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My height is 5'8"-ish and my weight fluctuates between 170-180 lbs. The yak does have a max capacity of 250lbs. I have maxed it out camping gear and the boat can get sluggish, but it is still a capable sea vessel. The boat does sit low in the water due to the low volume design and I often use my spray skirt if the water conditions are questionable. However, I personally feel that my weight nearly maxes the boat out if one wants to get the best performance out of it. The combination of being low in the water and my weight bringing it down more puts the hull farther in the water. This can make the kayak challenging in taking tight turns even with good leaning/edging techniques. That issue is mine and not an issue with the kayak. Turning aside, the Squamish is an excellent and efficient touring kayak. I've found that I'm able to do long distances without excess fatigue. Keep in mind that this is a plastic boat too.
The kayak itself is well made. The polyethylene used in its construction is solid and has held up to anything I've thrown at it. However, I do have issues with the stern/bow hatch covers and the stern hatch that still plague me to this day. Using the yak in rough water conditions the first few times, I noticed a moderate amount of water in the rear hatch. After some troubleshooting I found that some of the guide holes that the deck lines pass through had small openings to the stern hatch. Water would pool up around these guide holes and drip into the hatch. I solved this problem by sealing these openings from inside of the hatch with silicone sealant. This has nearly solved the leak issue. However, I still have a minor amount of water that gets in the hatch from time to time, which I believe is due to the hatch cover itself. It simply doesn't seal the hatch well enough. The bow hatch has been completely leak proof which is very surprising considering how many times the entire bow of my Squamish has been underwater. The only problem I have with the bow hatch cover is that the rip cord ring that holds the cover on the hatch opening separates from the cover itself just about every time I open it. The same thing happens with the stern cover too. Lastly, the decorative tape that covers the seal line of the boat comes undone frequently. CD is aware of this and has sent me, free of charge, a roll of this tape. These negatives aside, the rest of the yak works great.
Overall, I'm happy with yak and I'll rate an 8. I would give it a higher score if not for the leaking stern hatch and hatch cover construction. The Squamish is wonderful poly sea kayak for the right sized person.
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- It is incredibly stable. I have yet to accidentally flip this yak or have I ever felt close to do so. It took an intentional roll while practicing wet exits to turn it upside down the first time and even then I had to really lean to the side. The roughest water I've taken it in has been 3-4 ft swells with moderate winds and never once did I worry about my safety in this department.
- It tracks straight. Now I don't have experience with kayaks that have retractable skegs or rudders, so I cannot compare with them. This kayak does have a molded skeg in its hull that does the trick. From my limited experience, I've found that as long as my left to right stokes are equal in their application and not barring wind or current, this kayak stays true. If the wind or water does push me off course, a simple J lean corrects the deviation.
- It can keep up with the big boys. Once I got my forward stroke efficiently tuned, I found that I was able to keep pace with a composite yak costing 3 times more. Now keep in mind I was probably working much harder in the Manitou then in this true sea kayak, but I was keeping up. I must note that a quality touring paddle is essential.
- Rescue techniques can be accomplished in this boat. Paddle float re-entries are a piece of cake with the Manitou. The stern deck immediately behind the seat is recessed to allow the shaft of a paddle to sit under the bungees. This in company with the stable shape of hull makes it a breeze. T-Rescues can be done with practice. Due to the size of the cockpit and no forward bulkhead, the Manitou can be challenging to drain when it is swamped with water. The cockpit combing also creates suction to the water when upside down. With dexterity and strength it can be drained in open water with the T-Rescue technique. The self-done draining method done at the bow of the kayak can be extremely difficult to successfully perform. It has been suggested that a few well-placed non-leaking dry bags placed in the bow along side the foam pillar would lesson the amount of water that the Manitou takes in. I have yet to try this.
- At just under 13ft and about 45lbs, the Manitou is easily manageable. Loading up the yak onto a car, portage to the water and even carrying it up the stairs to my third floor apartment is easy.
- The water displacement/cockpit size is adequate for many body types. I'm of average build at 5' 8" and 168 lbs. I've had no issues with foot placement on the foot pegs or discomfort with the seat/cockpit. My brother on the other hand who is 6'2" and 260 lbs was able to use the kayak. However, the water line did seem high and he had trouble getting in/out of the cockpit. We were able to find a comfortable foot peg adjustment for him. Though, at his size, I would only recommend the use of this kayak in calm flat water. Very large builds may want to look elsewhere.
- I do wish I had the 2009 model for one reason. The 2009 Manitou has the Comfort Fit thigh pads as standard. My 2008 model has a thin padding on the inside of the cockpit and combing area. Without good thigh pads, it is hard to perform competent J-leans,hip snaps and other techniques. I'll be outfitting with the Comfort Fit pads here in the future. The new model remedies this, so I suppose this is only my problem.
- The Extrasport seat could use some refinement in my opinion. The foam backrest separates from the plastic frame of the seat when I practiced wet re-entries. This same problem occurs with my friend who has the same kayak. The foam does reset back on the plastic, but only after some sweat and toil on dry land. The backrest also grabs your clothes, PFD, or junk while sliding in the cockpit after a wet re-entry. However, this seat was built for recreation and it probably wasn't designed with re-entry in mind. Another outfitting project will be to replace the Extrasport backseat with a sea kayaking back band.
- The polymer material used in the construction is durable. I've knocked it into obstacles in and out of the water with no damage but a minor scratch here and there. In the beginning I was careless in launchings and landings at boat ramps and this has lead to some scratches underneath. That is expected. This kayak is best kept indoors or covered if possible whenever it's not going to be used for long periods. A fellow yakker who bought her Manitou the same time I bought mine leaves it under a carport uncovered. It is sheltered from the sun, but in one years time the hull color has lightly faded and the bungees are discolored too. After paddles, I rinse my kayak off and keep it indoors when not in use. In contrast to her Manitou, the color of mine looks the same the day it was picked up at the store.
- There have been numerous complaints in previous reviews about the neoprene hatch cover. Yes, it can be troublesome if you don't approach it with the right technique. Simply hold down part of the cover with your knee while stretching the cover over the combing with both hands from left to right. This works every time. The cover does keep almost all the water out. I've had the kayak upside down in the water many times practicing re-entries and only a minute amount of water creeps in.