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I have had a Native Manta Ray, Native Ultimate, Native Magic, OK Scupper Pro, Malibu X13, just to name a few of the more popular names. I have been paddling for over 10 years and I am an A.C.A. kayak safety instructor. I kayak to fish and for recreational touring.
The Phoenix is an amazing kayak, lightweight, nimble, tracks very well without a rudder even in windy conditions. The biggest point I would like to stress here is that this kayak is superior to most in the hands of an experienced paddler. It has a soft chine which makes for a lot of drifting sideways if you don't know how to control the characteristics of the boat design. You can glide thru the water effortlessly, stealthy and fast even a 30mph gust (A typical coastal Bend wind gust). I can keep up with my friends in their T-160's without a problem and stay a head of the pack on most trips with several different paddlers in kayaks ranging in size from 16' to 12'.
The bottom, although seemingly not, is very abrasion resistance. I cringed the first time I accidentally paddled unto a patch of oyster shell along the Texas coast only to find out later when I flipped the kayak over to find little to no abrasion marks on the hull. With that being said I don't go looking nor do I careless wander over oyster beds in any shape or form.
I need to say that every kayak I have paddled served a different purpose and some times multiple purposes so choose you kayak wisely and always after doing a demo paddle first. Rent it for a day if possible especially if you intend to make a substantial investment. I also recommend that you haven't had a true kayak lesson, take one, you will amazed at what you will learn. Not only will paddle better with less aches and pains but you can learn to appreciate the different kayak designs put forth by all the kayak companies.
Lastly I am 5'8" 195#s and 60 yrs old. I paddle weekly rain or shine. I paddle with a Werner Kalliste bent shaft due to an arthritic right wrist and I paddle an average of 2-4 hours or more on most paddling trips. Paddle on!!
I've owned my Phoenix 140 for several months and paddled it in a variety of conditions, including the ocean, lakes, rivers and sloughs. It indeed tracks well in normal conditions, provided you have spent enough time on the water to develop good form in your paddling technique. The initial stability seems excellent. Glide and speed seem above average, likely due to the Trylon construction. I've plowed through some fairly large wind waves and am impressed with the dryness of the Phoenix. The light weight is a big plus if you anticipate having to lug your kayak a bit of distance to launch.
An unanticipated pleasure of the Phoenix 140, at least for me, (mine is lime green, wife has mango) are the looks. Plain and simple it is a darn good looking kayak. I've lost count of how many people, including non-kayayers, who have commented about its aesthetics. The lime green and mango colors are translucent and stay very shiny, provided you keep them clean. I use car wash with the wax in the solution to keep them looking nice.
My only gripes to date are the pad eyes and the craft's tendency to weathercock. The wells for the pad eyes are not deep enough and make fastening or unfastening the seat straps irritating, but not impossible (Hobie and Skwoosh seats on ours). The tendency to weathercock seems fairly pronounced in a crosswind, though admittedly I have little experience with this on other brands. I suspect it has to do with the hull design and the overall light weight of the craft. This is not a significant problem if you are a strong paddler and in good shape. However, if you anticipate frequently being on the water for extended periods dealing with a crosswind, especially when returning from daytrips, be prepared to shell out some bucks for a rudder. Keep in mind this is a common problem with SOT kayaks though, so don't think you can avoid it altogether with a better tracking kayak.
All in all, my wife and I are extremely pleased with the Phoenix.
My Outfitting: Surf-to-Summit GTX Pro seat, Werner paddle, 2 flush-mount rod holders behind seat, 3 strategically placed pad eyes.
Me: Male, 6'1". 185lbs. My paddling technique is OK, but I tend to get lazy.
Other Kayaks: Tarpon 100, OK Scupper Pro TW, Epic V10. (I mention these only because there are a few comparisons to the SP.)
Paddling Conditions: Large, open water lagoon with 20 to 25mph sustained winds. Medium sized river with moderate current and strong winds. Small, twisty, narrow rivers with little current and no wind. Ocean, with lazy swells and mild surf. I spent a day or two in each of these venues and paddled 4 to 5 hours each day. (Let me qualify that. I may have been on the water for 4 to 5 hours, but in some of those conditions I spent time hiding in lee coves.)
Construction...the Trylon seems as advertised - light, stiff, and slick. It's a very pretty design. I didn't see any noticable workmanship issues , though I do have a couple of gripes (see below). Based on experience so far I'd say the Trylon probably is more scratch resistant than plastic, or at least doesn't show as much. However, I've also been told that, while the material is tough, not to go banging it off rocks, as in Class II/III.
Weight....advertised at 51lbs and that seems about right. That's pretty light for a 14' SOT, and I can load it by myself on my van roof without much trauma (Thule Glide 'n Set). However, the side handles are not centered and the bow drops when lifted.
Stability....this was the biggest surprise. Initial stability is exceptional. I took some pretty big wind and wave hits and it was rock solid. I also gave it the wiggle test and stayed right side up. I don't know about secondary stability yet - I'll try that when the water gets warmer.
Tracking....very good. Easy to keep straight without corrective strokes, though it will weathercock in cross-winds - nothing dramatic, and I'm testing with different weights in the stern. There is a rudder option, but I'll think about that after more Chesapeake Bay paddling.
Glide....exceptional for a 14 footer. This thing just goes on and on.
Speed....I don't use a GPS to track absolute speed, but it seems quick, close to my longer SP. It starts up quickly, and I don't find paddling at a good pace tiring. I think the Trylon helps.
Maneuverability....OK, but no better than the longer SP. When turning, it responds better to wide sweeping strokes than to back strokes. I'm sure someone with a better stroke arsenal than I have would do better. As I don't have knee straps I don't know how this boat would respond to edging.
Ride....quite comfortable. It's a surprisingly dry ride considering the low gunnels, and the fact that you sit pretty high when compared to the SP. Even though you do sit up high, especially with a seat, there is a hump in front of the seat pan that makes it hard for water to get in. Even when I took on a fair amount of wave water in the footwells, nothing got in the seat. The V bow sheds water quietly and there is little noticable wake. The scupper system works very well, though I'd be concerned about getting the single drain hole clogged. At my 185lbs there was always about a half inch of water in the footwells - hardly noticable. Someone significantly heavier might consider plugs.
The Footpegs -The whole assembly seems pretty cheap. The rails are flimsy plastic and the pegs are small. My problem is with the positioning. With my 33" inseam I have the pegs in the furthest position. This permits a relatively comfortable leg position for paddling, but with absolutely no room for position change. With pegs I like to shift occasionally between the balls of my feet and insteps simply for comfort, and I can't do that with this setup. My complaint is that there is ample room to have mounted the rails at least 2 to 3 inches further forward, and I have no idea why they didn't. I'm considering removing them all together and using foam blocks.
The Carry Handles - They are rivited on, rather than screwed in. Maybe a minor point, but becomes an issue if they need to be replaced, and was already an issue for me. I wanted to add a Tarpon-style paddle keeper. That could have been as easy as unscrewing a side handle and attaching a short bungee.
The Rear Hatch - Stock, it is a 6 incher with a screw-on lid. However, there is no bag, rendering it virtually useless while underway. The lid is tethered, so you could clip on a pouch, but a bag is a lot easier to work with when you're trying to reach behind you out on the water. Admittedly a minor point, but seems like an unnecessary cost saving measure by the manufacturer. The solution was a replacement hatch, with bag, from Tom's Shop.
The Seat - This isn't necessarily a complaint about the boat, but my particular seat (Surf-to-Summit GTX Pro) and this particular boat. The combination is incredibly noisy. It creaks and groans with every stroke. Not a performance issue, but really annoying, and a little embarrassing in traffic. I'm not really sure what's going on yet, but I think it may be the rear seat straps rubbing on the deck, rather than a slipping seat. Regarding the latter, you really need to firmly secure a seat with tape, or whatever, due to the slickness of the Trylon.
The Seat Attachment Eye Pads - I think this is a design flaw. The pad eyes are recessed into the hull, and while this looks nice, this places the seat brass buckles directly against the hull, under pressure. This has got to wear on the Trylon over time, no matter how tough it may be. I have added 2' loops of nylon to the pad eyes to raise the buckles off the deck.
In re-reading this prior to posting, I'm sorry I ended with the "gripes". It seems too negative, as this is really a very nice boat that I'm thoroughly enjoying and plan on keeping it. It looks good, performs well, and is reasonably priced.
As for fishing I like the Prowler better, it has more room to move around and is a tad more stable. The hump in front of the seat took some getting used to.
This is a rock solid yak that is a very good but not super fishing machine. It was definitely worth the money I paid for it.
9 out of 10.
The trylon material should perform a lot better than rotamold down the line as the deep scratches a rotomold will suffer will create drag and slow the boat down. My husband and I were first considering a shorter boat but decided on a 14' because it tracks straighter and glides longer. They say you lose a little maneuverability but if so it's hardly noticeable and definitely worth the speed/efficiency you gain!
One thing to note, if you're over 180 pounds, you might want to use scupper plugs to keep the water out. The heavier you are, the wetter the boat will get.This is a good boat to consider for the price of a rotomold! There are several places to try before you buy. Estero River Outfitters has tons of boats, really nice, knowledgeable employees and a beautiful, calm river to test on.
I've been a SOT hater from the beginning. I've been out on an Ocean Scrambler XL a dozen or more times, and always felt like I was paddling a log. But, I've got family members that would like to try paddling, and I cannot put them in my other boats. The Sonoma is too tippy, and the Osprey would be too hard to turn. And, the outfitting in my boats would be too tight for them. I needed a SOT. But, I needed a SOT that I would actually enjoy using, myself. Over the years, I've always gotten numb feet, and often numb butt, in spite of trying different setups. I figured it was time to consider paddling a SOT, and would consider trying a sail setup in the future. BUT, in addition to good paddling characteristics, I needed a boat that would be relatively light and under $1000. I like the tough, slick, weight-saving Airalite material of the Sonoma, so wanted similar material in a SOT. And, I preferred a tankwell+hatch design. My prospects narrowed to one boat, the Phoenix 140.
I had to buy the boat sight unseen, as there are no kayak or Hurricane dealers within many miles or hours. I got this one as new old stock (reportely 2006, first run, and under warranty), with factory installed Navigator rudder, for $695 via an Ebay seller. Some of the issues noted in this review may have been addressed in following model years.
The seat pan is comfortable, angled back a bit, and sits high enough to stay dry from water pumping in and out of the single scupper hole for the cockpit. With me 145 lbs. and sitting still, water came to about an inch below the cockpit floor. While paddling, maybe a cup or two of water remained present in the lower area between the seat pan and scupper hole. Less than half that much accumulated in the tank well. This has been during excursions in fairly calm water. I guess a few cups of water is a minor deal, but, it seems that the bottom of the cockpit floor could have been designed so that the scupper hole was actually the lowest point, so that water would not accumulate at a place one might rather have mostly dry. That's where I had had my bottled water and snack. I finally realized the raised "shelf" behind the seat pan was a better location for these things.
I found that my butt held up well with just a thin seat bottom, and my feet did not get numb, since positioning was more flexible than in my other boats. My feet only contacted the foot pads at the top edge, so stiff-soled shoes would be recommended.
I'm not sure what to make of the caulking on this boat. It's white, and runs around the outside of the hull, filling space where the top and bottom sections are joined. The white caulk also appears inside the bottom of the scupper holes, and as a sealer where the 6-inch hatch is mounted. It might actually be 3M 5200 marine adhesive, as it seems more substantive than mere caulk. The glue or epoxy or whatever that actually bonds the sections together is darker, and is visible inside, through the hatches. The white caulk may be for looks only, or may be for waterproofing. Either way, it seems to be an avenue of deterioration or failure that I was not expecting. For example, this boat was apparently stored on a moist surface, judging from the 3/4 inch of mildew at the bottom of the scupper holes. The mildew cleaned up nicely on the plastic surface, but will not clean off of the caulk.
Now for the real gripes. The inset pad eye moldings represent one of the most ill-conceived "refinements" ever designed into a kayak. As most users will use aftermarket seats that attach with brass snap hooks, most users will sooner or later come to the same conclusion. The idea for the insets must have been streamlined appearance, or, possibly strengthening the pad eye mount points with complex curves. BUT, a seat supporting brass snap hook attached into this depth will exert abrasive and leveraged forces to the kayak hull and to the pad eye. The result will have to be worn areas or holes and/or broken pad eyes. Before I could even go on a maiden voyage, I had to attach loops of nylon line through the pad eyes, to which the brass snap hooks can attach. This allows the snap-hooks to ride 3 to 4 inches away from the pad eyes, where they do not contact the kayak. I resent having to do this. I will consider adding a new set of pad eyes in the future.
There are a number of problems related to the rudder system. I could have done without the rudder, but recognize its benefits for bad conditions or use with a sail. At any rate, it was part of the deal.
Problem #1: The rudder sat about 15 degrees off of vertical alignment with the boat. It turns out the 2 threaded insets in the hull for the mount are not lined up vertically (and are both slightly to the right). This kind of careless workmanship drives me nuts. Used a moto-tool to grind one of the holes in the mount bracket to a slight oval, so the rudder now stands upright.
Problem #2: When the rudder is retracted, there's nothing to keep it from abrading the kayak. In fact, there was already a worn area when I got the boat, from rudder blade vibration and movement.
Problem #3: There's nothing to keep the retracted rudder blade stationary when paddling. This makes it impossible to alternately brace the feet for most powerful paddle strokes. I temporarily solved #2 by putting a self-adhesive 1/8" rubber pad over the contact area. I have ordered a $3 V-block which may solve both #2 and #3.
Problem #4: The rudder is not centered when retracted. Sort of unavoidable, due to the large tankwell incorporating the rearward/center area where the deploy/retract cord would normally be routed. Instead, the rudder retracts in line with the right side of the tankwell. Compensate by setting the right foot pedal back an additional notch.
Problem #5: The control cables should be 2 inches longer. I'm 5'9", and have the foot pedals at their furthest positions, and my still-bent knees are just out of my way for paddling. There are about 6 inches of room molded into the foot areas, beyond the furthest foot pedal position; 2 inches of that could/would be used with longer rudder cables.
Problem #6: There are no quick disconnects to allow removal of the rudder assembly. With the unit attached, you can't even flip the boat on the lawn to clean the bottom without abusing the rudder, and especially the mount bracket. I'm going to look for light stainless quick-connect links to put between the rudder eyes and control cables to allow rudder removal. They will also add an inch or so to the cable length, to party address problem #5.
In summary, the Hurricane Phoenix 140 has an excellent hull for general purpose sit-on-top performance, and a great overall design, sullied by some baffling design issues and oversights.
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