First and foremost, this is only my subjective opinion of the PA12 based on a short test run. Any comparison drawn between this and others are relative to my experiences with other kayaks I own, have owned or have used. Any criticism I may have at this stage is most likely due to a lack of experience with this particular style of kayak.
The test run only went for about an hour. If pressed to describe today’s test run in one word I’d say “different”. If I had more words I’d say the following:
Loading & Unloading
While quite heavy, loading the PA is no different for me than loading a Revolution or Outback. Drop the back 2 paces behind the ute, lift the bow onto to the ladder racks and slide on. With the PA hull shape it sits on the ute nicely.
Unloading is a little different. Due to its weight the PA doesn’t come off a ute as easy as other less heavy craft. It does come off, just takes a little more effort.
Weight & Length
At 91cms wide and 45kgs in weight you can tell the difference trying to move it around, both on the cart and on the water. However, unlike the revolution and quest the entire length of the PA is usable. Reaching all points of the PA is simple without compromising stability too much. Feels as tough as bricks too, which to me is a positive thing.
The seat in the PA12 is unbelievable.
It has the initial feel of a comfy camping chair. After an hour… It still feels like a comfy camping chair (honestly you could go to sleep in this thing its that comfortable). If I had my way, I’d take it and use it at work. Its way nicer than the chair I’m normally stuck in for 8 hours a day.
The ability to be able to make adjustments on the fly is a nice feature, but I doubt I’ll need to change it now I’m comfortable with the setting it’s on. A few of the US guys have remarked that you need to adjust the chair and mirage drive if you switch between the standard and high position, but to be honest I can’t think of reason to run it in the higher position to begin with.
The front hatch is big enough to carry any spare gear most choose to carry but rarely use (bilge pumps, rope, spare lanyards, food etc…). Its accessibility is very easy too, just stand, walk up the front and open the hatch).
The centre hatch’s stock feature is a two tackle box rack. Again, easy to use and access. Hobiecat USA have noted that a deep gear bucket will also be made available for the PA12, though I’m unsure if or when it will be available in Australia. I like the rack feature. I usually only carry two tackle boxes anyway so it suites me fine for now. In saying that I’m sure I’ll grab the gear bucket when it becomes available too.
The mirage drive and surrounding area is obviously a lot more spacious than your typical mirage kayak (PA14 excluded). It’s very easy to negotiate when accessing the front hatch or standing and fishing. The guide system for the 2012 mirage drive is a nifty addition however given the seating arrangement and the fact you can stand in the PA makes it a little redundant as the drive is far easier to insert than in your typical mirage kayak (A mate of mine recently picked up the 2012 Revolution; I know it helps him a lot).
The rear well is massive. It appears to be easily capable of comfortably carrying a 60L esky (now I just have to find one I’m happy with).
I like the concept of the removable mounting boards on the gunnels. I’m not averse to drilling into kayaks, but it is nice not to have to do it for a change. A big advantage of this system is on the resale or alternatively the f*&k-up. Whoever buys one second hand isn’t necessarily bound by the previous user’s setup. Further, if you screw something up, just drill more holes and change the position.
While the “Lowrance Ready” system is fantastic, I’m still lukewarm about the Lowrance sounders themselves. They’re probably great, but when I turn on a screen of any kind for the first time (in fact anytime) I don’t want to see a stuck pixel. I’m one of those people who when I notice it, I can’t stop noticing it. I plan to have a yarn with Lowrance Monday morning to see what they can do about it.
Stuck pixels aside, the installation was a breeze with the scupper-transducer bracket. Most of the installation time was taken making the battery box and deciding which side I wanted the sounder mounted on.
Mounting options appear to accommodate the removable mounting boards, sailing mast and side rail. The side rail may cramp things slightly. I don’t believe the rails are in the same position as the PA14. I connected mine to the mounting board via a ram bracket. I like that it’s easy to swivel and the unit tilts up meaning even when standing you can see the screen.
Future plans include adding LED lighting for night fishing.
Obviously the PA is not going to move like a Revo. The object of the test today wasn’t to see how fast it could go, simply that it did go, and go in the right direction. I have no idea how fast it goes, for that matter I have no idea how fast the Revo went. Personally, speed isn’t essential to me. Reports from the US from guys owning both PA models suggest that the PA14 is noticeably faster.
Chalk and cheese compare with an Outback or Revolution. The fact that the rudder isn’t running from the stern makes steering a little different to what I’m used to. When starting out the response is slower than the revolution, however, once moving just a little faster, it feels way more responsive than a Revolution. Not a negative thing. It’ll just take some getting used to.
One of the reasons I went down the PA path was for the ability to stand and fish. The PA12 will achieve this. Initial it feels a little tippy however the secondary stability kicks in pretty fast. To be honest it would take either a bit of effort, a bit of incompetence or just bad luck to flip one of these. I’m looking forward to learning to fly fish in one of these.
The only moment I didn’t feel stable was trying to get in the thing for the very first time.
One of the things I always liked about how a lot of the people setup up their PA14s was the ability to horizontally store their fishing rods. I’m sure many others at some point have had a run-in with low hanging branches from a tree catching the tip of your fishing gear. It’s bloody annoying.
In trying the similar system on the PA12, I must say I’m a fan just yet. I think it’ll be one of those cases of once you get used to it, it’ll become second nature type deals. For the test I was just paranoid it was going to damage the guides on my rod.
If you’re like me and have very little space at home to work with a PA is awkward. The idea was to first store it on the wheels, but Hobie don’t recommend that. The second idea was to store it flat under some cushioning owing to the hull shape. They don’t like that either (and I’m certain I’d accidentally hit it with my car at some point.
I picked it up last week and decided to store it on its side (heavily padded), on a purpose built rack (purposely built for the Revo that is) for the first 5 days to see the effect. While the rack has a good amount of padding and has housed both the Revo and Quest comfortably without incident the PA is considerably heavily. The rear contact point was perfectly fine. The front contact point was a little dinted after 5 days. The bulk of the pressure is on the corner of the gunnels. I would hate to think what it would have looked like if it was stored actually on its side.
I’m currently contemplating a compromise which will hopefully solve any future issues. Failing that I’ll have a yarn to Mal to see what my other storage options are.
Getting over the initial "this cost me bloody fortune, for f*#ks sake don’t wreck it" will be hard to adjust to. I haven’t seen any disadvantages with the boat save for the weight/storage issues but they’re something that people would be aware of before they purchase it anyway. The rear twist and stow hatch can be a little tricky when trying to get at the battery box but again, that’s something that will sort itself out in a couple of trips.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the PA12. I think I'm really going to enjoy it once I get more time on the water with it. Thanks again to the crew from Sunstate Hobie.