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There's not a huge selection of boats for people my size but I found a few and paddled them. I tried the Pungo 120 but didn't really care for it on choppy water. The Pungo 140 handled the chop and tracked better then the 120 but I didnít care much for the seat and the hull design since I'd be using this kayak in shallow rivers. I only sat in the Sundance 12 and it was nice but once I sat in the America 13.5 and paddled it I knew this was the boat for me.
The America 13.5 has plenty of leg room for me and the cockpit is big enough to stretch when I have to. The seat back adjusts and since I have a bad back I usually adjust it once or twice during a trip. I'm not able to sit still for long because of my back but I can stay on the water for three to four hours easily in the America 13.5 and that's saying something.
This boat tracks real well and is very stable. I've had it in class 1+ so far and it didnít have me worried at all. I've had the America out in one foot chop and I never felt like I was going for a swim. One thing you do want to get is a spray skirt if you plan on doing any white water since the cockpit is fairly large. Bottom line is that I love this kayak and for me it was the best choice out of the boats made for big boys. I'll post an update once I take the America through some class II.
If you are looking for something between a rec boat and an expensive touring boat, the America fits the bill. If you want a great all purpose boat with a ROOMY COCKPIT, this is it!
My stepdad bought one of these as well. He is 6'2" and 300#. No problem at all with stability and the boat sits level in the water, definitely a good boat for larger paddlers.
I have paddled some lakes (staying fairly close to shore) and a couple of river trips now. The skeg really helps keep the boat going straight in the wind. If you are buying this boat only river tripping or fishing, save the money and forget the skeg.
For river tripping, this will store enough gear for a weekend trip (I'm used to backpacking though, so it seems like I have a LOT of room). I'm 195 pounds and even with a weekend worth of gear, the handling is not affected at all. Class I and II rapids are okay with a good skirt, although given the large cockpit you are likely to get a little wet.
Now for the bad stuff: The bulkhead leaked when I got it. I had to reseal it. The bottom seat really sucks. There is a little lip that seems to cut off circulation to your legs. A good seat pad will rectify this. I have even read on the net where people have put a SOT seat in this boat as a replacement. NO secondary stability. Of course you should be able to see this by the style of the boat. Large cockpit, while good for paddling with the dog, is bad when river conditions cause water to wash up over the deck.
Overall for a good multipurpose fishing/rivertripping/light lake boat I give this a 9. Just go into the purchase knowing you are not getting a touring or whitewater boat.
The America on the other hand was a few ticks better in turning quicker, being faster on the water, tracking straighter and I found the seat more stable, supportive and comfortable compared to the Phase 3 System. (which says a lot!)
To date I've used the America in a protected saltwater bay with a fair current (3-4kts) which can get breezy and choppy. The America has handled all the conditions very well. I'd buy it again!
In my limited experience in a demo of the America, it reminds me of a Cadillac--quite smooth, comfortable, not jackrabbit quick, but fast enough once you get going. You don't have to spend a great amount of effort to go straight, either, even with a wind. The hull turns fine--not as quick as a Swedish hull or a much shorter boat, but I preferred the tracking of the America to the amount of work needed to make a shorter kayak go straight. No, it is not paddling technique in this case. In calm water, a double stroke or two will straighten you out in just about anything. In wind, and a poor boat, you could stroke on one side forever. I didn't find this necessary in the America.
I am neutral on the value of the large cockpit. While it is easy to enter and exit, it also leaves you with nothing on which to brace your knees--unless you want to brace them on the hard cockpit edge. To be fair, you could probably pad this, but it doesn't look like the design will be too forgiving of this modification.
The America also offers a hatch--nice if you need to store gear. However, if I don't do overnight jaunts or trips requiring a lot of gear, I don't plan on accessing that hatch in the water, either!
Thanks to its cost, the America just made my "short" list for next year. I've also seen reviews which comment on the America's weight range (advertised as 57 pounds). For me, it would get lifted six times per trip--out of the garage rafters, onto the car, off the car to the water, then repeat in reverse. The majority of the time it is in the water holding ME up, weighing just about nothing. If 7 pounds makes that much difference, maybe I should just carry 7 pounds less gear! Another note--this is an honest 8. I don't give out "modern Olympics" 10's. I haven't paddled a 10 yet.
I do have a complaint though. My boat seems to have been made of softer plastic than the other boats I have tried. I ordered it rather than buying it from stock. When I went to pick it up it had been sitting in the hot Texas sun upside down with another boat lying on top of it. This left a dent in the hull right under the front of the cockpit. The store owner assured me that this was normal in a plastic boat and that lying the boat flat in the sun would quickly restore the shape. He was right but a small dent has returned in the same place a few times when tied to a rack or stored upside down. I am concerned and am watching this carefully but I think if I store it properly and avoid leaving it in the sun it will be OK.
I would also add after using this boat for fishing that I can see the advantages of a sit on top design if fishing is your primary goal and you are not in an area with a cold climate. While the large cockpit of the America is easy to get in and out of, with a sit on top you could get out in shallow areas and you would have more places to mount equipment. I am giving the America a 9 out of 10 because of the soft plastic.
The America edges well for such a beamy boat and it's rollable---- by no means the easiest to roll, but it's possible. I don't have a roll yet but am developing some reliable braces.
I am 5'3" and female and find its 52-lb. weight fine for solo cartopping ("Kayaking for Women" by Shelley Johnston has some excellent tips), but a bit much for long carries (read: "long drags"). My husband and I dislike all of perception's seats and replaced them with backbands which are lower than the boat's deck---- this means if you have to re-enter the boat from the water it's much easier than clambering over a seat back that's sticking up gouging you in the ribs and diaphragm. Self-rescue is reliable in this very stable boat. I found the seat front somewhat uncomfortable due to the tipped-up lip (a common, and yucky, perception plastic boat feature). Right now I get by rolling up a jacket and stuffing it in the gap between the seat lip and the hull, but I'm thinking of going to kayakfit.com and buying some hard-cell foam to glue in there permanently. I had a custom neoprene sprayskirt made by sealsskirts.com; this is fantastic for breaking waves, cold conditions, or roll/rescue practice.
The America has plenty of room for storage, yet you can keep up with the shorter (i.e. 14-foot) touring kayaks. I chose to use floatation bags and not get a bulkheaded boat, though I'm thinking about adding a rear hatch. For sloughs, lakes, class I and II rapids, and bays (>3-foot swells) it is a great boat. It did fine in class 2 rapids, being stable, yet very nimble for being quite wide. Most of our trips are half-day trips of less than 10 miles. Fantastic for bird watching and fishing. Without a rudder it does weathercock. We took a long trip down Tomales Bay and had about a 12-knot wind at our back on the return trip with 1--2 foot wind waves. Every other stroke was a correction stroke, but I attribute that as much to my need to have a greater repertoire of strokes as to not having a rudder. It's your choice and depends on where you'd be going out to paddle.
For a larger and/or taller paddler this boat is comfortable, stable, and yet a good enough tracker. Any boat is a series of compromises and this one does it well.
The stability is comforting to a new person. We chose the Expidition with the hatch and opted for the rudder. There is a lot of wind in Oklahoma and in open water the rudder really helps. I have a yellow one on order and my friend bought a blue one in stock. It seems that people both like and dislike this boat for the same reason. If the young man who gave it a 2 would have tried it out the way we did he would not have made the mistake. ALL BOATS CANNOT BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE. If you are new and want something stable and fun to get started, this is the boat. Now how about next year when I am ready for a 17 ft. cigar boat
This boat has very good initial stability, great tracking, and plenty of space. At first, I had trouble turning the boat as quickly as I wanted to, but found after a little over an hour that I could move the boat 90-plus degrees to either side with just one stroke of the 230 cm. paddle. I think that as I get more used to the boat I will be able to perform almost any maneuver I want (within reason!). I agree with what Bob had to say about the tracking, stability, speed/acceleration, etc. One clarification about what another reviewer wrote: The (2001 model) America is 13'4", not 12'4". I would advise you to get the Expedition model, but donít bother with the skeg. I rate it a "9." There is no "perfect boat," but this one is a great compromise between what is wanted and what is possible in a recreational kayak. Happy paddling!
TRACKING - excellent. The kayak holds a straight line and coasts nicely after you stop paddling.
STABILITY - excellent. The boat feels very stable at all times. In fact I think you'd have to really work hard at it to capsize it in calm water. It's even relatively stable when you are getting in and out of it.
SPEED AND ACCELERATION - very good. The boat whispers along quickly and nicely, and if you really dig in with the paddles, she'll respond for your efforts.
MANEUVERABILITY - good. My Caspia is more maneuverable, but then it is a much smaller boat. I think it's a lot to ask a 13+ foot boat to turn on a dime. Can you really have both excellent tracking and excellent maneuverability?
SPACE - very good. The hatch space behind cockpit is more than adequate and easily accessed. There is also quite a bit of space up front beyond the foot braces. I made a solo overnighter already and with no problems I carried a tent, sleeping bag + pad, backpacker stove and fuel, food, tent, drinking water and extra clothes. You really do have to think like a backpacker when using this kayak (and most other kayaks) for camping, however. The cooler full of beer, the porta-potty and the golf clubs will need to be left behind!
STURDINESS - If my Caspia (made of the same material) is any indication, the America should give me many years of rugged kayaking, even on some mild whitewater (class I and II). Caution: I'm told, these plastic boats should be stored only on a flat surface because an improperly stored boat may sag over time. This may also be true for all kayaks. I really don't know.
COMFORT - The oversize cockpit is absolutely superb! It was probably the number one selling point for me. I am well into middle age and while I'm probably more fit than the average for my age, I don't just pop in and out of the boat like a spry teenager (Oh, to be young again!). I also like the big cockpit because you can easily pull your legs outside the boat and rest them on the front, or dip them over the side and into the water. The seat leaves something to be desired, but seat comfort can be greatly improved with some padding.
CONVENIENCE - As I said above, the America is an excellent set of compromises. The boat is large enough for overnighters, but is small enough to store and haul. I can toss the America into the back of my full size pickup and by placing it caddy-corned with the gate up, only about 3-feet sticks out the back. A single bungee cord to keep it from sliding around (my truck has a cap on the back) and a flag tied on the end of the boat for visibility/safety, and off I go! At 13' 4" in length, the America also fits nicely into my utility shed for storage.
ESTHETICS - The America certainly has nothing to apologize for. The lines are clean and simple and the decals are tasteful. The elastic hold-down bands placed just ahead of and just behind the cockpit are not only useful, but also make the boat a bit more interesting to the eye. I bought the yellow boat because I thought it would be more visible on the water than other colors (watch out for those power boaters!).
OVER-ALL - I would have no hesitation in recommending this boat to any recreational kayaker. It is a very good buy for a relatively inexpensive kayak.
To begin with, I'm 68 years old, and weigh "over" 225 lbs. I'm physically sound, but the only exercise I do is paddling a kayak. I can paddle for two, three hours, perhaps more with no problem. This is not non-stop paddling I'm talking about. I paddle ten minutes of so, stop, and the kayak continues to glide, I take in the beauty in between strokes, and have a ball. I mention all this because my physical condition had to be taken into consideration before I purchased a new kayak. So, I now began researching for a new kayak. I read all the paddle magazine kayak reviews that I could. And, of course I read every review on this very website, paddling.net/Reviews. Of course, the only way a serious paddler should buy a kayak is to "try before you buy". Simple as that. And of course, that's what I ended up doing.
Most paddlers have different needs, and I was no different. I've paddled some beautiful boats, that you couldn't give to me for free. I saw a beautiful Old Towne Loon 120 that could handle my weight, and the finish coat was a beauty to see. But, I like to "drag" a boat in the sand for a bit when "beaching a kayak", and knew I'd have a "fit" when I saw all the bottom scratches that would occur eventually. I almost bought the Perception Acadia because she paddled, and tracked great, which is on the top of my requirements. I then went to Eastern Mountain Sports, and saw the Perception America with its huge cockpit, and began to "salivate", since I've gotten so tired of getting in and out of "small" cockpits, and the America seems too good to fit my requirements. First: she was 27 1/2 inches wide. I immediately assumed she'd be too "slow". Second: She was 50 lbs.. My last kayak was 38 lbs, so I knew the America would be a bit too heavy for me. I made up a list of kayaks that would accommodate my 225 lbs. Old Towne Loon 138, with a 18x55 cockpit was just too wide and long.
Dagger: Edisto, Cypress, and the Savannah, all great kayaks, but all had cockpits of 19x34. Necky: Zoar, and the Zoar Sport, cockpit, 17x32, too small.(Great quality)Perception:Vizcaya,Captiva,Carolina, and Acadia, all great ones. I found myself putting the America back on the list, then taking it off, for about three or four times., until I decided to test paddle it in Long Island Sound, N.Y. I use the Yakima Roof rack system, with four cradles, but at 50 lbs. I had to have my wife pick up the other end, and put it on top of the car. The water at Long Island Sound was not the smoothest on that day. What I was looking for in this kayak was straight tracking, and a good amount of speed, and of course a comfortable cockpit. And that's exactly what this boat did. I took the boat back to EMS. I didn't buy it. I liked everything about the kayak, but I still wanted to think about it. I'm retired, so, I've got plenty of time to have fun researching. A week later, I walking into EMS, and saw that the America was on sale of $475, and bought it.I really didn't care for any of Perceptions hull colors, but I decided on "Firecracker", (red). Its the Basic model, not the expedition. I purchased flotation bags, for the bow and stern, and I was on my way up to Cape Cod for two weeks of paddling, and swimming. I crossed one beach, to another, all sandy of course, with the greatest peace, and tranquility ever. I found the America to be fast in quiet waters, even in a bit of a chop. I paddled at times, with my legs "over" the cockpit with no problem. The bottom of the America is "flat", so its got great "primary stability". As for secondary stability, I can only guess, that its not good. My last boat had great secondary stability, but for the kind of paddling that I do, the America, with its super primary stability leads me to think that Perception had someone like me in mind when it first went on the drawing board. Another reason I bought the America, is that since the cockpit is so large, I could sit my 6 year old grandson in front of me and have him paddle for a while, and then, I would. There's an option child's seat that I could have bought for $25 extra, but my grandson had plenty of room in the cockpit without it, so I didn't buy it.
He now talks to me about going "kayaking" up at Cape Cod again. While at the Cape, I tried to re-enter the boat, from about four feet of water, and could not. I even tried it with a paddle float, with no luck. The reason: I have so few muscles left, that I can't even get into my son's 14 foot runabout. But I do believe the America's probably one of the easiest kayaks to re-enter due to its large beam, and flat bottom. If I were in better shape, I know I could have hopped onto the stern, keep my head low, and just slide into the cockpit, without even using a paddle float.
One last point: My daughter kayaked the America a few times, and I noticed that she could not go as fast as I could. I cannot emphasize buying the "Proper paddle". I do believe that my daughter couldn't go as fast as me was because my paddle is a "fixed left hand control" paddle. Meaning that, if you're a right hand control paddler, as most people are, you'll have a bit of a hard time adjusting to MY paddle. I now intend to buy an "adjustable" paddle so ANY paddler can adjust it to left, or right when using my kayak. You'll not only go faster, but you'll feel no pain or strain on your arms, and upper body. So, for me, I've found a kayak to love for a long time. It may even be my last kayak. The America is made of Roto-molded superlinear polyethylene. Some of those boats I mentioned above were simply great, Dagger, Necky, and Old Towne, but with my "girth", I had not much of a choice, and luckily, I'm as happy as a "pig in mud".......One last point: Canoe & Kayak magazines August edition, did a review on 6 recreational kayaks. The Perception America was one of them reviewed. The last part of the review said, "We found it much more pleasant to relax and enjoy the kayak, rather than push it through maneuvers it was not intended to make". That's what originally helped to "turn me off" on the America. The "push it through maneuvers, etc," had me thinking negatives against the kayak. Well, I certainly can go as fast as I wish, and am elated over the great tracking, while I "relax", and paddle with ease, the "maneuvers, that this happy paddler always "intends to make"... "Have fun paddling".
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