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The Good: Ample sealed rear storage, good deck strapping, air adjustable seat, with the skeg up it maneuvers nice in fast moving water, with the skeg down it runs nice in calm water. The price was great.
The Bad: The boat won't track in open water with the skeg up. There is no drain plug. Mine doesn't have knee or thigh braces. A little on the heavy side.
The boat will do whatever you want it too. It's built like a tractor and laughs at rocks and oyster beds. The 12.5 is not the best choice for multi-day trips on open ocean, but has served me quite well on four-day trips downriver. I would feel comfortable in this boat for longer trips on open water, but the group will most likely have to slow down for you. While the wind is not too hard to overcome, ocean currents can turn paddling into more of a chore than you're buddies with directional rudders have to deal with. I bought the boat because when I want to get on the water, I don't want to deal with a 17' plus monster, want to worry about a rock ending the life of a $2,000 boat, and I want to feel confident alone and a long way from home. The Blackwater has served me well. The sexier boats catch my eye regularly, but I've never felt at a loss out on the water.
I use the boat several times per week on a large reservoir. It is fine for relatively calm flat water. It also works well on calm rivers. The boat has adequate storage for day trips. It is also very stable (at a cost [see paragraph II]). The Blackwater is very forgiving. It does not take long to learn the characteristics of the boat which allows the paddler to be able to control the boat (in the right water) without the drop skeg in relatively short order.
Overall I give the boat a 6.5.
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