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Submitted: 08-30-2013 by Eric Leon
I picked up my Skerray FG from the original owner. He said it was the last year they built the Skerray XL but was vague about the year 2004 or 05. I know the rotomoulded Skerray RMX was still being built in 2005. He couldn't figure out why they discontinued the model. My first thought at his comment was that he was giving me the sales talk or lip service. He used it on the west coast off Vancouver Island where he lived. I have used it in the Gulf of Georgia and the west coast of Vancouver Island and have run into all kinds of seas and wind conditions that I didn't always plan to be in.
I have several years and a 1000 miles of paddling in this kayak so I will try to give an honest assessment and review from my experience. The only other review on this kayak on Paddling.net said the kayak's weight was 75 lbs. When I first lifted the kayak I thought it was under 60 lbs. so after reading the other review I weighed it. This kayak weighed 57lbs. on the scale. The older Skerray XL in the other review had rope to a rudder. Some of the other fiberglass Skerrays I had read about had a rope and bungie cord skeg set up. This boat is obviously lighter and a big improvement with heavy stainless steel wire to a skeg. It has the third hatch which I think the earlier heavier models did not have. I think Valley made heavier kayaks in the early years of their manufacturing. The Skerray is only two pounds heavier than my Pintail which I do not find heavy. I can test that these are very strong built kayaks for their weight.
The Skerray XL is a high volume sea touring kayak. It tracks well for it's medium rocker but is still quite maneuverable & is amazingly seaworthy. My Valley Pintail is similar in behaviour except I find the 24" width gives higher initial stability in the Skerray XL. Both the Pintail and Skerray have great secondary stability. It find it edges easy and turns very well for a 17.8 ft. kayak. The skeg leaver is typical of the newer Valley kayaks being located (out of the way) on the port side in front of the cockpit. As I had mentioned I have had the Skerray out in rough windy conditions on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The kayak has minimal broaching in a quarter sea and wind cocking is much less than my Seaward Quest. Both are alleviated with the use of the skeg.
I have owned several British kayaks and I am not a fan of the back band seating because I find the system not great for back support or posture. I have incorporated a new seat into the back band, thus improving my back support and posture. My 5 ft. 11 in., 190 lb. frame fits well into the cockpit and I find it is not a problem getting in and out. My size 11 feet are not a problem.
This boat is not a dog as the other reviewer had described his. It is much faster than the rotomoulded version which I had tested previously. Believe me it has good speed as compared to the other kayaks I have owned or have tested. I have never had to excert myself keeping up with other experienced kayakers. I bought this boat after testing it and comparing the the quality of finish and detail of my Valley Pintail (another beautiful boat). I would give it higher marks than my Tempest or Quest. The hatches and lids are easy to access and dry as compared to my Telkwa.
My other kayaks are between 21 and 22 inches wide so this is the widest I own. The Skerray like other Valley boats is designed to roll and I have tested it though my Pintail is a little easier to roll. I have put many hours in the Skerray. This is a strong boat and has been tested by accident on the rocks with no signs of damage other than a little scraping on the gel coat. I have since added a keel strip for peace of mind.
I think this would be a very good guide boat for the volume in the hatches, it's durability, all round maneuverability and stability.
I have owned some west coast built kayaks by Nimbus, Necky, Wilderness Systems, Seaward, etc. This boat can easily compete in most areas with these boats and is my favorite of the bunch. There is not a lot of these boats on the west coast so some kayakers mix it up with the Nordkapp or Pintail. They all have similar lines and are good looking kayaks.
I don't like to give ten out of ten on the kayaks I own which are all good kayaks and excel in many areas but might need improvement in a few. Other than the improvements I had to do in the seat, this kayak deserves a 10 because of the quality of the craftsmanship & durability, the maneuverability & it's seaworthiness. If you can find a more recent built Skerray FG I would highly recommend this kayak for either a newbie or an experienced kayaker wanting to do multi-day tours.
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