For starters I am 5'11" 190lbs, I like a lower volume snug fit boat, the Alchemy S is that. I moved the seat back 1 1/2" and removed the adjustable foot pegs and replaced them with a foam/aluminum bulk head much like a WW boat. The seat and back band are very comfortable and adjustable. Once modified I find the boat to be super comfortable.
I have had the boat out in flat water streams and limited light surf and rock gardening (entry level stuff only) The primary stability is very high making it a good beginner kayak. Secondary stability is not bad, but to me, I could not reliably feel the "point of no return" and found myself rolling when aggressive edging. I think moving the seat back hurt the boats rolling behavior as I can not lay back flat on the deck, but it seems to be easy to snap the boat back under you.
In my opinion, this is a good general use kayak for a beginner that wants a boat they can grow with, learning new skills. It also seems to have the ability to turn and handle very well making it a good surf boat (I am still learning this skill).
The Alchemy is well built, has dry hatches, and is fairly light for a poly boat.I settled on the small version after trying both, the cockpit is pretty snug, I've taken the thigh grips and footrests out to increase the room, I've ended up with a bulkhead type footrest and the cockpit has a nice coating of self adhesive foam on the underside, fit is now great. I have to use wet suit socks rather than boots as the footroom is limited for my 11.5 feet, it's well worth it as the kayak is a lot sleeker than the rather fat assed large version. For my weight of 75kg the handling is better, it sits lower in the water, is less affected by wind and the stability is still good but a bit "sportier", it handles like a small sea kayak rather than a stable large volume tourer.
I'm not sure but the hull V and chines seem more pronounced on the small model, the secondary stability is superb and the kayak is very agile on edge, ride is slightly wetter on the small but you'd expect that, more than made up for by the sharper handling.
I found the large needed skeg in the wind where as the small still needs a bit for crosswinds but nothing like as much, maybe a quarter.
Hull speed isn't bad but this kayak really comes into its own in tight spots like sea caves and narrow passageways etc, a great rockhopper!
I've gone from proper sea kayaks to a Dagger Charleston flat water tourer, which was ok but this kayak fits my needs better than either, still small and agile like the Charleston but with proper sea kayak features and handling, highly recommended!I also bought this boat untested because it fit the general criteria I was looking for (snug fit around 14' with skeg), it was on sale, and I could return it if I didnít like it. This review is based on a few weekends of paddling on quiet water - slow moving rivers, lake with ~15 mph winds, and ponds. Probably about 20 hours on the water, with the boat empty. I'm 5'8" with more torso than leg with size 8 1/2 feet. I like a snug fit, and I do feel if I were any larger in any of the foregoing dimensions I'd be too big for this boat. I love the fit, but if you are any bigger, you may find the 14.0L a better choice.
I will preface by saying that I really like this boat. The fit is great for me, and its wonderfully responsive. It has a fair amount of rocker and a harder chine for a poly boat, so the combination makes for very tight radius turning. Initial stability is solid, although I haven't tested the secondary. The seating system is pretty much identical to Wildy's backband Phase 3 - so its very adjustable and comfortable. Again, the 14.0S is very snug, but that's what I was looking for.
Overall, a very comfortable boat to be in, and very customizable. One ergonomic issue for me was that the seat seems somewhat far up the cockpit. Not enough to impact overall comfort, but it did make the day hatch placement enough of a stretch that I would not be going back there on the water. But then there's enough room behind the seat for dry bag storage, so its a wash so long as its secured (this pretty much echoes what previous reviewer's comments). I also agree that water does get in the coaming quite easily.
I did find that the boat weathercocks easily; perhaps due to the degree of rocker and a higher stern deck than some comparable boats. The skeg helps, but does slow down the boat noticeably. Storage is on the small side, but this is a 14' low volume boat, so I expected that. Since I also backpack, most of my equipment is light or ultralight anyway so I can easily fill the boat with enough equipment and water for an overnight or a light weekend. I would not expect to take the 14.0S on a trip longer than a weekend, unless you aren't taking any water.
In conclusion, I would recommend this boat to a smaller - medium paddler who likes a snug fit in a boat, and whose intention for it is day trips perhaps with some overnight excursions. Ideally the boat would be used in more calm weather conditions, and/or situations where maneuverability is more of a priority over tracking.A couple of months back I posted a review of the now-discontinued Blackwater 115, listing its limitations. I did the one thing NOBODY should ever do. After reading as many reviews as I could for 14' kayaks, I had my Dagger dealer order me an Alchemy as soon as Dagger's "release date" passed.
I have had the boat less than 30 hours, but I did get a chance to get it out on a pond a couple of hours back. Again, I wanted something that would do well in open water and handle choppy conditions well.
It turns out my first opportunity to paddle it was a perfect test - SSW winds at 20 mph gusting to 30 mph. The boat passed with flying colors - all I wanted! The skeg control is in a recessed slot just below the hip. Being recessed, there is no way to hit it accidentally. I was able to find a "sweet spot" where it would neither weather cock nor lee cock in those 20-30 mph winds.
Chop? What chop? There were 6-12" waves which would have shaken my kidneys loose in the Blackwater 115. I hardly noticed them while headed straight into them. (When they were side waves, I was glad for my skirt and PFD!)
Although just about everything on the seat adjusts, well, once you get that skirt fastened and are out on the pond, nothing adjusts. The cockpit is tight. Wonder which I would have bought had I sat in both the 14s and the somewhat wider 14l? Whatever, you don't sit in this boat, you wear it. However, this does give great control! Although there is a middle bulkhead with a day hatch, there is also a surprising amount of room behind the seat for stashing a dry bag.
Here are the few picky things I found. First, there are no drain channels for the coaming and the areas around the hatches, so water accumulates there. (There is also a 3-4" bowl, presumably for a compass mount. They should have simply left a flat area, but it doesn't hold that much water.) The cover on the day hatch is probably impossible to re-seat from within the cockpit. It's pretty difficult even when out of the boat and standing over it!
In summary, this is a very nice boat!