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