This is the first time I've paddled with a truly adjustable skeg. It makes a huge difference. The boat tracks well on its own, but in rough conditions the skeg keeps it true - almost too true. I found that coming back against the wind, I would keep the skeg down to go straight, but had to pull it up to turn past piers and other obstacles. The turning radius is a bit broad; even with the skeg up, a fair amount of edging is required to make a decent turn. It's not unlike a Chatham, or a Baja.
The turning radius is the price to pay for major stability. I took some sizable waves broadside, as well as dead-on. The boat is stable. It is a bit heavy for a glass boat. Long, as well - just short of eighteen feet. This makes it a little challenging to maneuver in and out of storage. I'm fortunate to have it on a low rack, so as long as there's floor space, I can pull it out and lift it on a cart for transportation.
Cargo is bone dry. The former owner added attach points in all sections so everything can be tied down in the event of a spill. I have yet to so much as have to sponge out the front and back hatches. There is plenty of room to fill up with food and equipment.
Overall this is a great boat. It's the first boat I've owned. I bought it for expeditions and day trips. It's at least ten years old but has worn well. The only reason it's not a 10 is that I am still getting used to it. It's a great boat, and a pity it was discontinued by Valley.
I have found the Argonaut to be a very responsive but stable boat, with a great tolerance for rough water conditions. I am 6' 1" , 180 pounds with long legs and appreciate the if it and a very adequate leg room. When I relax my legs, I can comfortably rest my feet on the bulkhead and stretch out. The boat is stable enough to relax and not pay attention, and could work reasonably well as a platform for photography, with the use of the day hatch.
With regards to construction, this boat is a very solid fiberglass layup, with well crafted bulkheads, and extremely dry snug fitting Hatch covers which Valley constructs is amongst the finest available.
I can edge this boat nearly to its side, and it is a relatively easy kayak to roll. With regards to stability, I have used to this boat with a Pacific Action 1.1 m sail, and it has adequate stability to handle sailing for myself in winds up to 20-25 kts. You do not need a rudder to make a kayak sail work, as variation in depth of the skeg, and the use a paddle provide turning and stability. In light wins, this sail can be configured to reach (sail across the wind) very effectively.
I have heard complaints regarding the skeg on Valley kayaks, but have had no problems with mind, other than periodic jamming of debris which can occur on shore, and forces and need to check the skeg for function before venturing in rough water.
We took a family kayaking trip to Desolation sound, BC last summer and my teenage daughters all felt comfortable in the Argonaut, while I spent my paddling time in the more challenging Legend. I am looking forward to many future trips in this boat, as for me it is an excellent compromise between performance, stability, and load carrying capacity.
For a couple of years now, I've been paddling the Argo, and it has won me over. It is an elegant and beautifully designed boat, with attention to detail found on only the finest boats.
A very comfortable ride, stable and secure. Great tracking, and can barrel through the worst conditions. It DOES like heavier loads and I keep telling myself to load it up with extra weight. I've always forgotten to, and never lived to regret it.
It's a huge thing out of the water, and takes some manhandling. In the water, I love the ease of handling. I liked the rudder on the Klepper, and the skeg system took some getting used to. I now love it!
It's the only VCP boat I've ever seen, but wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of their boats -- they are that good...
Do I miss my Klepper? Absolutely, but it's mainly for the memories. The Argonaut is in another class...
Every boat is a compromise, and the Argonaut is no exception, so here are my observations:
PRO’s - It can handle rough water really well. I dare any of your friends to keep up when dead into the wind, high chop and waves. I have a fairly large paddle blade, and it feels like a white water boat in those conditions. Every pull, you are in control. Handling is not as nimble as the 15-16 footers, due to the 17’7 length. However, boat has solid initial (honestly) and rock solid secondary. If doing the “Beyond the Cockpit” bracing and edging is your thing, this is a great boat. (just make sure the skeg is up)Good choice if your a big guy, or want some additional room. The 3 hatches are completely watertight. While the skeg box takes up some room in the back oval hatch, the front hatch is the same size oval, and has lots of room. Storage room with the 2 ovals and 1 round mid, is ample. Finish, is first rate.
CON’s – Boat does weathercock some, and seems to handle best when carrying the house with you. Don’t be scared here, typically when in wind, have the skeg 1/3 to 1/2 down, and that fixes the problem. I bought the glass version, rather than the kevlar. The specs, show the glass Argonaut weighs 56 lbs. I think it is 5 lbs heavier? Not an issue when in the water, but muscling it around to and from, it sure seems much heavier. Interestingly, all the VCP boats show 56 lbs! Doesn’t matter the length, 16, 17 or 17’7
So, my score out of 10? 8.75 To get a 10, I would expect no cons, and no one has built that perfect boat yet?
The boat handles well and is really stable - good for an intermediate like myself. Tracks really well although sacrifices some nimbleness in return. The skeg works perfectly enabling me to adjust according to the wind with uncanny accuracy. It can haul a fair sized load. We went on a recent 4 day trip. My partner paddles a P&H Capella and I ended up carrying the team food, tent, stove, pans etc while her boat was full with just personal kit (and she wasn't overdoing it!) and I had room to spare.
Finish seems perfect - time will tell how durable but seems to be spot on. I have however only scored it a 9 as the lack of a keel strip as standard leaves the vulnerable fibreglass open to damage. You can of course get this fitted (extra cash though). Hatches are actually air tight! You can see the rubber hatch covers expand if it sits in the sun. Perfectly dry - 100% - after 4 days on the water.
Experts will probably want something more edgy like the Nordkapp, but for an improving intermediate who wants a serious "proper" boat which can carry a good amount of gear, this is definitely worth considering.