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Name: redmond

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Realize here that the Safari is my first inflatable, so all I have to compare it to is hard shell kayaks. So, with that in mind, let the games begin!

Dimensions (mine is a 2004 model)
Maximum beam 25"
Waterline beam, considering that I'm a 200 lb. guy about 22"
Length 10'

Last night I inflated the Safari in my bedroom just to check it out. The Bravo 8 foot pump worked really well. The Safari chambers are really taut when fully inflated. I was a little concerned about the inflatable foot rest, it only attaches on the bottom in the middle. It feels like if I push with one foot, I'll have to make sure that my other foot is pushing on the other side.

The boat is very snug, which I like, I like the feeling of being "one with the boat". It feels very comfortable to me especially since it's an inflatable and everything gives somewhat. I didn't like the inflatable back rest so I ordered some D-ring patches so I could use a regular backrest from my SOT's.

Took the Safari out today for the first time. The light weight is really handy 'cuz I had to walk down a hill to the river. It also makes it easier to travel with. It does take a little while to inflate, so a hard shell is quicker to launch. But, a hard shell would have been harder to get to the river. Everything's a trade-off. Did not install the skeg, I wanted to get a feel for the boat without it. I also didn't inflate the seat, I wanted to sit lower to make it more stable.

The river I was paddling in is a small river with non-existent current. Got in and pushed off, expecting some tippiness from other reports. It's a little tippy, but I like it. Also, consider that my favorite hard shell is one of the more stable surf skis. Your mileage may vary. It is very maneuverable. Like a whitewater boat, if you stop paddling, it almost instantly turns 180 degrees.

The wind had more of an affect on it than I thought it would. Controllable, but maybe with the skeg it would do better. The inflatable footrest works well, still don't like the inflatable backrest. I like it with the seat deflated.

Pulled over to the shore to install the skeg. Now, the directions said to install it with the boat deflated, but what do they know, they’re just the manufacturer. After trying for a while, I gotta tell you, deflate the center chamber. No other way. So, deflated the center chamber, installed the skeg, and reinflated the center chamber. The one thing I really don't like about the boat is how difficult it is to install and remove the skeg.

With the skeg installed it tracks better. Now, this thing definitely doesn't track like a freight train, but it is definitely better. Now I can really see that the glide is pretty impressive for a 10' inflatable. If you look at the dimensions, with a 22" waterline beam it should be easier to paddle. Also, it should help that the chambers are very taut almost like a hard shell. Also, the wind didn't have as much affect on the boat now. Now, realize that I'm mainly planning on using this boat on rivers where the winds are generally less than on open water lakes.

I didn't bring my GPS, so no hard speed figures, but it seemed pretty impressive for a 10' boat. I don't think that I'd paddle with any sea kayaks though. Especially if my wife's paddling one of them, I hate it when she beats me.

Had to portage around a downed tree, the light weight helped immensely. Little suggestion, if you’ve installed the skeg and are dragging the boat like I was, pick up the stern so the skeg doesn't catch on anything.

Getting in and out was fairly simple, just swivel and throw your legs over one of the side chambers and stand up. It was pretty easy to just sit that way with my legs over the side.

Got back, it dried out pretty quickly in the sun, packed everything up and went home. Also, the shoulder straps on the bag are not very comfortable, but I happened to have an NRS Paragon Pack and that worked really well! (www.nrsweb.com)

Overall, I really like the boat. I always like it when I buy something and it turns out to be as good as I hoped it would be. It all depends on what you're looking for.

My boat is actually a Hop on Top 18. The design is the same as the Shearwater, but this boat was Paul Cronin's personal boat and it's made of Kevlar and Carbon Fiber. This is my initial assesment:
Finally got a chance to try it out. Compared to most SOT's, it's very quick. Unfortunately, I had my OK Sprinter out for comparison. The Sprinter is faster with better glide. The HOT 18 is a beautiful boat and more stable than the Sprinter and it will carry more. The HOT is also seriously lighter. Probably at least ten lbs difference. Nice when it comes to loading and unloading.

This was on flatwater, so I don't know about rough water handling. The under stern rudder worked very well and would turn it very quickly. But it did slow it down a lot when I really cranked it over. Makes sense. I really like the option of using the rudder or not so I've removed it and going to replace it with an over stern one. Also, some of the water I paddle in can get shallow so the over stern rudder will help there.

Couldn't tell anything about the inherent tracking or maneuverability of the boat because the rudder controls that. Now that I've removed the rudder, it'll be interesting to see what it does.

Now that I've had them out, they are awesome! 15-20mph winds are great, lots of spray, you're gonna get wet. Very stable, easy to use, incredibly versatile. Sail, pedal, or paddle. Does need something (whisker pole, etc.) for down wind running. I made a pole but haven't had a chance to try it yet. Somebody on the Hobie forum showed how you can sheet them out on the ama's. Looked pretty cool, gonna have to try it.

The kayak alone (no outriggers) and using paddles reminded me of my Tarpon 160. Lots of glide, tracks like a freight train. Not real maneuverable, but this isn't really a fast water boat. Put the big ol' honkin rudder down and you ain't gonna turn with the paddle alone. Needs thigh straps for controlled edging. They have become my favorite boats (at least until the heat drives the wind away!).

While sailing, the acceleration is amazing. Get hit by a puff and it takes off. Comfortable, easy. Heavy. Would prefer adjustable foot braces instead of the molded in ones. They usually have more surface to plant your feet.

I've got more upper body strength, so I only use the Mirage Drive to bring it into the marina. Some folks have said that it's hard to paddle with the outriggers because you hit your paddle on the rear aka (outrigger arm). The thing is, if you have a vertical paddle stroke, Brent Reitz's video says that you should lift the paddle clear of the water at your hip. The rear aka is behind the seat, so if you happen to hit it (and I did), your paddle stroke is going too far aft. It actually encouraged me to paddle better and improve my stroke.

Just tried out my new Sprinter last night (strictly flatwater). Is it tippy? Depends on your frame of reference. I tried a lifeguard spec surf ski once and had to dangle my legs in the water to stay upright. So, if you're coming from a surf ski, this thing is solid. If you're coming from a typical SOT, it's a little tippy. For me, it was feeling pretty good after 100 yds or so.

This boat is a hoot! My easy cruising pace got me 4.5 mph on GPS, fast cruising 5-5.5 mph. Hard for me to get it above 6. It's a very wet ride. The water was at the top of the scuppers as the boat was sitting by itself. I'm 190 lbs and I sat in a pool. Didn't bother me, just lettin' ya know.
The footpegs are very narrow. I just fit my size 8 Chota Nunavut heels into them. This boat was really made for small people, short and light. I wouldn't suggest it for anyone heavier than I am, as a matter of fact, I think 150 lbs or less would be better. The seat was very comfortable but it does need a backband. It also needs handles in the middle of the boat. The gas pedal rudder works well once its set up. It appears to be a Swede form design, but the bow is very high volume. Because of this, it might make for a good multi-sport boat (flat water to Class II stuff). I'll try that out later.
Maneuverability is good, the rudder is handy when you're trying for speed. More maneuverable than my Tarpon 160, similar to Manta Ray 14, less than Synergy 14. Can't wait to get it in some textured water.

Understand here that I’m not a fisherman. This boat just seemed to fit my interest in a kayak the could handle flatwater to Class 2+.

Initial flatwater assessment of the Manta Ray 14. Fit and finish are excellent. Needs thigh straps. Any boat that’s touted as being able to handle whitewater needs thigh straps. It’s a very deep boat, compared to my Tarpon 160 and Hobie Mirage Classic. Almost didn’t fit in my Malone Autoloader Xv”s. Like the cat bag just in front of the seat. Would be cool if it was bigger. Lots of flat spots for mounting stuff. The forward hatch space is huge. Like the paddle parks on both sides, very handy. It looks like the hull design should be better in whitewater than my other SOT’s. My other SOT’s have an edge that gets caught by the current when they’re edged and it can flip you very quickly. The MR has rounded hull sides with some tumblehome which should be harder for the current to get a grip on. In a couple of weeks I’m gonna take it on some Class 1-2 stuff and give it the acid test. But not until I install thigh straps. Did you hear that LL? Thigh straps, thigh straps, thigh straps! Hehe.

In the water, initial stability is lower than the Tarpon 160 but the secondary comes on very quickly. (For reference, I’m 5’4” and 200 lbs.) I really like the feel, more like one of my sea kayaks than like one of the SOT’s. It’s a very dry ride. Good glide and maneuverability. How they did both, I’m not sure, but its pretty amazing. The bow seems to ride a little high, but that might be normal. I’m 5’4 with a 29” inseam and the hooks that hold the paddle park on either side inside the cockpit are right where my knee is. Aggravatin’. Tryin’ to figure out how to cover them up and still be able to use them, they’re real handy. Seatbacks are a very personal thing. This one is good, but I still might replace it with my Surf to Summit one. But everyone’s different, your mileage may differ.

I use them on a trailer and the new ones are awesome. They will lie flat if you loosen the bolts just a little. I take mine on and off and got tired of having to use a wrench every time so I replaced the bolts with eye bolts. Now I just grab the eye with my hand and tighten or loosen them. If anyone's interested I'll let you know how it works. If you have several boats they are excellent. The problem that I have run into with the Yakima's is that I have to readjust their spacing on the bar for each boat. You don't have to do that with the Autoloaders. Also, the new ones have you passing one part of the strap under the boat so when you tighten it, it lifts the boat off the Autoloader and supports it with the strap. The neat thing about this is that the strap will conform to any hull shape. And by the way, they fit perfectly on 3/4" galvanized pipe in case you're making your own rig.

Ok, finally got a chance to try out Patrick's Tideline kayaks. Fit and finish were excellent, but I must admit that I'm not much of a detail person. I'm much more interested in how well it handles. The one I tried was one of his carbon models. Extremely light weight. Very nice to carry. I tried it out in Mission Bay in San Diego. Maybe 6" to 1' confused chop. Pat wanted me to try it out in the ocean, but these are the conditions I normally paddle in here in Huntsville, AL. I think he was a little disappointed since his boats are really made for big water. By the way, I’m 5’4” and 200 lbs.

For me initial and secondary stabilities are high. This boat was very comfortable to just sit in and look at the scenery. Maneuverable, skeg was handy. Very balanced in the wind, didn’t notice any weathercocking. I was paddling about 5 mph at what I would call a quick cruising pace. Understand here I’m not a racer. Very fast for a 15’ kayak. Cockpit was very comfortable.

If you go to San Diego, where Patrick has his shop, its like visiting an old friend. He and his wife are very gracious and he loves to just sit around and talk kayaks. He’s very passionate about his work and very knowledgeable. We had a good time visiting with them.

pdate on the 16.5. Took it down a fairly simple Class 1 river and it was so much fun! Because of its maneuverability, I could do things I never had before, like play! Not like a whitewater boat, but still fun. Plus, its great on the flat spots in between. Because of the maneuverability, this boat takes some getting used to, but it seems to get better all the time.

Tried out my new Cortez 16.5 last weekend. Did a 20 mile jaunt on a lake with many power boats and water lice (jet skis) which created a lot of confused chop. The Cortez is a very fast flat water boat. When the water is smooth, it flies. With a little bit of effort, 6-6.4 mph was possible. Cruising at 5-5.5 works very well. When the waves come up though, this boat slows way down. In any kind of waves I’d much rather have my Sirocco. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Cortez slowed down to the Sirocco’s speed, but it wasn’t as comfortable. The cockpit is excellent, very comfortable, no problems. I know why all Cortez’ come with rudders, it’s a very maneuverable, rudder dependant boat. Without the rudder deployed it will broach in a heartbeat. I have 7 kayaks and it’s the most maneuverable of all of them, except the Ocean Kayak Yahoo which is a semi-whitewater boat. For me, initial stability was very good, higher than the Sirocco. Secondary was average. The Cortez was harder to edge than the Sirocco because of the good initial, average secondary stability. From what I can see, the Cortez fills a specific purpose, to go fast on flat water, which it does very well.

I've got a Sirocco and its an outstanding kayak. I generally do flat water, but I had it in some good sized swells in Lake Michigan and it really shined. Found out that its a better boat than I am a paddler! I would go into those swells and get nervous, it would just ride through them. Maneuverability is very good. If you want better tracking, drop the skeg. I would rate the initial stability as moderate and the secondary as high. Its very easy to lean and that secondary stability gives me a lot of reassurance on edge. It feels like its very efficient at cruising speeds, i.e, low effort. This is at 3.5 to 4.5 mph. Above 5 or 5.5, I feel like I've hit the wall, but that might be a problem with the motor!. The only objection that I have is that the cockpit feels so big. Small price to pay for a good boat. I also like the lower fore deck. It doesn't feel so cavernous.
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