I recently bought two Cobra Expedition Kayaks for my wife and myself. To give you some idea of who is paddling the boats, Karen is only 5' tall and about 50kgs and myself 6'1 and 110kgs. We have kayaked throughout our lives but not so much in recent years. We looked into buying some boats for some time but did not find what we liked until we stumbled across the Cobra.
Specs and options vary somewhat:
Weight: 48 lbs.
Passenger & Gear Capacity: 450 lbs.
KAYAK CHOICE - Like most choices one makes, these boats were bought with a couple of things in mind. First we wanted sitons. Why? well they offer a lot of advantages over cockpit boats, including the ability to carry kids without having to wedge them dangerously in a storage hatch as I have seen some do, or in the cockpit with you where you may both get caught should you capsize.
Secondly we still wanted a boat that would be reasonably fast and capable of a range of open water conditions including sea kayaking in moderately rough water.
This is important as you should all be aware conditions are not always the best and to paddle safely, you need to be able to cope with the bad as well as the good. Most SOTs we have looked at have not been that appealing so far. Now for some info.
HATCHES - The Cobra's we have are made in New Zealand and have a number or differences to the boats from the USA. The most obvious is the different storage hatches.
Where as the US model has the large A shaped hatches with all the toggles, the NZ boats have oval hatches with a neoprene like lid that is held on with an elastic skirt and additional bungy deck straps.
In our opinion this is a much better idea as it eliminates the toggles which I have heard drive some people mad, whilst providing some additional tie downs to fasten stuff on the deck should that be necessary.
STABILITY - What about paddling? Well I'd like to comment first on the issue of stability. I'm not sure why this boat gets such a bad rap about its lack of stability. Perhaps this stems from people who are more accustomed to paddling other SOTs with their high level of primary stability. Yes - to someone getting off another SOT into the cobra they will feel really tippy, especially if you have not learned to relax your hips and tend to spend your time paddling with your arse cheeks clenching the seat.
Relax, after all that's what you bought your boats for, isn't it? The cobra has reasonable primary stability, and excellent secondary stability, which permits the paddler to do all the things they would need to in a kayak. I have found that the boat is good in all but the most atrocious conditions.
For surf exits and entries I think the boat offers a lot that cockpit sea kayaks do not. Most importantly, in event of a capsize you wont be dragging your head across the sandbar trying to roll up into foam, rather like surfers and surf skis of old you will simply bail out. Mind you a paddle strap is good here. Having said that, this boat will not carve turns across the face of the wave like a surf yak. But then you wouldn't expect it too.
Which brings me to the issue of turning. Neither of us has found the boats difficult to turn. They are both fitted with rudders, which make reasonably light work of it, but even without them, turning is not impossible.
Again I think people forget what the boat was designed for, going straight and fast. If you want to turn on a dime, buy a slalom kayak.
Given the difference in our weight and stature you might expect some issues of fit, control or something.
Although the rudder system is not as adjustable as say a cockpit sea kayak, the fact that with a good backrest one can adjust their seating position has meant that we both find the boats very comfortable to paddle. Additionally, as you might expect I tend to ride lower in the water due to my weight, even in an unladen boat Karen is stable and comfortable.
The yellow boat is mine. I had to modify the footrest to lower pedals. Karens boat (orange) has the orriginal footrest setup.
For tall ones like myself its best to set the foot rest as far forward
as possible, however the mounting holes are set higher for some reason
at the front and as such I found the pedals were two high up requiring
me to lift my feet constantly.
On another note about boat stability. Tall people who ride with their knees well up as you might if the footrest is too close to you will tend to feel more unstable in this boat. Getting the centre of gravity down makes a big difference.
Finally, that wet cockpit. Yes water gets in, perhaps more than other SOT's, however unless you are expecting your kayaking to be a dry sport, this should be no big deal. The drain works well, and if you need to get out every drop, then just use a sponge to mop up the rest. I agree, that you should not drill out your scupper holes.
To end, we would highly recommend the Cobra Expedition for anyone looking to buy a fast kayak with the ability to carry lots of gear in a range of conditions. But suggest that everyone should carefully think about what it is they are trying to do, their skill level and budget. If you decide on an Expedition I do not think you will be disappointed. Happy Paddling.
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