I have narrowed my choices down to the Dagger Alchemy 14L’, Necky Manitou 14 and the Tsunami 140. I paddle in rivers, lakes and hope to hit coastal lake michigan. Let me know what you think, thanks. Kevin
Out of curiosity…
... did you rent or demo some boats to narrow it down to those three?
If so, what did you love about these three that set them apart from the rest? I ask, 'cuz I'm looking to buy in the next couple of months myself, and it'll be interesting to see how my impressions square with those of others.
I've rented the Looksha 14, which is more or less the rudder-boat equivalent to the skegged Manitou 14 you're looking at (both are made by Necky).
I liked the Looksha, it was stable but not 'rec kayak dead' stable, it had decent speed and responded well to my accelerations, tracked well enough on the slough I used it in, turned well enough without the rudder, and *very* well with (though I personally don't like rudders much).
What I didn't like was the cockpit, so much... while the seat was comfortable and had good back support (a big plus for me), the cockpit itself was more narrow than I was used to (16.5").
I'm a somewhat bigger guy at 5'10" 235lbs, so it was a chore getting out. I even slashed my thigh on the coaming, which was a bummer. =[
Of course, I'm new-ish to the sport, and as such, don't have enough basis of comparison to be too finicky (yet). Others here have paddled tons of boats, and will be able to be more discerning.
Speed and maneuverability
I just did the same check on another thread, so am not going to repeat it here. But if you read the manufacturer’s statements carefully for these three boats, you’ll find that the Alchemy is tuned more to maneuverability than speed compared to the other two. Personally I think is a LOT more fun, but I have another boat to take out if I want speed. For learning more advanced skills, I’d guess the Alchemy is the friendliest of the 3, though harder for me to say because I fit the smaller versions of things.
Demo these boats and others as well. All three of the boats you list are fine boats for many. My personal bias among them is for the Alchemy as a fun boat designed for a target audience that includes not only novices but also skilled paddlers. It is the most playful of the boats you list.
The Tsunami will undoubtedly have the most cargo capacity (if camping is one of your goals) and probably has the most comfortable cockpit and seat.
The Alchemy and Manitou are skeg boats while the Tsunami has a rudder option. Your skills will probably progess further with the Alchemy or Manitou.
My wife has the Tsunami 140 and it is a good match for what she likes to do. We do the same type of paddling you decribe with lots of camping thrown in. She is really not interested in progressing her skills so the comfort and stability of the Tsunami are perfect for her.
Try Native or Liquid LogicInuit14