The SS Guacamole
This is my kayak. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
For my first kayak blog post, I'll talk about my boat. I've owned power boats in the past. But when I decided that I needed a boat for fishing, I knew that I didn't want full-sized power boat. I didn't want to deal with the time and expense of storage, trailering, maintenance, and fuel. So I decided to get a yak. Frankly it sounded like more fun to fish from a kayak. Getting pulled around the lake by a monster catfish sounded like a blast! And paddling would be great exercise besides.
On the day I got her, I christened my boat the SS Guacamole because, well, just look at her! This model boat doesn't come in the usual camo-pattern colors of most angling kayaks. The color aesthetic is decidedly more festive than predatory. So I went with a high visibility color set which is not a bad idea for a small, low-slung boat on the large reservoirs near my home.
The Guacamole is a FeelFree Corona, which is one of FeelFree's recreational kayaks, which is more of a marketing thing than a technical capabilities thing. Most kayaks can be outfitted well for fishing, and I've done that with mine. I'll talk about the outfitting I've performed in future posts.
Why did I choose the Corona? Several reasons. First, it was within my budget parameters. I'm a bit of a stickler on that. I have a lot of competing priorities when it comes to money, so I try to be disciplined, set a budget, and stick to it.
Second, I liked the Corona's size and versatility. I knew I wanted a tandem so I could take my kids fishing. But even though the Corona is called a "tandem", at 13' and with a capacity of 617 lbs, she can reasonably accommodate 3 people and there's even a molded location and fittings for a third seat. So I can safely take both of my kids fishing, which is awesome. The seating can be set up for 1, 2, or 3 people, so when I want to fish with one other person, or all by myself, I can and it won't make the boat unbalanced.
The third reason is that of all the tandem kayaks that met my price, size, and capacity requirements, the Corona seemed like the one that would be the most manageable for a single person to load and transport. That's key because my wife is under doctor's orders not to lift heavy objects, my kids are too young to be of much help, and I do a fair amount of solo fishing. FeelFree's signature "wheel-in-the-keel" feature enables a single person to pick up the fore end and roll the kayak around easily. Of course, with a cart you can add that capability to any kayak, but having it built-in means you don't have to worry about where to store the cart when you get to the water. Also, the Corona has very robust molded-in handles, which are lot more comfortable, durable, and secure than the bolt-on handles on most kayaks. Combine all that with the right storage and transport systems, and that makes for a big (13' and 80 lbs) boat that can be safely managed by a single person.
The on-water performance is about what you'd expect from a tandem recreational kayak: very stable, but at the cost of speed and agility. She turns pretty slow, especially when paddled solo. The tracking is reasonable. She handles better with two people (faster, easier to turn, tracks straighter) and there's sufficient room for two paddlers to work without getting in each other's way. But she's completely manageable by a solo paddler. I deem the seats as "okay". The seat bottoms are a bit thin for long trips, so I've augmented them with 1" thick EVA seat cushions. The backs of the seats, on the other hand, are nice and supportive. Once adjusted (and it's a bit fiddly), they work really well.
The deck of the kayak is contoured with rounded corners. This looks pretty sleek but I'd much prefer a flat deck because it would provide a more stable surface for boxy objects you might put in the boat like tackle boxes, crates, and whatnot. Speaking of crates, tragically the rear tank well won't fit a standard sized one (13"x13"x11")! Well, it could but you'd need to build a little riser for the crate to make it stable. Drag.
In terms of amenities, the Corona is pretty spartan on features but there are a few nice touches. Of course, there are the built-in wheel and handles. It also has elegant recessed fittings for attaching the seats and other clip-ons. There are tank wells with bungee lacing at both the bow and stern. There are fore and aft paddle parks that are handy and functional. In fact they're nice enough that I wished they'd put a third one in the middle seating position. The Corona has two 8" hatches that provide access to the inside of the boat. These are handy for dry storage, but the rubber hatch covers are so tight that they're really tough to open and close! That makes them absolutely water-tight, but a real hassle to use while on the water. In fact I just don't do it because I don't believe I'll have the positional leverage to get the hatch covers back on while seated on the boat. I may replace the rubber covers with deck plates in the future if I can find some that will fit,.
In summary, here's my take on this yak:
- Versatile seating for 1, 2, or 3 people
- Plenty of storage, both internal and external
- Wheel in the keel
- Solid, sturdy, and easy-to-grip built-in handles
- Excellent weight capacity (617 lbs)
- Very stable
- Good fishing platform
- Good price
- Rear tank well doesn't fit a crate
- Contoured floor
- Hatch covers are a bitch to take on and off
- Slow and ponderous when operated solo
- Available colors