I have had this boat for 2 years now and spent enough time in it to feel very comfortable and to have put it through its paces. I bought the kind that breaks into 2 pieces and have found it to be very simple to assemble (it takes me about 10 minutes). This was a good option for me as I did not have room for a 22' boat in my storage unit. Unfortunately, this option adds some weight to the boat.
I like the boat's speed and tracking and have found it to be very seaworthy even in good swell. It is difficult to maneuver though--very rudder dependent. Still, I haven't found a tandem that I prefer so I give this boat high marks. My curmudgeonly comments follow:
The boat will not fit anyone that is much over 6' tall. I am 5'11 and find the front seat more comfortable than the back seat as there is a bit more length in the legs. The back cockpit, though shorter, is roomier--so much so that you should outfit it with foam supports so that you can edge effectively.
I have the built-in hand pumps which I would only recommend for those who are likely to encounter serious swell, open water crossings etc. They add quite a bit of weight and with two people, emptying the boat out before re-entry + hand pumps is probably sufficient for casual coastal kayakers. Additionally, they take up some space in the cockpit. On one occasion, the hose from the pumps got caught in the steering mechanism and disabled the rudder which was a nightmare. On the other hand, they are nice to have if you need them...they move a lot of water fast.
I find the center hatch to be less than ideal--the fiberglass cover + neoprene cover is awkward. I had hoped it might be possible to access this space while on the water but that is nearly impossible--even off the water it is a bit of a hassle. I've had slight problems with the coaming on the hatch lid coming unglued and have had to reglue it several times. This is the only weak spot in the boat that I've encountered and it is more of a nuisance than a real problem. The things that matter (safety lines, pumps, rudder) are very solid.
I can't imagine putting a child or dog in the center cockpit except under the most serene conditions (like a swimming pool?) It is a nice big space for camping equipment though.
I do not like the seat backs that came standard and have replaced them. I also wish that the seat were flat rather than having "butt definition" as it interferes with body rotation (at least for me). It also creates an unnecessary incumbrance when trying to er...use a pee device (for women). Clearly this seat was designed by a man or a woman with a very large bladder.
The steering pedals are a bit mushy for my taste. I've jerry-rigged footrests at the front/bottom of the pedals so that I can use my feet effectively for more powerful paddling.
I didn't find the initial stability to be as tippy as others suggest. But this boat is definitely more of a secondary stability boat.I've had this boat for over four years. I guess it's what you would call a high-performance tandem. Mine has the deck-mounted Henderson bilge pumps, three VERY DRY, oval VCP hatch covers (didn't want that big center hatch VCP offers) and the small ocean cockpits (many other options available from Valley), 26 recessed deck fittings...the list goes on. This boat spends alot of time in the Pacific and I like the security of the small cockpits and subsequent small sprayskirt in the surfzone. It tracks like a train and it's fast, but it's not too maneuverable at 22' 4 1/2" (with rudder) x 26".
I think it's a beautiful boat. The fit and finish and thought to detail is outstanding--VCP through and through. It really stands out in a tandem crowd and gets lots of positive comments until the paddler used to the stability of most North American doubles gets in it and capsizes due to the lower initial stability.
It's solidly built but heavy to carry--mine weighs about 105 pounds with the built-in pumps--a price I'm willing to pay for it's toughness. It has a solid wood rudder blade which is very durable (unfortunately, I've tested this many times...) and milled very nicely with great detail (touch is up with varnish after hitting rocks as this rudder does not "pop-up" and it's very long to keep it in the water in the rough stuff). Most rudder systems seem so dainty. I think this is the most solidly built rudder system I've seen. This rudder system seems like that it can take a bit of a beating with huge stainless steel through bolts and heavy nylon castings. When stowed, the rudder is partially nestled into the deck making for low windage--another of many VCP details. The rudder system on my boat has the butterfly steering system allowing you to brace and steer simultaneously and I have had few complaints with it after many miles. It weathercocks without rudder deployed, especially if it's not loaded so it is fairly rudder dependent--but this is an expedition boat and the hull is designed to be heavily loaded. On ocean trips I take along a complete spare rudder system. It rolls fine if you can coordinate with your partner.
I've heard a lot of complaints about VCP backbands from this vintage boat, but I don't have any.My husband and I paddled several performance tandems before we bought this boat and we haven't regretted our decision for a minute. Many tandems sacrifice speed and responsiveness for stability and cargo capacity, the Valley Aleut Sea II does not. We have paddled this boat extensively on the Great Lakes in wind, rain and up to 6 foot waves and feel confident and sea-worthy in all conditions. We easily keep up with (or lead) the strongest solo paddlers in our group. It has a 28" x 17" center storage hatch that could hold a large dog or a small child, or LOTS of bulky gear.
The front and rear oval VCP hatches are 17" x 9.5", they are easy to load and unload and remain DRY. The rudder controls are solid and allow for bracing while steering, the seats are minimalist (probably the only weak point on the boat). We've seen this boat rolled, which we can't do yet, but it is easy to self-rescue in. This is a heavy boat (hey, it's a tandem), the only things we would do differently are to order it in the kevlar layup and to not order the built-in pumps (I want a foot pump in the front cockpit, not a hand pump).