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Me: Male, 53 years old, 5'10", 185 pounds. I've been paddling for quite a few years. I enjoy long day trips of 20 miles or more and light camping. I also enjoy short evening paddles after work; basically I like to paddle. My boat of choice has been the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140. I also own a Tarpon 120 and a BIC kayak for my wife and daughter who aren't quite as enthusiastic as myself, as well as a Seaward Chilco sea kayak that's a bit over 19 feet long. All said, I have always longed for a lightweight, high performance sit on top. So needless to say, I was pretty excited when I saw the S14S. Stellar markets this boat as a recreational / surf ski kayak. I purchased one in the Multisport layup which has a hull made of kevlar and carbon fiber with a fiberglass deck. I chose that layup because it's rated for class II to III rapids and I frequent fast rivers with lots of rocks. Quality of construction - all I can say is wow. The layup is as dry and perfect as one could hope to achieve. I have a close friend who used to build yachts and olympic racing boats; he said the construction is as fine as he has seen. Everything is reinforced where it should be. The ratio of resin to fiber is perfect. Everything is straight, aligned, and centered as it should be. He could find no flaws and said he couldn't build any better a boat; which is a lot coming from a guy who basically poo-poos everything. My Seaward is a mighty nice boat IMHO and he found flaws in that one. So the build quality is top of the line. Weight - feels like it's made of cardboard. At over14' long it weighs in at 35 pounds according to my scale at work; Stellar says 36.4 on their website. Either way it's less than half the weight of my Tarpon 140. I can lift it over my head with one hand and load it effortlessly on top of my tall SUV. The side handles are sturdy and located at the boat's balance point. I carry it to the water over my shoulder using one handle and I could carry it that way for hours. Awesome. Performance - The rudder deploys and raises easily and I like the spring loaded design. The fact that it doesn't flip completely over and sticks out in back when up is a little weird to me, but I haven't found any fault with it. The toe controls are incredible... easy to use and very precise. The seating position is very comfortable and ergonomic and the footboard absolutely solid. Adjustments are fast and easy to make. But how does it paddle? That probably depends more on your experience and expectations than the boat itself. I think it paddles like a dream. It's like paddling a leaf - it accelerates quickly and it's easy to maintain a quick pace. It makes my sea kayak feel like a log and my Tarpon 140 a joke. Stellar isn't kidding when they say it's more efficient (faster) than a much longer boat. BUT... yes there is a but. It is not a boat for beginners. All that performance comes at a price. It rolls from side to side extremely easily - like tilt your head and it rolls a bit easily. I believe most people would call it very tippy. Again though, expectations and experience. I fully expected this and have no problem with it, even though I did need some practice to paddle it well (and still do). So there is a learning curve, or at least for me. You also need that rudder; so if you're not accustomed to one you will have to become so. Using the rudder it tracks straight and turns on a dime. Sitting still on the water to enjoy a snack or chat with friends was no problem for me from the very moment I got in it, but I have good balance and experience. While it rolls easily, it does not tip over easily. I can lean it over so far that it's about to take on water without tipping it over but again, experience. I suspect a novice would tip it over almost immediately. Unfortunately I've never surfed a kayak before so I can't comment on that ability though I do look forward to exploring this in the future. Storage - this is its' weak point. Don't expect to put much in those compartments. The hull is quite shallow and there is a piece of reinforcing foam about 3 inches thick running the length of the boat. I believe all other layups have a thinner "spine" but there's still one in there splitting what little storage there is in half. You won't be making any camping trips with this boat despite what Stellar may tell you. My shoes, wallet, keys, sunscreen, etc. fit in the front compartment. A spare paddle easily fits in the rear compartment but I will need to get creative to keep things cold on long day trips where I'm used to taking along a small cooler behind my seat. However, there is enough room that I'm sure I'll find a suitable solution. I will be keeping my Tarpon 140 for camping. Summary - Top notch construction, lightweight, and high performance are its' hallmarks. Tippy by most peoples standards and very limited storage are its' weaknesses. Very comfortable and a hoot to paddle. I'd call it part surf ski and part sit on top. This boat is made for paddling and surfing... not fishing. Exactly what I was looking for. Your milage may vary.
It's a Pretty Kayak
I got to paddle an Eddyline Caribbean 12 a few days ago. I have to say that it's one of the best looking plastic SOT kayaks I've seen. If you love the way [fiber] glass boats look and either don't want to spend that much money or what you're looking for is simply not available in glass, then you'll love the looks of this boat. It's beautiful. It appears to be very well made. While the molded in side handles work well and look cool, in chop you may take on some water there as they do lower the water line quite a bit; while not as cool looking I think standard carry handles would have been better functionally. It is lighter than a comparable roto-molded kayak but quite a bit heavier that a glass boat the same size. Eddyline has a fancy name for the plastic they use but it is the standard thermo-formed stuff... I wouldn't want to hit any rocks with it. The standard strap in seat can be replaced easily so if you don't find it comfortable there are a lot of options available. I found the supplied seat plenty comfortable; I'm male, 5'10" and 190 lbs. The cup holder has a nice drain but is a bit shallow if you carry tall bottles of water like I do. Storage is ample though I wondered about sand/dirt getting under the latches and causing problems. For me, the cockpit was more than roomy and would probably be great for fishing. On the water it's very stable. In fact you would just about have to try to tip it over to flip it. Standing in it to fish would not be a problem with just a little practice. So how does it paddle? I'm going to plagiarize what another reviewer wrote because you couldn't describe it any better... like a barge. It pushes a wake of water in front of it and the faster you try to go the bigger the wall of water becomes. It tracks straight and true; better than most. It's extremely easy to turn. There was no wind when I took it out so unfortunately I can't comment on its' performance in the wind though I did find the lack of being able to add a rudder a tad disheartening. While I do not normally use a rudder when paddling, I do deploy one for holding my position while taking photographs. I don't fish but could see the usefulness of a rudder there too and every boat I've paddled in a moderate and slightly off centered headwind benefits from it, so I don't understand why they didn't even give you the option. So there you have it; my two cents worth. That said, kayaks are probably the most specialized craft on the water. Making one better at one thing will cause it to suffer at another. If you plan on one of these boats as a fishing kayak , add another star. For fishing I would give it only four stars do to the inability to add a rudder, those "cool looking" carry handles, and the need to purchase a center console separately. If you plan on nothing more than looking good and putting around the edge of lakes or floating down open rivers for pleasure.. add two more. Me, I paddle and this is paddling.com. I enjoy long trips across lakes and extended journeys down rivers. Some of the rivers I traverse have fast moving water with shallow areas and big rocks; among other obstacles I sometimes scrape or bounce off of. I often paddle 25-30 miles. So for paddling I give it three stars; mostly because of the way it defies you to move at even a moderate pace. In fact, I would have given it two, if it wasn't so darn pretty.
Another thing is that they are heavy. This is true but what do you want? They have to lift and hold your kayak. They are certainly not as heavy as my kayak and I do not find them that big a deal to put on and take off... I do remove the crossbar along with the Hullavator. You will probably not want to leave them on, I do not. They are big and make a lot of noise due to wind. Finally yes, you will still need to lift your kayak onto the brackets...about waist high for me. This is a far cry from having to lift it over my head.
So... would I pay close to $1000 for a pair of cross bars and a Hullavator? Hell no. I would find someone to help me and lift it myself when I couldn't. Would I pay $750 for the privilege? Probably not. $500? Perhaps. It does make life easy, but that's still more than a really nice paddle. $400? Yes, definitely worth that. It works good and makes getting my giant plastic log on top of my Jeep easy. Under $400? You would be crazy not to.
I gave it 8 stars out of 10 because it's so expensive and due to the lack of some sort of latch to keep them from slamming up without warning when opened and empty. That aside, it works great. I love mine; then again I only paid $325.
After reading on line reviews and talking with a few experts I decided to find myself a used Seaward Chilco. I found one that looks new for $1400.00. Seaward offers a fully transferable lifetime warranty on their fiberglass boats. When I registered my purchase I learned it is a 2003....13 years old. Looking at it I would have thought it not more than a couple years old. The owner lived in Alaska and assured me it had been paddled frequently and was well cared for. When I got it home I decided to remove the rigging and give it a nice wax job for protection. In going over the boat I could find no flaws. The craftsmanship and attention to detail is impeccable. The next thing I did was take an escape lesson. The following weekend, this past weekend, I took it out three days in a row.
Being a beginner when it comes to sit in kayaks my performance review should be taken as such and I will get to that. The real reason I am writing this review is because of the quality of customer service. That's right; customer service on a used kayak. You see, during my escape lesson the combing pulled partially away from the decking [delaminated] after many times of pulling off the sprayskirt underwater. The instructor and I were both pretty surprised by this. The instructor said that should never have happened. I sent a note, the serial number, and a couple photos to Seaward Kayaks. The owner himself called me. He also told me that should have never happened and apologized for the inconvenience. Now get this....he is going to cover the cost of a local fiberglass pro to repair it.
I bought a used 13 year old kayak and the manufacturer is still willing to stand behind it as promised. When they say fully transferable lifetime warranty they are not joking. When people say these are among the finest fiberglass kayaks you can buy I have to agree; so far as quality and craftsmanship. As for performance, as stated I am a novice moving up from a plastic log. I have only paddled it for three days. These are my initial impressions for what they are worth: I don't so much fit inside of it as much as I wear it. If I move, it moves. I am told by those who know that it is a good fit for me. Yes, it rolls from side to side easily when at rest. Some might call this tippy. I fully anticipated this kind of motion from a boat such as this. Never do I feel it is going to tip over. During my escape lesson I was made to roll it over on purpose.
From first hand experience I can tell you this boat is not easy to tip over; in fact it will begin to take on water [without the sprayskirt on it] before it actually rolls over. In my book that's not "tippy". Your definition may vary. The only trouble I have had in my vastly limited experience thus far is initially getting in and finally out of it though this is already getting easier for me. I have no problem when at rest in it and it becomes quite solid once moving. I can already lean it while paddling and it does carve a nice arc. One of my days on the lake the wind really picked up and I got to experience rollers with occasional white caps in it. I was never afraid and really had no trouble getting through this.
I found I did not need the rudder in the wind. The boat tracked straight without effort or rudder in spite of the wind. I have no problem turning it without the rudder. I did deploy and test the rudder and it works as expected. I like the pivoting as opposed to sliding rudder control because my legs do not need to move to control the rudder. Your preference may differ. I was amazed how fast I could get it to go. It accelerates effortlessly.
Did I say it was fast? Being a novice with this kind of boat, that's about all I can offer on it's performance. So far I am very, very happy. I received several compliments on it. Having gone over the boat with a fine tooth comb I fully agree these are some of the finest crafted fiberglass kayaks available. Having had first hand experience with their warranty and customer service I can attest to the fact that you will not find a better company to do business with. I am not an expert so my opinion on performance means little but I am extremely pleased thus far. I am glad I decided to buy a Seaward Kayak and happy with the Chilco model.