User Review: Dagger Alchemy 14.0S
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $900 as a demo
My favorite new toy...a fun yak with all the features of a sea kayak.
- Good stability
- Excellent maneuverability
- Low profile
- Skeg box leaked...had to apply lots of silicon
This boat is just a lot of fun, period. I have a higher-end fiberglass greenland/Bristish style boat (Impex Montauk) that has been my go-to boat for awhile, but because of this yak's durability, agility, and features, it's almost a toss-up which one I choose to take paddling these days.
First off, I love skegs (as opposed to rudders), so in looking for a second boat this was an absolute criteria. I also wanted a rotomold (plastic) layup to compliment the conditions that I didn't want to use my glass boat for. It's hard to find a good plastic boat with a skeg...there are presently very few models to choose from. I also wanted something 14-15 feet... a good size for paddling rivers and tight mangrove tunnels found here in south Florida, but also long enough to keep up with the touring yaks.
Finally, I wanted the kayak to fit me, and being a small-framed person, that is hard to find these days. The Alchemy SMALL seemed to fit all these criteria.
So on her first paddle, we did about 8 miles and she kept the pace well. Since, I have done 20-mile paddles in this boat with no problem. Yes, she is a bit more sluggish than the 17-footers, to be expected, but I can usually make up for it in endurance. This boat turns very well because it has a long bow and relatively short stern, so your pivot point is set back. It also edges easily but be careful! Primary stability is good but secondary stability is harder to define...I have unintentionally rolled this boat on several occasions, caught off guard while aggressively edging. I think this has to do with the pivot point being so far back and the hard chine. On the upside, the boat feel really responsive in maneuvering in surf.
I rarely find that I need the skeg, but if I do, it's nice to have. Unfortunately, like other Wilderness System boats (Zephyr/Tempest), I find that the skeg flops back in forth when deployed, making a clicking sound against the skeg box. It's very annoying but doesn't seem to affect the performance...just part of the design I guess. My glass boat doesn't have this problem, though. Also, the skeg slide is indented well-enough so that you don't hit your hand on it when taking a close-in stroke...this is an improvement over my glass boat.
The deck is low, which pleases me very much since I paddle with a greenland paddle and also like to roll. I can go into a static brace very easily with this boat, even more so than my glass boat. And rolling this boat is a breeze. The outfitting makes it very comfortable for me to roll as well, with hip pads and thigh braces holding you tight. Because of the low volume, most people will probably find the tight fit confining. Just remember, you are supposed to wear a kayak, not sit inside one. If the small size is too tight, there is also a larger volume.
The hatches stay dry for the most part...oval shaped hatch covers (common to the confluence company) all leak to a certain degree, especially if you roll the boat.
I was getting a lot of water in the back hatch though, and found that the skeg box was leaking only after a few months having the boat. I tried to tighten the nut and found that it just free-spun in the box...it was supposed to fit just so inside the box but the plastic gives too much to hold it in place. This is a bad design flaw because you can't tighten the hardwear enough to get a good seal. I ended up just coating it with silicon and that fixed things for now. Beware of replacing the skeg cable, as it is incredible difficult to do.
Again, I compare this to my Impex, which has a much simpler design. I have replaced the cables on both and the process left me grinning in one case and close to tearing my hair out in frustration in the other case. Look up the how-to video online before you try...it will help you figure out the system BEFORE you do damage. Again, I like having a skeg on this boat but the bad design is a drawback to this boat, and I imagine it is common to the company's other skeg boats as well. Hopefully they will engineer a better design in the future.
All in all, I'm very happy with this boat.