be considering this boat I think that's par for the course as most people don't even know how to paddle properly and just go out to fish or drink beer as they sit idly on their SOT's. That's not saying much but if my wife and one of my sons aren't feeling that strong on our ST17 when we're out, I can keep up and even gain on them when I paddle the S14. Conversely if I don't try too hard with one of my sons in the ST17, my wife can keep up with us on the S14 without trying that hard either. Push comes to shove though if one of my sons and I are feeling like speed demons and we want to get planing and rocking, then yes, the ST-17 is spades faster but you have to really lay into it. I think the big fun of the S14 isn't just the top speed, but also how little you have to try to get it going somewhat fast. To access the highest speeds yes you have to bust your butt to get it to plane and you're trying out of proportion to how fast you're going, but just accelerating to a nice cruising is effortless. This is a real asset to this boat that can be lost on those focused on pure speed although if that's what interests you I doubt you will settle for 14 feet.
The 14 feet and 37lbs of the Advantage construction makes it very liveable in terms of storage and transport. Based on personal experience this is the vertical limit of something being relatively easy. While it will fall out if I load it lengthwise in the back of my pickup, I can angle it diagonally and there's enough stern there that it won't.
I think the Advantage layup is where it hits the best bang for the buck. I do own a Stellar in the Excel layup which is definitely nicer, it's not that much lighter but you feel like you have more control of what's underneath you and it's more crisp and responsive. That said the Excel is also far more fragile. While you do have to be careful and treat ALL composite kayaks like a baby being fastidious not to hit them against hard thing, avoid impacts and never launch or beach them, the occasional crash against a rock for the most part isn't bad at all. In my experience half the time the Advantage layup won't even scratch against a rock. On the other hand the Excel of my Dragonfly shows every single hit and it doesn't take much to start deeply chipping the gelcoat. That's what you get for a stiffer construction, more performance, better refinement, but the extra stiffness also comes at a cost not just in price but durability. If deepwater paddling is in your plans then by all means go for the Excel as it's nicer but feed it any rocks as part of its diet and repairs will have to be done early and often.
The other stuff is pretty nice. Ergonomics, fit and finish are excellent unfortunately the seats in true Stellar style are abominable. I guess Stellar tried to get the lightest possible seating arrangement but in so doing it's not supportive at all. While somewhat better than a bareback naked (and HARD) surfski and taking longer to give you a back ache, butt ache, numb legs and sciatica, give it more than an hour and the low quality, unsupportive seat will do all those things. Thankfully overseats or seat covers or even just foam is inexpensive and easy to find. I got Cloud 9 overseats from Tom's Top Kayaker in NH and they work.
Overall I very much like the S14. It's a nice boat that allows progress in your growth. Taller paddlers will have a bit of a harder time getting used to it but the learning curve is not difficult and if you trust it and don't fight it there's some stability there but plenty of reserve playfulness. Truly serious, hard core kayakers who like to roll and go super fast may want to look at the longer models but there's plenty to enjoy here especially for someone looking for something easier to maneuver, carry, store and wishing to retain some stability as well. The comfort in true Stellar fashion is awful, but can easily be remedied with inexpensive aftermarket parts that don't permanently mod or alter the boat. Highly recommended.
I'm very happy with my…
I'm very happy with my Stellar S14'.
I'll keep this short, since I'm not a particularly skilled or experienced paddler. I've been renting recreational kayaks like the Tsunami 140 (Wilderness Systems) for five years, paddling on the same stretch of the Potomac river after work or on the weekends. I've enjoyed the experience, but wanted to paddle a much wider variety of local rivers and lakes. I did a bunch of research, and settled on the Stellar S14.
My closest retailer was Virginia Beach Paddlesports, and I was very impressed with the level of service and support. Stellar inadvertently shipped me an S14LV (low volume) version of the boat. They were, however, very understanding of the situation and let me keep the LV version until they could manufacture the correct boat. As a result, I have several months of experience with the LV, and relatively less with the S14. This review is for the S14, but references my experience with the LV.
The boat does have moderate/low initial stability compared to the Tsunami 140. This was particularly evident in the LV version. "Tippy" is the word I used to describe the LV. I almost swamped the first time I took it out, and had a few other nervous moments in the first several weeks of paddling. In all cases, though, the boat righted itself quickly. I learned to trust that provided I didn't actively make things worse, the boat would quickly pop back up. This effect was less pronounced in the S14, so I'm even more confident in this boat.
I wanted a lightweight boat, and got it with the S14. I'm easily able to car top it (Mini Cooper), which is crucial to routine use. At 36lbs, the S14 is easy to handle. The difference on the water is a bit trickier to quantify. Like I said, my experience mostly has been with the Tsunami 140. That relatively heavy boat sits in the water with authority, tracking well and unbothered by chop. The S14 in comparison seems to more *on* the water than *in* it. It seems to bob more, and only tracks well with the skeg partially deployed. Buuuuut, it's so light. Once you get some momentum, it does exactly what you want it to. Like another reviewer wrote, I may never use the rudder, although I'll probably play with it just so if I ever find myself in a dicey situation I'll know what to do.
I'm pleased with the S14 and have no regrets. Having my own, lightweight boat has been liberating. I must have paddled a dozen different spots this year, and look forward to plenty more years on the water. Oh yeah, it's a pretty boat that gets lots of admiring looks and compliments.
Most of my kayaking is done…
Most of my kayaking is done on protected saltwater bays in Southeastern Massachusetts and Southern Rhode Island, although I do like to put my kayak on a roof rack and travel to inland lakes and rivers too. I purchased a Stellar S14 a couple of years ago from Charles River Canoe & Kayak in the Boston area. They are a great kayak dealer because they have a wide selection of comparable kayaks and gladly encourage you to take them down the street and go for a test paddle in the Charles River before purchasing. I previously had a Hurricane Tampico 140S (discontinued several years ago and replaced by the Sojourn 135 and Sojourn 146 models) which is also a great kayak but made from a different polymer so the weight was 45 lbs and I wanted to get the weight down some more so the Stellar S14 at 36 lbs met the requirement while being very similar. (I also test paddled the Wilderness Systems Tsunami and Alchemy Dagger before previously selecting the Tampico 140S but they were 55 lbs each). The lighter weight makes it easier to put the Stellar S14 on a rooftop kayak carrier and to portage the kayak when necessary. The major difference between the two (other than the weight) is that 1) The hull of the Stellar S14 is a lot more rigid so it seems to ride above the waves better and has less hydrodynamic drag whereas the floor of the Tampico 140S would visibly flex while underway and has more hydrodynamic drag. 2) The stern of the Tampico 140S was like a flat paddle which made for great tracking even in stiff crosswinds whereas the Stellar S14 requires up to full skeg to track decently in a good crosswind. Both are great boats for their price range, but the price of the Stellar S14 was double the Tampico 140S. There is one more factor - Both the Tampico 140S and the Stellar S140 have round bottomed hulls so getting in and out of them is not as easy as the chined hull kayaks like the Tsunami and Dagger, but once you figure it out its not a deal-breaker. All-in-all, I am very happy with my Stellar S14!
This Stellar S-14 (Advantage…
This Stellar S-14 (Advantage layup) kayak is my first made of fiberglass/composite. I'd previously owned/paddled an Ocean Kayak rotomolded boat and an Eddyline Sandpiper. The Stellar is my favorite of the three by far. Here's why... First, this boat is light enough for me to place on my vehicle and paddle 3-7 times per week. Weighing in at just 36 lbs., I can easily transport it on my Toyota Landcruiser (Hullevator rack) or Honda Accord (Yakima/Thule SUP Taxi rack). Second, the combination of lightness and stiffness makes it a very nimble, responsive, and quick boat. With the drop-down skeg all the way up, the boat is quite playful; with it all the way down it tracks straight, even in wind and waves. Positioned in between, you can fine tune the skeg depth to get the best of both characteristics. And while this kayak comes pre-fitted for a rudder, I doubt that I'll ever need one. Now for aesthetics: this is a very beautiful kayak. The fit and finish is excellent. And so far the gelcoat appears to be quite durable. Mine is brilliant red, with grey accent stripe down the middle. Now for two caveats: The boat is a bit narrow, at 23 1/2", so for some it may feel unstable when getting into and out of the boat, especially at a dock. But once you are settled down into the cockpit, and start to paddle, the stability of the boat is excellent.
Because of the materials used in its construction, it is not ideal to launch or retrieve from gravely shallows, unless you don't mind scratching the slick hull. I do mind, so when I launch from a bank, I do so in water deep enough to float the boat with our the hull scraping the bottom. I paddle in lakes and coastal bays. For those environments, this boat is completely satisfying: easy to transport, fast, lively, and a whole lot of fun.
Note: I originally posted this review anonymously, but wanted to edit slightly. Sorry for the duplication...
This Stellar S-14 (Advantage…
This Stellar S-14 (Advantage layup) kayak is my first made of fiberglass/composite. I'd previously owned/paddled an Ocean Kayak rotomolded boat and an Eddyline Sandpiper. The Stellar is my favorite of the three by far. Here's why...
First, this boat is light enough for me to place on my vehicle and paddle 3-7 times per week. Weighing in at just 36 lbs., I can easily transport it on my Toyota Landcruiser (Hullevator rack) or Honda Accord (Yakima/Thule SUP Taxi rack).
Second, the combination of lightness and stiffness makes it a very nimble, responsive, and quick boat. With the drop-down skeg all the way up, the boat is quite playful; with it all the way down it tracks straight, even in mid and waves. Positioned in between, you can fine tune the skeg depth to get the best of both characteristics. And while this kayak comes pre-fitted for a rudder, I doubt that I'll ever need one.
Now for aesthetics: this is a very beautiful kayak. The fit and finish is excellent. And so far the gelcoat appears to be quite durable. Mine is brilliant red, with grey accent stripe down the middle.
Now for two caveats:
The boat is a bit narrow, at 23 1/2", so for some it may feel unstable when getting into and out of the boat, especially at a dock. But once you are settled down into the cockpit, and start to paddle, the stability of the boat is excellent.
Because of the materials used in its construction, it is not ideal to launch or retrieve from gravely shallows, unless you don't mind scratching the slick hull. I do mind, so when I launch from a bank, I do so in water deep enough to float the boat with our the hull contacting the bottom.
I paddle in lakes and coastal bays. For those environments, this boat is completely satisfying: easy to transport, fast, lively, and a whole lot of fun.