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Reviews for Sonoma 13.5 Kayak by Perception


Rated: 8.11/10 Based On: 27 Reviews

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12-20-2012
Submitted by: Denny WatersSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     We have had this yak for about 5 yrs. It is excellent as a light maneuverable calm water workout boat. Have had it on class 2 rivers. Holds up well. Fast for its size. I'm 185lbs and 6ft. A little tipsy for a first timer. I say calm water because you get a lot of splash when the waves exceed 10 inches, but it still handles it. I just got a 16.5ft Essence made from the same light weight plastic because our Sonoma is of such good quality. The Sonoma weighs around 40lbs or less. Can be handled by one lady for carrying. We've got those low floating plastic blocks at our local doc. I've been seal sliding in and out of the water for years with this boat.
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03-02-2009
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     Just a quick note on exactly how "fast" the Sonoma is in my hands... Since everyone's perception of speed is different, I think it helps to post some "hard" numbers.

First off, I have looked at a comparison of drag coefficients with other kayaks. At may be 3.5 knots it is easier to paddle than any 16 foot or longer kayak I looked at. At 4 knots it begins to lag behind just a bit. Above 4 knots resistance picks-up considerably and grows-up faster than with the longer boats, so the "wall" begins to be felt at about 4.5 miles per hour.

That said, the less than perfect tracking in any condition (due to short length and lack of skeg) even if we ignore its tendency to weathercock, will probably make it just a little more work to paddle in a straight line than a more "tracky" design of similar resistance. But it more than makes-up for this in that it allows me a good range of motion that is not possible with too many kayaks (see my previous review).

As a recent example, my average speed over 2.5 hour 11 mile trip in calm weather was 4.2 miles per hour, including short on-the-water rest stops. It is also notable that the speed does not drop too much as waves pick-up – the boat does not have much bow slap and thus maintains almost normal speeds even against good sized wind chop (but is a wet ride there).

A speed of 5.5 miles per hour is relatively easy to reach but can only be maintained for a few minutes. Max sprint speed for me so far has been up to 6.2 miles per hour but I can only maintain this for less than a minute and my heart rate reaches its maximum very fast there. Active cruising speed seems to be about 4.5 miles per hour. Relaxed all-day pace could probably be held at 4 mph but I never paddle that slowly or that long so I do not know. Surfing down boat wakes or steep wind waves I had it up to 9.3 mph - feels really different to move so fast.

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02-10-2009
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     This is a follow-up on my "first impressions" review I posted immediately after I got the boat. Now with almost three more months of pretty much exclusively paddling it and leaving my other two boats hanging dry in the garage, I feel compelled to post again.

I'm still keeping my rating of 8 because, despite its many positives, the boat has some serious limitations. That said, I can't think of a better small boat for my own needs, so it will likely stay in my fleet longer than some other, "better" boats. So, read on and sorry – I just can’t write a short one, it seems...

The Sonoma is not the ideal boat by any stretch of the imagination. But it has the right mix of qualities for me to make it a decent compromise and my most used kayak for the past several months. At about 40lb, the Sonoma 13.5 Airalite is on the low range of the weight scale. And when purchased used – easy on the wallet.

Sizing. This boat may be better suited for the average to the taller paddler rather than for a petite person. Heavier paddlers up to probably 250lb should be no problem I estimate it would work just as well if not better for a lighter person (for a narrower water line). A small person (regardless of weight) will feel somewhat loose in the cockpit without some padding, the knee braces would likely be in the wrong place and the front deck will feel unnecessarily high for them. I have size 15 feet and am 6’4" tall at about 185lb before gear (and about 210-220 or so with my winter gear and a thermos of hot tea). I find this boat a perfect snug yet non-restrictive fit for me (!). If you like using foot pegs, the factory rails will probably comfortably accommodate people up to 6’ tall and up to about 15 size feet with very light footwear or a couple of sizes smaller feet if they wear thicker boots or sandals. Taller people - you would want to either do what I did and put a center foot rest or move the rails a couple of inches forward. Unfortunately, the seat is well glued to the hull and cannot be moved aft without destroying it first.

Features. The rear hatch is water and air tight (after adding a drop of AquaSeal where the ends of the rubber ring meet; before that it would drip a few spoonfuls of water and would not be air tight). The deck rigging is OK for maps and small items but cannot hold a spare full size one-piece paddle (a two-piece paddle is OK on the rear deck). Removing the front carry handle minimizes water spray and makes for a smoother and drier ride (consider installing a tow line or some other rope rigging in its place instead – safer and more useful on the water).

Stability. It is interesting to read other reviewer’s impressions of the same boat (any boat) and how they differ. This boat will definitely feel tippy at first if you are not a somewhat experienced paddler with a decent sense of balance, and especially if you are taller or top heavy. This was shared also by some kayak shop owners – their customers apparently did not like it during test paddles. This is a boat you can learn from if you want or it will intimidate and irritate you if you don’t want to learn to paddle well. It has decidedly less initial stability and is livelier to sit in than any recreational kayak currently on the market or for that matter than most sea kayaks that are wider than 22" so. Initial stability I estimate is similar to some 20-21" wide sea kayaks. It is stable enough to not to require any bracing most of the time even when not in motion. But it won’t keep you upright if you screw-up too much. The Sonoma has a very good secondary stability but that requires a significant lean to appreciate it. By the time secondary stability fully kicks-in, novice paddlers may feel threatened and out of control and that very well may be the case. It needs some practice to get comfortable. That said, after several outings and preferably with some instruction on bracing/rolling this boat will begin to feel more and more stable and reliable even to a novice paddler – they will not be that "novice" anymore and that’s the key to success.

Paddling style. With the addition of a centered foot rest, I have enjoyed knees-together full-leg-drive paddling, also thanks to the just long enough and high enough deck. Being able to do this makes such a nice difference, that I do not know why all boats do not come like that from the factory.

The suede form combined with the short kayak length and slightly sloped deck sides make for an impressively narrow and efficient paddle entry point for me (under 17" wide). Such narrow paddle entry areas are not typically found until one moves into the racing sea kayak/surf ski category of boats with their associated high price tags, sometimes intimidating length and stability (or lack there off on some). In comparison, my almost 19’ long Current Designs Extreme aka Nomad GTS and the 17’ long Wilderness System Tempest 170 kayaks are 2-4 inches wider in the same area respectively.

Speed. The Sonoma is not a fast boat. At only 12.5 or so feet waterline it has a rather limited top speed. However, the efficient Swede form and relatively narrow waterline width of 22" or so allow it to easily cruise at just over 4 miles per hour. It gets you into mild exercise pace (maintainable for hours with short breaks) when you get to 4.5 miles or so per hour. Consider that 4 to 4.5 mph is typically enough speed to keep pace with the average touring kayak in a group paddle and you will have easier time than the rest when going slower. Half the people in our group usually go slower than that, while only few go faster but only when they try to race each other. However, with a short boat as this, it is pointless to try to paddle at close to 5 miles per hour or faster for any length of time – it creates a huge wake and just wastes a lot of your energy for very little return in increased speed. 30 minutes at 5+ miles per hour and you will have a very high intensity workout near your max hart rate -;) I can propel it to just over 6 miles per hour in a short sprint, but that’s about the limit in it for me and, unlike a fast boat like the Extreme, paddling the Sonoma fast is not rewarding – it just wants to slow down to its "normal pace".

Surfing. I have not had a chance to surf ocean waves with this but expect it will be fun. Surfing wind waves certainly is. WIth flat bottom under and behind the cockpit and hard chines in that area, it can catch the smallest 1 foot chop and glide with it downwind with barely an effort. The Sonoma thrives going downwind in steep closely-spaced wind waves, which are not particularly pleasant to paddle in a long kayak like the Extreme. Due to its almost 19’ length its stern constantly comes out of the water and becomes susceptible to winds, its sharp bow goes deep and makes it hard to keep pointed if it begins to broach. Or it lifts on the tops of two adjacent waves leaving me handing in mid-air and lacking a brace point for brief moments. Give the Extreme open water with longer-period waves or just small wind chop and it screams thru. The Sonoma can’t catch-up with fast boats surfing low swells since it is slow and falls off longer smoother waves that just pass under it. On the other hand the Sonoma thrives in short waves – it surfs short steep 2-3 foot wind waves at nearly 8 mile per hour and is a lot of fun. The nose dives (pearls) somewhat in these conditions so you need to lean back or it threatens to go under too deep. Removing the front carry handle makes for a nice smooth just below the surface glide of the bow in these conditions. Due to the short length the boat is responsive to control strokes and leans and is easy to keep on course down wind or upwind or at a slight angle upwind (but weathercocks strongly in side winds).

Upwind. Going directly upwind in the same short steep waves that the Sonoma so likes to surf is a wet ride and not nearly as fun as it is in longer boats. The pointed bow slices thru rather than rise over them. It does not lift too much giving it a good speed upwind even in strong winds but it is half the time under water and you will get very wet. Going upwind at a slight angle to the winds and waves seems to be the better way to go – no nose-diving and very little spray to the face; plus the weather cocking is not much of an issue yet, until you try to go with the wind directly from the side. Longer boats have some advantages in going directly upwind against small chop as they do not go up and down so much and offer a smoother and drier ride over the waves.

Seaworthiness. The boat has some serious limitations as it comes from the factory. These need to be addressed for it to become a fully capable and safe "sea kayak" for longer trips. It will never be large enough for multi-day tripping but for day tours or an overnighter in warmer climates (small gear size!) it is enough. First, the lack of a front bulkhead can be an issue if you are alone and overboard. Make sure you practice in a pool or protected area to know what to expect. It is very hard to lift the bow and empty the boat while you are floating under it as the bow area fills-up with lots of water despite the large foam block that provides support in the front of the leg area. It is just too heavy and holds too much water to lift over your head to empty well on your own while floating under it in the water (inflate a paddle float to give you buoyancy to lift if you must). The problem is worsened by how the cockpit area and the deck are shaped. Even if you lift the bow to empty it (say from another kayak or from shore) you still can’t empty the boat fully – there are good several gallons of water left in it at any time no matter how you turn it around (my other boats are left with no more than a cup or two in the same situation and I can empty them alone in the water). So, carry a bilge pump with you at all times – you will need it should you flip or practice rolling or wet exits. Most of this can be avoided if one adds float bags to the front and behind the seat (but that will waste valuable space in the rear). Adding a second bulkhead behind the seat is on my to-do list and would also allow me to have an accessible day hatch. It will also provide additional stiffness to the deck immediately behind the seat. Lastly, due to the general tippiness of the kayak I found it difficult to do cowboy reentries in it (the rear hatch tie-downs also tend to get a little in the way and may loosen). Doing a reentry from the side and roll back-up seems a better way to go and you do not need to worry about emptying the boat first as it will fill-up anyway while you try this (but you will have a good workout to empty all that water it once you are up, if you have not put flotation bags in it).

Weathercokcing. A skeg is needed when there is strong wind from the side – the boat weathercocks too much and, while perfectly controllable by leaning and sweep strokes, it wastes too much energy to keep it on course unless paddling directly up-wind. Not an issue for short outings but can become a problem and is really a bog if you have to fight it for more than an hour in strong winds. May be my weight distribution worsens this – my legs stretch way too forward from where they are supposed to be and my butt is still in the same place where a 5’5" 150lb person would sit. Thus the bow is well planted and the stern feels more loose than the bow for me. Perhaps shorter people may find the weathercocking not so bad as their weight would load the boat more evenly front to rear.

Tracking. Going straight is not this boats strength (despite the claims on the adverts). It tracks OK for its length but is not that good overall. The stern is somewhat loose for me and requires a precise stroke to keep from turning left or right. That is not a big deal in itself and is actually a good tool to teach evenness of your left and right stroke. It also does not matter in the least if you paddle along in a group – tracking is more than good enough for this. You will notice the tendency to zigzag, however, if you try to move fast or race someone and there keeping a precise straight line is of great benefit. It unnecessarily wastes your energy compared to a skegged or a ruddered boat. I plan to add a skeg to it to improve straight line tracking and to eliminate weathercocking. While a rudder would be even better, the cost of a good one, the weight, and the clutter it creates in the cockpit, in the hatch area and on the stern is probably not justified compared to the little additional benefit it would add over a skeg for such a short boat.

Rolling. The boat rolls easy enough. Not a rolling boat by any means though. I am still a relative beginner as far as rolling is concerned, but I managed to easily learn in it my first butterfly rolls on both sides, did various braces that get me out of the water after getting my entire head down but before needing to roll, or to just do a plain layback roll. In fact it rolls easier for me than either of my other two boats as it has the lowest rear coaming height of the three kayaks I got – a little lower than the Tempest, measured from the seat bottom, which is in turn a little lower than the Extreme. I can just lay on the side and float, then come back as in the last motion of a butterfly roll and am almost flat on the rear deck without much flexibility required in my lower back. It is still not a low-volume boat, so it is not as easy to roll as a proper "Greenland" kayak but certainly easier than some wider bulkier recreational boats.

Toughness. This is not as strong as a rotomolded polyurethane boat, nor is it as stiff as a composite boat – cost and weight savings has its price. While it is less susceptible to minor damage from scrapes and nicks than a gel-coated fiberglass or carbon/Kevlar boat I feel the Airalite material would not necessarily withstand a catastrophic blow any better than a composite boat would. I would handle it with more care than a "plastic" boat (when for instance landing on rocks) but less care than a composite when placing on the ground or car-topping (where unnecessary gel coat cracks can occur easily in them) – that works for me as I usually do not land hard on rocks but do have to put the boat on the ground or on the car every time I paddle.

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11-21-2008
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     Had a chance to try it in probably the worst it would see: flat water with 10-15 miles per hour winds and gusts up to 20 or a bit more. Up to 2 feet short waves with some white caps. And I thought this was a very nice small boat. Stability seemed similar I thought to my Tempest 170 but it felt livelier it seemed as it is lighter and shorter. Being shorter it also did not impress me with very good tracking compared to the 17 foot Tempest but it was not bad either.

I can understand beginners finding this boat tippy, especially if they are lighter than I am. The seat was OK, though my tailbone felt pressure after an hour paddling though. The back support is nice but high for a layback roll - maybe a backband would be better suited for this.

At 6'4" and size 15 feet I needed maybe 1" to 2" more length on the foot rails, but otherwise there was very good foot room - moving the rails would make it a good fit. At just under 200 lb with wet gear I expected that the boat would ride lower in the water but it stayed pretty high IMO - providing for a dry ride in up to 1' waves, but a very wet when the wind picked-up and the waves came up to 2 feet - the nose would bury rather than go over these steep waves. But so does my 19 foot kayak, except that the bow of the Sonoma is very close to me, so the spray would hit me in the face at each wave pretty much (due to the wind).

Going downwind was a lot of fun - due to the short length and relatively hard chines it catches the small steep waves easily and goes along just fine at a good speed. Side-winds however were not good to tackle - too much weathercocking and even with slight edging it still required pretty much full-time one side paddling to stay on course. A skeg would be very good to have in this situation. May be with hard edging it would go where you need it, but that's too much work compared to just dropping a skeg... Also, being that tall I probably shifted the designed center of gravity forward of the intended point, thus increasing the tendency to weathercock - I noticed that if I lean back it was easier to stay on course, so perhaps for a lighter/shorter paddler who's legs won't weigh down the bow so much it may behave better - my bow was pretty well planted and the stern would slide downwind more than the bow.

Did not get a chance to measure speed with GPS - it did not strike me as a terribly fast boat but it had OK glide b/w strokes and for its length it seemed pretty decent.

Why 8? Because of the strong weathercocking tendency - it required a lot of work to keep on track. But as I said, may be for a lighter and shorter paddler that may not be a problem: the bow will be lighter and the center of gravity - a little further back than with me having all of my 36" legs and size 15 feet in drypants and layers in the front

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10-15-2007
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     A followup to the review I posted below, on 07-29-2003. (I guess inactive users were purged, since my username is missing, there, and have reestablished account.) I've had the Sonoma 13.5 for 4 years. It's held up well. The white bottom has taken some mild scratches, which surely would have been worse on a poly boat. There are some scum stains on the red top, from lack of good cleaning. It's a fun boat. I'm even bumping the rating from 8 to 9. I was surprised recently when I dug the GPS out, to find that it's not too hard to paddle at 5 mph, where I had previously considered it more of a 4 mph boat. My stroke must have improved with time. The 1/2 inch thigh brace padding had come loose, and I took the opportunity to glue some shaped minicell wedges between the plastic and original foam, to get more grip. When I got into moderately pesky quartering waves, I was able to hold a lean, and paddle with mostly normal strokes. The boat still cannot coast in a straight line. It might do better with a heavier paddler (I'm 140 lbs). It tracks fine under power, and and the quick turning makes it feel like a sports car.
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08-13-2007
Submitted by: Jollie Jacqueline
Rating: 9 of 10

     My husband purchased the boat used, and it is my second kayak. I started kayaking two years ago and going to several demos, I found this boat to be incredible, easy tracking and very stable in the water. The first time I used it was in one of the Great Lakes. I found it very tippy at first, but within 10 minutes you knew how it performed. I have paddled it in large wakes and waves and never have gotten swamped. At 5' tall with an inseam of 28" the comfort is excellent for touring for 4 to 6 hours. I would love the same boat but a little longer.
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06-25-2007
Submitted by: ELMSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Sonoma 13.5 - I LOVE this boat! I traded in my LiquidLogic boat for this much lighter and sleeker boat. As everyone says it is prone to tipping over. However, I found that after 20 minutes of being in this boat for the first time that tipping was not a problem. It is quite stable to me now. It is important to note that your physical dimensions will be a factor in how well you "fit" into this boat. It is designed for a smaller paddler or woman.

This boat is fast, it tracks well and will cross a large lake with minimal exertion. It does get pushed around in the wind a little bit, but I have had no problem compensating. The cockpit is fairly small. That works great for me as I no longer bang my elbows as I did with the LiquidLogic. However if I have to get out for some reason getting back in while in the water isn't always easy.

Overall I adore this boat. My mother nearly stole it out from under me! With my tricky back and neck this boat is a perfect fit, light weight and fast. Not to mention she is oh so pretty. Too bad they stopped making it...

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08-14-2006
Submitted by: JoanneSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I just came in from paddling this yak. It's been about 8 months since I've been on the water - the boat felt just fine, not tippy at all. Responsive, but not too fast. I'm 5'2" and it fits me comfortably. The boys from our scout troop also loved it. My favorite part about this boat is that it is light and short. I can pick it up by myself and put it in the back of my station wagon and pop over to the lake.
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08-07-2006
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I have been paddling for 7 years and I recently had the opportunity to use a 13'+ Sonoma and due to my height, 5'2", and the depth of this boat, it was not a good fit. For me it was tippy. It is a beautiful boat, glides through the water well, leans fine, and tracks well. But in my opinion it is not a boat for a short legged person as it was difficult to get a grip on the thigh braces (my leg inseam is 28"), even with the foot braces in the correct position. Those that are taller would likely love it, but it was not for me. I'll take a shallower, more narrow boat any day. This why it's important to "try before you buy!"
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09-08-2005
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     The Sonoma 13.5 Airalite is my first kayak. I looked for months before buying the Sonoma. Old Town had a couple of kayaks I was interested in but neither model was still available, which was quite frustrating. But now, I'm glad they weren't. I think the Sonoma was a great choice. I was looking for something to use on the lakes and slower rivers of Arkansas. I find the Sonoma to be fast and also easy to maneuver. Leans are easy to conquer in this kayak too. At 41 pounds, it is easy to carry and load onto the roof of my SUV.

I'm 6 feet and fit in the Sonoma with no problems. The thigh braces are a perfect fit. In addition to its speed, the Sonoma tracks very well and continues to glide through the water after you've quit paddling. You'll probably read a lot about this kayak being tippy. Yes, at 22.5 inches in width, it is tippy, but I got used to it after the first twenty minutes in the cockpit. It’s like riding a bike, perfectly comfortable once you get used to the feel. There are more stable boats out there, but for speed, maneuverability and just plain fun on the water, the Sonoma 13.5 is a great choice.

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08-31-2005
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 1 of 10

     The Sonoma 13.5 was my first kayak. Since then I have sold the boat and purchased an Eddyline Skylark. I also have a Dagger Specter 15.5. I hated the Sonoma. It was highly unstable. After swamping the boat four times during the first 30 minutes in calm conditions on Lake Tahoe, I traded it in on the Eddyline. What a nightmare.
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08-02-2005
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I took advantage of an L.L. Bean Paddlefest at the beach in front of the Cheasapeake Bay Foundation Headquarters near Annapolis Maryland. I tried a number of boats, including the Sonoma 13.5 and its little brother the 10.0. I really did not care for either of these pretty boats. I am 6" and had trouble entering the 10.0 and could not get comfortable in either of them. The 13.5 handled well in the 1.5' swells which were coming off the bay and it seemed to be quite fast for its size. As with the 10.0, I found the workmanship to be a little lacking for this price range, and the beach was tearing up the pretty finish on the boat. If weight, speed, and looks are the prime motivators for your purchase, this boat might fit the bill. Otherwise, test drive it first.
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04-18-2005
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     In spite of the fact that the boat is recommended for women and smaller paddlers, I am 5'9" and 185 pounds and I love this boat. It tracks remarkably well especially into the wind. I have even taken it down the San Juan River and it behaved remarkably well, though it is a tiny bit squirrelly when it’s being pushed hard from behind. It's comfortable and it’s very good looking. The plastic holds up very well to some substantial banging on the rocks. And it is just plain fun to paddle.
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03-06-2005
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I just received my new Sonoma last week and it has not yet been in the water and I am a new paddler, so look upon any comments with that in mind.

I love the boat and its compromises are well suited to my needs. However, it has some serious issues from construction and (presumably) handling that I would suggest you look for if you purchase or own one.

I had looked at kayaks for ages and bought the Sonoma within a day of seeing Outdoorplay's price including delivery and with no tax. Cool.

It arrived in only 3 days. However on unwrapping it, I found the bolt ahead of fore bungie clip had been overtightened. This produced a 1/2" stress fracture in the gel coat and a "whitening" stress line in the plastic of about 2". Also, the bow foam support leaned rather dramatically, with the centerline being about 1" from the edge of the 4" wide foam. I sent pictures to Outdoorplay and they made a reasonable adjustment to the price and I effected an ugly repair necessitating drilling the ends of the crack and filling the surface. Not a problem as I intend to cover it with a compass. However, the boat also showed signs of really sloppy glue work- smeared on the front of the hull and not wiped off at application??(it can't be removed now) and just generally poor workmanship. To add to these woes (on such a gorgeous little kayak!), I think the boat has been poorly handled. It has a bonk in the bow in the hull and one on the deck about 1" ahead of the crack. Most importantly, the decking overhang is cracked in a long continuous split where it overhangs the hull, exactly the length of the Perception writing and logo on the port side. If I had seen this earlier, I never would have accepted the boat. I have no idea how that long crack could occur without damaging the hull, but it is there, and now glued. There are a few other small dents in the surface and I would guess that the material has a "memory" and retains them.

My conclusion is that Perception has a very nicely designed and attractive kayak that is being very indifferently assembled. Caution is advised.

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12-02-2004
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 8 of 10

     This kayak is my third in 35 years. My first one was a Hyperform and came from Germany I believe and was made of fiberglass. I still have it, but it is a “barge” compared to this Perception. I bought my bride, a new kayaker, a Carolina, and we went out the other week on a small lake that is fed by a slow moving river. We paddled up to Cataract Falls and down back again. Those 16 miles showed me that this boat was only a wee bit tipsy for the first few minutes and then I felt comfortable, except for my feet. I am 185 lbs and am 6’ tall. The only thing that doesn’t fit great is my FEET. I wear a size 12” shoe and there is NO room what so ever for them, unless I place one in front of the other, with shoes on. I will solve this by buying some water-proof sox and not wearing shoes anymore. I did try this boat out at the dealership, but took my shoes off. I will never do that again. I give this boat an 8 out of 10 and find it a pleasure to paddle, even against a 6-7 mile an hour wind. The weight is great, especially compared to my old one and my wife. I just wish I had some foot space.
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08-09-2004
Submitted by: PETESend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Next to my wilderness Systems Cape Horn Pro, the Sonoma is fast and fun. I've found that it is heavy in the bow and awkward to carry. I have found that if I leave a bilge pump and pfd under the stern deck bungee that it will almost even out. The decals, although attractive, are overdone. I peeled them off immediately. The rear hatch should have a combing and neoprene cover. When rolled, it will fill with water. It is easy to roll. I love the narrow beam. It does track well and really doesn't need a rudder. I actually prefer it to my Cape Horn 16.5 for most shorter outings. I've taken it out every day for the last month. My partner tried fifteen different boats and couldn't decide. I bought the Sonoma without even testing it. She loves it. I love it. My 11 year old daughter loves it and paddles it all over the bay without problem.
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12-29-2003
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     After 3 months of searching for the perfect kayak, I decided to purchase the Sonoma 13.5. I bought it because it is light weight and I can put it on the top of my SUV all by myself. I am 5'06" and 125 lbs. I have done a bit of kayaking so the stability to me was fine. The boat is super fast, but I would recommend getting a rudder if paddling in open water. The boat is easily blown in the wind and can be quite difficult and tiring trying to correct your direction - especially for us small and light paddlers. I am planning on adding a rudder this spring. Overall, I love this boat. I can load and carry it easily and it looks great.
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10-29-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 7 of 10

     My ladyfriend and I both bought Sonomas as our first boats, she got the 10' as love at first sight, I took longer to select the 13.5'. I found mine to be tippy initially as it dumped me on my first demo day tryout but after trying more boats (about 6), I came back to it as a boat I could grow into, not out of. Primary reasons for buying Sonomas are light weight (main factor for ladyfriend with tricky back) and speed. After about 5 outings, I no longer notice the tippiness in either flat or moderate moving water. Foot/leg numbness was a problem in 13.5 but purchasing a thigh brace seems to have solved that. Numbness wasn't a problem in 10 or other competitors I tried. I'm 5'10" and weigh 210lb and am at the upper limit for weight on this boat. The 10' actually holds me better and is much easier to get into. However, once in, 13.5 fits like a glove and provides excellent kneebrace control. The 13.5 definitely tracks better than the 10 and is faster but not as manuverable. Like the 10 for rock gardens but the 13.5 for extended paddles. Don't think the 13.5 tracks as well naturally as the drop-down skeg models such as the Blackwater, Charleston or OTS Jolt but those feel bulky compared to the Sonoma and it's easy to compensate for the Sonoma's tracking. Suspect higher skill level will make tracking a non-issue. Think the 10' is more suited for rec boat purposes (fishing, bird watching) as more stable and more cockpit room but tends to drift when not being actively paddled, 13.5 more suited for light touring. Both boats are compromises, too large and v-bottomed for whitewater, too short and not enough storage for extended touring but both are good intermediates for developing skills and handling both flat and I-II rivers. Because of material and design (which was possible because of material), the 13.5 actually handles more like a 15' roto boat at much less weight and bulk. Downside was initially price but we haggled both boats down ($900/13.5, $700/10). Think these boats will hold us for several years.
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09-17-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I bought this kayak after renting one up north for a few days this summer. I also tried out a few others, including the 13.5' Breeze which came in a close second only because it was a little wide for me and not as fast as the Sonoma plus I got a little tired and bored doing distance. This boat lists at $1,595 Cdn. but I got 20% off (season end - what a deal). My main reason for looking at this boat was that it is made 'for women and smaller paddlers'. Being a shrimpy 115 pounds with little upper body strength, I wanted a kayak that I could cartop myself and carry short distances if need be. I also wanted to be able to keep up with my husband and other paddlers which I could not do in any other kayak I tested. This is one nimble and FAST boat. It is definitely not boring and has a very sporty feel and great looks. My teen daughter loves it and I can see we will be fighting over who will get to use it (she would love one in the hot lime colour which she thinks is ultra cool, mine is red). I like the nice comfy seat with adjustable back and good footbraces. I'm 5'6" and found leg room was good. The rear hatch was smallish for overnight trips but quite adequate for daytripping and I plan to buy a small dry bag for extra storage in the front. It is only 22" wide with a keyhole type cockpit and my heftier husband could not get into this boat. The initial stability on this boat is low which makes for a very 'tippy' feel (I tipped it once trying to be a showoff and disembark without bracing on shore with the paddle), however, secondary stability is good and am told would be even better with 50 pounds of weight in the rear hatch. This is a boat that can be leaned into turns quite nicely thanks to the hard chine and Airalite material. I had this boat out in a calm Lake Huron last night and did have to correct a few times to keep the boat in line, but extra weight in the rear hatch should also help with that, I am told, also as my skill improves. My big worry is going out in whitecaps/waves since I am not a good swimmer and the thought of capsizing really scares me, and would appreciate any feedback to comfort me in this regard. The Sonoma is rated in one article as a 'surfing dynamo' and once my confidence increases I would love to try this. It is rated for all skill levels, beginner to advanced. This is a boat I feel I will not tire of or grow out of once my skill improves. If you are a smaller paddler you should definitely give the Sonoma a test drive.
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09-17-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I bought this kayak after renting one up north for a few days this summer. I also tried out a few others, including the 13.5' Breeze which came in a close second only because it was a little wide for me and not as fast as the Sonoma plus I got a little tired and bored doing distance. This boat lists at $1,595 Cdn. but I got 20% off (season end - what a deal). My main reason for looking at this boat was that it is made 'for women and smaller paddlers'. Being a shrimpy 115 pounds with little upper body strength, I wanted a kayak that I could cartop myself and carry short distances if need be. I also wanted to be able to keep up with my husband and other paddlers which I could not do in any other kayak I tested. This is one nimble and FAST boat. It is definitely not boring and has a very sporty feel and great looks. My teen daughter loves it and I can see we will be fighting over who will get to use it (she would love one in the hot lime colour which she thinks is ultra cool, mine is red). I like the nice comfy seat with adjustable back and good footbraces. I'm 5'6" and found leg room was good. The rear hatch was smallish for overnight trips but quite adequate for daytripping and I plan to buy a small dry bag for extra storage in the front. It is only 22" wide with a keyhole type cockpit and my heftier husband could not get into this boat. The initial stability on this boat is low which makes for a very 'tippy' feel (I tipped it once trying to be a showoff and disembark without bracing on shore with the paddle), however, secondary stability is good and am told would be even better with 50 pounds of weight in the rear hatch. This is a boat that can be leaned into turns quite nicely thanks to the hard chine and Airalite material. I had this boat out in a calm Lake Huron last night and did have to correct a few times to keep the boat in line, but extra weight in the rear hatch should also help with that, I am told, also as my skill improves. My big worry is going out in whitecaps/waves since I am not a good swimmer and the thought of capsizing really scares me, and would appreciate any feedback to comfort me in this regard. The Sonoma is rated in one article as a 'surfing dynamo' and once my confidence increases I would love to try this. It is rated for all skill levels, beginner to advanced. This is a boat I feel I will not tire of or grow out of once my skill improves. If you are a smaller paddler you should definitely give the Sonoma a test drive.
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09-11-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 8 of 10

     I have been looking for a new kayak this summer, and therefore rented a Sonoma 13.5 several times, along with a few other boats. Ultimately, I have decided not to buy the Sonoma because I want something a big bigger and with 2 bulkheads. This does not in anyway reflect negatively on the Sonoma. In fact, I thought that for what it claims to do, the Sonoma is an excellent kayak. I can't imagine a better boat in its class and price range. I found it fast for its size. The Sonoma is also extremely nimble, leans perfectly, and is very, very enjoyable to paddle. A couple of times, when stuck in a lot of confused motorboat wakes or chop, I did wish for a skeg. I loved how light it is, however, and its sharp look. A super-easy car-top. I also knocked it about a bit on small stoney beaches, and didn't notice any serious problems with scratches or dents. The rear hatch leaked a few drops after many waves had sloshed over the boat. The Sonoma I rented eventually went on sale last week for 800 bucks, which is truly a bargain. If I wanted a kayak solely to play around with on day trips, I jump at it. Perception has a clear winner here.
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09-02-2003
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     The Sonoma 13.5 is the second boat for me, and I bought it because I wanted something I could cartop myself. And then after seeing it, I couldn't resist it because it was so sleek to look at. I did take it for a demo paddle before I bought it, and was impressed with the speed and nimbleness of the boat. While I am not yet skilled at leaning into the turns, the little bit I experimented gave me a feel for what might be possible.

I just took it out for my first paddle since purchasing it this week, and while I still love the feel of it, I found it a little challenging to paddle against the stiff wind I encountered. I experienced many of what others previously have mentioned; the boat turning into the wind, my tendency to oversteer, and the challenge and opportunity to perfect, or at least improve, my paddling strokes. Even by the end of my paddle I found myself holding a truer line, and quite a bit ahead of my paddling partner.

I wonder whether folks have experience taking this boat into coastal waters and class II-III rivers. Having only previously paddled in plastic boats that were longer, more rugged, and stable, I am a little unsure about how the Sonoma can handle these different waters. Anyone care to comment?

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08-04-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     This is the second kayak for both my wife and myself. We were originally going to spend up to $2,500 + for my wife to buy a lighter kevlar kayak to replace her 70 lb. Necky Looksha; but at the store we realized we both could get two new Sonoma kayaks for less, plus add in a Thule rack system all for the same price. So I replaced my rudderless 1986 Wilderness System kevlar Sealution II because it had a mind of its own when it came to weathercocking, even in a light wind. Kayaking in a moderate wind just wasn’t fun and on some 4-6 miles round trips I had to leave the group and turn back halfway. But aside from that the Sealution was very stable.

The Sonoma 13' 5 is taking some getting used too. For my wife, she was spoiled by the Looksha rudder but is learning basic rudderless turning and straightline kayaking against wind and current very quickly. For both of us, we have slowly been getting comfortable with the way the boat leans. Neither previous boat leaned very much, and except in 1-2 ft. waves never had the feeling that running parallel to waves might cause a capsize. The Sonoma does "feel" unstable and like other posters have said, it is almost always leaning at least a little. We know in our heads that it will able to lean much further than we’ve experienced. We agree that we will have to do some practice capsizing soon, just to determine what the limits are, and then to practice correcting so we don’t capsize.

We kayak most frequently from Little Harbor Beach on Buzzards Bay, MA, which has light wind in the morning with 6 inch swells. Easy kayaking, but when we arrive to where we are going, have a snack, and come back, the swells have become chops and the wind has picked up. By afternoon waves increase to about a foot, and if windy, 18 inch white caps are common. While I wouldn’t dare call this real "whitewater" it certainly isn’t mirror calm water. By late afternoon the windsurfers have taken over. (This used to be a premier windsurfing beach until the town limited parking to residents.) We are no near expert enough to venture out in windsurfing conditions.

I wonder if Perception has really designed the Sonoma for the kind of conditions we do paddle in and what they mean when they call it a "day touring kayak." (Anybody know the answer?)

I’d like to hear from other owners about their experiences in waves and winds. I’m not sure if it is fair to rank the kayak until we’ve used it more. My sense is that I may rank it 9 or even 10 once we become more adept at paddling it. The test may come when we try kayaking with our West Highland White Terrier like we used to in our other boats. (See pictures at www.wendywestie.com/kayak_dog_seat_2.html )

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07-29-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 8 of 10

     I got this boat mainly for the light weight, having tired of schlepping out the 55+ lb Dagger Baja for frequent 1 or 2 hour outings on the nearby lake. Price was decent, at $899. I found out right away how spoiled I had become with the Baja's rudder and greater stability. Using the Sonoma, in about 8 outings, so far, I have already become a better paddler; it's the first boat I've had that could really be leaned. This kayak can really turn! It's squirrelly in any kind of wind or swells, and you do have to be able to edge it and/or sweep it back in line frequently. Paddling into the wind in chop or swells bigger than about 8 inches, you get bow spray. The Sonoma 13.5 really shines in local marshes and channels. Paddling seems effortless, and it’s extremely nimble. In 3 summers of paddling the Baja, I had never gotten wet. My first outing with the Sonoma, I flipped it getting out. And, I flipped it a few outings later, practicing leaned turns – my fault. Primary stability is low. You have to resist the tendency to overbalance… just let it sit at a slight angle, left or right. I’m 5’ 9” male, 140 lbs., size 9.5 shoes. There’s a bit more foot room than in the 15.5 foot Baja. Fit is not bad, but there’s not enough grip, yet, on my thighs/knees to try to learn to roll.
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07-14-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 8 of 10

     After agonizing for a month on which enclosed kayak to buy - I finally decided on the Perception Sonoma for several reasons: 1. 13'5" Length extremely manageable and transportable on my two door Saturn. Anything longer would be unsafe. 2. Cockpit comfortable - fits like a glove! I'm 5'8" and 185 lbs. 3. Tried it out right after leaving the store. The hype is right - tracks extremely straight and it's friggin' fast. 4. Price is excellent.

I would strongly suggest this kayak for those who don't have an SUV or tons of yard space to store boats. I would give it an 10 but I'm waiting to see how it holds during the rest of the season.

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05-28-2003
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     The Sonoma represents Perception's entry into the Eddyline/Hurricane territory of Carbonlite-"like" material. They call it "Airlite" but my hull certificate calls it Royalex. Looks like the gel-coat finish of a 'glass boat. It's certainly a looker, and at only 37 lbs., nearly everyone can car-top it. Perception is marketing this as a "workout" boat for females/kids, but I like the fit, & I'm 6'3, 185, long legs. (I did shave 3/4" off the coaming's lower edge at the very front; I can now fold my legs in while seated.) At 13.5', and with only one (aft) hatch, it's not the choice for week-long expeditions, but it is a serious day-touring boat with respectable speed. (Fore flotation bags will have to be fit around the reinforcing pillar.) It does track well (as claimed), but I had an occassional workout trying to swing the aft end around on a windey stream with cross-currents. Weathercock is not remarkable. At 23", you may find it "tippy", especially if you are used to paddling a "barge," but it actually is stable enough to stop & take a break. The very slight keel divides two faces offset about 10 degrees, and at slow speeds it tends to teeter between these faces, making it seem unstable, but it takes effort to get beyond these faces. I am saving my edging trials until I have more "seat time," and until the water warms up. Fit & finish seems to be very good, although I'm a little disappointed that the side decal-lettering is chipping off already. I predict Perception will have a good run with this well-priced boat. Unless you are an Eddyline "snob," this model is a comparable alternative at hundreds less.
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04-23-2003
Submitted by: RyanSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     The perception 13.5 is my forth kayak. The first time I took it out i almost went in the drink 4 or five times and i wasn't impressed with the tracking it had but, After I paddled it a few times it started to grow on me. This is a REALLY fast boat, i didnt realive it until my friend took out his castaway with me. Its a great boat the airalite is a lot like Eddylines Carbonlite so its really stiff the plus is the price! the sonoma is about $500 cheaper. I think i am going to keep it a while! the only downside is being only 22" wide it is a little unstable so if your looking for your first boat this might not be your baby.
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