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As the waters I frequent are often unpredictable and bitter cold, I needed a boat that could handle well in three and four foot swells and severe crosswinds. Perception's Carolina 13.5 fits the bill. Our first adventure together found us deep in the Puget Sound, caught in the middle of a spring storm a mile and a half from shore. With the rudder down she ran circles around the longer boats of my companions,(17ft) its light weight still allowing me to keep up. I actually had the opportunity to perform two assisted rescues on a current designs Squall who was forced to wet exit in the rough waters.
All in all I have found this boat to be a dream and would recommend the airalite version to any paddler, beginner or advanced. Limited storage and relatively short length compared to other touring and day touring models is the only thing that kept me from giving this boat a 10 but a careful packer could easily stretch a three day tour.
Biggest surprise: This narrow kayak is very stable. Manufacturers and dimensions would suggest that a 22 (or 23) inch wide kayak would require you to do balance beam on one toe to keep it upright. Not this one--it felt more stable than some of the 27-29" beam kayaks I tried. Speed was probably the best of the lot, and the seat gave firm support when more effort was exerted. People like giving their dimensions here--at 5'8", 158, I've run track, wrestled, trout-fished canyons, done modest weight-lifting, and still consider myself a bit out of shape. What a good seat does is make you forget the seat is there. Carolina's was one of these.
I give this nice kayak a 9 because I think something better is possible. The Perception Monterey (13.5) seemed to be just as fast, tracked as well, and yet turned better. Turning the Carolina was actually difficult, leaning, full sweeps--I'm sure somebody out there as an instant fix for this (levitation, maybe?). Plus, the Montery offers a skeg instead of a rudder, which seems (big "seems," like "I really can't prove it") more durable and less likely to get knocked off by its clumsy owner--or a curious volunteer.
After trying it, I can see why so many shops carry them. Excellent stability for such a criminally narrow boat! Hope to try out some Old Town's this year or next year and try out that "awesome" heavy hull design.
I would personally give it a 10; but no kayak is perfect for everything or everyone so that's why I give it a 9.
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