See Current Kayaks from Old Town Canoe
in the Buyers' Guide
Select Kayak to View in Buyers' Guide
A little glue, I suppose. The seat is very comfortable,but adjust it before you get into the water. The foot pegs work great, they are easy to udjust on the water, but the taller you are the harder it is. I'm 5' 9" and it's a perfect fit. All in all I am very pleased with this kayak and would promote this kayak for anyone looking for a very versitile touring Kayak.
I will dispense with most off-water comments as they don't apply to the kayak, but with the user. On the water, this kayak has been great. It tracks reasonably well, avoids weathervaning, glides very well (I usually find myself needing to brake more than accelerate!), and turns reasonably well. No oil-canning, no warping, no scratches deep enough to cause any concern whatsoever--this after (at last count) 15 trips into rocky rivers, lakes with unimproved landings, and hauling it over logs and sticks to get to one particularly tasty fishing spot.
The cockpit is large enough to fit two fishing rods at about a 75 degree angle in front of the seat while other gear is between the knees and/or behind the folding seat. The rear rigging has served to hold the rods while under way (fit the butt-ends under the bungee cords) and to hold anchor/rope setup when necessary (just slip a loop of anchor line under the rigging, and you're set; pull on the loop when you want to haul anchor and move). Water bottle fits nicely by fitting it behind and to the side of the folding seat; it also stays cooler there.
I don't need to worry about hatches leaking--there aren't any! However, you can fit 6-foot fishing rods inside the hull, and other bags I just clip to a rope and slide them inside the hull; when you want them out of the hull, just pull on the rope. In extreme situation (i.e., I don't trust other people not to steal my stuff or the kayak), I have been able to leave all my gear in the kayak and carry it back to my car. This gets heavy, so the PFD over the shoulder helps a lot.
The carrying handles have worked fine, and double as transportation tie-offs. Stability of this kayak--especially for the speed that it allows--is excellent. The only time I shipped water was intentionally leaning over as a test, and watched the water spill over. Very forgiving for a fisherman, while allowing a good speed, glide and turning compromise. At times I have considered adding additional front deck rigging, but found enough ways around it that I decided against it. The clean, uncluttered deck allows me to fish and handle rods without snagging rigging, losing gear, or finding other ways to make a fool of myself. I have helped a friend unhook lures from his front rigging and made up my mind that it was more of a bother than it would be worth. I did find it helpful to bring mini-clamps along to secure the rods in back (branches like to steal rods when you aren't looking). Clip a clamp to the butt section after it is under the bungy cord, and the rod stays put.
Again, this is a very high 8.5 rating, and I don't think anyone else offers a basic hull like this one at the price without sacrificing something. I also don't give 10 ratings to my kayak just because I'm new to it and I love it. The only way I would really be happier would be if it came with a rudder/skeg or Old Town found a way to make it 10 pounds lighter--and again, I don't know of another kayak with the Castaway's features that offers either lighter weight or a rudder for the price: No-dent, no-warp, insulated hull; avoids weathervaning; tracks/glides/turns well; allows enough space for gear but still small enough cockpit to brace knees for leaning, edging, and turning; good footbraces that are solid, yet easily adjustable while in the cockpit and underway; and still my favorite: $400. To give you an idea of what a deal this was, there is currently a new Castaway on Ebay that hasn't met the reserve price at $500 NOT INCLUDING SHIPPING!
I would still like more speed, but I realize that I enjoy the compromise that the Castaway offers in stability, glide, handling characteristics, and ease of cartopping. I never have to worry about the rudder or skeg being down or damaged, because it doesn't have one. The folding seat is unpadded, but durable, well-shaped and comfortable. It needs padding for longer trips, but this customization is up the individual user's preference. When my lower back hurts, I simply draw my knees up for 5 minutes, and it goes away. Having a lumbar support there seems like it would interfere with proper paddling technique (torso rotation), so I am satisfied with this.
I could be satisfied with other kayaks I have tried, seen, and read about, but I am really glad I bought the Castaway. I would sell various and sundry other possessions before I would part with it!
Before you think I am an Old Town flunky, I really didn't see Old Town as my first choice. There were a lot of reviews on Old Town boats mentioning poor construction (usually bulkhead leaks and trim), or that they were too wide, too slow, etc. The other kayaks that seemed to be in my price range that I could find in the area were usually Perception boats, and I really liked the Monterey, Carolina, America and Sundance that I tried at the demo. Bottom price for any of them? $500-$799; July is not a good month for sales. A few of the Dagger and Necky boats looked good, and the reviews on the Pungo 140 have been excellent. I planned primarily to use the kayak to go fishing in areas with less engine traffic, so I didn't need race speed, but I didn't want the proverbial pumpkinseed boat, either. Tried a couple of Walden boats, too--liked the Scout all right, except for the knees-outside position, and couldn't get used to the Vista (no offense, Vista lovers! I'm not good enough for your kayak!). The popular Old Town Loon series seemed a bit too wide from my demo experience, and I knew I was looking for something narrower, but not too expensive. So, I had an idea of what I liked and didn't like, and knew I needed something over 12 feet, 27" wide or less, with decent tracking vs. handling, and moderate stability vs. speed. Then, marching through the store again, I saw the floor model Castaway that had been marked down to $400. 12'6", 26" wide, and a hull that seemed to be close to the Perception Monterey that I was so pleased with at the demo. After checking it out in the store for defects, I did the impossible--I bought it without having tried it!!!! Heavens no!!
Don't try this at home. I do not recommend buying a kayak without testing it unless you are prepared to live with the consequences, or you have the money to buy another boat that you like better. I don't. I am happy to say I got lucky. Enough blabbing about the search, here's the review:
Slipped the Castaway into the lagoon off the river (river averages 100 yards wide, medium slow flow, 3-10 feet deep. The lagoon is 2" to 8 feet deep and a big more sheltered from the wind). Rocking it back and forth brought nothing alarming--it had the comfortable feel of a well-balanced rocking chair: Not too tippy, but with enough lean to help with turns, etc. Very responsive to hip flicks, sweep strokes, and accelerated pretty well. I would rate the speed a bit faster than the Perception America, but not quite as fast as the 13.5 foot Carolina (also note that the Carolina is just under 23" wide and goes for $699 MSRP. The Carolina also turned like a log). I cannot prove the speed comments as I did not time paddling speed with any of these boats, so I admit to this not being an objective assessment. The folding seat was comfortable for 15 minutes around the lagoon, two hours going a mile upstream fishing on the river, then back down and around the lagoon again. Luckily, my old fishing PFD fit fine, and the paddle I chose off the rack worked better than its price suggested.
Of course, I had to slip a fishing rod into the back deck rigging, and actually ended up fishing half the time. While non-fishers may not care, it was easy to fish from, and being that low to the water meant casts under trees and bushes were a snap--you're already at water level! I finally stopped fishing after catching a few smallmouth to remind myself I was supposed to be testing out my new kayak. It was a pleasant realization that the kayak worked great for its intended purpose.
Acceleration was fine; turning was very good, once I got a feel for the amount of lean; cruising speed was good, and it will glide quite a way after you stop paddling. The foot braces adjusted easily--I forgot to adjust them onshore, and was able to reach inside the hull and adjust them while on the water! I had a good test day because the wind was coasting down the river at about 10-15mph (according to the weather forecast). This meant I got to paddle upwind, crosswind, and downwind. The reviewers' comments about this hull's tendency to lose tracking downwind (I believe the term was "with a following sea") were correct. The Castaway did lean a bit with the wind at its back, but I found that if I leaned the correct direction with the correct stroke, I could straighten it out without repeated correction strokes (I was incapable of doing this with the Walden Vista a few weeks ago). Crosswinds were not a problem at all; I crossed the river three times across the wind, and it NEVER windvaned, so I've got to say that the tracking was nice. If the only problems I have are downwind, what am I complaining about!? Upwind was no challenge at all. The hull splits the wind and the waves (which were just beginning to whitecap) nicely. In the water, I couldn't be happier for the money. I give the boat an 8.5 overall while comparing it to much more expensive boats. Compared to the boats in its price range, the Castaway is a steal.
Out of the water, I transported it cockpit-down on a set of four foam canoe/kayak blocks snapped on the cockpit rim, a 1" wide nylon tie-down strap over the middle of the hull, and nylon ropes front and back (doubled through the carrying handles. Not only did it not slip forward or backward during its two trips, it didn't move sideways, either. Since it has a stiffer hull, I just made everything snug (not tight) and didn't worry about warping my new boat. Yes, a nice Yakima or Thule rack would have been nice, but this transportation setup cost a grand total of $15, and took five minutes from package to peel-out. After my trip today, it took even less time to cartop it.
The Polylink boats are heavier than comparable kayaks of the same length. The Castaway is advertised as 54 pounds. I put my PFD on my shoulder, and the Castaway on the PFD, and carried it 100 yards back from the dock to my car (my launching spot was grass-to-mud--easier going than coming, so I decided to land at a dock instead). While this wasn't a whistling carry, nor am I a lumberjack-strong type (5'8", 158), I am sure I could do it repeatedly without much problem. Plus, I was able to re-cartop the kayak easily. With no rack in the way, I simply fit the foam blocks back on the cockpit rim, lifted the kayak back on my shoulder, and slid it onto my car's roof crossways. Then I rotated it until it faced forward, and tied it down. Why the details on something so simple? Because this "heavy" kayak made it easy to do.
Looking forward to a longer, more extensive test on a variety of water. Of kayaks in this price range, this is the 10. I'll update my review with more water time.
If you paddle the kind of water this boat was designed for, you really don’t need a skirt; however, the boat’s cockpit is similar in size to many touring and whitewater boats. This lets you use an “off the shelf” spray skirt, if you want protection from rain or want to try leaning the boat far enough over to submerge the cockpit edge. If you get a skirt, I’d recommend either all-nylon or neoprene with a nylon or GoreTex adjustable tunnel. The boat’s high seatback would interfere with the tight tunnel of an all-neoprene skirt.
I’m selling my Castaway to buy an “old school” whitewater boat, since my interests have shifted in that direction. Still, for a flatwater day tripper, the Castaway is a good deal. It handles well for a rec boat, is decently fast, and has plenty of space behind the seat and between your legs for drybags or gear. Too bad Old Town doesn't offer thigh braces for this boat--those would greatly extend its capabilities.
What are the features of the Castaway?
Castaway is considered somewhere between a rec and a light touring boat. Old Town stripped down a Castine and called it the Castaway. They removed the bulk heads and storage compartments to lighten it and make it cheaper. Don’t plan on any overnighters with this boat. Switch over to the Castine, or Nantucket if that is what you are doing. This kayak does feature rear deck rigging, carrying handles, an Old Town standard seat, and adjustable foot pegs. The length is 12 feet 9 inches, and the width 26 inches. A happy compromise between “long and fast”, and “short stubby and slow”. Cockpit is well sized at 34 inches long, no claustrophobia here.
Where would I paddle the Castaway?
Simply put: this kayak is for lakes and rivers. I would not recommend any real big water, (ocean, great lakes) for several reasons. No bulk heads. Yes you can put floatation bags in place, but that doesn’t negate the extra width this boat has, which is a detriment on big roll-y water, a blessing on flat water. It’s width to length keeps the water line lower on the hull, which is very important on low water rivers. In short, It’s not long and skinny, and it’s not short and fat,but somewhere in between. It keeps more of the boat out of the water, and is much less likely to drag on the river bottom. The boat tracks OK, but does not come with a rudder. Again, Castine does as an option, but on low water rivers, you can’t use it anyway. Where the Castaway loses on tracking, it makes up for in maneuverability. Very forgiving when you make a last minute re-routes around logs and branches in the water.
Hey youse guys at Old Town did this right:
Poly link 3 is the material Old Town uses to make it’s plastic kayaks. THIS STUFF IS AWESOME! It’s indestructible (virtually) and holds it’s shape beautifully (no oil-canning). Far and away, the seat is the best on the market. It doesn’t feel cheap, the plastic is heavy, and the molding fits the body just right. (folks at Perception: take notice, you seats need improvement). The foot pegs are first rate. This kayak, and all made at Old Town for that matter, really show they cared about how their less expensive kayaks looked and felt. In short: it doesn’t feel like an over-grown milk jug-style rotation molded plastic boat.
Hey youse guys at Old Town, consider this:
The rear deck cords would better on the front. Can’t use the rear one. This boat is meant for short trips, you need the deck cords in front for your water bottle and stuff. And another thing, the deck area right above your legs is a little low. I am 5’ 9”, 165 lbs, and the deck is so low, when my feet are on the foot pegs I have to angle slightly to fit. I wouldn’t recommend this kayak for anyone taller or heavier than me. If you are taller, the foot pegs can adjust farther toward the bow, but I hope you don’t have feet, because they won’t fit! And another other thing, Old Town please put in a drain plug! I wash my boat out, and I can never get all the water out.
120,000+ people can't be wrong!
The Paddling.net Newsletter is a must if you like to canoe or kayak! Each week it is packed with great articles, photos, product reviews, and special features. Better yet, we promise not to sell your email address to anyone; that's right ZERO spam! Sign up today and find out what you've been missing!