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The reported problems with retraction of the skeg [review 2004-08-03] is that the bungee cord needs to be fixed in the mechanism - replace it. They lose their elasticity. Easy fix. As to length, put some marks on the line, so that you can figure out where you are.
The boat has stood up well to some fairly arduous use, but there is one thing I would recommend checking if you are about to buy a secondhand Skerray: the hatch rims. On my boat these are black plastic items bonded to the yellow polyethylene of the hull. The rim of my front hatch has cracked where the vertical part meets the horizontal part. It's a hairline crack, but it means that water does get in if I'm taking water over the bow. Options for fixing it are either plastic welding or cutting the top of the old rim off and bolting a new one on. I've not been sufficiently troubled to do either as yet.
The only other problem I've had was the hatch covers, which perished more rapidly than I expected. Keep them out of the sun as much as possible!
All in all, I'd say a good first boat, especially if you're on a budget. Comparable in many ways to a plastic Capella.
Even though this is my first venture into paddlesports (had tried a 13' once prior), this is a great boat. It is easy to handle with one person and light enough that you still have energy to paddle after you launch.
The cockpit is a bit tight on my frame (42" waist); but that's my problem, not the boats...
Although Valley originally pitched the Skerray as a "small-trip" boat, the compartments can store about a week's worth of gear, and there's a good chunk of space between the backrest and the rear bulkhead for storing day gear. While this isn't as convenient as a separate day-hatch, the deck line arrangement more than makes up for this (especially if you use the extra anchor points to design your own nifty bungee layout). It's also easier to adjust the skeg bungees/tensioners than on most boats because the skeg "compartment" is actually an integral component of the rotomolded hull.
So, overall, it's one helluva boat if you can actually find an owner willing to part with theirs, or find a Valley dealer that happens to have one around. Although I'd normally prefer a fiberglass layup, the quality of the rotomolding on the Skerray makes it particularly durable, fun, and seaworthy. It ain't too heavy for car-top, either!
As I began my search, which I did by paddling every likely boat my favorite local outfitter, Aqua Adventures in San Diego, has. I loved the way the Romany and Avocet handled for others but didn't fit in them. Valley Canoe is bringing out a larger version of the Avocet, but while I was waiting for that I tried the Skerray and loved it. I put side views of the Skerray and the new Aquanaut on top of one another in Photoshop, and the Skerray's bow clearly stood out with a higher sweep and more rocker. I didn't bother waiting for the Aquanaut. I bought a used Skerray from Aqua Adventure's fleet this fall and am delighted with it.
Pros are fun and handling. Comfort is also a pro once you toss the foot pegs, which are too close anyway - I am just now putting some foam against the bulkhead on a slant, and change the uncomfortable back band. The only significant con is that it's not very fast or quick. I'm outfitting it now so that it fits me like a glove, but I'm noticing that when I get the foam knee bracing in, a thigh support, and the bulkhead foot bracing, it's wonderfully comfortable but won't allow for easy exits. The slightly keyholed cockpit won't let me get my knees up, and my feet won't shoot past the braces, since thatís now the bulkhead, to let me release quickly. Oh well; just have to expect to roll quickly or hold my breath.
I've been in surf with it, caves in smallish swells, and the open water off La Jolla, albeit in marginal seas. But I'm actually excited at the thought of messing around in some storm water. It's a fun boat.
The boat is a tremenous amount of fun to paddle - it turns on a dime, accelerates well, and can be pressed to the very edge of balance without feeling unstable. Can't wait to take this boat out into the surf. If you are looking for a high quality kayak that is a blast to paddle and easily accomadates larger paddlers look into the Skerry.
The seat is adequate yet a higher back rest would be a plus. The foot braces are back just a bit farther than they should be which makes for a slightly more cramped ride that I prefer. Right now my foot braces are pushed to the end of the runners and itís still not quite enough to really let me stretch out. Hereís the kicker Ė Iím 5í 10Ē. A person over 6í would feel very cramped.
There is a problem with my skeg cable so it takes quite a bit of convincing before the skeg with either drop or retracts. This seems odd as I havenít abused the boat in any manner that should cause a kink. Iím sure fixing the problem will be a chore.
As many of the other writers have indicated, secondary stability is fantastic. With a few adjustments I believe this boat will keep me very happy for a lot of years.
My suggestion to shoppers is rent or borrow one first, if you can, and spend some real time in it. Many of the features keep this boat ahead of the competition; others might make a poor choice. Shop around.
I have taken this boat everywhere. I have paddled it on rivers, guarded small lakes and three of the Great Lakes in 8-foot swells. I love everything about this boat. Previous reviews about tracking always puzzle me - I have absolutely no problem keeping this boat going straight by simple adjustments to the strength of the stroke on whichever side I'm starting to turn towards. Maybe it's me - but part of the draw of kayaking is me and the boat becoming one with the water. If it wants to push me around - then I have to figure out a way to counter that. The skeg on my boat NEVER goes down.
Initial stability is good on this boat. It tends to be a little tippy in small chop, but what boat isn't? Secondary stability is solid, and the boat pretty much rolls itself back up in the final stage of the eskimo roll. It also braces incredibly solidly in both low and high brace scenarios. It turns well, and with a slight lean it can turn on a dime. I have swung the boat 180 degrees in small areas without much issue with bracing a stern rudder stroke to get to where I need to go. My favorite picture of me in this boat was paddling the day that I got it when I launched into a low brace, the entire top of the boat is revealed, and half the cockpit is in the water with the sun setting behind me. Never once worried about going over that day, and haven't since.
The storage areas are unique in this boat in that the bulkheads are welded in place (rather than sealed with marine caulk). I have gotten a smidge of water in the hatches as a result of an all day surf expedition - but these hatches have never leaked otherwise. I have had to replace both hatch covers this year (which is to be expected in a 9 year old boat), and this is incredibly easy to do thanks to the VCP hatch covers which revolutionized the industry.
Deck lines are solid on this boat - and I retrofitted mine with some 1/4" climbing rope. It is much more solid than the black poly rope provided, and it adds a nice colorful element to the top of my boat. I also retrofitted a bungee system (using some old Aquaterra bungee cleats) on the back deck just behind the cockpit which is a great place for my bilge pump, paddle float, and anything else I can stick back there. There is also a standard bungee system for the storage of a spare take-apart paddle.
The carrying toggles on either end are comfortable on the hands. I actually usually wind up carrying my Aquaterra Spectrum (the boat I had before she wanted to move) on my shoulder (my paddling partner's boat) - then grabbing an end of my Skerray to carry both to the put in. The boat is light enough to be carried by a solo paddler - and my model features the small cockpit - so it sits well on the shoulder. No digging into the hip like with larger cockpits. I also love the dry ride that the small cockpit affords me.
I have 2 complaints about this boat - one minor - and one that I dealt with in a unique way. The minor complaint - there is NO back support in this boat whatsoever. This is fine for daytripping - but any extended paddling leave a slightly achy lower back. Again - when I was younger this was not a big deal. I'm used to this condition - but first time paddlers in my boat ALWAYS complain about the backband. The complaint I dealt with - the boat is a little shallow in the cockpit where my feet hit (I'm 6'2" after all) - and my size 11's don't fit with shoes on. I always wear water socks or neoprene boots so this isn't an issue - but I can't really put anything with a sole in the boat. That gets a little uncomfortable in the winter. I bought this boat in kit form, and I was able to put the footbraces wherever I wanted to. As a result, I was able to place them further down the boat (and they are still FULLY extended), which may have added to my inability to fit my feet that well.
All in all I love this boat. I would choose it over its cousin the RMX only because I'm a big fan of the smaller cockpit. I feel locked in - and the water is one with me and my boat. If you're looking for a plastic boat that has all the handling and leakproof features of a layup - this is it. I'm not sure how readily available the RM is anymore (the RMX seems to be the popular choice) - but if you can find one - RUN and buy it. I know I'm going to when mine eventually wears out.
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