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Didn't think I would use the rudder but with the winds and tides on the Oregon coast it has been very nice to use. Only thing wearing out has been the plastic trim around the cockpit has become loose and wish the foot pegs were a bit larger. Well off to fish sea run cuts.
We have kayaked tidal estuaries along the NE coast, and spent a week paddling both Prince Edward Island,and Campabello. Needless to say we loves these boats! I've used the Loon a few times, but for me there is a noticeable difference in the two. The Adventure XL is a more responsive boat, at least for me.
After 30+ years in canoes, to experience the advantages kayaks offer is amazing. I've been on the water in conditions I wouldn't even consider attempting with my Tripper, and felt completely at ease while using my spray skirt. I'm contemplating a ultra light solo trip to the Allagash with the Adventure XL, this summer doing the flatwater portion.
Both my wife and I love our respective boats. But my vote definitely goes for the Adventure XL.
I like the slightly larger cockpit for wiggle room. Years back I had a Perception kayak and a buddy had a OT Loon. Used his a few times and when it got time to change boats I went with OT and have never been sorry.
Both kayaks have performed admirably for us in conditions for which they were clearly not intended. These are wide, heavy yaks meant for river and protected coastline, but they have proven to have much better secondary stability than we had expected. In the first summer of use, when we were complete novice paddlers, we put on 500 miles, mostly in Long Island Sound and its CT rivers. We surfed 5-6' waves and were caught in 25 knot winds in heavy chop and the kayaks always pulled us through. They have taken considerable abuse from rocks and oyster shells, a staple of L.I. Sound, and after almost 1000 miles now are still in good condition. The best feature are the twist-knob hatches, but they may not make them anymore.
Now the negatives - they're heavy, our XL 139 is about 56 lb.; it's wide, about 28" and therefore edges like a tank. Fortunately, it turned pretty well with minimal lean. The hatches have stayed quite dry, but the bulkheads are situated too far astern and aft, so there is way too much volume in the cockpit and too little in the bulkheads. If you take on water, which I did once when I missed my roll, there are about 50 gallons of water to pump or dump out. Finally, with all that weight and width, the XL has a cruising speed of about 4 knots over the long haul (4-8 hours). Anything more than that requires a considerable increase in effort.
Having said that, for a recreational/touring kayak it is a good choice with reasonable storage, good tracking, great initial stability, and a great kayak for calm cold water paddling with the PolyLink3 fitup. It really does keep you warm.
At first I had my eye on the Wilderness Systems Cape Lookout 15.5 w/rudder that a local outfitter had for the same price (marked down from $1049. as a scratch & dent), but alas it was too big for me to store at our house. I also loved the Perception Carolina 14.5 but ultimately I let my butt make the decision and it was strongly in favor of the Adventure XL.
The XL is far and away the most comfortable cockpit I've found. Entry and exit are utterly without challenge. I am 6 ft. and 205 lbs of reasonably athletic build for my 45 years. This yak feels snug enough to have a sense of control and yet roomy enough to stretch the old gams and change positions when my sciatic nerve starts screaming obscenities at my lumbar vertebrae.
The footpegs are not as easy to adjust as the Wild. Sys sliding arrangement, but they are easy enough to work as long as you can reach them. Also, the seatback in the XL doesn't raise and lower like the phase 3 setup in the Wild. Sys yaks, but it is comfortable just the way that Old Town built it, so no problem there. The seats in the Carolinas have a short back, which is probably superior for technical proficiency but doesn't feel like it will be comfortable after an hour or two. I prefer the high-back seats for their lower back support. (Now if somebody would just commission La-Z-Boy to design a kayak seat...)
We took the boat up to our local lake and threw it in tonight to christen it. My stepson (6'1", 185 lbs), his wife (5'5", 130 lbs.) and my wife (5'4", 145 lbs. with very short legs) all took turns in the boat.
None of us has any appreciable experience with kayaks (I've paddled canoes for many years though) and it was truly marvelous to see how quickly we all went from trepidacious to comfortable to confident to downright cocky with this smooth, comfortable and stable yak. If kayaks were cars, I'd say this boat would be a Mercedes S Class; big and roomy but with a solid feel and predictable handling that makes you feel like a better driver than you actually are.
It is very easy to cruise at a nice clip with light and smooth paddling strokes and all of us could turn the boat on a dime with minimal effort. I even tried putting the seatback in its most reclined position and putting both my legs up on the deck in the classic sunbathers position. No problem. We sailed it out of the lake and up a small (10' wide) tributary stream and found that we could make very tight turns even when the yak just fit into the brook's turning radius.
It is certainly very quiet in the water - due, I'm sure, to the Poly 3 foam core material that only Old Town seems to use. I snuck up on a great blue heron and got within 20 feet of her before she got nervous about the guy floating on the funny green log. I can't wait to take it out again.
I've had it out several times on inland lakes and on the St. Louis Bay on Superior. This boat has great final stability, although the initial rocking was much greater than the canoes I'm used to.
The boat also has a fairly high degree of weathercocking, a tendency to turn into the wind. From my sailing days, I recognize this is not the worst thing. You want your boat to point into the wind and waves without a great deal of effort. Nevertheless, it is a bit of a chore to keep it pointed where you want in a crosswind. A little paddling adjustment is needed, but this yak tracks darn well.
At 56 lbs, it is not difficult to get it on and off the roof rack which is critically important to me. I would not want a boat much heavier than this. The easier it is to throw on the car, strap it down, and take off the more it will get used.
I'm sure it is not the fastest boat around, but you also don't need a rudder. My second time out I covered 3 miles paddling easy in about 45 minutes - that's 4 miles/hr. Knowing Old Town, I am confident this little yak can handle heavy weather if the paddler is up to it.
I ordered the spray skirt to keep some of the water from the paddle out of the cockpit. Next week, I am taking a kayak technique and rescue class on Lake Superior. I think some instruction in kayaking is really essential to get the most out of the sport.
I may upgrade eventually, but for me personally this Kayak is a "10." I have to rate it 8 because of the compromises that had to be made to make a short yak with a lot of stability for larger people. I'm 5'10" and 200 lbs, built more like a wrestler than a Pillsbury doughboy, but still not a small guy. This a very good recreational day touring choice and a great buy.
I tested various boats "PUNGO 120", "Dirigo 120", some SOTs from Wilderness, etc. and I am convinced that I got the best boat for my needs... cruising and fishing. The boat is very stable and comfortable, and at 13'9" is not hard to handle on land. It tracks very well and its speed is adequate.
Only reason I gave it a 9 is that I did get a little bit of water into the bow compartment - I will add some more silicone around the bottom of the bulkhead and I think this should keep it bone dry. No problem with the stern compartment.
All in all, a great boat. Thanks to all those who replied to my questions.
The XL tracks well and turns decent. It does respond to a lean during a turn to speeds things up a bit. I got a great deal on my boat at Rutabaga in Madison, WI. $650 for a 2004, including a $50 Old Town factory rebate. The new cam lock hatches on the 2004 models rock. Easy to open hinges and you can "feel" them seal when they lock shut, although I have not submerged them yet for the real test. Had the boat out yesterday for a 2-hour paddling on a lake with a lot of motor boat chop. In 1-2 foot swells/chop the swept bow of the XL sliced through the waves paddling into them. Very stable ride paddling parallel to the waves as well. The Polylink 3 hull is very stiff and feels extremely tough. This boat will last for years. The 2004 XL has a padded seat and back rest. The back rest is high and comfortable, although almost too high to fit a normal my PFD (a Lotus Lola). The foot pegs are great since the adjustment arm extends toward the paddler so one can easily reach it for peg adjustments on the fly (although one does not function properly, see below). The cockpit size is extened but I found it not so ridiculously large as the Loons. Cockpit has plent of space for gear and room to circulate fresh air on your legs. I'm 6'1" 215 lbs. and the boat fits me perfectly.
Probably not the fastest boat I could have bought but it will serve well for fishing harbors and rivers of Lake Michigan, camping the Wisconsin River, and general day paddling, and I could not beat the amount of boat and features I got for the price. I can really rig this baby up as a kick butt fishing machine too!
Improvements that would have earned the boat a 10: Come with a paddle holder (will have to install paddle clips), a small (nickle size) dent in the hull bottom (not very bad so I am ignoring it), and the right foot peg adjustment tab does not lock in place properly on its own, you have to manually push it into the hole otherwise pressure from your foot will shove the peg all the way forward.
I thought it was a fairly speedy boat - until I tried to keep pace with a few other people in my group, who were in sleeker boats. They were paddling at probably half my effort, and were 100-300 yards in front of me within minutes. When just drifting after a stroke, they kept on going, and the XL139 quickly ran out of momentum. At the end of 2 1/2 hours I was feeling the soreness in my arms. Legs and butt were not that comfortable either in terms of the seating.
Although it was an improvement over the Loon 138, and has more speed and somewhat less resistance, it's still too heavy and slow for anything but recreational paddling.
I bought a 138 just before the XL was introduced. Fortunately, I was converting from a tandem to two solo boats and had justification to also buy the XL. This has been a nice pair of boats which has accomodated every outting/person this summer.
Let me state that this kayak is comfortable. I was able to paddle it comfortably for 4 hours the first day and 3 hours the next. The boat was responsive and did not need a rudder. Cruising speed was rewarding if not rocket fast and the boat handles well in light chop and waves. On flat water the boat is simply a joy to cruise in. The boat has a pleasant upturn at the bow and stern. This upturn makes the boat look very nice in the water and also facilitates fishing. Some boats have grab-lines that dangle off the stern or bow. These grab-lines can easily catch fishhooks on a retrieve. The Adventure XL's grab handles are positioned so that they do not flop in the water and pose a fishing hazard. Can you imagine how annoying it is to have 'caught' your bow grab-line and have to disembark from the Kayak to fix the trouble because you can't reach the bow from the cockpit?
The hatches and extra bungies on the XL are useful and appealing. The hatches on my boat came factory installed, were tight and looked good. So far, the bulkheads and hatchcovers are water tight. The hatches can not be accessed while sitting in the cockpit.
It is probably appropriate to compare the XL to the incredibly popular Loon 138 model from Old Town. My brother-in-law has a Loon 138 and was kind enough to help me compare the two models. Interested readers can go to the Old Town (www.oldtowncanoe.com) website to see the obvious differences between the two kayaks. I will describe the differences that are not obvious from looking at the catalogue:
First, the Loon 138 has a movable seat and the Adventure XL has a fixed seat. For those of you who thought you could re-claim lost legspace in the Adventure XL by moving the seat back, you can't. However, the legroom in the XL and the Loon 138 appear to be about the same if not identical and both use the same footpegs. Second, the Loon 138 comes with a paddle holder and the Adventure XL does not (even though it says it does in the catalogue). Third, the XL has appealing contours on the upper decking and the Loon is basically featureless. Finally, the Adventure XL rides nearly 3 inches lower in the water than the Loon 138 (measured from the upper coaming of the cockpit to water level) which may allow unwary novice paddlers to swamp their boats.
When I compared the two kayaks in a paddling test, the Adventure was less stable than the Loon. But everyone knows that Loons are as stable as US battleships so I was not very surprised or concerned. The Adventure XL is a bit faster and 'feels' like it cuts into turns better.
Based on the above, both the Loon and Adventure are good choices for a novice. Why choose the Adventure XL over the Loon 138? Mostly for looks, hatches, and extra bungies. You get those when you buy an Adventure XL but you also give up a movable seat (a nice feature), a paddle holder (essential equipment), 200 more dollars from your wallet, and some stability. But, if you ever intend to camp with a kayak (as I do) then going for the watertight hatches and more bungies is the way to go. It is also easier to add a rudder to the Adventure XL because the rudder post hole comes standard on the XL.
Overall, as a larger, novice paddler, I am very impressed with the boat. It is comfortable, easy to transport and paddle. Maybe with all of the paddling I intend to do, I will be able to fit into a regular kayak cockpit sooner rather than later!
Good points -- finish workmanship from OT is excellent, boat has great styling and good outfitting, tracks OK in 10-15 mph wind & chop [see no need for rudder], and adequate speed for this relatively wide stable boat. Hatch covers are teathered to reduce liklihood of loss, fit good and should be secure in anything but extreme weather/wave conditions. Foot pegs are adjustable while paddling.
Not so good -- OT marketing info is not accurate: boat does not have paddle holder as advertised. Published cockpit measurements are not accurate, cockpit is actually longer but narrower. I also doubt the boat weighs the cited 54 pounds!
In all, a very good light tourer, suitable for most large guys [but not too big in the butt!]. It appears OT has a real winner with this boat, being a very good compromise of stability, speed, storage, and larger than normal cockpit size.
100,000+ people can't be wrong!
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