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I love the easy tracking with the skeg down. I paddled our larger, super shallow lake for 5 miles in 15-20 mph winds and 2 foot swells and experienced an almost completely dry ride and superb tracking, even when surfing the swells coming back. SO Impressed!! Such a huge difference from the frustrating zig-zagging of the shorter, round bottomed boats! And so much faster!!
The seating is fairly comfortable, even though my hips are actually a bit wider than the molded-in seat size. I can feel the edges of the mold, but it's just a minor annoyance for a 3-4 hr float. The rest of the cockpit is fairly snug for someone my size.
The adjusting straps for the foot braces are a good idea, supposedly allowing for on-the-fly, easy-to-reach adjustments, but as the straps have aged, they've gotten too stiff to work as designed, currently requiring lots of fiddling and fidgeting to get them set and even from side-to-side.
The rear bulkhead leaks right at the bottom seal, the hatch covers are difficult to remove and replace (although I love that they're on a safety string), and it's a LONG reach to either one of them when in the cockpit. The bumpers around the skeg also broke loose and needed to be remounted into the hull (easily done with Gorrilla Glue, though).
The weight of the boat is fairly prohibitive unless you're a big, strong guy! 15 feet and 59 lbs is is BIG boat to be trying to lug around or load on a car top rack. It's really a 2 person job to move this beast around on land, but once in the water.....ahhhhhh.
While my Swiftwater can be easily sluiced around in a brisk river to head back upstream, that's just not an option in this boat. It's minimal rocker and huge length makes trying to do a u-turn to paddle upstream more than my puny arms and sucky technique can handle.
Luckily, I'm keeping the Swiftwater as my river boat, but am thrilled to augment it with this beautifully capable lake boat. I can't wait to take it on Lake Michigan or on a longer tour.
This boat turns really well when you edge it and it is easy to edge and reasonably fast for a 15 foot boat. The bottom will hog out after years of scraping over stuff and being tightened too much on the roof racks, but it doesn't seem to affect the speed or handling. The skeg works well and whenever you might want help going straight it is easy to deploy. I rarely use it.
The cockpit is pretty large and comfortable I think a big paddler could easily fit in this boat. I'm 225 and 5'10" with size 12 feet and there was way more room than I needed everywhere except for the feet. I didn't feel locked in by this boat so if you wanted to roll it or surf it, you might want to put in a lot of paddling for thigh braces and hip pads.
I've never taken the boat into blue water (i.e. full ocean, exposed), but I've had it a mile or two offshore in the bays of Maine without incident. I've used it for touring in the Adirondacks (up to five days), and for hopping islands off Norwalk, CT a couple of times. I'd not hesitate to do the cross-Sound paddle in this, though I'd use my flotation bags for and aft, for safety.
For the length, if paddled well, I can keep up (or surpass) a 17 foot Necky sea kayak, tolerably well paddled, or indeed most kayaks. I don't know how this can be (speed is proportional to hull length) but it is--maybe I have good technique, or perhaps it's some nuance of the design, or maybe both. Best of all, I can bring the boat through fastwater bumping the occasional concealed boulder, over scratchy rocks for seal launches, etc. There are probably little bits of red plastic from the boat all over the NE, but the hull integrity is still just fine. I just can't see treating a lovely composite or fiberglass sea kayak (much as I occasionally crave one of these) this way. The fact that the Passage was inexpensive lets me do this with a clear conscience.
Secondary stability is OK. I have tipped the boat once leaning it, but I don't think I was bracing carefully. I've never attempted to roll it--come to think of it, I've come out of it precisely twice.
I believe the boat is no longer being made under this name, as Walden went out of business.
Honestly I think if I knew better I would have bought something else. I've paddled Prijons and they so kick this boats butt and for basically the same price. I will take this boat into open water without hesitation, but it ain't all that.
The cockpit is roomy enough to accommodate my 6'2" 250lb frame. The seat is very comfortable and the backrest is very supportive.
One of my only complaints is the apparent lack of buoyancy in the bow. Compared to a other kayaks that I have paddled this seems to take more water over the bow. It is helpful to have something in the forward bungee cords to help divert water away from the cockpit.
The hull seems incredibly rugged and flex free. Easy enough to carry over the beach to launch or put on a roof rack.
The cons: The plastic seems to have billions of air bubbles in it. The surface of the boat is pock marked with a billion small holes. Very rough and probably causes measurable drag. The bottom part of the seat is hard plastic and molded to the shape of a butt. If your butt happens to fit that mold exactly, then you should be fine. But, if you happen to be a little wider then you get jabbed in the hips with the hard plastic part of the seat. I think if I raise myself up about 1/4 inch, by placing a gel pad on the seat, then I should be fine.
Overall, the most perfectly suited kayak for me yet. If they made it in kevlar I'd start saving my pennies today.
The cockpit has plenty of leg room and it fits me well (6', 170#, long legs, size 11 feet). There's enough room under the foredeck to mount a pump, float bag and possibly additional gear, without interfering with entry or exit. The seat bottom is very comfortable and the standard seat back isn't bad either. The seat is not very wide; I don't need to pad it on the sides as all. The coaming holds a spray skirt securely. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I've had no problem with the coaming and I like the looks (it's more like a 'glass boat). The hatches seal tightly and must be "burped" on warm days. The rear hatch is close to the cockpit and is readily accessible when sitting in the boat. Coating the hatch lips and covers with 303 makes them very easy to install and remove.
There was one flaw in my boat. The front bulkhead was installed crooked, but still provided any airtight seal. I removed it and reinstalled it in the correct position using silicone sealer. I've made a few of modifications and enhancements:
- I installed breather tubes in the bulkheads, to eliminate air pressure buildup. I simply poked a sharpened wire through the foam, then inserted a section of thin tubing into the hole (the type of tubing that comes with aerosol sprays like WD-40). This provides enough air flow but won't allow any significant water in.
- I replaced the seat back with a Rapid Pulse backband, which is more comfortable.
- I added a rub strip to the keel line using 1/2" wide automotive door molding.
- I adjusted the skeg for increased travel. You can easily adjust it to the point where the cable begins to show when it's in the fully down position. As long as the upper edge of the skeg doesn't show, it won't snag on anything when paddling in reverse.
- I sealed around the skeg pivot bolt with silicone sealer, to prevent any seepage.
- I move the seat back 1" to try to improve the tracking and to compensate for my long legs. This is very easy to do.
- Overall, I'm very please with the Passage. Aside from the handling characteristics, I think it's also one of the nicest looking plastic boats on the market. There isn't another plastic boat that I would rather own (my next boat will be home build wood & 'glass).
- BTW, the Walden neoprene/nylon spray skirt is great! It fits perfectly, is easy to put on and seals well.
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