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I bought from Dagger because of its build quality but this was unexpected. It tracks, and controls exceptionally well on the sea and was very happy with the ample of space in the hatches, very comfortable seat for long journeys and well outfitted.
Overall, I would recommend this kayak to anyone, i am very happy with the kayak and i enjoy paddling it
This Yak NEEDS the skeg/rudder system down all times! It handles like it was a 16' Yak with some mild rocker. With the rudder up...the hull will turn with no forward movement...great for gymkhanas & figure 8 races!! One has to use too many corrective strokes, so the rudder is a must! This rudder (aluminum) needs to be kept free of sand or it will jam, so I redesigned it with a mounted spring attachment & Zip ties!!!! The spring keeps the rudder forced down & the zip movement help flush out any sand!! This modify works great & I use the skeg/rudder all the time!!!
All in all really nice & did I mention some speed! I own a 17' Tempest & a 12' Pungo, with I used to compare too. I also have paddled many other Yaks, as I belong to a Paddling Club.
I am very impressed with this kayak, it doesn't feel too sluggish, is fun in chop and waves, and is very responsive without the skeg deployed,and tracks well with the skeg down, it could do with a bit more buoyancy in the bow to give a drier ride but considering its designed as a flatwater kayak it performs very well in waves and chop, it's good fun in a following sea, comfort is good, I'm 6ft, 75kg and the 14ft model fits me better than the rather fat-assed 15ft version. Hatches seem pretty good at keeping the water out, I painted mine black for cosmetic reasons.
Recommended as a good general purpose kayak for easy sea trips, easy rivers and flatwater.
This boat is great for me - stable, comfortable, easy to get in and out of. Thighbraces sit well on my legs and I don't have aches after 2 hours on board - first boat I've had that on. As I said it is stable - but obviously not like an Acadia - which allows me to focus on paddling technique, understanding water conditions etc but it is still dynamic enough for me to learn about how kayaks work. It leans over quite well - I can just about get the spraydeck wet on the left - need to work on the other side - and is predictable so I know when I've reached that point. And when it goes over it's very stately - plenty of time to get a brace in (and take a precautionary breath) and when you do go over the generous cockpit lets you get out easily (all capsizes have been deliberately induced just in case you thought I was contradicting myself about the stability).
Crosswinds and the skeg seem to work well - I like the idea of a skeg compared to a rudder because I think I'd struggle to co-ordinate my feet on a rudder and also it makes me work more on sweep strokes and leaning to induce a turn (which is wierd 'cos it's the opposite of how you do it on a motorbike - leaning out!?)
So 2 final points - Firstly - Am I qualified to post a review? I'm not an expert kayaker so this review is only relevant to an average sized novice looking to test or buy a touring/coastal type boat. These people can decide for themselves from what I've put above.
Secondly - why "only" a 7? Easy - 5/6 is average. This boat is above average - it does what I expected it to do in the way I expected it to do it. It's clearly not perfect - all kayak designs are a myriad of compromises - it's great for me now but in 2 years time I may want something a bit more lively for some occasions which means I'll have to buy another boat (don't tell my wife). So it can't evolve with me. That's a 7 in my perfectionist view.
The boats handle exceptionally well for their size and construction material. Acceleration is good and tracking, sans skeg is also excellent. I have not used the skeg except on one occasion on the Hudson River where a quartering wind was being particularly obnoxious. It turns fairly tightly for a 15' boat.
The fore deck design allows chop to easily break over the bow and, if you're not wearing a skirt, you'll end up with a wet bottom (perhaps, if the chop is bad enough you'll end up with a wet bottom whether or not you're using the skirt!) Storage capacity is excellent for day trips and possible short multi-day trips. The hatch covers seem to work pretty well in keeping things dry within.
The fancy seat, for me, seems to be a mixed blessing. It is a little too sophisticated and, I fear that the pump/hose/valve mechanism may be short-lived. In addition, I don't find the seat particularly comfortable (I am 6' tall and fairly thin). This aspect will probably end up getting modified as I get more used to the boat.
Another "drawback", if you can really call it that, is the fact that there is not provision for fastening a back-pack or other "bundles" on deck, nor a compass for that matter. I very much dislike, if at all avoidable, drilling holes in boat. I resolved this issue by forcing wire-ties through the holes through which the deck bungees are laced and attaching a 1" ring (Home Depot variety) to each wire tie so that I now have an attachment point for a bungee cord or line to hold anything that I may want to carry on either the fore or aft decks. Our use of the boats so far has been on lakes and estuaries near home (fairly bland stuff) and on the Hudson River for short stints. We are looking forward to more extensive "sea-trials" on bigger, rougher water but as the end of the season nears this may have to wait 'till next spring.
We have been using a Thule J-Type cartop carrier (usually without the front and rear ratchet ropes, only with the straps) and have had no indication of "oil-barreling" or deformations of any kind. We normally cinch those straps down pretty tight to ensure that kayaks stay in place in spite of my driving style(!?).
Overall, I would buy mine again and my wife, although very happy with hers, feels that a 14' version might have been a better choice.
I first took this kayak out on some of the local slow moving rivers here in Concord, NH. I was a little worried that a 15 foot boat might not be maneuverable enough in these sometimes cramped conditions, but I had no problems.
I then took the boat with me up to Moosehead Lake in Maine. This is where this boat really showed its stuff. I went out with it on a series of very windy days. This is where the skeg really demonstrated its worth, especially when I had a quartering wind at my back. With my old kayak it was really a struggle to stay on course under these conditions, but with the Charleston's skeg down it was no problem at all. Wow, what a difference. I did not find that it veered to the left with the skeg down like some of the other reviewers. However, I do agree with the last reviewer that the skeg can easily become stuck in the up position. This happened to me one day when the rear carry handle became draped over the skeg line when I lauched; it prevented the skeg from dropping. Now I always check to make sure the skeg is operating freely before I launch.
I was surprised when the last reviewer again mentioned oilcanning being a problem. I strapped my Charleston onto two J Style kayak carriers (Thule) without front or rear tie downs. I then drove 280 miles averaging 75 mph. When I took the kayak off of the car there wasn't even a hint of a dent. I had assumed the new hull materials they were using cured the oilcanning problem. It may have something to do with the fact that my kayak was manufactured in May 2004.
I was going to rate this boat a 9 because of the sticking skeg, but I finally decided that in view of all of its other attributes this would have been nitpicking. Overall the Charleston 15 is a solid 10.
The Charleston tracks like a plum line when the skeg is down, feels like it compromises some hull speed though. It would be nice if the skeg could've been springloaded it gets stuck a lot and always at the worst time! I love the aircore inflatable lumbar and ass support! (new for 2004) it makes for one of the most comfortable kayak seats ive ever sat in. the seat was even more comfortable then Wilderness Systems hyped-up Phase Three seats. Im a little curious as to how long it will last before it stops working though. watch out for the air release valve, it comes off easily.
I did a multi day trip with this boat in the in the Raquette lake area of the Addirondacks. I was able to bring enough "stuff" for three nights. pack sparingly in this boat! The internal storage capacity is limited carry a lot on deck.
An innovation that Watermark has introduced to the 2004 roto-molded boats is a new "revolutionary" plastic they call, Exolar. Exolar is supposed to be " 40% stronger and stiffer" then the previous plastics used. they say that it will take bigger hits and last longer. From what I have seen so far I think its bull crap! I have only had my Charleston for about three months and it is already covered with some pretty significant gouges and scratches. and this is not from abuse either. the plastic scratches just as easy as my older kayaks.
As previously stated in some of the last reviews. The oilcanning in this boat is terrible I would recommend cartopping it upside down. v Though there may be a few flaws with this boat, you cant go wrong with the price. Im a poor college student so for me a composite touring kayak is out of the question. the dagger Charleston is a great combination of responsiveness, speed and touring ability at an attractive price.
Last week we had a beautiful spring day with winds of 10-15 mph. several of us met on a small lake for some exercise. I was working on everything except rolls. The boat tracked well with and without the skeg. I like the idea of installing a cam on the skeg line to enable finding the neutral position for the skeg.
I expect to be doing some day touring on Lake Michigan this summer. I will tender my experiences in this regards. My rating is based upon very limited experience to allow room for reappraisal.
The Prijon that we used in the roll class was signifcantly easier to roll due to the narrower beam providing a lower aspect ratio.
Another point that may have value regarding cartopping. I have a Cadillac DeVille, I am six foot even. I find it very easy to place the boat on either foam blocks or an old pair of racks made for rain gutters which I adapted to the gutterless top of this '95 Caddy. Significantly I would like to offer this thought to the person that is using bungy cords. I used bungy cords for years cartopping canoes. I never had a bad experience, however, I credit that to the fact that I inspected and changed them frequently at the first sign of weather, sun, or any sign of a crack or weakness in the rubber. Today I prefer the web straps with ratchets. One over the center thru the open doors and one on each end. I recently had a chance to demonstrate my system of using foam blocks without rack and three web straps as above to a friend under quite extreme circumstances. Forty to fifty mph crosswinds alongside of tractor-trailer rigs with no movement of the craft. I usually place the kayak, cockpit down. It is my belief that this is the most streamlined profile and it does not cause denting of the hull from the stress of the ratcheted down web straps. My vehicle has an instant fuel usage readout that informs me as to the efficiency of the vehicle at all speeds and wind conditions. In addition, it provides me with an average fuel usage. Over fifteen hundred miles of driving I am averaging 20.1 mpg.. This started with a 750 mile trip without any bike or kayak on the vehicle. At this point the average was 21.6. The next 750 was more urbanized driving with kayak or bike or both affixed.
The only negative I have is that with the skeg deployed, the boat wandered to the left. So, I put a small bend in the skeg blade, which made the tracking perfect. Also, the velcro strips that the factory put in the skeg slot came loose and then jammed the skeg, so I removed them. They're unnecessary.
I believe all larger people would enjoy the Charleston 15. I feel that it's too big for a smaller person though. The bottom line is that I really enjoy paddling this boat. It's a keeper.
I have had no trouble keeping it straight without a skeg unless I am in a quarteing following sea. It takes a bit of practice and skill to go really straight but as I get better as a paddler I find that some problems disappear. I use the skeg in bad water and admit that the skeg on this boat drops very deeply so when it is deployed turning is more difficult. I came up with a solution to this. replace the hook cleat with a clench cleat and it will then allow you to use different levels of the skeg and you can fine tune the ride. If I drop the skeg just a little it will make going straight easier but still turns smartly. The more skeg you use the easier the tracking but the less quickly it turns.
The boat is quite fast for a 14' kayak and is comfortable to sit in. I really like this boat I just wish it had thigh braces. No oil canning yet and it is easy to heft on one shoulder. I really like this boat and it is a keeper.
It has front and rear hatches and bulkheads which I still wanted and a spacious cockpit, which I also wanted. I found that even without the skep I could track well enough but with the skeg down it runs like its on a rail. The boat also handles well and can be turned adequately with the skeg down. Popping the skeg up gramatically improves the turning ability but as most of my paddling is in the Gulf of Mexico with strong currents the straight traking is more important to me so the skeg will probably be used a lot. The seat is comfortable and the boat had good speed for a 14 footer.
I'll admit I prefer the Prijon double hatch covers to the rubber ones on the dagger boats but I guess you can't have everything. The boat also seems to be totally unimpressed by wind, probably due to the low rear deck. All In all I really like the boat and recommend it highly.
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