I promised my daughter a new kayak to replace her Venus 11 that was stolen and never found. The requirements were, in order: light weight, good speed, manuverability, use in small waters or at the beach (fairly calm surf). It also should have some stability as Mrs. Catch would be using it at times. The finalists came down to:
Ocean Kayak Venus 11
Ocean Kayak Caper
Hurricane Skimmer 128
Perception Tribe 115
I already have a Caper, and it's a great all-around performer. I figured that one of the girls could use the Caper when they paddled together. At least that was the excuse I gave to add a little variety to the plastic navy.
The Venus 11 was the early leader. There were reasons why Cokie loved that boat, and those reasons were still valid.
However, the Hurricane Skimmer quickly got our attention. Promoted as being designed by renowned yacht architect Ward Setzer, it was a new series the company added for 2013. It's thermoformed hull looked absolutely gorgeous (just like my Diablo which is also thermoformed). Thermo hulls also have lighter hull weight per size and typically faster performance. Here are the dimensions:
Length - 12'8"
Width - 28"
Weight - 43 lbs
Capacity - 300 lbs.
One thing I noticed online was that this boat has the entry profile of a 14-foot boat.
Being a fairly new boat from a small company, there was hardly any info on the internet about the Skimmer 128. We did find out that there was a companion boat, the Skimmer 116, introduced a few months ago. Absolutely nothing on this boat.
Even so, Cormier's 2nd law says "Try before you buy". So Cokie and I contacted Blake Gill over at Masseys (which carries the Hurricane) about any demos coming up in the next few weeks. Nothing we could both attend. Blake suggested we rent a 128 demo from the New Orleans store. Cost was $25 and we could use that as a credit.
So we contacted Dane at Masseys New Orleans and made the arrangement. Thursday afternoon we picked up the Skimmer 128 and took it to Bayou St. John. We ran thru a battery of tests, including some fly fishing from the boat.
- this yak is FAST! After the Tarpon 160, the fastest sit-on-top I've ever paddled. On a hard paddle, Cokie maxed out at 6.0mph on the GPS. A light cruising speed for me was 3.8mph, 4.2mph for her (she's a swimmer and with her long arms, when she paddles, she goes!)
- tracks like an arrow!
- very good manuverability
- low wind resistance
- lots of storage capacity
- very comfortable built-in seat (I'd prefer detached, Cokie prefers built-in)
FYI, the paddle we used was my Carlisle Magic Plus with fiberglass handle. This paddle has a lot of power per stroke. We also tried her Aquabound Sting Ray (also fiberglass paddle). The Aquabound is a few ounces lighter and a better blade for long distance touring. The speed wasn't quite as fast though.
- initial stability was not very good, a little less than the Venus 11 and a lot less than the Caper. Secondary stability was much better.
- rigging is poor.
The bungee over the cargo area uses ONLY enclosed eye pads, so there's no way to rig the bungee to strap down a milk crate. Also, no side paddle strap. And no eye pads to connect a paddle strap. Also, the area in front of the seat has no non-slip pads (thermo boats can get slippery).
I even did some fly fishing from this boat. There's absolutely no way you'd ever want to do standup fishing, even though it has a flat leg area. However, sitting down is the way I've done 90-percent of my kayak fishing over the years and it works quite well from this boat (if you're not using a lot of upper body motion to false cast... which you should NEVER do regardless of where you're casting).
For Cokie, the pros outweighed the cons. Speed and handling are addictive! Also, Masseys was offering a great closeout deal, so we decided to get one located at their BR store. On Friday, I went to buy it, and next to a gorgeous lime 128 was a gorgeous blue 116.
The Skimmer 116 only came out this spring. Here are the dimensions:
Length - 11'6"
Width - 30.5"
Weight - 39 lbs
Being a bit wider than the 128, my thought was the 116 might be a bit more stable and better choice. But just to make sure, I called Hurricane Kayaks and spoke to a young woman who frequently paddles both boats. She recommended the 116 for what we would be using (she described the 128 as a better distance-touring SOT, the 116 as a better overall rec boat).
So I bought the 116. This afternoon we took it out to University Lake for it's initial float. Since there's practically NO info on this boat anywhere on the web, hopefully what I'm reporting will be of value to potential Skimmer 116 buyers.
- This boat is still fast. We hit 5.2mph on a hard paddle, and 3.4-3.6 when cruising.
- Stability. Better than the 128, and possibly a little better than the Tarpon 120 I used to own.
- great manuverability, 2 strokes and I'm 180 degrees.
- Ultralight hull weight... 39 pounds.
- Cargo area still big enough for milk crate or 28-quart Igloo ice chest.
- Seat same as the 128 very comfortable for a built-in seat.
- a little better wind resistance than the 128
- tracking not as good as 128. It wiggles about 6 inches on a hard stroke. However, if you feather at a cruising speed, you can get it down to almost nothing.
- Rigging. Same issue as the 128.
Fortunately, the major issue with both boats is the rigging and that's fixable. Just seems to me Hurricane could spend the few extra dollars and install the basics.
Overall, the Skimmer 116 was an excellent choice. This boat has the combination of great looks, outstanding speed and handling, and very light hull weight.
Now for some pics...Skimmer 128 demo (silver/white)Skimmer 116