Read reviews for the Mercury GTE Solo / Tandem by Point 65 Sweden as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
This first review is before I have it out on the water. I will update this weekend when I go to the lake and also after a two day paddle/camping trip down the Brazos.
- Initial thoughts: The kayak is already exceeding my expectations. It is VERY light, and the pieces are so compact that I am able to fit this 13.5ft kayak in the back of my SUV and leave one of my backseats up with room to spare for gear, cooler etc. in the back.
- The front piece is able to fit right inside the middle piece making it to where you only have to store/load two pieces instead of three.
- The color is vibrant and awesome. Some parts are smooth shiny and then near the cockpit it is a bit rougher, I am guessing this is to aid in entering and exiting the kayak.
-So far, so good!
Now for the not-so-good things about the kayak. You need to plan on replacing the seats, because the ones you get are quite uncomfortable. I also found that the rudder design was a problem (even though many people like the design, I don't). It takes a lot of pressure to get the 'duck-tail' component to start turning, so it's difficult to control. Also, the first time we tried to launch it from the sand, the slot that houses the rudder skeg got crammed with sand. After getting out into the current, we found that the rudder did not extend like it was supposed to, so there was no steering at all. Had to beach it again, get a stick to dig out the sand to free up the rudder. The little knob to crank the rudder up and down was also a problem. I didn't know how it was supposed to work, because cranking it each way seemed to have less than desirable effect. I disliked the rudder design so much that I took a saw to the kayak and remodeled the tail to accept a new rudder kit. I love the new rudder. It gives me way more steering control and it has a feather-touch, not to mention the ability to flip it up out of the water, and flip it back down easily. I also threw away the rubber hatch cover on the front because it was way too difficult to put it back on. Instead, I found a hatch that opens and closes easily with a locking knob. But all things considered, we are really happy with the kayak. I recommend it.
Now the good stuff, paddling it - I mainly use it in Flat Water, with little current and find it does just fine-feels solid and safe. When I have it 'tandemized' it is a little tougher to paddle and steer-but again, practice and the right partner help this. I also really struggled with the very cool Rudder system at first-and got frustrated-as it is more like a Gas Pedal than a Push/Pull system-the only way I get a really good feel for it is by going barefoot. Paddling position and comfort are very good, no Speed records, but enjoyable for a day of flat water and nature watching is perfect. It has 2 storage pods, nice and dry, however the lids are a bit difficult to handle, I at times will get lazy and just keep my stuff in the cockpit.
So, sorry this is not a highly technical detailed review, but a review from a dude that loves to kayak, and now enjoys a boat that is affordable, comfortable, and easy to store and transport. One other thing to consider, be prepared to meet lots of new people, they are fascinated watching you put this together or take apart and glide away....it draws attention and creates lots of questions.
The storage is so convenient as the bow piece fits completely inside the middle section. The 3 pieces fit in my Subaru Crosstrek without blocking any of the windows. I look forward to finding a deal on another middle section to make it an 18 foot tandem!
After the unboxing and first assembly, the initial overall opinion of the unit was general skepticism. The sections snapped together alright, but the latch mechanism between the bow compartment and the middle compartment was problematic. Straight away it appeared that the strap attachment holes were off slightly causing one side to not be a tightly connected, in trying to get the pieces together the buckle chewed into the teeth on the strap and damaged it. The assembled kayak never really had a firm satifying "put together" feeling. The only other thing to assemble was the control strings that led back to the rudder control. They were hard to adjust to get the pedals to a comfortable position, taking several minutes of trial and error, and then after the length was finally set, the line cleat would pull out with any tension applied. I ended up putting three round turns in the line with the slack to keep it from coming undone everytime I pushed.
We were willing to give it a go at least and tried to be optimistic in how it was going to work. We took the kayak down for a trial run. After a very quick assembly on land, we found we had a very difficult time picking it up and carrying, my wife is on the short side, 5-3, and after assembly, the weight combined with the sag of the kayak in the middle, made it very difficult to carry down to the dock. We ended up breaking it down into two halves which I carried, and then after having to reassemble, found it difficult to manuever its 18-feet length in the limited space available to launch it. It felt stable getting in, despite being kind of rickity, and were quickly under way.
There were huge problems with tracking with the skeg down immediately. The rudder control lines would not operate properly, thinking about it later its my opinion that the rudder control plate should be wider and the strings attach farther out to give more leverage. It took a lot of effort to move the rudder, the strings tended to feel like they were stretching to some extent, and most of the time the rudder and skeg was at some weird angle after I had returned my feet to neutral. The running joke became that "Point 65" was how many degrees in the opposite direction you needed to steer in order to go the intended direction. Frequently you'd get it tracking straight for minute or two and it would start tracking right or left by itself, and I would look back to see the the rudder would be off doing its own thing. After an hour of being frustrated with the not being able to go anywhere but in turns and circles, we paddled back to the dock and gave up.
We ended up returning it, if the pieces had fit together better, the strap mechanisms suspect, and it was not so heavy as an assembled unit, I would have considered replacing the strings with some wire cables.
I also love that, while I most often go paddling by myself, with the Mercury I can add the second mid section and bring somebody along. Which I have done several times. I also want to mention the special rudder on this kayak. The end part of the hull moves and with the skeg that drops down from inside the rudder it is much more efficient than the deck mounted rudder on my old kayak. Why has nobody thought about this before?
The kayak also looks amazing and whenever I hit the water other kayakers turn their heads. When they see me taking it apart and loading it in the back of my car, now that's a conversation starter!!! I have used the kayak extensively this spring and summer and it still looks brand new.
Concerning the strap connection, I never felt that it would tear apart and although being a cheap solution (strap material), I always felt safe.
Assembly is very fast and easy to do, there are videos for that on the internet (as almost everything that should be in the manual - which is a joke - is on YouTube). However, the plastic ratchet straps wear fast and seem to become (pricey) replacement parts. I'll also make my own fastening as the other reviewer suggested.
To me, Rockpool has (they use metal quick tensioners) and Australis seems to have a better solution.
When ordering online you can be lucky and get a Solo where all three parts fit more or less with only slight projections at the bottom, but you can also be unlucky and get a loosely fitting Solo with quite some projections (drag). I regret now that I did not buy where I could see how the sections fit on the kayak that I would buy. This even gets a bigger problem, if you first buy a Solo and then order online the mid-section to make it a Tandem. This could become an odyssey to get a fitting one in the end. Now I would only buy when I can see myself that all parts "fit" for both cases, that means when assembled as a solo and a tandem.
Made in China.
Check for tiny holes at the corner and rims of all sections as mine had water leaks. Can be welded water-tight though.
The warranty is a "1-year Limited warranty". 1 year? I had to read that twice to believe it.
The PE material appears brittle and scratches very easily (sand and small pebbles at the shore scratch the bottom when putting the section together), so now I only put the three parts together in knee-deep water at the shore, that's even easier.
The thickness of the plastic appears thin, the plastic also gives easily when pressing a bit with a finger (at the bottom of the mid section).
Color tone did not match for the sections. The tandem section also had a different color tone. I don't care, but it's not rocket science to get that right.
The rudder is way too sensitive and the pivot angle is too large which makes straight paddling a pain. To speed up and avoid unwanted rudder activation I found it feasible in the beginning to keep the legs loose (that means no leg drive) to not move the pedals unwillingly and just paddle with torso twist + "paddler's box"+ belly muscles. I keep the skeg in the up position so the rudder can not move 45° in each direction but only by 5-10 degrees, that's sufficient. I don't use the skeg at all even with wind. When windy, I just use the rudder and adjusted paddling strokes.
The skeg did not come out of the rudder anyway when I wanted to try it, as there wasn't enough tension on the spring for the skeg. One can increase the spring tension by turning the adjustment pin in the skeg box, but the pin can not hold the spring under tension. This can be overcome though by screwing the pin in
(e.g. with a wood screw) after the having turned it to bring the spring under tension.
The skeg itself was warped to one direction which itself does not aid to paddle straight line.
The line for lifting/lowering the skeg was wound the wrong way inside the knob for pulling the line, so turning the knob does the opposite of what's written on it. Ok, that can be changed by dis-assembling the know and rudder line tube etc., but I decided to not spend more time.
Talking about lines, the rudder lines are not wear resistant as the braided protection already disappeared at the bends on the deck after 40 hours of paddling.
The seat caused me "dead legs" after a while. So I put a Thermarest inflatable "lite seat" on it (only inflated it a bit). I also inserted a plastic bag between the original seat and the Thermarest seat, that allows a better torso twist and even to start using a soft alternating leg drive and using the toes for rudder control. I wonder though, that even just a slight leg drive might be to much force on the mountings of the pedals in the long run.
So what's my take?
It would be really a decent recreational kayak, but I found it to have too many design and manufacturing flaws.
I have a Solo and another Solo with a Tandem section and will keep them for family recreational use.
Occasionally used, it will be fun enough at the lakes for that purpose. But for how long, one summer? Or two? To be honest, it does not seem to be made to last long and the warranty is only 1 year.
I was excited when I found it on the internet, when I got it and when I unpacked it. Also when I
first used it (until I found out it leaked). I got less and less excited with each use. I'll be getting another sectional for myself elsewhere next summer. There are a lot of companies to choose from when looking for sectional kayaks. Besides some well-known sea kayak brands (I will go for one of them and choose a company that manufactures where it's located) which all seem to have a custom option for sectionalizing their composite kayaks, there are even those I never heard of before Googling, but which apparently have been around for some time with sectionals.
things I forgot to mention...
If the rudder motion is limited by the skeg-up position, the Mercury tracks quite well. I wrote "It's stable", by that I meant good first and secondary stability, both for the Solo and the Tandem. As the other reviewer said, it's not slow but also not really fast (it's also indicated like that in the manual). You can't use it in higher waves and obviously not as a sea kayak (as compared to the sectional PE sea kayaks of Australis), but as a recreational kayak and it's also categorized as a touring kayak.
I adjusted the length of the rudder lines so that the pedals are vertical. I'd suggest to sit up-right or slightly leaned forward (belly muscles under tension) and keep the legs loose (which means a beginner should start without leg drive in my opinion and focus on "paddler's box" and "torso rotation") and use the toes for rudder control (only slightly tipping the pedals). The pedals are not really comfortable when paddling with bare feet because of the ribbed design, but ironically that just helps to not put too much pressure on the pedals to avoid unwanted rudder moves. I'd only paddle with bare feet (shoes in the hatch) if weather allows anyway. Paddling with sneakers? Well, first try to get them in and then still be able control the pedals, for most shoe sizes this might not work and here I mean size 9 for men and larger. I have 9 1/2 and normal sneakers don't fit. I'd recommend neoprene surf socks/shoes or paddler shoes with flexible soles.
I now have to replace the rudder lines (ordered them elsewhere, costs $32 for a pair of tough ones I hope) as they got close to tearing apart since the last paddling.
the three Solo pieces - of which two pieces can be nested so it's actually two parts to transport - even fit into compact cars. The nesting capability is just great. "Even fit into a compact car" does not mean that all parts fit into the trunk. They do fit into a compact car though when you can fold the rear seat or a part of a split rear seat bench and staple the two parts of the Solo on top of each other. For a small car that's the co-driver's side, because you might also have to fold the co-drivers seat or slide it to the front as far as possible. However, make sure the parts are securely fixed so they don't knock you out in curves.
I would never leave the Mercury pieces for too long in a car when it's hot in the summer. The interior of a car can heat up to 160°F (70°C) or higher and the pieces could warp.
I would have given the kayak a better evaluation (maybe even an 8/10) if the built and design quality would have been as it could and thus should be. Next time I'll not forget to double check where things are manufactured before I order.
Once on the water, the kayak is great. Stable, comfortable and large, while not being slow (not really fast either). The seating position is very laid-back compared to, I think, any other kayak I have been in, but it is comfortable for me.
Unfortunately, the construction of the kayak leaves a lot to desired. The pieces of the hull attach with chintzy plastic ratchet straps that do not release easily, and worse, are probably not going to last very long (the teeth on my straps are already showing wear... in a week). I am going to replace all of mine with some stainless tensioned clamping latches, since ratcheting straps are the wrong choice for this application. It is very disappointing that I have to swap out parts on a new boat.
Also, the solo Mercury middle section ships with rudder control strings that are long enough for the tandem model, so you have to shorten them. The adjusters do not have enough travel to take out all that slack. I am going to make my rudder strings modular, like the kayak, with a few cheap carabiners inlined. Would have cost Point 65N about $2 to do this at the factory, but I guess they couldn't be bothered. Finally, when Point 65N manufactured my boat, they didn't bother to thread the rudder strings into the pedals, so I had to do that myself... which was fun with my head nearly inside the kayak. I could've removed the pedal assemblies, I guess, but I already had to do way more work on a brand new boat than I think I should've had to... and I still need to replace all the cheap ratchet straps. Again, on a brand new boat, I expected far better quality for the price.
This is my first, and will be my last Point 65N boat.
Like the earlier models, it can be assembled either as a solo or by adding an additional section it becomes a tandem. This makes it like owning two kayaks while only buying and storing one. The convenience of the modular design cannot be overemphasized. Taken apart it fits in the back of a SUV or in a closet. Each section (about 25 lbs.) can be carried to the water’s edge and assembled there. This opens up kayaking to people who would not be able to load a 75 lbs. kayak on top of their vehicle.
This new model is a true touring class kayak. It is longer, faster and more maneuverable than the Martini model. It has sufficient storage for a multi-day trip. It features both a rudder and a skeg.
More reviews of all the Point65 kayaks are at: Point65.net