My Book!!

One opportunity that the blog has brought me is the co-authoring of a guidebook, Paddling Southern Maine! It is something in which I take a lot of pride! My writing partner, Sandy Moore, and I have created a book with 54 amazing trips that are within about an hour of Portland! Our motto as we wrote the book was wanting to 'get people to spend the day on the water and not in their cars!'

If you want more information on our book please visit Sandy and I are available to attend/present various functions/events. Please email me at for more information!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Loon Review

An HONEST review of the Old Town Loon 126 Kayak 
by Yours Truly

I got my 2017 Loon 126 about a year ago.  (It was a year on April 22!)  At the time I had posted my initial impressions.  Since I have had it for over a year now and have paddled in it for many hours and miles, I want to do a review.  

Some history... 
In a recent conversation with the guys from Shaker Hill, one of them said to me, "You really do love your loons!" This comment was made as I talked about the fleet of kayaks I have... I have FOUR Old Town Loons!  I have my mom's kayak, a red Loon 138 that she got in 1993.  After I inherited it I decided to get a second Loon 138, a green one, so that I could have a kayak I could use to take friends with me.  I wanted my 'extra' kayak to be something stable that people would feel safe in despite their experience and knew most people could comfortably sit in and paddle a loon... so that was 2 Loons... Then I adopted Miss Gladys... and even though the Loon 138s have a large cockpit, there was not enough room for the both of us...  so I kept my eyes out for a tandem kayak... and found one on Craigslist, a Loon 160T.  I took the front seat out and so far it has worked well for us... (I am hoping to share more on that soon, perhaps some upgrades!)  

Then came my NEW kayak... the first time I have had a NEW kayak... my Loon 126!! 
 (Taken at Shaker Hill!)  

Because I spend so much time on the water in my kayak I need it to be comfortable.  My mom's red Loon 138 is a pretty comfortable boat... but it is an old model of the loon and has the very HARD plastic seat.  As I have aged (I am 43) I recognize that my body, especially my back, lets me know when it isn't happy.  I began noticing that by the end of a multi-hour paddling excursion, my back was unhappy.  I began looking at new options a couple of years before actually buying my new Loon!  

Everything I had read about the seats in the new Loon said that it was a game changer!  I had read that the other parts of the loon, it's stability and tracking capabilities were similar to the Loon 138, both of which were important to me.  

So.. on a sunny April day in 2017 I stopped at Shaker Hill Outdoors to touch base with them about the book.  They had ordered some and I wanted to stop in to put my face with my name in relation to the book.  Unbeknownst to me the guy I was talking to at Shaker Hill already knew about me, as MaineKayakGirl!  As we talked about the book he asked if I had seen the new Loons... 
Had I seen them? Yes.  Had I drooled over them? Yes.  Had I seen, in person, the sunset color pattern, the pattern I liked most? No.  
And then there was Russ's MOST important question... "Have you sat in the seat?" 
I honestly answered Russ's question, "No Russ, I have not.  I am afraid if I do I will not want to go back to my old kayak."  
Despite my instincts to avoid sitting in the seat in the sunset color pattern kayak that was sitting there on the lawn....despite having my Loon 138 already on my truck at the moment... my curiosity and desire to establish a good working relationship with Shaker Hill FORCED me to sit in the kayak... on the lawn... in THIS seat!

 If I had been in a cartoon, the moment my backend rested in that seat...the amazing ACS2 SEAT... that soundbyte of angels singing would have been cued along with a single beam of sunshine would have put me in the spotlight!  Seriously.  The seat was so comfortable!  I think in the moment I told Russ I think I could spend the day sitting in that thing and could probably even fall asleep because it was THAT comfortable.  And It still is!   

 So the seat, for me, was THE factor that pushed me to get out my wallet and buy this beautiful kayak.  It was pretty great to buy myself a new kayak... though my emotional attachment to Mom's Loon 138 made me feel a little guilty... but my red loon still gets out on the water once in a while.  And I hope to get her out more this summer.  I am planning to show MORE people how to kayak and the red Loon is my kayaking ambassador!  Actually, when I show people how to kayak I end up in the red loon 138... because it was my mom's, I am VERY protective of that kayak... and prefer to use it myself vs. having other people use it... so newbies get to use the newest Loon.  

I bought the OT Loon 126 without having tried it on the water... (If you are new to kayaking, never do this...ALWAYS try before you buy!)  But because of my history with Loons I was confident that it would work for me.  A couple of important things for me include TRACKING and MANEUVERABILITY... 

Tracking.... I feel that the Loon 126 tracks really well. At first I noticed that each stroke of my paddle did seem to slightly change my direction... I attribute that to being about a foot shorter than my 138.  (By the way... most people probably know this, but when kayaks are named they include the length in the name... so the Loon 126 is 12'6" long... a Pungo 120 is 12 feet long... I heard people talking about this last weekend and for some people it was the first time they realized that, so wanted to share!) 
Having paddled my new boat for a year I definitely do not feel that same little pull as I used to.  I think my strokes/style of paddling has adapted to the Loon 126.  I think that I had felt that I needed to paddle a bit harder than I actually have to if that makes sense.  I now feel like I glide well through the water with the Loon and it tracks well.  

Maneuverability... for me this is a characteristic I consider on and off the water. I feel like loading and unloading my Loon 126 is a bit easier than the 138 was... with  just over a foot difference in length, it is easier for me to carry it and lift it by myself.  (That being said, the Loon 126 is 58 lbs., so it is not a light boat, but feels doable for me!)  On the water I also look at maneuverability.  How easily can I turn and how quickly? I am easily able to zig zag in, out, and around obstacles easily.  Sebago Trails recent season kick off on Panther Run was a great example of how well the Loon 126 can maneuver.  We were going under trees and around limbs the whole time and I didn't have to stop and try to calculate how to do it, I was able to do it easily.  (To be fair, I think that happens to all of us, no matter what you are paddling,  after you get used to your craft!)  

Durability...  While I have only had it for a year I think the durability of the Loon 126 is comparable to the Loon 138s.  The Loon 138s I have are well used, complete with some scratches on the bottoms from being pulled up on concrete landings and gravel... The loon 138s have been thrown on top of my truck rack, upside down, without cradles!  (Yes I hear all of the elite paddlers gasping at that idea! but... I did it for years because that's what I could afford and it worked just fine, just added some extra scratches on the top of the kayak.)  I admit the new Loon rests in Malone cradles on my truck rack. 

I am a loyal fan of Old Town... I believe in their products... that being said, I think some of their bells and whistles could have been designed from a more practical standpoint...

The console/workdeck... I have paddled with friends who have these in their Pungo 120s (Wilderness System).  They are very nice.  The hatch area is a decent size where, when I use it, I keep my bug spray, sunscreen, and snacks.  It is designed so you can keep a portable battery in there to keep your devices charged.  To be honest I have not used that feature, I use it just for storage.  I also appreciate that there is a cup holder on the left side surface, not visible in this photo. 

I am not sure if this year's model still includes this or not.. but mine had a water bottle holder underneath the work deck. I removed mine almost immediately.  In my opinion, not a smart part of the design.  It gets in the way when trying to reposition and move your legs.  It was easy enough to remove!

 One of the things I find challenging, which may not apply to all paddlers, is that with my long legs (and I am not a skinny minny) I have to remove the work deck to get in and out of the kayak.  It is easy to remove and easy to secure it back in place, but... when I take it off it needs to be put in a place where it won't fall into the water... which means it needs to go into the cockpit...this means the space in the cockpit becomes limited.  
If the work deck is in the cockpit I have my legs up and over the edge of the cockpit.  It isn't too hard for me to balance the kayak while I move to retrieve the console and put my legs back in the cockpit to reattach the cockpit, but some people may not feel stable trying to do that.  For more average sized paddlers this may not be a problem, but for larger people (for whom in ways the boat is designed) it will be a challenge.  It would also pose a challenge for people who paddle who may have mobility or flexibility issues.  Trying to balance getting in and out can be enough of a challenge without worrying about an extra piece of equipment to manage.  Depending on your abilities/limitations and preference you may choose to not use the work deck.  In a way... a flip top option or something on the front of the kayak specific to attach the work deck to, would be helpful.
(**Remove workdeck/console while driving.  I am not sure if it would fly off, but it isn't worth the risk!)

 The rear hatch... Love it!  It is water tight and you can fit quite a bit in there, extra clothing, towels, a small lunch bag/cooler.  Great feature! (Oh my kayak cart, if I take the wheels off, fit in there too...)

The cockpit... spacious!  This cockpit has enough space behind the seat for a small kayak cart (at least the LLBean Cart with small wheels) and bilge pump.  It is wide and long. Without the work deck attached it is easy to have your legs hanging over the edge a bit. 

The Front Bungee system... I am NOT a fan.  
They LOOK pretty... I mean look at them, all curved and in those little curved grooves... BUT... They are impractical!

When the bungees are released they don't have enough tension to work as deck bungees... it is hard to tell in these pictures, but.... I do not even keep my bilge pump under them because it is too loose. So.. sadly this feature, in my opinion, is strictly decorative... which I find disappointing.  I have debated about trying to figure out how to add some bungee cords to make it more practical but have not done it yet... because it wouldn't look as nice! 

I should also mention the colors.  They have Black Cherry - a black/red swirl... Cloud, classic blue/white swirls, Lemongrass - a very yellow green color, and Sunrise, the color shown here.
I had seen the color examples online and thought I would enjoy the lemongrass color because it looked like a bright yellow, but in person it is like a dull green glowstick.  The black cherry... was tempting because my Loon 138 is red.. but I do not like it mixed with the black.  I wish there was a solid red... the blue sky is not bad, but don't think it would show up good on the water... so I went with Sunrise... bright sunny colors!

Overall I LOVE the Old Town Loon 126.  I am so glad I have it and it is the most comfortable kayak I have paddled.  I recommend it for people looking for a stable boat that can be used for lakes, pods, slow moving rivers/streams, and protected coves. 

I am not sure if this helps other people with their choices about kayaks. 
Remember, whatever you do, try before you buy!!  Reputable outfitters will make sure you can try them before you invest in them. 

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