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The Nighthawk's expeditions were always exciting, either prompted by some long coastal exploration, or required by some big kayak race; it cruised without resistance, and raced without competition. What its hull could supply at sea, or provide in a long crossing was all that was needed, and all that was achieved. The stable design of the Pungo enabled it to reassure new paddlers, to provide comfortable seating, and to satisfy all that fishing might require, or camping might demand. If the races of the Nighthawk therefore are faster, the Pungo provides relaxed paddling. If of the Nighthawk’s hull the appearance is that of a sportscar, of the Pungo's the look is more of an SUV. The Nighthawk often leads the other kayaks, and the Pungo never falls far behind them. The Nighthawk is paddled with consistent excitement, and the Pungo with continual satisfaction.
The NH16 has moderate initial stability and excellent secondary stability. Going from a rec boat to this was an adjustment for me, but after about 10 minutes on the water I became used to lower initial stability and now after around 15 hours on the boat I absolutely love how it behaves on the water. I have been learning how to make sharp turns on edge where I'm leaning so much the waterline is way up on my spray skirt and the boat shows no sign of wanting to roll over. I took it out today to a lake that I usually paddle using my Pamlico 140. I covered about three times as much ground using the NH16 in the same 3 hour timeframe due to the NH16s speed and ease of paddling. The boat really scoots across the water and glides well (again relative to what I'm used to). On Lake Michigan I found that using the drop skeg was helpful when dealing with winds and rough waters. The fit and finish on the boat are excellent and despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to roll (followed by successful wet-exits thankfully), no water has entered into either hatch. I have even learned to do paddle float re-entries using the NH16.
I bought this boat because I wanted something that was faster than what I had and that would allow me to expand my abilities. This boat has met those needs and has been a blast to paddle. I love the way it paddles and the way it looks. For me, it is the perfect kayak.
The first time this becomes apparent is when you hoist it to your shoulder and feel the bow tip. The seat is set back from the center of gravity. The bow is plumb, giving you more waterline and speed than the average 16' boat will deliver. The decks are low, minimizing wind resistence and weathercocking. Attention to detail is quite evident. There are recesses for carry handles. They fit under deck lines into these recesses, so they don't flop around.
The outfitting goes beyond comfortable. While the seat back is a bit high for laying back, I'm relectant to replace it because it feels quite good underway. The boat readily leans to the edge for sharp carving. The low deck and generous thigh pads make j-leans, rolls, etc. a breeze.
Storage isn't ample, but that's not the intent of the boat. You don't buy a Ferrari to haul luggage.
Fit and finish are exquisite. Eddyline builds a strong boat. May be the best boat I've ever paddled.
NOTE: I originally got a Seals-brand skirt. It was way too big. The size listed on the little chart that is attached to the skirt listed the wrong size for this boat. Check with Eddyline first.
PROS: Perfect workmanship; There is not a flaw in it, anywhere. Skeg mechanics are smooth, always, and make a huge difference in following winds. I ordered it in blue, which looks terrific (deck is blue, hull is white). Hatch covers fit tightly; I have seen no water entering them. Soft rounded chines make for easy, predictable edging. Width is perfect for my vertical stroke.
This boat seems very fast. I have been out with other paddlers, and I am always the fastest. My paddling buddy just bought a 19' glass boat... looking forward to matching up agains that. I just got a GPS for XMas, so I haven't been able to gauge absolute speeds yet. Initial stability: Moderate, Secondary: Excellent. Seat bottom is perfectly contoured for my arse. The one I got (in contrast to one I test paddled at my local store) had a thin neoprene (?) pad on it... comfortable.
CONS: Seat back hurt. I replaced it with a NSI backband. Took about an hour (and a little ingenuity) to put in, and no back trouble since. The vertical height of the kayak is small. It is a tight fit. I am OK in it (175 lbs, 5'10"), but I wouldn't recomment it for a bigger paddler.
I paddled it in two sessions for a total of about 45 minutes to an hour (I also test paddled a Dagger Sojourn solo canoe and a Wenonah Sandpiper solo canoe).
I'm 5'6" and about 150 lbs with size 8.5 shoes and the cockpit on the Nighthawk 16 fit me GREAT! I didn't make any adjustments. The keyhole shape allows for easy entry and exit. The boat can also be shoulder carried on both shoulders by sticking your head through the narrow part of the keyhole (facing the stern) and resting the sides of the keyhole on your shoulders. The thigh braces and footpegs were especially pleasing. The thigh braces make a lot of contact and seemed to be placed perfect for me. The foot pegs are nice and big and positioned well for me and didn't feel any pressure points and they felt solid. The seat and back band felt great too. I was amazed how well this boat fit me and how comfortable it felt. I wasn't in it very long today, but it felt like I would be comfortable in it for several hours.
Test Paddle on a small lake with flat water and light breeze: Speed: I was pleased with it's accelleration and cruising speed even though I didn't have any other kayaks there to compare it to. I was using a 220cm Bending Branches Spirt carbon paddle with Day blade and it seemed to be a nice match for the Nighthawk 16. My expectation is that it would be fast enough to allow me to keep up well enough with my paddling partners who paddle 16 and 17' kayaks. Surprisingly, when I got out of the Nighthawk and into my Lotus BJX 16'6" solo canoe, I was able to move it along almost as fast as the Nighthawk, but the Nighthawk is much more maneuverable and secure feeling. Handling: The initial stability may seem a little twitchy to some paddlers, but it felt fine to me (about the same as my Phoenix Isere) and the secondary stability seemed very solid and I was able to carve turns quite nicely with it on edge. I found it to have a very nice combination of tracking and stability. In the conditions that I was paddling, the boat didn't need the skeg and I liked paddling it better without it deployed. The skeg deployed smoothly and the slider was easy to reach and operate.
I really like the fit and handling of this boat.
Outfitting: I didn't have much time to pay attention to the fit and finish and outfitting other than the cockpit and footbraces. The hatch covers on this model aren't flush, so you'll probably get spray in the face when waves come over the bow. The footpegs adjust very easily while in the boat and feel very solid and comfortable. The backband felt great. The hard molded seat seemed contoured nicely seemed like it would be just fine as is or with a thin foam pad. The clear plastic bulkheads are a nice touch and let a lot more light into the storage area. I didn't think there was a kayak out there that would fit me this well right off the shelf.
The Nighthawk fits me much better than my Phoenix Isere and Old Town Castine and my friend's Prijon Kodiak and Barracuda and I think I prefer it's handling to those boats as well.
I am really tempted to buy one of these now, but I'm going to test paddle some other models first for comparison. Also, I'd have to sell three or four other boats to afford it.
I have through bad luck and bad judgment put myself is some dicey situations, but the NH has always done the right thing with ease and grace saving me from myself. If you want a well made kayak, if you want a kayak that handles a great variety of conditions well, if you want a kayak that just gets better the more you push it, then you should try a NH and try it in lumpy water. That is where differences show up. If you want a high sweeping bow and stern, if you want something built like a tank to take abuse during an expedition to a remote area, if you want a heavy boat, then look elsewhere. Is it perfect? Of course not. I needed to replace the backrest which was trivial to do. I think the bow slaps on small boat chop too much.
I don't know the facts, but based upon my interactions with Eddyline, I find it very unlikely they would sell boats they knew had bad skegs. Speaking of which, with no skeg it will weathercock a little, with a slight skeg it tracks straight, on a full skeg it will leecock. Just the way it should work to trim the boat. Typical of how the boat works overall. It just works right in so many ways it would take a long review to detail them. I keep asking more of it as my skills improve and it just keeps getting better.
Very comfortable, adjustable seat. I was able to keep my hands down and use a lot of body rotation fighting the wind back home. Did not ding my thumbs on the coaming. Pearling into the waves splashed my face some. Boat felt stable. Rear hatch was dry; did not check front hatch. Seas really were not big enough to test their waterproofness (?). Deck line hardware fittings were smooth on the inside of the hatches. Able to carry it comfortably on my shoulder. Concerns: at 10 cubic feet, not very much cargo space.
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