First of all, I need to qualify this review with my purpose for buying the spitfire. I plan to use this pack canoe primarily for fishing and wanted a lightweight, maneuverable boat that behaves predictably and so my review is in this context. Second of all, my personal thanks to all of the folks who reviewed this boat and the Rapidfire on Paddling.net. The reviews were invaluable to me in my research prior to buying this boat.
I am an experienced sea kayaker and an avid kayak fisherman and the design of this ďcanoeĒ really appealed to me. The folks who described this as a kayak with out a top deck were right on. This boat handles much like any mid-sized, well made sea kayak, except itís half the weight and with a beam of 24Ē, its primary and secondary stability is quite good. Itís not quite as stable as the raft of tug-boat fishing kayaks on the market that are 28 Ė 33Ē wide, but if you are at all experienced you will feel very comfortable in this boat, even in a moderate chop. I found it much more stable than most canoes I have been in and I am sold on the lower seating arrangement found in the Spitfire, RapidFire or for that matter, kayaks in general.
Tracking: The boat tracks very well with a minimum of correction required, even in a quartering breeze. I was quite impressed with this as I had the boat out in 12 Ė 15 MPH wind the second time I had it out and it was really a joy to handle. While it tracks well, it is extremely maneuverable. A slight lean or a bit more power on one side of the stroke and this boat turns very quickly.
Speed: Itís all relative. I own two 18ft, all-out sea kayaks and this boat canít hang with them, but I also own a 15í fishing kayak (Malibu Extreme) and quite frankly, the fishing kayak just got demoted for use by inexperienced friends. The Spitfire simply is far superior. Itís 1/3rd the weight, faster, with just as much storage and it looks a lot better to boot. I also own a QCC 400XL and the Spitfire paddles very much like this boat speed-wise, at 1/2 the weight and from all appearances, a bit sturdier construction. Bottom line: If Iím going to spend the whole day paddling or taking a multiple day trip, this isnít the boat I would choose. If Iím going fishing or going to pack a boat between lakes, the spitfire is perfect. To be honest, based on this boat, if I could only own one boat, I would likely go for the RapidFire. The increased length would allow it to be much faster, while the weight is still so much better than a sea kayak or a traditional canoe.
Weight. I could not believe this boat the first time I picked it up. Iím used to handling high end, composite kayaks and this boat at 23 lbs is just about Ĺ the weight of my 18í kevlar sea kayak. This boat is perfect when you have to carry it any significant distance. Putting the boat on top of the car is a joy!
Fit and Finish: This boat is very well made. The guys at Placid Boat works make a beautiful boat that is light weight but is quite rugged. I thought about buying one of the ultra-light pack canoes, but I decided on the Spitfire, because of its reputation for its durability. I am VERY happy with my decision. I have a good friend who is an expert kayaker who told me early on in my kayaking that when you buy a boat there are three factors: Strength, Weight and Price. You can choose 2. With the Spitfire, you get a very strong and light-weight boat that is beautiful, at a price commenserate with the craftsmanship.
Customer Service: Wow. I didnít have the pleasure of going to the factory in person, but boat my boat from Joe and Charlie after discussing it with them directly. These guys are great. There was a problem initially with the delivery plans for my boat, and Joe went way out of his way to make sure I had my boat for the weekend that I intended to first use it. In fact, given that the delivery service bailed on us, I had planned to drive up and pick up the boat, but Joe arranged to deliver the boat to me at the last minute. Awesome personal service. I really appreciated it. Given that I donít know them and have never even met them face 2 face, I can only conclude that this is indicative to their focus on customers.
Overall: I rate this boat a 10. For what it is trying to be, which is beautiful, well made, light-weight and strong, it does really, really well. Looking forward to many years of enjoyment.