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The Hornbeck, at 14 feet and 29 pounds, is a slight little sliver of a boat. My first trip was awkward--I don't like using a double paddle (which I feel is an excuse for not mastering the J-stroke), was wobbly. The canoe felt tippy and light (which it is), and seems to stall at a less than ideal speed, for me. I can certainly use this boat for pond fishing on quiet water, but I expected a little more speed and stability for a 14-footer.
As a light weight pond tripped and trout fishing boat, the H14 is perfect. It is THE boat for lightweight extended tripping with a single carry approach. I don't especially feel that this will be a safe ride in open, exposed water with any sort of chop, though in good hands, any boat can outperform its design limitations. But you can't have it all--and what's lost here is the pure joy of a paddling experience in a thoroughbred boat. but I got what I bargained for--a boat I can carry for miles without tiring--in search of the holy brook trout!
I'm 200 pounds, six feet tall, and this particular boat feels too small for me, in spite of the fact that the seller told me the boat was made for him and he outweighs me by thirty pounds. I wish I had held off for a 16 footer...
Paddling experience would dictate water conditions one feel comfortable in but I can say from experience--paddling in rough water has never bothered me.
I liked the price of the Hornbeck's compared to others, and the layout of the thwarts worked well for use for fishing. I chose the kevlar/carbon version rated at 25 lbs. Once purchased the hardest thing was finding a way to get it to Florida. Hornbeck really had no way of crating and shipping it, and relied on what they call "gypsies" or people coming south to cartop them when possible. Unfortunately after two months Hornbeck could not find a gypsie. So I had to find one myself and got lucky through a friend of a friend to bring it down. Once it arrived I was a little disappointed to find it had some gouges in the bottom from setting it down on small rocks or something, and some porosity and imperfections in the finish on the outside hull which is unpainted and clear resin out of the mold. Also the finish on the gunnels could have used a couple more coats of oil.
The interior Kevlar finish and seating were very well done. This model can be used as a tandem and they provide foam seats and extra backrests if you want to convert it over. I would call this a minimalist tandem canoe and would only use it as such in a situation where hiking and portaging was the issue. I found it just right in size as a solo fishing boat. Initially it is a little tippy but it gains ultimate stability as you roll it over because of the "cheeks" amidships. I would not say it is a canoe for standing up in if you are into flyfishing.
The standard foam seat and back rest work well, but I added a Crazy Creek canoe seat which strapped to the existing seat perfectly, to provide more comfort for long fishing trips. To convert it to a fishing machine I added a couple of rod holders to the backrest thwart, I also moved this thwart aft four inches since I would carry a fish bag in the forward area and not be bow heavy. I replaced the backrest thwarts fore and aft that are there for tandem use with thinner cherry thwarts. I rigged an anchor trolley between these thwarts so I could adjust the anchor position when fishing.
I fish on the open bay and have found the boat to be quite seaworthy, and dry, it goes up and over larger waves with no problem. Of course being light it blows around a bit more, but quite controllable. Speed seems to be as good as most kayaks I paddle with, it tracks quite well, but the limited rocker makes for a larger turning radius, so it wont spin on a dime. The clear resin finish scratches very easy so great care needs to be taken not to drag up on the beach. I have tried to repair a few scratches and it is not easy. So best to get out and pick up the canoe and set it down on something soft.
For me it has met my needs in terms of portability perfectly, I can one hand it off the car, put all my fishing gear in and pick it up and walk it to the water by myself. My friends with poly kayaks need help and take longer to launch. Even though the poly kayaks dominate the fishing market, I think a hybrid canoe like the Hornbeck rigged for fishing provides some real advantages.
In an attempt to take a very young and active 60 pound dog paddling, I happened onto the pack style boat which has been perfect for the purpose. This particular model advertises exceptional stability and I have to agree. The dog started a wrestling match on flat water and we stayed upright - this youngster still needs training or behavior modification. The weight is claimed to be 25 pounds and I have no reason to dispute that. It's a light boat.
I did go to Hornbeck and try several boats. The 16 foot has great speed and glide due to longer length and narrower width - have to get one - but it's not stable enough for the young dog (but plenty stable without the dog or with a smaller dog). The dog and I have paddled big water with big 3-4' boat wakes and steep wind-driven chop with no issues. The fine entry and smooth transition to full body keep out most spray under anything less than the worst conditions and the hull shape keeps all serious water out. Inland or small water paddlers will likely never even see spray. There is no paddle boat made that won't take spray in the Niagara River when the wind blows 15+ against the current and stacks up a steep chop at rapid intervals. After 2 months we have not had a mishap. Our previous trips, even in sit-on-top kayaks, were comical and very wet.
The boat performs well with the dog and better without the extra 60 pounds. I don't need to move the seat to adjust trim with or without the dog but the adjustment range is part of the dog option package offered by Hornbeck. I am 5'10" and 220 pounds. Keeping my weight low with this boat design is what creates the exceptional stability. Getting in and out is as easy as anything out there. I launch from beaches or boat launches with the boat parallel to the shore - the dog steps over the side and sits on the foam pad that comes with the dog package. I stand alongside and sit directly into the seat using the seat back and paddle shaft across the gunnels as hand supports. The boat is stable enough to just pull the legs in after that. Getting out is the reverse of this. The dog can lay (preferred) or sit and stability is good. An experienced paddler on calm water can tolerate the dog standing but it is not recommended. The boat keeps up with 14-16 foot kayaks easily even with the dog on board for social paddles.
The paddle is a 260cm Werner Kallistite double blade also purchased thru Hornbeck. I had a 240cm but it is too short for the width of this hull. The staff was great, letting the dog swim in the demo area and try out boats. It was windy and all the demo boats blew away while we were there, a testament to the durability of the light construction. It is a treat to lift compared to even a kevlar kayak (typically 45+ pounds). There are no practical downsides for performance with a dog or loaded with gear - it's the widest solo from the 3 builders that make this style of boat. It's so great to rack or carry I rarely take a kayak out any more. A narrower or longer boat would give more speed but less stability - this is counter to my desired usage. Finish could be better but is not what I would describe as poor.
The rating reflects the hull being perfect for my desired purpose - paddling on big or small water with an active 60 pound retriever mix without mishaps. I would not hesitate to take a well trained 100 pound dog in this boat. The wife has less issues with the paddling outings if I take the dog so it's a double bonus. As the dog calms down with age I will have my eye on the 16 foot and may even sell my kayak. There is no comparison to racking or carrying a 25 pound boat and it racks well on just cross bars. See the Hornbeck website for various carry options. They have this down to a science. Based on prices for kevlar kayaks or canoes from the major builders the Hornbecks are a great value.
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