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I bought this kayak at the Toronto sportsman show way back in 1999, so I have a long history with this boat. After 14yrs, the kayak still looks good with only minor surface scratches.
The Good: This kayak is close to bullet proof (as are most rotomolded kayaks). It tracks like it is on rails and has reasonable speed. Primary and secondary stability are quite predictable. There is ample room in the forward and stern compartments to pack for a multi-day trip. It has stood up to the elements quite well. The hatches are reasonably but not completely waterproof.
The Bad: If I were to describe the seat in a single word, that word would be crude. Only slight adjustment for back rest angle and padding is nonexistent. Not a problem if you are going out for a short paddle, but after an hour you have to get out and stretch your legs. I bought my wife a WS Tsunami 135 and the seat in it immediately made me want to upgrade or get another boat. Guests look at the seat in mine, then hers and always choose the Tsunami. I always thought my boat was fast until my wife got the Tsunami. Although her boat is 2ft shorter, she can keep up with me quite easily. This may be partly due to the fact that over the years my boat has developed a warp that runs side to side right under the seat. I suspect at speed, this acts like an air (water?) brake. The same long keel line that makes this kayak track so well (it actually has negative rocker!) works against it when it comes time to turn. It must be aggressively edged or a lot of sweep stroke energy goes into changing direction (I do not have a rudder). Also, when the wind pipes up, it has a strong tendency to weather cock.
One place you do NOT want to take this kayak is surf! Other reviewers have noted its short comings here. If you look at pictures of this boat, you will see the bow is very slender. This translates into little buoyancy. Going out into the surf, the kayak will punch through each wave, rather than riding up over the waves. This will get you very wet. Surfing in, the nose will bury itself in the trough as you ride a wave and immediately broach. In large, regular swells it rides well but in surf this is one scary boat.
So why didn't I rate it lower than a 7? Truth is, 95% of all kayak owners use their kayaks on calm lakes and rivers at their cottages and seldom paddle more than an hour or two. Those that shoot Class 4 white water or go out in 10ft ocean swells are rare individuals. This is a tough, durable kayak that is relatively fast and easy to feel comfortable in at your cottage on the lake and cost $1000 less than many similar kayaks.
If used within its limitations it is a capable enough boat. It is not a top of the line sea kayak, but you are not paying top of the line prices here either.
I am 6'1" and 215 lbs, maybe a bit big for this Yak. I have been paddling for many years and have paddled a number of make and models mostly all Sea Touring but even some recreational when that was the only option. Contrary to other reviews I had no problems getting in the cockpit.
I found the St. Lawrence very uncomfortable to sit in for more than an hour. I couldn't find any comfortable position for my feet, size 12 and that's bare feet. It seemed impossible to adjust the foot rudder controls to a position where my feet could comfortably work the rudder. My butt also objected to any longer period due to lack of a half decent seat and I have kayaked for 6 or 7 hours non-stop before.
I paddled it on the St Lawrence River in the Morrisberg area with a wind of approx. 10 km/h. Waves maybe 1.5 feet high. The hatches leaked liked crazy everytime a wave hit and I really tried to tighten down the belts. The bow plowed through everything that came at me, causing more water to enter the hatches. The skirt the boat came with left a lot to be desired. Rolling usually demanded pumping out a fair bit a water. I also found the deck lines a problem. Water bottles and bailing pump kept sliding out somehow. Never really had that problem with other boats.
I did not appreciate this boat at all and certainly would not recommend it to anyone that wants to actually paddle on anything more than on a quiet pond at the cottage. There are much better boats for not much more money.
Cons: Low(er) to water then Kayaks I have borrowed off of friends so plastic bag your gear, Small(er) cockpit entrance and not the greatest fit and seal of the storage spaces (foam taped quickly solved - $2.00 fix). O yeah, I can't wear my Teva's inside it - size 11.5 foot.
I bought this Kayak WITH a Georgian Bay from the same company and 2 decent fiberglass paddles for what my friend paid for his Wilderness Systems 14 with a paddle. I row in the Long Island Sound, Hudson River lower then Albany& random creeks creeks and lakes. I am 5'9", 190 lbs and wear a 34 waist. Slightly less stable as some expensive kayaks (i think it is narrower) but quick on the water, maneuverable and a great value. I would recommend this kayak unless you have to get a brand carried in EMS/ REI. Taller/ longer legged people might have trouble with the cockpit size when getting in and once and a while I get water from waves, but thank the guys with big engines for that. Great boat, I like it, definitely worth my 2 hour drive to get it.
The St. Lawrence is NOT a kayak for Arctic waters and should not be considered by anyone contemplating kayaking in the Arctic. We have been evaluating it and other kayaks for use by Inuit living here in the North. We have been comparing it to kayaks by Current Design, Boreal, P&H and Seaward. The ClearWater Design company supplied paddles broke off the very first day in light conditions at both ends in 2 degree water as the aluminum tubing contracted around the plastic paddle and seemed to shear them off. New paddles sent out from the factory arrived broken in shipping.
The rudder system simple will not work when the kayak is cold (2-4 degree C)as the foot pedals bind against the inside of the hull. Even attempting to push the pedals by hand on land out of water is nearly imposible when cold. (Arctic waters are always cold.) The company has not provided us without any remedy or suggestions to date.
The hatches (front and rear) seem unable to keep water out and seemed to have been miss-cut at the factory, so that they cannot seal properly. The company has not responded to any emails on how this might be fixed. We find close to a litre of water in each compartment on any day where there normal sea chop.
Contrary to other reviews above, it would be impossible to say that this kayak is safe in surf conditions. The St. Lawrence will either submarine the bow on even small waves (2ft) or is incapable or riding over waves when going to weather. It will broach on anything larger than 2 feet of actual saltwater waves in close sets. Made it can surf swells but who calls that surfing? Normal surfing on 3-6ft waves would seem impossible as the bow goes under immediately and the stern swings around before you have even started to surf. Strong bracing will avoid the broach but the bow will stay submerged even in light stuff.
The spray-skirt supplied by the factory comes undone just in normal paddling. It will not stay attached during any effort to roll or even lean into turn. Don't bother buying it as it will only block access to your drink holder.
The St. Lawrence weathercocks severely in winds over 18km and and in stronger winds and seas you will find you must do far more work trying to just stay upright and you broadside the waves.
Of the kayaks we are evaluating, the St. Lawrence received the lowest score from anyone who has tested it here in the Hudson Bay area. A score of 5 is fair as it seems only half as good as the others we have evaluated here.
In calm water and close to shore it would be adequate or perhaps on freshwater lakes and rivers during calm conditions when you can use that drink holder in the seat.
This is my first sit below kayak, so my rating does not account for a lot of kayaking experience, however I really had a blast on my first day out.
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