Update on Journey Smartrack rudder.
I learned that by adjusting the rudder cable, the ideal foot position on the upper, gas pedal part can be obtained. When I first demo'd a Smartrack rudder, the shop did not explain this to me even after I complained about the difficulty of reaching it with the ball of my foot or my toes. Now I am thoroughly happy with this system.
I still can only give the boat a 9 against all other boats because it is a heavy plastic boat. Fiberglass still wins with me as a better paddlecraft but I will say the Journey is durable. I have paddled it all over Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, river and lake and it is looking good!I've had a half dozen outings in my new Journey now. It's been challenging trying to get out on the water with my work schedule, so I usually paddle a lot of chop and wind in the middle of the day. I bought my Journey sans rudder but after realizing that I paddle so much in wind and I don't live near any ocean rock gardens, I decided I will have one installed. Mostly, I paddle big mountain lakes where surprising gust fronts occur frequently off the nearby mountains and continental divide. I had one day when I paddled, still sans rudder, in gusts over 40 mph and sustained winds in the 30s! I was able to do it although I don't think I'll make a practice of that! I did make it back to my put-in on the other side of the lake, which is better than a couple guys in a little motor boat who had to abandon it on the far shore and take a long hike back to their car. I'm not bragging on me, but the boat for making it possible for me to get back.
I demo'd a Journey with a SmartTrak rudder and although the fixed, gas pedal style thing sounds like a good idea, I found it a little awkward to use (another reason I decided to forgo it initially). Compared to the WS Tsnunami140 (fiberglass) that I also have, I find the Journey to be a much more lively boat, stable but easy to tack and spin in rough water. I love the way it responds to turning by leaning. It's really fun!
I am only an intermediate paddler but I am really looking forward to all the new skills I can learn because this boat responds. If your only stroke repertoire is a straight on forward stroke you may not be happy with this boat. It asks for more but gives back with proper paddle
technique. The WS by comparison is a bit doggy. Yes, it goes straight but gets stuck going straight too. Yes, you can sweep and pry but I will say it again, it is sluggish by comparison. I also once demo'd a plastic Tsunami 140 and it felt like a barge. I literally couldn't wait to get out of it.
I also prefer the athletic, whitewater style backband to the upright rigid seat of the WS Phase 3 outfitting. The Jackson seat is much more conducive to good roll technique and plenty comfortable enough. I sometimes have difficulty getting in the WS at difficult put-ins, snagging the top of the seat with my behind and having it fold down on me. The Jackson seating will allow a larger range of roll techniques.
I can only go an 8 on the rating though because I am not thoroughly happy with the rudder system and it is a PLASTIC boat which means heavier than if you wanted to spend some real money on a fiberglass model. However, plastic is durable and I have thrown it off the car a couple times trying to work out my loading technique and right now, in Colorado, our reservoirs are very low, making for rocky, less than ideal put-ins. The Journey is the go-to boat for those conditions for sure.Take home message… I would recommend the Jackson Journey 13 and 14 over the Tsunami line for two primary reasons:
In my experience, the Tsunami line does not enable advanced skill development to the same degree that the Journey line does.
The Journey cockpit outfitting is simpler and more robust than that of the Tsunami.
I am a big guy… 6'3", 240lbs, 34" inseam and size 13 shoes. I have the Journey 14 prototype and find it to be an excellent roughwater playboat that responds extremely well to edging and advanced paddle technique. The boat spins very quickly when leaned and is a joy to paddle. The Tsunami 145 stalls badly, for me, when edging and I find it hinders advanced skill development. Jackson's Journey 14 is fairly quick for its beam but won't win any races… but that is not what touring boats are built for.
The Journey 14 is surprisingly stable. No seriously… I was actually surprised. I have paddled hundreds of different boats (not an exaggeration). The degree to which this boat supports you as you lean it hard over actually caught me off guard. I can easily stand up and paddle the boat around. At a recent pool session, one of my buddies was standing on the back deck of the Journey and kept trying to jump and land standing on the front deck. He couldn't quite stick the landing, though he came close several times. He thinking he had a shot at doing this trick speaks volumes about the confidence the Journey inspires.
The Journey14 prototype that I have does not have the final deck rigging but the placement of its fittings offers great flexibility for customization. I do lots of rough water paddling / fishing from my kayaks and have modified my decklines significantly. I am very happy with the utility and number of options this arrangement offers. The prototype is only a couple months old but it has seen significant rescue practice and none of the fittings have failed yet.
The Smart Track rudder system is the best I've seen. There are no sharp edges to scratch yourself on during rescues and the system provides for rock solid footpegs with gas pedal style steering. That said, at my weight (I can't speak for someone who only weighs 140lbs) the boat requires no rudder. Even in extreme conditions, the Journey handles very neutrally. I see rudders as a potential liability, and extra weight. I have removed the rudder system from the prototype and when I get my first production boat it will not have a rudder.
I frequently paddle roughwater here in New England and elsewhere, I tend to like rugged, high volume, responsive boats. I have had several NDK, Valley and Nigel Foster boats over the years. They were all faster… but none of them were tougher, more comfortable or more fun to paddle. I have only owned one boat that was as much fun to paddle in ocean rough water as the Journey 14. That boat was a P&H Orca 14 (now made by Venture Kayak). It is still a great boat… but its deck rigging leaves a lot to be desires and it is a light touring boat with only one bulkhead, which makes rescues more challenging. Due to its superior utility and safety, the Journey 14 has displaced the Orca 14 as my roughwater boat of choice.
I'm not a salesman for Jackson Kayak. I am just a paddler looking for the most fun, safe and functional boat to play in that I can find. When I saw the early renditions of the Journey go up on Jackson's website I reached out to the company to see what they had to offer. I'm impressed with what I've found.