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Name: leaf-peeper

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Must admit, she sure is kind of sweet looking little boat huh? Looks aren’t everything though. The tracking ability of this boat just isn’t there. The boat will pretty much track straight if your going along a >decent< clip. But, slow down or back off a bit to take in the sights and you’ll find she’ll veer off to one direction or the other (more often to the left for us). Even in calm, quite flat water, without a hint of a breeze it’ll still do this, even pull just short of a 90-degree turn (wow!). I checked the hull with string line and found that she was straight as an arrow. So I went and put a rudder on ours, hoping it would fix things, well not quite. Seems this 12’ foot boat is just too short to have a rudder on it. You can feel the resistance and loss of efficiency with the rudder with each paddle stroke; hear that obnoxious click-clack noise in the rudder pivot pin too. And that Extra-Sport seat looks so much better than it really is. You soon find yourself shifting your butt around to try and get comfortable, but never do. I was amazed on just how much noise this boat made cutting through the water. Found myself constantly looking back at my wife, hearing the water breaking of the bow of her boat and thinking she was going to run me down. This boat feels and acts like it’s nose heavy, it’s definitely has got some serious hull design issues. Why Old Town canned the Castine and the old Castaway, I guess we’ll never know (maybe they just didn’t look as pretty, huh?). Well, ours is gone now. Felt a tad dishonest selling it and knowing what piece of wonderment it never was. Don’t go and give me any lip for doing it, least I’m spreading the word about it.

Bought one of these when my daughter saw one at a nearby dealer. She liked the color (blue/green swirl), I liked the price. She could make the boat turn, but had to work to keep it going straight. Tracking on this wide, 9-1/2’ isn’t the greatest trait of this boat. Not the quickest boat going through the water either. Okay for a short 20 or 30 minutes, but that’s about it. If you’re thinking about getting a kayak for your kids, look at Perception’s Carolina 12 (formally called the Umiak), or a used Wilderness Systems Piccolo (no longer in production).

At the time I was thinking about getting a canoe to go paddling with my kids, but went with the Twin Otter instead. Although I could car top this animal, there were times when thought getting on top of my Expedition by myself wasn’t going to happen (Heavy!), not that the typical canoe would have been much lighter. We had the optional jump seat that allowed all three of us to go paddling. When placed between to other seats, I found that the tracking wasn’t that great. I found tracking much improved when the jump seat was placed in front of the forward seat (which was pushed back). The person (kid) in the middle usually ended up getting a little wet from water dripping off our paddles and usually resulted in some cursing. I found that the black trim used around the cockpit opening would constantly work itself off. A tube of Aquaseal help to keep it reattached. It was a boat that back then, allowed all three of the go paddling. Now the kids are older and have their own kayaks. And, now I get to paddle my own boat too, it’s so much easier than paddling for three.

I bought a used Alto as a spare boat for others to use. Reading these reviews, I knew what to expect regarding its tracking issue. The price was right; I bought it with thoughts that I’d likely need to put some sort of a skeg on it. My first paddle with the Alto reminded me of the Old Town Adventurer 125 my wife once had. The tracking was worse than mediocre, I knew the skeg would be needed right away. I used a Smarttrack rudder blade and homemade bracket that attached to the optional OEM rudder location. The coil spring on the Smarttrack rudder blade allowed easy deployment and a wedge cleat up near the cockpit kept the rudder (skeg) up when not in use. The boat tracked very well with the Smarttrack blade/skeg, but with the fixed blade position, proved difficult to turn. If I had spent the time and cut the blade length down some, I probably would have come up with a setup that would have provided decent tracking, but still turn well. There are better used boats out there to be had, ones that don’t this type of diddling around with.

Why is that some of the better performing kayaks get the axe from the manufacturer, while other models that don’t perform continue to show up on the showroom floor for years to come? I’ve heard it said, more than once… “Why did they stop making the Piccolo?”. People say that this is great kayak for kids and for petite adults, and I know they’re 100% correct. I bought our used Piccolo for my daughter who had been paddling an Old Town Otter previously. She really liked the color of her Otter, which is more important (for a 9 year old) than say… something I like called “tracking”. This boat performs very well, not heavy, decent speed, tracking, fairly nibble. The day hatch behind the cockpit is nice for small items that she feels a need to carry along. Both the original front and rear floatation bags still hold air and provide decent flotation. The seat is simple, but no complaints about comfort. Front and rear deck bungee lines allow her to stow a jacket and such. The black trim around the cockpit (like Old Town) would fall off or come loose until I re-attached it using some Aquaseal. The drain plug in rear comes in handy after she’s done practicing wet exits. If you’re looking for a used Piccolo, you may find we I did; most are well (and I mean very well) used. All those scratches on the hull of the boats you’ll see came about because kids were having fun, lots of fun. If you can’t see past the scratches and want something nicer, keep looking and you’ll eventually find a decent used one like we did.

Actually ours is an “Umiak”, which is the same boat as the Carolina 12. Though it’s design shares nothing in common to the Carolina series, Perception changed the name for marketing reasons I suppose. Nice boat, perfect for young kids. Lightweight, fast, nibble, decent tracking, it’s all there. This boat is rocket! When my daughter puts her mind and paddle into it, I have all I can do to keep up with her at times. However, one thing this boat definitely needs is a back band. I installed one called the “Reggie” from Immersion Research, which fits the boat quite well. Also, I installed front and rear split floatation bags from NSR, something that one should consider as the OEM foam block floatation will probably keep the boat from totally submerging, but not much more. What a fun boat for a kid!

The same boat as the Carolina 12. Though it’s design shares nothing in common to the Carolina series, Perception changed the name for marketing reasons I suppose. Nice boat, perfect for young kids. Lightweight, fast, nibble, decent tracking, it’s all there. This boat is rocket! When my daughter puts her mind and paddle into it, I have all I can do to keep up with her at times. However, one thing this boat definitely needs is a back band. I installed one called the “Reggie” from Immersion Research, which fits the boat quite well. Also, I installed front and rear split floatation bags from NSR, something that one should consider as the OEM foam block floatation will probably keep the boat from totally submerging, but not much more. What a fun boat for a kid!