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I started with the usual cheap 9.5 foot kayaks that everyone has started with (an Old Town Otter and a Perception), but they "waddle" and are slow. The Pamlico 120 is pretty fast for its size and tracks like a dream.
I bought a Pungo 120 this year, thinking it would be a nice second kayak. I assumed it was a better boat, since it retails over $200 more than the Pamlico. Not so! The Pamlico's flat channeled hull is better tracking into a current (I am usually heading up river on the Niagara so there's a constant current), better in chop, more fun for "surfing", better in shallow water. Meanwhile, the Pungo has a V-hull that gets caught by a current if you are paddling into it and wants to turn. It's also less maneuverable than the Pamlico, and it seems less stable too (tippy, while the Pamlico sits rock-steady). For the money, the Pamlico 120 is just a superior boat. May not have all the bells and whistles, but it's safe, dependable and fast.
Very, very stable in high waves and swells. In moderate water, it's kind of like paddling a brick. It isn't elegant but it gets me where I need to go. Holds a surprising amount of gear.
The boat is a good combination of speed, comfort, stability and price. It is about as stable as one can get, yet it is surprisingly good on speed. The seat, a phase 3 lite is actually more comfortable than my other boat with a phase 3 because the open nature of the cockpit allows you to sit many different ways to combat stiffness and fatigue. You can sit with your feet on the pegs, sit indian style, bring your knees up or even put your feet up on the deck. I outfitted mine with plumbing pipe insulation over the coaming to pad the knees but I think the newer models come with padding on the coaming.
Wilderness systems rates the boat for class 2 rapids - it can be done but I would not recommend it. The boat can take a beating and be OK but it is not designed to do well in rapids because it is so long - you will likely end up broaching and water will pour into the cockpit. Likewise it is unwise to take it out on the big open water on windy days because the cockpit is so wide that even with a sprayskirt big enough, a big wave could easily come down and punch right through it. On the other hand, small riffles are no problem and the boat is ideal for slow rivers and lakes.
It's a great boat to fish from because you have room to maneuver with your gear. It has enough room to camp for one or two days out of it. I have had this boat ALL OVER the place and I trust it. The price was right for what I could afford and I would not want to go cheaper. I don't care how non-committal you are, don't buy a cheap inflatable kayak from Dicks unless you want to be disappointed. This is a good boat to start on and you won't outgrow it either.
I can spend 4 hours at a stretch lounging in the spacious cockpit with a flyrod in my hand. Takes me to incredibly shallow areas I could only see from a distance when in a boat. Big rivers or tiny streams are all accessable now - and I don't have to wait in line to launch or trailer. I sold my boat and motor...
Very stable. Plenty of storage space inside and out. Tracks straight, turns easy. You gotta try it to believe it. After trying others, I feel this is the best all-around kayak for someone seeking the freedom of a motorcycle on the water.
It does sit a bit low in the water from the seat on back, but I weigh 275 plus my fishing gear, so I'm not complaining. The only time I took on a little water was when I went sideways in to the trough of a wave and it broke over the top of the gunnels/coaming. When I am in the yak the water line is probably six inches below the cockpit coaming. I can still easily lean it over until the water is at the cockpit and hold it there, even thought he boat is designed for initial stability. It turns very well yet tracks straight, which is a hard balance to achieve.
I was going to purchase a rudder kit, but after paddling it, there is no need. About the only thing I will add is an additional rod holder behind the seat.
This boat is slow, but tracks pretty well. I jumped out of the boat and could reenter without the need of a paddle float. But the huge cockpit does let lots of water in. The Phase 3 seat is great, very comfortable.
Bottom line: Great boat for kids, newbies, or when you just want to feel stable and not deal with bracing in rough water. Also a great platform for photography and fishing, due to the stability. If you want speed, agility, look elsewhere. But for an inexpensive all purpose boat, the Pamlico 120 is a good choice.
It appears a little more tippy than the Walden, I am 6'1 and 235# and top heavy. Seems to 'swamp' a lot faster, possible being a flatter profile. A lttle easier to manover and I think definitely faster on the water. But the triple V hull and more pronounced rear tail seemed to 'follow' any rock I ran into preventing it from being turned away. The rear hatch is not possible to open from the seat on the water, the Sunapee is. But having the stern (supposedly) watertight-(have to double check the caulking-think I popped some) nothing got wet and it was also 300% easier to dump out the water when it swamped. Had to do that several times-didn't take much of a wave to fill it, but a little easier once I got used to tipping away from incoming water. As soon as I can get a skirt, I'll use it!
The seat seems to be too far back-I'm going to try and move it forward if possible. Plenty of room for my long legs, but the fixed pegs can be inconvenient compared to adjustable. The 'pullcord' for adjusting the back of the seat continually loosened up-finally tied it in a knot and it stayed. If I could put the seat and the sealed compartment from the Pamlico in my Sunapee-I'd have I think the perfect boat for me.
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