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After long hours of research and trying out multiple kayaks, most of which I could not fit into and were very uncomfortable due to my very long legs. A friend of mine who is an Kayak instructor and kayaking expert had the perfect kayak for me.
A Dagger Savannah.
I fell in love with this kayak immediately, great initial stability, tracks true, holds lots of gear, very accommodating to my size. What else can I say? 10/10 for me. After paddling it for several times I did make some minor adjustments, like more the seat back and 1" or so, redo the seat tension strap to make it more custom to my body... I love this kayak, I will one day upgrade at some point in the future, but I will never get rid of this kayak.
I started with a $250.00 Perception Sundance 9.5... great beginner yak, then moved to a $625.00 Old Town Dirigo 106... nice storage and good seat. Next was a $825.00 Wilderness Pungo 120 with the legendary phase 3 seat and now the Dagger at $420.00.
The Dagger has great initial stability and excellent secondary. Tracks great and is very comfortable! I added a Obus ultra forme car seat from Menard's and am now in the lap of Luxury! It feels as comfortable as the Phase 3 seat, and at half the price of the Pungo, I am very pleased. Now I am ready to hit Lake Superior and really enjoy the outdoors!
Highly recommend a Dagger Savannah!
UPDATE 05/29/02 -- ave made a few more excursions in the Savannagh and each time returned with partially wet shorts. Surprised to discover 8 ( Eight ) loose deck bolts / nuts, securing plastic seat and rigging to deck. Water was seeping into the cockpit and onto me past these bolts. Problem solved by tightening them. Go's to prove that if any water can get in, it will. This is an excellent boat, very stable and fairly fast, however, a rating of 8 seems more realistic.
O.K. I've calmed down. Now on to the Savannah: This is my second kayak, moving up from the Pungo; my previous experience being with open boats. I was looking for something with better sea-keeping characteristics, more speed, the ability to carry some gear, and yet still be able to do mild river paddling. I set my sights on boats in the 14' to 15' class. I didn't want a keel or keelson, didn't want a flat bottom, and I wanted a more rigid plastic formula.
I was surprised at how many boats I eliminated on the showroom floor. If my size 10s touch top and bottom in the space between the foot braces, I'm not thinking this is going to be a boat I'll enjoy spending a long day in. Then based on the narrative reviews here (forget those useless numbers) I focused on the Savannah since expedition- and rudder-rigged it just cleared $1,000. It felt good in the showroom, and after a drive to Annapolis for spin around the harbor, a little plastic moved from my wallet to the salesman, and big piece of plastic ended up on my roof rack.
My first water test was on the Potomac between Noland's Ferry and Point of Rocks. It seemed to hold a line well, turned well for a non-rockered boat, and was noticeably faster than the Pungo. It doesn't seem to have bad habits. The narratives seem not in total agreement regarding the initial vs. secondary stability. (My point of comparison for secondary stability is my 18.5' Lincoln Kevlar canoe, which rolls 15 degrees one side or the other almost instantly, and then holds like it was Velcroed to the carpet.)
The next weekend the weather gods didn't cooperate, but I got to drill 24 holes in the deck and install deck lines. That helps you get over the "new boat" thing.
The second test was off Mason Neck in the tidal Potomac. On real flat water, you can pick a speed and just hold it there. Frankly, I didn't see much difference between leaning in and out of turns - this hull is a soft semi-multi-chine, and I don't think it has such specific turning characteristics. I didn't use the rudder until I got into some more open water and was dealing with mild confused chop. There was a stretch, with the predominant sea off the rear quarter, when the rudder really helped - I need to do some more experiments in some different sea states, and also some timings with the GPS.
The seatback is just fine. Any higher and it will interfere with ingress and egress (one of the advantages of a plastic boat with a decent sized cockpit is that you CAN pull onto the beach and hop out to see neat stuff), and higher would interfere with the PFD. I can scrunch down with my feet on the front bulkhead and do a lazy lowrider, if so moved. The padding for the thigh braces is fine…There when you need it, but not intrusive.
Things to improve: The vexing thing (Do you hear the masses, Dagger?) is this foot brace/rudder pedals issue. At just under 5'10' and with size 10 shoes, I'm smack in the middle of the North American male demographic. With the foot braces in their last detent, they are just a little short of where I want to be. This doesn't make sense. (One thing you can do is put a split ring on each of the rudder cables where they attach to the quadrants.) A little more bow flare would also be nice.
Summary: This was a good boat to move up to. The Pungo will still be around as a guest boat, when I know I'll be in and out a lot, or when I need a more open cockpit for things like photography. (The Savannah probably rates a solid "7", but in keeping with the inflation around here, I had to move it up one notch.)
So, I went out and bought a Savannah. After taking it out for about an hour I came home and couldn't help but notice water coming out from around the hole where the rudder goes (Also brought water out around my eyes!). This brings me to the REAL reason that I feel obligated to write an opinion and review. Dagger's warranty department is second to none. Within a week my NEW Savannah was being shipped out to me. My emails were answered promptly, my phone calls taken and returned as needed, and, my problem was Dagger's problem. On a scale of 1-10, I give Dagger an 11 for their warranty service.
I have had my boat now for a few months and have taken it out primarily on small lakes. I still enjoy the boat very much. It glides, tracks, and maneuvers well. I recently purchased an add-on thigh brace which gives me even more control. I would have liked to see this as a standard feature. Another thing that needs some attention is the bungee cord that holds the rudder down. This bungee goes over the top of the rudder and gets in the way when you raise the rudder preventing it from "seating" in the molded slot.
Other than these very minor complaints I am happy very with my Dagger. I also would like to reiterate how pleased and impressed I was with the Warranty Departments handling of my claim. A 9/10 rating for the boat and an 11 for customer service. Guess I'll give it a 10.
Hours of research and testing paid off in a great purchase.
We live in Central New York and paddle Lake Ontatio marshes and feeders daily. We also spend most weekends on Adirondack ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. The paddling alternaives are wonderful and the Savanah is a great ride in all flat water environments.
If your in the area, drop me a line.
I contacted Dagger about the techdoc on "Need more leg room in Savannah w/ rudder".
Here is the response from John W. of the Dagger Tech Team: "You are not the first to mention this alleged tech document to us via e-mail. But I am sorry to inform you that no such document exists! I saw the same review text you're referring to (Paddling.net) and I think someone thought they saw something they didn't.
We have heard of some customers who have moved the footbraces. That is really a negligible modification in an expedition outfitted Savannah because the bulkhead limits appreciable forward adjustment. The current placement is determined to achieve the necessary movement for the rudder pivot capability with the brace adjusted to maximum forward extension.
Alternatively the seat can be moved toward the stern about an inch to an inch and a half. This is the more reliable way to achieve extra room. The seat can be run back to maximum (ensuring there is still room to recline the backrest for sufficient comfort) without an adverse effect on the trim. The easiest way to accomplish this is to "bolt hop". Remove all four seat bolts, save all parts and slide the seat back until the original forward set of holes in the seat line up with the rear set of holes in the boat. Replace the bolts through these holes. Use a 3/16" drill bit and tap two new holes in the seat through the existing front set of holes in the boat. This means there are no new holes in your boat and you have moved your seat back about an inch.
So there you have it (long-winded and drawn out!) Incidentally, when customers need special fit considerations and speak with their dealers about it when ordering a boat we try to accommodate whenever possible. Hopefully the information provided above will help."
John also mentioned the Dagger Tech Team are very approachable via the phone or email so feel free to contact them with any questions).
We spend an equal amount of time on small inland lakes/swamps and flowing rivers. This past weekend we took a trip on the Frio river. This is a spring fed river in central Texas with lots of ones, a couple of two's (depending upon the flow), with nice breaks of smooth clear water.
The Perception was the clear winner any time a quick cut was necessary. In the open water and against the wind the Dagger pulls away with ease. I am considering buying a Dagger Crossover as a second boat - only because the Perception Catalina is such a tight fit.
The Savannah is a nice boat. The best all around boat I have been around for my size. It just seems the majority of the time my paddling favors more maneuverable craft. The Catalina seems to be a better "all around" boat for smaller paddlers. I just didn't fit well. The Crossover was dropped from consideration because of how poorly it performed in wind chop.
It seems that us average paddlers need two boats, while the smaller folk can buy just one…. I know they are owned by the same company. But the Perception seems to be MUCH better outfitted for the price.
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