My nephew, Chip, helped design all of the websites for Confluence Water Sports, which includes Perception Kayaks, Dagger Kayaks, Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Mad River Canoes, Harmony, and a bunch of other brand names. As such, he had an early heads up that Confluence was having it’s first ever public sale at it’s corporate headquarters at the old Perception plant in Easley. Demos and seconds were going to be offered at ridiculously low prices. So on Friday Chip and several of his work buddies headed over and bought a boatload of …well, boats. The most convenient place to try all of this out was at our little lake, so this weekend we held the first ever Lake Fairfield Paddlefest.
Late Friday afternoon the flotilla arrived – a total of six kayaks of various types to add to the five I already have in the back yard. Chip, his wife Anna, and two of his work colleagues, Ed and Chris, were there to give the boats a trial run.
We hauled all of the boats down to the back yard and began the launch procedure. Chris launched first. He had bought a Wilderness Systems Tarpon, and wanted to test its stability as a fishing platform.
Ed is a very tall guy. He hadn’t bought a boat, but just wanted to see which would fit his large frame. He picked a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 that Chip had bought for his trial.
Chip had bought several kayaks. One of these is a Perception Tribute, a smaller touring boat marketed toward women, and which he had bought for Anna. Even though eight months pregnant, Anna wanted to give it a try.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the most stable of boats. With her center of mass a bit off, as soon as she launched Anna rolled the boat. So, we put her in my very stable Old Town Dirigo, and she did just fine.
That left me and Chip. In addition to the Pungo 120, he had bought a Pungo 140. While not as tall as Ed, Chip is still a big guy. The Pungo 140 was perfect for him.
Chip had gotten another Pungo 120 for me. I could have gotten a 140. While this would have meant a bit more storage and speed, I thought that the extra 2 feet might make it hard to negotiate the rivers in this area.
So we set out, and spent a nice evening out on our little lake. It’s probably the most boats that have been on that little lake in a long time.
Chris took his Tarpon home with him, but Chip left the rest of the boats at my house. So, Saturday morning I got up early and decided to to give the boats a real comparison. I took each one out and gave it a spin around the lake.
My first run was on the Pungo 140. I wanted to see if the extra two feet would really make a difference in terms of speed and handling. As far as speed was concerned, I couldn’t tell much difference, at least on our little lake. If there was any difference between it and the 120, it was that the longer boat was harder to turn.
I tried to take out the Perception Tribute. I couldn’t fit into it at all, not even on dry ground. I would need to do lots of adjusting to accommodate my fat frame, and it was doubtful I was going to launch it by myself.
I wanted to do a comparison between my Old Town Dirigo and my new Pungo 120. They are comparable boats, both 12 feet long, and are designed for similar purposes. I figured that paddling one right after the other would give me a good feel for them.
The Dirigo by far has the most comfortable seat. Anna even said that she wanted it in her living room. I need to do some repair work on the Pungo’s seat, but it’s adequate. Both would be fine on a longer day trip.
Both boats have similar storage, and sealed bulkheads. The Dirigo has a built-in storage deck with cup holder and dry well, which is nice. It also has much more deck rigging for strapping on gear. The cockpit is a bit larger on the Pungo, so items strapped to the front are harder to reach. Even so, my new spray skirt fits both boats.
Both boats took about the same muscle power to manage at slower speeds, and handled about the same. The difference comes when you reach cruising speed. The Pungo tends to glide across the water a bit better, but is much harder to turn. The Dirigo has great stability and is much more maneuverable. Both are worlds better than the Perception Torrents I own, but neither would take whitewater like those boats.
Later Saturday Chip came back over and my sister Glynda joined us. She had never been in a kayak before. Given Anna’s experience of the previous evening we decided to put Glynda in the Dirigo. She did fine, launching well and paddling on out into the lake.
Chip somehow managed to fit his tall frame into the little Perception Tribute. Even with him riding low in the water, he found it to be a very fast boat. He spent the time zipping around us in large circles. At slower speeds it was much less stable, especially with someone as large as Chip in it.
Chip had one last boat that hadn’t been tested, a Perception Manatee with an L. L. Bean label on it which he had bought for his father. It’s a 10 foot boat, and doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the others, such as sealed bulkheads. Still, it was a perfectly serviceable boat for a little lake like ours, and would probably be fine for river trips such as the the Edisto. It would be a fine boat for knocking around, but probably not the boat you would want a long trip.
We’re thinking the boats need testing on a larger body of water. Sometime over this holiday weekend (weather permitting) we may take the boats up to either Lakes Robinson or Cunningham. We’re looking forward to being able to take lots of trips with friends with our armada.