The Scorpio Featured in this post is currently for sale: 1 year old. $1,300. Located in Central Wisconsin. (8/17/2010)
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Today we’ll continue my on-going P&H Kayak Roundup with the Scorpio. Based on elements within the Zodiac, Scorpio is considered compatible with Pisces and Cancer. Being born on June 29th, we should get along just fine. Should you buy a kayak based on cosmological compatibility? Only your local astrologer knows the truth. What you need to know right off is that we simply bought the Scorpio after a 2 minute test paddle. Don’t try this at home kids!!
The P&H Scorpio is often called the plastic version of the Cetus. It’s not. Like all siblings they share some commonalities but have no doubt, the Scorpio is its own kayak. The Scorpio is a plastic kayak, or we should say, “Corlite foam core material” which P&H uses to save weight, increase stiffness of the hull and make the kayak generally stronger. The kayak is 16’11’ and 22″ wide (behind the cockpit given it’s Swede form) and weights around 55lbs. In the water it’s fast for a plastic boat and maybe a bit squirrely.. ah.. playful..
For one hundred and one reasons we simply bought the P&H Scorpio. I’ve been musing over the purchase of a Cetus for myself and all the while trying to choose a more “safe” feeling stable kayak for the family and for students. The Cetus would certainly fill the void. As I’ve said the Cetus is quite an amazing kayak in its ability to wear so many different hats (or skirts if you prefer). But honestly “glass” boats are expensive if you buy one, let alone if you are looking for 2 boats. We simply can’t afford that sort of outlay. So with our experience with the Cetus and budget in mind we did the sensible thing and purchased the less expensive Scorpio.
Mary & Gryphon on Lake Michigan
Right off there is something to be said for plastic kayaks. They are usually about half the price of their fiberglass cousins, tough, and certainly as nimble as non-plastic boats these days given the newer materials used in their manufacture. Often the plastic version of kayak is more than enough for the average paddler coming into the sport. We as coaches simply have to let new folks know there is no shame in plastic. Lots of paddlers get caught up in the kayak class wars and feel that if they are not paddling an 18ft glass boat they are not part of the “in-crowd”. Of course that’s silly and we need to get that message out. I’d rather have more people paddling in decent, well made plastic sea kayaks than, cheap, potentially dangerous box store specials.. or not paddling at all.
Getting into the Scorpio you sense right off that the kayak is not a Cetus. Although shorter than it’s fiberglass big brother, it feels distinctly larger. Being into traditional rolling the first thing I noticed sitting in the cockpit was the high back deck which would make lay back rolls pretty much out of the question without lifting your bum totally out of the seat. You can feel as well that your center of gravity is higher in the Scorpio than the Cetus. The feel in the seat is much more like the Capella and will feel less stable to some paddlers. Since this kayak was chosen primarily because of the initial stability of the Cetus, this was a bit disappointing and could have been a deal breaker for us. However, we were able to take out a small foam spacer from under the front of the seat and remove the seat cushion. These small modifications brought back the feeling we had expected. In the Cetus you can leave all the cozy padding in and it’s as stable as a plank. With the quick changes to the Scorpio it becomes crazy stable like just like the Cetus. Of course lowering your position in the boat simply makes laying back even more difficult. The important thing to keep in mind here is what are you using the kayak for. It’s not a Greenland roller, so there is no reason to need a low back deck.
The deck is designed well. Lots of bungies to hold your stuff. With 4 hatches it will serve the most organized of paddlers. Personally I hate the giant back oval hatch. I get the reason behind them, but it seems to me every paddler I’ve seen dealing with one can watch half their day go by trying to get them to seal correctly. What’s worse is that more than other hatch cover designs, these big floppy ones can “seem” sealed to the less than meticulous paddler. Then to make things worse they are almost impossible to seal once on the water. Another issue with these covers is during recoveries when people often put their full weight right on that big, big cover. Any problem with the seal and it will implode. That said, hatches on plastic kayaks are often tricky and need a bit more attention than on their fiberglass counterparts. If you asked me which nobody has, I’d suggest that these big floppy hatches should not be on plastic kayaks. But then, what do I know??
For the sake of good karma, the negatives of the floppy hatch are more than offset by the amazingly simple foot peddle adjusters that shock and amaze paddlers who are used to those old fashioned, clip-behind-the-peddle models that are hard to use and that seem continuously jammed up. The P&H peddle system is sooo nice. They are easy to adjust when you are sitting in the boat and on the water. They can be a blessing to the constantly not-quite-comfortable paddler.
On the water, the shorter Scorpio is certainly more playful than the Cetus. More nimble to the skilled paddler, harder to keep straight to the new paddler. It’s character will simply accentuate your skills… or bring out the areas where you need more practice. I had an experience yesterday where a new student could not keep the boat straight no matter how hard he tried. I lowered the skeg just a touch and it solved the problem for him. This was on a calm inland lake with just a slight breeze. Mary who paddles only a few times a year loves the kayak, but also dropped the skeg on a pretty much calm Lake Michigan. Once you learn to keep the kayak tracking properly it’s certainly fast enough to keep up with anything on the water.
Edging the Scorpio is interesting. When I first paddled the kayak myself I took it out in about 1.5 foot following seas. The nice, well spaced rollers were perfect for catching little rides along the Lake Michigan beach. As you know, when pushed from behind kayaks tend to want to peal out, turning right or left as the tail is pushed forward by the wave, and the bow is caught in the back of a slower wave or the trough between. The Scorpio with its wide back end tends to turn quickly. I learned years ago that if at all possible it’s best to control the direction of the kayak on a wave with an edge as opposed to using the paddle. On friendly little rollers like these it’s no big shakes keeping a kayak on a line simply with a bit of a knee on one side or the other. Well, in the Scorpio it was not happening. I went round and round trying to figure out why the same body movement I would make in my Rockpool or pretty much any other kayak I’d been in was not working in this kayak. I simply could not correct it’s course with an edge. It was getting a bit frustrating … I can’t even guess how exactly I stumbled on the answer, but there is one. I changed how I edged from focusing on my knee to focusing on my bum or hip. Once I initiated my edge with my hip instead of the knee, the kayak responded exactly as I expected it should. I can’t be sure if that slight change simply made me edge stronger or for some reason brought the edge closer to the wider hull behind the cockpit. Whatever the reason I learned that in the Scorpio the edge starts at the hip.
So far the Scorpio stands out as unique among the plethora of kayaks I’ve paddled over the years. It’s certainly not another also-ran kayak. It shares some of the best features of the Cetus but seems to require a bit more skilled paddler in some situations. With that slight modification to the seat it is stable enough to help build confidence while being nimble enough to turn on a dime with a slight edge. In following seas and wind you’ll find the skeg to be a good friend. With or without the skeg the Scorpio is fast and responsive for skilled paddlers, yet tame as a puppy for students or less confident paddlers. I’m sure I’ll have more to add about the Scorpio as the season progresses.