Time will tell with this rack. I’ve been using Yakima products for the past 20 years, and have two sets of kayak J-cradles, a Bow-Down, the Sidewinder tandem bike rack, and a hitch-mounted bike rack.
The first thing that struck me when unboxing the ShowDown was its build quality. This is certainly not what I have come to expect from Yakima. It feels quite inferior to all the other Yakima products I have.
Mounting the ShowDown was very easy, but like other reviewers I noticed that the safety pins were extremely hard to install and remove. I coated them with some bike grease, but keep a pair of pliers in the car in case they get stuck. I am using this rack to transport a Tarpon 140 (68 lbs). For day trips, the rack works quite well. However during extended trips, when the boat is on the rack for many hours (or days), it becomes difficult to get the boat down. It seems like the boat gets ‘stuck’ at the last 12 inches or so of travel. I’ve had to push the boat in and out several times to finally be able to lower the boat down. Next time I go on an extended trip, I will try some grease on the rails to see if that improves things. Again, time will tell with this set-up. I had considered the Thule Hullavator as it has a gas-assist mechanism and much more favorable reviews, however having already invested in the Yakima ecosystem it would have been an expensive proposition to re-configure my vehicle. Fingers crossed with this rack!
While not a true solar shower, it does get pretty warm when left in the sun for a couple of hours. Camp showers can get pretty heavy, so not having to lift this unit up is a big plus. I was surprised about how much pressure can be generated - plenty of pressure for a nice shower. Filling it can be kind of tricky - a long funnel (like used to add oil to an automobile) makes things much easier, especially if you're adding hot water.
All-in-all, a winner!!
I called Keen customer support about the second pair. I have had them 5 months and they are starting to come apart. Unfortunately, I didn't get a favorable response from customer service. My wife is active duty military and we are stationed in Puerto Rico. The representative said that they can't ship a replacement pair to Puerto Rico (surprising since there are Keen dealers here in PR). She said to fill out the warranty and they'll "see what they can do..." Time will tell if I can get a replacement pair.
Again, they are super comfortable and I have been using them for all kinds of outdoor activities (hiking, biking, kayaking, etc.). It's just a shame that the quality is just not there.
Wooden boats always have had a certain appeal to me, but to be honest, I was a bit intimidated by the building process. My father-in-law was gracious in building the boat for me, and it was very exciting seeing flat sheets of plywood become a beautiful work of art. All in all, I would say the entire construction process took about 60 hours of work.
In fitting out the kayak, I decided to use a VCP oval hatch instead of the flush-mounted hatch, and I am very glad. I have had VCP hatches before, and they are probably as close to watertight as can be expected from a hatch system. I also opted not to put deck rigging on the boat. The cockpit of this boat is huge – a small child can sit in front of an adult with no problems whatsoever, so it would be a long reach to the front deck rigging. Besides, I don’t see this boat being used like the typical sea kayak, so it is unlikely that a chart, compass and other navigational aides will need to be on deck. I simply place any items that I need in the cavernous cockpit. Another option added to the boat was a footbrace mounting kit to avoid drilling through the hull to mount the footbraces. The braces are fiberglassed to the inside of the hull and provide a much cleaner looking installation. I also added a Therm-a-rest seat pad to the standard foam seat.
How does it paddle? One word – a dream. A 12-foot boat is much more maneuverable in tight conditions than a longer sea kayak, making this boat ideal for creeks and slow-moving rivers. This boat is fairly wide (30”) but using a 240-cm paddle makes for easy work, and since the sheer panels are “tumbled home” clearance is greatly improved. As stated before, the cockpit is huge. I am fairly tall (6’1”) with long legs, and I can sit with my legs crossed, or knees up, which makes for very comfortable photography and bird watching. This would be an ideal boat for fishing as well – its stability is remarkable.
I give this boat a 10. It is the perfect boat for me, and the paddling I anticipate doing. If you ever have the chance to attend a get-together or demos by Chesapeake Light Craft, by all means do so – you will be able to test paddle their different designs and talk to other builders.