Mariner Elan:Pros/Cons?

I’m thinking about getting a Mariner Elan. (small paddler) I’d appreciate any input from Elan owners. They sound like great boats. Thanks!

Look At The Review Section
only one review and it was done by Sanjay. Sanjay has gone through a number of boats. Very strong and skilled paddler. So his critique is not without a comparative basis.


Thanks for the kind words,

– Last Updated: Aug-04-04 9:13 PM EST –


Pat, I re-read my review to see if I still agreed with it, and I do, though I left out one issue that might be important to a potential buyer: the Elan is not available with bulkheads or hatches. Instead, it has a Feathercraft Sea Sock. A search of the archives will unearth many a discussion of sea socks, but the bottom line is that many people find them annoying, even though they work well. The sock significantly limits the amount of water that can enter the boat (especially if you get the small size, as I did). But the cloth can bunch together, making entry and exit a little cumbersome. I've made peace with the sea sock, but I do not believe it is as effective or reliable as the ideal solution, which to me is a slanted bulkhead immediately behind the seat (like in some British boats), and a custom placed footrest/forward bulkhead.

There are some pluses to the no bulkhead/hatch situation: the boat looks cleaner, the rear deck is easier to scramble over, and, according to the Broze brothers, the entire boat can flex when under stress, which increases its effective strength and its longevity. You can load items from the cockpit quite easily (and some campers prefer this, as bigger items go in easily), though it does require removing that pesky sea sock.

The Elan remains my favorite rough water/winter boat. In the summer, I'm as likely to go out in my wife's Hawk, a pure Greenland boat, which is faster, and cuts through the waves. But I never feel safer than when in the Elan. I've tested it in sustained winds up of 30 knots and 7 foot seas. It also seems to surf very well, though I'm a novice kayak surfer.

I put my money where my mouth is--I sold my old Elan a few months ago, and replaced it with a carbon/Kevlar one, same Marlin blue color, but with custom deck rigging, including placing the tow cleat 3" back so it would have no risk of snagging my hat/hood/helmet.

Finally, I do have to mention that some of the finish steps visible only from the inside of my new Elan appear a little sloppy. The hull itself is flawless from the outside (not the slightest hull deformity anywhere--which is more than you can say for 99% of fiberglass boats), but it looks like someone was hurrying when they assembled and finished it.


Thank you both!
Sing, I missed the review - thanks! And Sanjay, thank you, too - I really appreciate your practical experience with the boat. I talked to Mariner this morning, and they’re sending me a color chart. Bulkheads are now an option - I need to discuss this and think about it a little more. I, too, will be buying sight unseen since I can’t locate an Elan in this area to try. I’m going on recommendations and advice from paddlers on this board. The other boat that I considered was the Nigel Foster Rumour - but you can’t get that boat in the U.S., can you? Sanjay, the fact that you’re buying your second one is a great indication of how good the Elan is! Thanks again! (I’m going up to the Ladies of the Lake Symposium in Michigan in about ten days, and the sponsors said there would be boats for smaller paddlers, but I don’t think I’ll see an Elan.)

Elan is an Express with a lower deck
I have had an express for a couple years now and I cant begin to explain how much I enjoy paddling it. It is easy and comfortable to paddle in a very wide range of conditions from flat water to surf but it really excels when paddling through rough water and wind. I know this sounds like bs but their really is no need for a rudder or moveable skeg with the built in rudder designed into the stern. The boat is simply manueveralbe enough so that there is no need for a moveable rudder. The boats glides well, tracks very good when level, and turns wonderfully when leaned or edged. Like no other touring boat I have ever paddled.

It is easy for me to roll. It has good primary and excellent secondary stablity and I use use it to take pictures from regularly. It surfs very well as far as 16 foot boats go. I enjoy paddling it 3-5 foot surf and often spend multiple hours playing in surf of that size. It accelerates sweetly. On long distance paddles I can maintain a “fast” cruising speed of 4.5 knots for hours on end without getting tired. 20-30 mile days are not extraordinary.

Matt sold me on the whole seasock idea and I have loved the benefits of using the seasock. I love having no bulkheads. I like having no leaky hatches. I like being able to do re-entry and rolls without having to reattach the spraydeck before rolling. like the ease of packing and unpacking large items through the cockpit. I like enmptying out all the sand and dirt by just removing the sock and shaking it out.

Although I have damaged the glass hull on several occasions, the damge was from being dumb near rocks, I would hate to see the results of similar accidents on weaker boats. The boat is built well and tough and the craftmanship is noticeably excellent.

Negatives- the price. But only the initial purchase was painful. Truth be told it was best paddling purchase I ever made. And I seem to have to patch the built in rudder towards the stern as it gets dragged more than the rest of the hull. Nothing a small piece of cloth wont fix seasonally. The boat tends to lee cock in winds that exceed 30mph. Not bad enough to cause a probelm though. It can be corrected easily enough by using the paddle.

I really like how the boat responds to body english. It is a fine machine, balanced, well thopught out. I have no desire to find another sea kayak. This boat is simply way too much fun to paddle.

I paddle alone a lot so there aint much but my boat to take a picute of. Some shots of the express:

Did I mention I like the boat?

Beautiful boat, Scott!
Thanks, Scott! The pictures are great - especially the one at sunset. The Elan has a skeg and I’m used to using one. I appreciate your input about the sea sock - I don’t know whether I would order bulkheads or not. I have other kayaks with standard bulkheads/hatches, so maybe I’ll try something different. As much as I dream about even multiday trips, most of my paddling is a few hours here, a day there. (for now, anyway!) Everyone seems to agree Mariner makes very good boats. I agree about the price, but I’ll tutor over the winter. (I did sell one of my beginner boats - it was a real wrench to watch it going down the road - after all, it got me started!)Your post was a tribute to Mariner - thanks, again!

Pat, I apologize
about misleading you about the bulkheads.

Hey, Scott! Pat can feel reassured that support for this boat comes from both ends of the political spectrum : )

A note on alternative boats:

The Rumour is a phenomenal boat, but I wouldn’t consider it to be safe in rough water the way a Mariner boat is. It’s 19 inches wide, has much less initial stability (most kayakers would fall out of it on flat water their first few tries), and seems to me designed more for fun than for serious outings. But what’s great about it: 1) it truly fits the shorter or thinner paddler, with fantastic boat control (better than the Elan, even, which I pad a bit at the thighs); 2) it rolls better than anything on the planet aside from a dedicated Greenland Rolling boat, because of its extremely low rear deck. I haven’t yet had a chance to try to elbow-roll the Elan, but if I’m ever going to get the elbow roll, that’ll be the boat it happens in. Hand-rolling it was effortless. 3) it has Nigel Foster’s characteristic surfboard-style flat midsection, which should make playing in waves with it delightful (I’ve paddled Brian N’s partner’s Rumour, but not in waves–but I owned two Foster Vynecks, 20 inches wide and a blast in waves).

Sadly, Seaward Kayaks, which now has the Rumour molds, won’t make them. I’ve begged and pleaded, and asked others to bug them too, to no avail. They say the market is too small. I say, that’s ridiculous–look how whitewater boats are starting to become available in three or even four sizes, in order to maximize fit. What are short/thin/young people supposed to paddle, when 90% of the commercially available boats are bathtubs?

The other alternative I would (and did) serious consider is the new low-volume Nigel Dennis Romany (16 feet) and Explorer (18 feet). They have all the traditional British-boat features, from recessed compasses to day hatches to deck lines all over the place. The choice between these boats and the Elan, to me, is just a matter of taste. I already knew the British boat thing, so the Elan has been fun for me, but I would feel just as safe and comfortable on a marathon mid-winter paddle through waves and ice in the NDK boats.


Well, I’m sold!
It sounds like the perfect boat for me! I can hardly wait to get the color chart! And since weight is an issue, (it’s difficult for me to load and unload my boats - and Scott, I usually always paddle alone, too.)I think I will go with the sea sock. Now to start saving… Thank you all VERY much!

Ah yes, the Rumour
Sanjay’s remarks on this boat are spot-on. Linda likes hers, but despite being petite (5’1") and highly skilled, she still finds it to be tiring to paddle on rough water, since it’s not a boat you can relax in. I’ve been in it once for a few minutes that that was enough to convince me that it’s not well suited for people of my size (6’, 165#) and skill level. It’s much less stable than any of the Greenland skin-on-frame boats I’ve built or paddled and is the least stable commercial boat I’ve been in. I even found Sanjay’s Spitzbergen to be easier to keep upright than the Rumour. Someone with Sanjay’s skill level can make this boat dance, but I’m not ashamed to say that it’s beyond me.

Front and rear bulkheads?
Is Mariner now offering both on the Elan? What are they doing as far as a foreward hatch?

Now, if they would only offer a small cockpit option…

just another thumbs up. i had a mariner 2 for a long time (recently sold it, only because i wanted something more race oriented). it was an awesome boat that tracked beautifully, handled any weather or wave condition superbly, and was a joy to paddle for long days. i never had bulkheads and never missed them- used float bags without any problems at all. they are all really great boats- have fun with your elan.


The thing about the Mariner boats is they kind of eliminate the simplistic notion that “boats with low primary and high secondary stability are best for rough water”,you can have a comfortable boat in rough water for a beginner AND and experienced paddler as the decent primary stability comes at no compromise in choppy water.

Carb/Kevlar Lay Up - thoughts
What has been your experience so far with the Mariner Carbon/Kevlar Lay Up on the Elan? I am trying to talk myself in to a Carb/Kevlar Mariner II, but the price tag is high and I haven’t seen a single one used.

It may be too early in your experience with this lay up, but any thoughts you have would be appreciated.

Also, did they have any flexibility in price on the high end lay up?


Hey, Pat… THANKS!!!
Wow… there’s actually a thread talking about a boat other than the NDK, PH, QCC or WS Tempest. How refreshing. :slight_smile:


FWIW, if I were to buy another touring boat, the Elan would be high on my list based on what I’ve seen of Scott and Sanjay’s boats in “play” on the water. :slight_smile:

Yes, bulkheads optional…
When I spoke to Mariner,(not sure who I had on the phone)he said that front and rear bulkheads were optional, deckline layout could be customized, seats, etc. I was just gathering initial information and did not go into details.

I never thought
to ask about carbon/kevlar. I assumed it would be out of my price range, but now that you’ve mentioned it… cool possibility!

Mark up is big for Carb/Kevlar
For the Mariner II, the mark up from Fiberglass to Carb/Kevlar is $800. The Carb/Kev Mariner II (with no bulkheads and sliding seat) is $3495. But, it does drop the weight by about 8 lbs.

Still, that is a big price tag. And, by all accounts, Mariner does not bargain on price, even on the top end boats.

I would like to find a used one, if I can.

Mariner has a store…
in Seattle. If you called, maybe they could find (or have)a used boat. Even with shipping, you’d still save money. Carbon/kevlar is definitely too pricey for me - unless I win the lottery!

It’s true, LeeG,
and I can’t figure out exactly how they do it. Despite its fairly high initial stability, the Elan is easily, instantly, thrown on edge when needed for managing waves. I think their trick is in the different functions of the different parts of the hull, and the rounded, fairly voluminous deck, which provides smooth stability at all angles right to 90 degrees when, unlike most boats, the Mariner still tends towards the upright. I do enjoy the constant balancing that my old Vyneck, my Spitzbergen, and my new surfski require in waves, but they don’t give me the sense of security of the Elan.


Borrow my Elan anytime, Sing.