Necky Manitou 146R
L: 14'6"; W: 24.5"; 54 lbs.
The Manitou looks like a shrunken version of one of Necky's popular expedition kayaks, though we were happy to discover the performance wasn't downsized. The generous bow rocker shed waves and easily handled the rough-water chop on the Strait of Georgia. And the flatter, less aggressive stern allowed the Manitou to both turn with ease and track well, a rare double. Even without a rudder, the Manitou went from straight-lining the open crossings to navigating tight rock-garden turns on Hornby Island. And with gobs of stability we felt comfortable leaning over to get a better view of the tidal life below. The roomy cockpit provided plenty of room to stretch legs, making up for the lower deck height and thigh-brace position, which forced some paddlers too far into the frog-like splay. The rubbery foam outfitting--"Croc-ed out" in the words of one tester--was all-day comfortable. And then there's our favorite feature, a molded day-hatch ahead of the cockpit, just beyond paddle strokes but easily reached. With a slick mix of well-thought features, stability and performance, the Manitou encapsulates this category and could be a lot of boats to a lot of people: day-tripper, weekend explorer, and especially a great boat to progress as a sea kayaker.
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