Dagger, Elie, Venture comparison.

-- Last Updated: Aug-13-13 9:42 AM EST --

I'm now considering the following for river, lake, perhaps sheltered water. Weekend camping trips are a definite possibility. Main concerns after fit are cruising (not top) speed, tracking, and maneuverability.

I'm interested in hearing comparisons between any two (or more) from people with experience in at least 2 of the models below.
FWIW: I'm 6'2", 175-180lbs, 33" inseam, Novice (lots of history, years apart, recent class, felt comfortable doing everything and a bit of tippiness didn't spook me).

Dagger Alchemy 14.0L
Elie Strait 140 XE
Venture Islay 14

(edit: removed Easky and Capella based on Ventures recommendation to go with the Islay)

Not really interested in anything else. I've researched nearly everything on the market and am at the point of analysis paralysis. Finding this group of boats (even 2 of them) locally has been impossible. Everybody rents 10-11 foot play boats. I may be traveling out of state to demo them, but would love any feedback you may have.

Thank you!

you paddle before you buy. Kayaks are a personal thing, and what I like as a feature, may be of little interest to you.

Why did Venture say to eliminate the Easky 15 as the specs are very close to the Islay 14? The leaky hatch Elie’s would alone eliminate them for me. With every splash of a wave, you get water in the hull? No thanks. Also check out a Necky Manitou 14 and Looksha 14 as both are known performers.

Wilderness Tsunami 140 might suit your requirements

Paddle time
I’ve plenty of paddle time on the Islay 14 & LV but can’t compare them with the other two you’ve listed. I don’t carry those brands.

Where are you located, statewide?

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY



Jim, the Islay has been stealing the spotlight from the Easky 15 and the Capella moves up to a 16’ format so there’s some logic to the Islay selection.

Take Elie of the list
I would go with the Dagger or Venture. I don’t know the Islay but the Easky is a nice boat and the Alchemy is also a nice boat. The Alchemy doesn’t seem to have a tone of room for camping. I don’t think the Elie’s are very well made.

Take Elie of the list
I would go with the Dagger or Venture. I don’t know the Islay but the Easky is a nice boat and the Alchemy is also a nice boat. The Alchemy doesn’t seem to have a ton of room for camping. I don’t think the Elie’s are very well made.

get butt tite
I would get into each boat and paddle it and see which feels best. As said by a previous responder, boat fit are very personal. What works for one may not work for another.

Also, you said “cruising (not top) speed, tracking, and maneuverability” - keep in mind that speed and tracking generally go together, but often at the expense of maneuverability. Opposite occurs - a maneuverable boat often does not track well nor hold speed well.

Hard to find
Venture kayaks are not the easiest to find in my area. The few big paddling stores that are supposed to carry them don’t seem to have them in stock often. My guess is they don’t carry a large number to begin with and they do seem popular enough that by the end of the season you might have a hard time finding one. I have been looking to demo an Easky myself as it is on my short list of touring kayaks that might fit me, but never been able to find one.

Elie is Pelican – seems to be a more upscale line for them and attempt to get away from being branded as lowend kayaks for sporting goods stores. Only ever seen them at REI – not sure what it is about their plastic but I just don’t like it.

We are coming to the end of the season, you may have issues finding exactly what you want at this time without road tripping or ordering online.

no butt time, no buy
there are enough decent kayaks out there (especially for general use, such as what you are looking for) that if I can’t find a particular model to try out, it is taken off the list of boats I consider.

Thank you everyone
I appreciate all of the feedback. I’ve been leaning heavily towards the Islay anyway. It seems more geared towards what I want to do than the Alchemy (and I was leaning heavily towards the Alchemy over the Elie… I just love the looks of that boat and am having a hard time letting go). I also like that the Islay is a bit narrower.

I agree that paddling would be idea. No place within 100 miles has anything that I’m looking at. Only one place has anything over 12 feet and I’ve already rented that. Looks like I’m taking a 5 hour round trip drive to VA this weekend.

Regarding Venture’s feedback (which came within 20 minutes of my emailing my question to them - a very good sign!), this is what they said when I sent my initial question in this thread (minus the Elie and Dagger, of course):

"Hi, I think we can safely say the Islay is going to be the best bet . The

Capella will not be very maneuverable . The Easky is an older model than the Islay, I think the Islay is just a better paddling boat that will be more

comfortable . If you can try them , I would. but if you have to buy without

paddling I would have to go with the Islay . "

I was a bit surprised myself to see the Easky so quickly dismissed as I’ve heard many good things about it, but considering the pros of the Islay:

  • fishing rod holder flats
  • security bar and paddle recess
  • standard skeg with optional rudder
  • Approximately 15% greater volume and same storage with similar load capacity in a 1ft shorter boat
  • slightly narrower width

    It’s difficult to find a pro (on paper) of the Easky that makes it more desirable than the Islay.

    It sounds to me like I’ve made up my mind. :slight_smile: Just need to gas up and go try 'er on.

    Thanks again!

Islay vs Easky
I can’t address why Venture is hustling the Islays over the Easkys – maybe they are just trying to get more of the new models out there. I love my Easky 15LV which is actually a little bit narrower than the Islay 14LV and quite a bit lower volume. The difference in width between the standard Islay and the Easky is only 1 cm. Overall, the Islay is more similar to the other boats you are looking at: steeper bow and higher volume stern. What I like about the Easky’s is their basically British style hull with the Greenland-like overshot bow and very low stern deck. Naturally, if you want more volume for hauling gear, the Islays look like a better bet. But I would bet on the Easky’s for a better ride in rough water and straighter tracking.

I have always suspected that some people were put off by the Greenland styling of the Easkys so I wonder if Venture is making the Islays a bit more similar to popular boats like the Tsunamis and Carolinas. But I can say that every time I have let anyone use my Easky, even people with a good amount of kayaking experience, they immediately react positively to it. To quote my brother, after his first seat time in it last Saturday, “Whoa, this kayak is SWEET”.

I don’t want LV because I plan on camping trips, or at least survivalist-style overnighters. I’ll be sure to try out the Easky while I’m up there. If I don’t, I’ll always be left wondering.

your location
You mention being 5 hours from VA – where are you located? North or South of VA? I ask because we are 5 hours N-NW of VA and might be selling a used Easky 15. My boyfriend bought it last Spring but says he likes the fit of my Easky 15LV a little better (he’s a former whitewater paddler and likes a snug fit). I found a used 15LV for sale used so we might replace his 15.

Also there is an outfitter here in Pittsburgh who offers on the water demos and stocks both Venture and Wilderness Systems (not Elie, though).

I’m near Cary, NC (outside of Raleigh). I’m driving up to Farmville, VA tonight to visit Appotmattox in the morning.

Follow-up review
I thought of posting this as a separate review, but in addition to having no social life (it’s 1am on a Saturday night and I’m typing reviews), I’m lazy and tend to make excuses… like “I feel that I owe it to the people following this thread to tell them how it all turned out”. :slight_smile:

Without farther ado, but with much hot air:

Islay LV: Tried it out just for kicks. I’m fairly tall (6’1" or 6’2" depending on what my spine is doing that day) and LV boats don’t really work for me, but it was already on the floor, so why not, right? Definitely meant for a smaller paddler. Even with the foot braces all the way out to the front of the boat, I could not sit in the seat and had trouble even fitting my size 12 shoes into the the front half of the cockpit.

Dagger Alchemy 14.0L (used demo model): I really liked the fit of this boat, equally (or at least 99%) as well as the Venture Islay. The hip pads made for a very comfortable and very snug fit, which I prefer. It did feel a little cheap. Seeing the used one (2013 model) with hatch lids still on and a significant amount of water (4-6") in the hatches raised concerns about them leaking, which was confirmed by the folks at Appomattox. Every time they do rescues or otherwise capsize this boat, they have to empty it out afterwards.

Elie Strait 140 XE: I really wanted to like this boat. The red top and white bottom gives it the semi-custom 'glass look but with the toss-it-on-the-rocks durability of a poly boat. The white bottom half is very smooth and shiny, like fiberglass. The red top is shiny, though not quite as smooth. The TST process they use has a white liner sheet inside the cockpit, making it look very neat and feeling less like a toy than other poly boats. The seat is super comfortable, and the width and foot brace placement worked pretty well for me. The best seat out of any boat I sat in. They did something very bizarre though: The thigh brace isn’t in the usual “3/4 of the way under the coaming” place. Instead, they hang out all the way into the cockpit opening making it not only completely useless (unless you are the type that paddles with legs straight instead of the more conventional diamond/frog shape), but they also made it difficult to get in the boat, and were positioned in such a way that I had concerns over the ability to extract myself if capsized… at least without significant tissue removal. This in itself would not have stopped me. I have no qualms about modifying equipment to suit my needs and would hack them off and put new braces where I need them. But the thigh brace issue, combined with the rudder pedals (rudder engaged = no foot bracing) plus reports of leaky hatches on every review I’ve read, PLUS REI just stopped carrying them (raising concerns about future support for this model), combined, it was just too much to overlook. I do love many things about this boat, and if I ever come across one for about 1/2 off retail, I’ll probably buy it, if for no other reason than to have a pretty boat and something for friends to paddle.

Which brings us to the:

Venture Islay 14: Hmm, what to say about this boat? Like the Alchemy, I really haven’t heard a bad word about it. Fit-wise, it’s so close with the Alchemy that if you took the hip pads out of the Alchemy and blindfolded me, I don’t think i could tell you which one I was in. Weight-wise (pick it up method), they are very much on par. This is going to be a tough choice. After 45 minutes of going back and forth, I’m still undecided. Time to make a list:

Pros of the Dagger:

- Hip pads

- Padded thigh braces

- Supposedly slightly more nimble, but doesn’t track quite as well.

Cons of the Dagger:

- The hatches, which may just need new lids; or perhaps the bulkheads leak. I haven’t read complaints about this in the past, but I’m standing there staring at a problem that is much worse than what anybody ever reported with the Elie.

- It’s single solid color poly makes it look a bit cheap for a boat over $1k.

- The above noted, If I had bought one unseen (and assuming the hatch issue is a fluke) I would be completely happy with this boat.

Pros of the Islay:

Walking around it, at first glance, it’s hard to find anything, but then sitting in it for a while, I begin noticing things…

- It’s 1-1.5" narrower: Something I desire since I do plan to get into a 20-22" boat in a couple of years.

- The simple rope-based multi-position skeg control.

- Is that? Yes, it is! Super high quality KayakSport hatches!

- The security lock

- The paddle holder/park

- The slick backband - harder to adjust, but the way it’s made, it can rise up high enough to give some real back support, but it’s held in place with bungee cord and will easily lower with a little pressure (and no adjustments) to stay out of the way.

- The fishing rod holder flats

- more comfortable carry handles.

- Enough space between the backhand and the bulkhead to store the FourPlay paddle float.

- The poly has a stone/pebble type finish, giving it a slightly higher quality look than the Dagger.

- The ability to add a rudder (it has a skeg, but some day I may decide that I want a rudder for fishing and/or photography - probably not, but maybe. It’s nice knowing the option is there).

- My email to Venture was answered in a matter of minutes (never had a reason to email Dagger or Elie Sport, so I can’t comment on their response time).

Cons of the Islay:

- Thigh braces have fabric, but no padding, and no hip padding (which the Alchemy has). It’s worth noting that the thigh braces are comfortable, but without padding, I’m not as locked-in as I’d like to be. This is easy to fix, and by doing so, I will have something that is custom fit to me… so to some extent, this is a pro, or at least neutral. The Dagger padding fit was pretty good, though not perfect. Since it’s already there, I would probably never change it (I love making things, I despise fixing things).

- It’s certainly not the looker that the Elie is, but few boats under $2k are. At the same time, it looks better than the Dagger.

- Those hatch lids are going to be a real b**ch until they loosen up a little.

Islay Neutral:

- The pod. It’s much smaller than the day hatches on the other boats, but given the quality seal of the KayakSport hatches on this boat (they are TOUGH to get on and off!), it’s almost a necessity - I simply would not use a day hatch that is a difficult to open as the other hatches on this boat. The pod is right in front of me within easy reach and gives a little more volume behind the bulkhead.

Needless to say, I ended up with the Islay 14. It’s not even so much the things they’ve done right (except for the KayakSport hatches, those count), but the lack of anything wrong that sold me on this boat.

In closing, a few notes:

  • Mfr’s lie their a**es off about weight. The Alchemy is supposedly 1 lb heavier than the Elie. The Islay supposedly weighs in at a svelte 45lbs… 9 lbs less than the Alchemy. To me, the Islay and Alchemy felt the same, as it did to two employees, and we each each had the same reaction to the much stiffer triple layer Elie: Nearly throwing it in the air after hefting up the other two. We didn’t have scales, but if there’s a lightweight between these three, it’s definitely the Elie.
  • I have to put in a few (ok, quite a few) good words for Appomattox River Company:
    • Even though they had customers lined up to the street, they spent over 2 hours with me, 1-on-1, making sure I understood everything and that every single question was answered. They even loaded the kayak on my (brand new, purchased elsewhere) Thule Hullavator and explained how to tie the boat down - and this was before I even paid for it!
    • Secondly, if you’ve never been there, you have GOT to see this place (the one on Main st in Farmville, VA). They don’t have much of a store front (it could fit in my master bedroom), but if you ever want to sit in and see a lot of boats, this is the place to go! If I had to guess, I would say they have over 1500 boats (not a typo) at this location, and according to one of the employees they have a warehouse with about another 1000 across town.
    • I was very hesitant about traveling this far, especially once I was told via email that I wouldn’t be able to paddle test 2 of the 3 boats I was interested in. I didn’t even ask, but they gave me such a large discount, that even having to pay tax, it was hundreds of dollars off - effectively paying for my motel room, gas, the cart, and couple of small items.
    • In person, the owner told the employee to let me test them once I got it narrowed down to 2 - (something I didn’t take them up on due to weather and me forgetting to bring my swim trunks or even shorts. Doh!) That’s a pretty big deal as they would have to sell the one that I didn’t buy as a demo model.

      I will be buying my next boat from them.

      In case you are wondering, I got the green one (to me, the best looking, and oddly, more visible than the orange or yellow).


You’re lucky you can just jump into
most kayaks and try them out. I have to do major surgery to get in and try them, and that means buy, then try.

I hear demo, demo, demo, but I’ve bought over a dozen canoes and kayaks without trying them, and I can recall only one clunker. The rest turned out to be widely recognized classics.

I’d advise intelligent reading of reviews and talking to other paddlers. If one doesn’t have intelligence, and other paddlers won’t talk to you, then demo, demo, demo isn’t going to help, either.