Hey there! I’m fairly new to kayaking, having in the past done an occasional recreational paddle down stretches of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. After doing a couple recreational trips on NE Illinois rivers with my brother, who owns two cheap rec boats, I decided to take the plunge and buy my own boat.
Easier said than done. Eventually, a shop owner talked me into buying a new Dagger Stratos 12.5L. At first, I thought I’d made a big mistake, and should have waited to buy a rec kayak like the Pungo 12 whenever they become available again. But I’ve started to really enjoy the Stratos.
So I thought I’d reach out to other Stratos 12.5L owners and ask what kind of kayaking do you do with your boat? When do you and don’t you use the skeg? Any tips for a new kayaker on getting comfortable in this boat with secondary stability, paddling on edge, etc.?
Possibly helpful details: I’m an avid mountain biker and yoga enthusiast, so I’m in pretty good shape, 6’3" and 215 lbs. (could stand to lose about 10-15 pounds).
I just picked up a spray skirt and took the boat out with if for the first time this past Sunday, and also had my first capsize on a quarry lake, thankfully pretty close to shore.
Grateful for any advice, dos/don’ts, tips, etc.
I have owned a Stratos 14.5L for a few years. Great, versatile boat. Definitely not a speed demon, but adequate considering the versatility. It spins on a dime with the skeg up, and is actually quite difficult to turn if you forget that it’s down. Generally, full skeg downwind or if you’re lazily touring in a straight line. No skeg upwind or if you’re maneuvering. Variable deployment between the two based on what the boat is or isn’t doing.
Step 1: Learn to capsize and re-enter the boat. Get very comfortable, confident and proficient with this.
Step 2: Learn to paddle efficiently.
After that it really depends what sort of paddling you want to do and where. For bigger open water you’ll do better with a boat that’s 15’ or more.
Always wear your PFD. Don’t just have it along.
I only have experience with the 14L, so I don’t know if this applies to the 12.5L, but here goes:
The distance from the rear cockpit edge to the bulkhead behind the seat is very long. This makes it difficult to empty the water out of the cockpit after a capsize. On any other sea kayak, you can just lift the bow and turn the kayak upside down, and almost all water will drain out. Not the Dagger 14L.
If I owned this kayak myself, I would install foam under the rear deck, filling out that void where the water is trapped when the kayak is upside down. That way it will be possible to drain it using standard procedure.
Very true indeed.
So long as you keep the bow as low as possible when dumping, most of the water will come out. Definitely I’d agree about some modifications if one had to do a lot of emptying.
It does make for a good storage area for a dry bag in lieu of a day hatch. I use one of the backband straps to secure it.
The Stratos is a super kayak whether the 12.5 or 14.5. Definitely a good decision to purchase the 12.5 on your part.
Obviously the longer version is more suited to distance travel or open water situations. Otherwise, the Stratos line is a very good “all round” kayak. It is excellent at being good at many things, however not the best at anything = a super Swiss army knife kayak to own, paddle, and enjoy. Your 12.5 is really limited only by your personal paddling skills.
And, good, efficient paddling skills are most quickly developed as a new (or even experienced paddler) by finding an ACA or BCU instructor for basic kayak skills & kayak safety lesson(s).
PS - I own and paddle a 14.5L when not in my NDK Explorer HV sea kayak.