Most Recent Reviews
Valley Aquanaut LV - its all about feel!
The Aquanaut LV is a sleek & responsive sea kayak with excellent rough water manners.
It handles pretty well in surf, rolls beautifully & has remarkable secondary stability. It's much more forgiving than the Valley Nordkapp and is in my opinion, ideal for beginners to learn how to handle a proper sea kayak & not feel limited or restricted by the boat. It's a lovely kayak to cruise along in, on a day trip but quite capable in conditions where more advanced paddling skills are required.
The rear of the cockpit & deck are low enough to allow a full lay-back which is something I really value in a sea kayak.
Although it's an LV (low volume) it accommodates my 6' 1" frame quite comfortably.
I really like this kayak, particularly the hull profile which has no chines and is so comfortable in rougher water. For me, this is a kayak that helps you "feel" the ocean and respond with your body and paddle in a way that other, equally competent kayaks do not.
Its probably the same reason that Nordkapps attract something of a cult following...the "feel" thing and the Aquanaut LV definitely shares some DNA with the 'kapp.
A lot of people do find the Nordkapp a little tippy, in static scenarios and I guess that's where the Aquanaut LV might be ideal. For those who would love to paddle a Nordkapp but want stability when accessing their day hatch, or taking a photo.
Its definitely not the easiest kayak to handle in surf (ie keep from broaching on breaking waves) but it does surf well & can be managed once you know how & it shines in just about every other area.
I honestly regret having sold it. An awesome kayak.
BTW...if you come across a plastic version of the LV & don't mind the weight (its not light), but find that the thigh braces have perished, buy it anyway and use the existing holes & bolts the fit a couple of bits of wide diameter, reinforced flexible hose. If you get the right size it works fine for knee braces and no need to drill new holes. Valley don't make Aquanauts anymore.
I fully agree with the previous reviewer.
The Impex Cat 5 is a brilliant, fast, efficient and highly seaworthy kayak. I can't really fault it and the only things I would change if I could, would be the seat, which I uncomfortable as it impedes my lower back (the back is too high & too flat, or perpendicular. It needs to angle away more, from the paddle & ends up forcing a reliance on the back band, to act as a buffer between your back & the seat back.
It might be perfect for some, but not me. I find the NDK seats great & Valley seats quite good also. The Nigel Foster Legend has a great seat too, so why not the Impex as well?
Other than that the kayak is pretty awesome. I was surprised at how well it handles surf... so easy to steer on a wave face. I'm used to wrestling with other kayaks I've owned, like the Zegul 520 & the Aquanaut LV (which I love, regardless!).
Obviously a boat like the Cat 5 won't have the bow volume or rocker to take on really steep waves but it does all the other stuff so well. It paddles well with or without a load and I am toward the lower end of recommended paddler weight.
The cockpit is comfortable with good connection to the thigh braces & also plenty of space to raise your knees a bit, for comfort. The seat pan is fine, I could sit on it all day, its just the seat back that is s problem. I may take a saw to it & see what can be done :D
I've paddled a lot of kayaks and the Impex Cat 5 is a bloody good one.
Well, firstly, this is actually a review of the Gemini ST, which is a composite boat & it does not come in a plastic version, which makes sense to me.
The SP does come in a plastic version which also makes sense to me. Here's why...
The Gemini ST is light & actually quite fast on the water. I found it a bit "tippy" feeling on lively ocean water and I ended up lowering the seat by adding additional spacers, maybe a little less than an inch, and cutting back some if the under seat foam. That really worked & the kayak still felt lively, but also "planted", even in bouncy rebound off the cliffs.
Benefits of the ST are, its very light weight..a joy to load on & off the car! Also its excellent speed & tracking, without the kayak feeling "locked in" or dull. It catches waves like a demon & tracks beautifully on the wave while being easy to steer with some edge & stern rudder. Obviously, without having the bow volume of the SP, it may bury the nose if pushed too hard (like on steeper, faster waves) but I did not go there. Like the SP, its shorter length is a plus and it really is as fast as many longer, hard tracking tourers. Lowering the seat did not affect the ability to lay-back as with the seat at normal height, I couldn't do that anyway at the standard seat height :(
Its not a kayak you want to bounce off rocks in, as it isn't designed for that. Its light, fast & responsive and that is plenty!
The Gemini SP however is designed for pushing things a bit in surf & rough water and hence the addition of a plastic version. People will feel they want to get among the rocks in the SP, if they are so inclined.
At first, I was a bit non-plussed with the Gemini ST, but having lived with it for a while, I came to appreciate it's good points and did not get hung up on what it wasn't. If you enjoy sea kayaking and are looking for a lightweight but "real" sea kayak, that has character & "feel", you may be very happy with the Gemini ST. I am about 6' 1" & 12.5 - 13 stone and it worked well for me. For a very light person it may feel more bouyant...hard to say without testing it.
The only negatives for me were minor, I don't like the removable pod & removed it. I cover the space with a mesh bag & put my bottle & sponge in the pod space, which works well for me. I wish Valley had just built in a normal front hatch & provided a free dry bag, if they wanted to offer something removable :D
Also, I don't much like the variations in hatch sizes across the Valley line. It becomes a hassle getting the right fit in countries other than the UK. I would prefer standard round hatches, like NDK boats. I would also like Valley to design in a lower rear cockpit rim, to allow for easier layback, which gives me a real sense of freedom. The Aquanaut RM LV had that & I loved it.
So, in short both Gemini SP & ST are awesome kayaks. They do not have the flat planing hull of say the Delphin or Xtra, but have a pronounced keel, and as such, handle more like a standard kayak & are probably much more manageable (& enjoyable) in windy conditions. But they are also only 4.5m long, highly seaworthy, versatile & so much fun, without taking up a large space in your garage or shed. They can be paddled with finesse and encourage learning new skills.
I had a Valley Gemini SP RM and found it to be an excellent all-round sea kayak with the main point of difference being its short length and therefore, a lighter carry. It performs excellently in rough water, is highly manoeuvrable and decent in surf, as well as being genuinely able to keep pace with the longer kayaks. In rougher conditions, or paddling into a strong wind, the Gemini can be at the head of the pack if you make use of its ability to pick up free runs on wind waves. It tracks superbly, is easy to turn & easy to roll. I honestly can't think of a better kayak to plonk a beginner into and watch them grow. In my experience it had no obvious vices and while some perhaps promote it as a surf kayak, it isn't that. But it does cope well in surf. Just be sure you have a tight fitting, strong neoprene spraydeck as I've had the lightweight Reed thingy implode on me twice and the kayak fill up with water, which I then had to paddle out the back to safety & empty. Its the case with a lot of roto-moulded kayaks and not a fault of the Gemini specifically. I highly recommend this kayak and suggest that it might be all you ever need as it will cover many bases and is a fun & responsive -feeling boat to paddle just about anywhere.