I have just returned from an over night camping trip. It was the first time that I have taken my recently acquired Seaward Chinook camping. I have taken it out twice empty in salt water and thoroughly enjoyed the boat, but the real test was taking it camping loaded with equipment, supplies, and even firewood, which is what I got this boat for.
It is a great boat for camping/touring rougher waters. It has tremendous storage and great stability. On our return trip we experienced chop, then 1' to 2' waves facing about 10 to 12 knot winds with some really strong currents. Even loaded, the nose primarily road up the waves instead of plowing through them, providing for a drier ride than I expected. Since the Chinook has a rudder (aluminum that flips up or down and uses locking tilting "gas peddle type" foot pegs) the boat was exceptionally nice to use in these conditions. My regular boat, a 17.5' Eddyline Nighthawk only has a skeg, and it is much more work to avoid weathercocking in the same conditions. The rudder was much appreciated this weekend.
The Chinook is very comfortable and loaded with features. The hatches are hard shell that sit flush with the deck and are held on with elastic cords. Under the hard shell cover is a separate neoprene hatch cover. The two of them provide a very weather tight seal. If the hard shell hatch is lost the neoprene cover can be used without it, and if that is lost, a piece of plastic can be used with the bungie cords to improvise a hatch cover. I really like this hatch cover system. It is much easier than fighting with rubber hatch covers with tired fingers on cold mornings.
The rudder system works flawlessly and adjusts automatically for different paddlers when you adjust the foot pegs. A slide lever on the side of the boat easily flips the rudder up or down.
Behind the seat are two nylon straps mounted to the deck. They are for putting your paddle through when doing a paddle float reentry. They have a quick release so that your paddle is quickly released after you have re-entered the cockpit.
The boat even has a metal bar on the deck so that it can be padlocked for security.
The last foot or so of the keel just before the rudder has a nylon or kevlar drag strip to protect that part of the boat from rocks.
The seat is very comfortable and adjustable in a few ways.
The boat is not a "fast" boat, but it isn't "slow". It is a very well made, comfortable, touring boat that inspires confidence, has a lot of clever features, and has surpassed my Eddyline Nighthawk as my choice for camping/touring.
My age: Middle age
My size: A little over 6'1"
My weight: 260 lbs
Kayaking since: 1997
My other kayaks: Eddyline Nighthawk, Point 65 Sea Cruiser, Olde Town Loon 138