As a one-off this post is in English as opposed to Dutch to increase its visibility. I myself spent some time looking at Scorpio reviews and videos online before I actually ordered one and I feel I should add a little to the growing body of Scorpio reviews.
Last april I ordered my turquoise MKII MV via Arjan Bloem’s company (http://www.kajak.nl). I’ve owned it for a couple of months now, and it has been used for my solo adventures, group day trips, short camping trips, and giving instruction to our beginner groups. I mainly paddle on the Dutch part of the Rhine River, which is a decently flowing large river with lots and lots of inland shipping.
I specifically wanted a plastic boat as I, after being a paddler for four years, am still developing my skills. I felt a carbon or polyester boat would take too much damage in no time with the amount of abuse I give my boats. And not the least, plastic comes at a lower price. A plastic boat is still half the price of a quality expedition boat and that means I can own a kayak model that has benefited from years of experience in kayak construction. At the moment of writing I am still a student; it should surprise no-one that this was an appealing option. There will be fast sea kayaks for me in my future, I hope!
In the end my choice was between a Valley Etain 17.5 and a P&H Scorpio. The Etain was slightly cheaper and I found it to be a very playful boat that fit my style of aggressive edging and making turns. However, my knee would continuously bang the skeg slider on the inside of the cockpit and this would have developed into an issue in no time given the time I spend in a boat.
So then came the option to try out the Scorpio. I took it around a lake, edged it, basically trying out some techniques. The boat was very comfortable and I already felt like it was pretty easy to roll. I took it into a bit of swamp and watched how it interacted with the shallow water. The boat was certainly less nimble than the Etain, but it inspired me with a lot of confidence. I could lay flat on the rear deck and the boat didn’t feel like it want to go its own way. This kayak wasn’t meant for the canals. It was much better equipped for the sea, the great lakes, and the large rivers that I call my backyard. Both boats were roughly equally fast in what I tracked on my GPS watch.
I opted to pick the Corelite-X option because of the reduced weight promise. This added about 200 euro to the boat’s cost.
Below is my review of this all-round sea kayak. I chose to deal with the various features one by one, but you can skip to the bottom to read the verdict.
The Scorpio has four hatches. The front and rear hatch both have about 60 litres of volume each. The day hatch has 29, and the mini hatch has only a few litres.
Let’s start with the smallest one, the mini hatch. It’s not meant to be watertight (explicitly mentioned so) but it’s able to store insect repellent, sunscreen, a couple of snacks, and any cool finds on the river. Having paddled a 30-year old model before I wish more boats had these. It has this little bulb in front of the hatch which I don’t know the function of but I suspect it is to keep the bungee lines from blocking the hatch.
The largest hatches are also fine. It took a while to be able to put the Kayaksport lid on properly when they were new. It’s easy to reach all the way inside and they’re watertight. I usually let them air between paddling days, also because the local wildlife might snoop around for anything edible and rubber is easy to chew through. We have a lot of rats.
However, the day hatch consistently pulls in water from somewhere. I think this may be because of the design or maybe the changes in temperature while I’m on the water. It’s usually not a lot but after one night of rescue practises everything got soaked and there was half a bucket of water in there. Rolls tend to also get some water inside the boat. The issue is a known problem looking at topics on Delphin and Scorpio hatches on ukriverguidebook and Reddit.
At sea though, it usually stays dry unless I do something spectacularly weird, like sitting on top of one of the hatches and trying to paddle it back to shore.
A lot of people online have complained on the skeg. In my local club we had issues with a low volume Scorpio (a Mark I) that did have the jamming skeg problem they mentioned. However, my experience was completely the opposite! It slides easily and stays locked fine. The skeg does its job nicely. It seems the skeg problems are resolved with the MK II.
It should be mentioned that the boat tracks well without the skeg. The position of the slider itself is rather nice (again, short legs). Really, the only downside so far is how much room the skeg box takes away from the back hatch but this allows for easy access and repairs. Maybe some day I’ll come to appreciate it when I need to fix it.
Deck Lines and bolting
The deck lines come in different colours. I asked for the yellow ones and got yellow with grey bungees. I think that’s the standard outfitting now. The deck lines are all right and I haven’t noticed any decrease in durability, but did notice the bungee cord taking some damage on one of my adventures. I might add plastic cord protectors that the people from Northseakayak published a tutorial on last week (see below).
The bolting is a bit peculiar. The back seat is connected to the kayak with a few bolts on each side and these were a bit loose and I had to tighten it myself. This may be part of normal maintenance. It should be possible to move the seat to trim to your liking.
I also noticed some of the screws had caps and others did not. I don’t think it matters.
Foot and knee rests
The foot rests are standard and you can adjust them without having to leave the kayak. No complaints. It has comfortable rests that are pretty much default on most new kayaks for the knees. My knees definitely approve of them.
So the Connect seat. My girlfriend commented on it being like sitting inside a luxurious chair. The seat alone made her want the kayak if I ever want to sell it or give it away. It’s just that good. It connects with your hips and supports your lower back. These two months mark the longest time I’ve paddled a kayak without breaking the back rest in some way.
The speed of the Scorpio is all right. It’s by far not as fast as a purpose-built fast sea kayak such as an Epic 18X but I am still consistently with the faster paddlers in my group. It tracks well, meaning less energy needs to be spent correcting the course of the kayak. On the Rhine and the start of the IJssel I’ve dragged it over rocks and taken it through the eddy lines and whirlpools that form when the water splits and gets sucked downstream. While it’s all relatively mild it has the potential to become a bit of a playing ground with enough water flowing through- or a passing ship. It’s been a nice boat to learn and demonstrate in because I can go in with confidence. It eats waves like a hungry beast.
When I originally penned up this review my longest trip in it had been only 30 kilometers or so, mainly because I started this season with a broken arm from a mountain biking accident. Since then I have paddled it across the country and on the north sea. My longest distance in a single day was about 60 kilometers.
Fully loaded the boat takes a bit of a speed penalty. It’s not quite as fast any more and my average solo speed goes down to about 6.5-7 kilometers an hour. This is an all right touring tempo, but my group generally goes faster.
On the north sea it was easily dealing with waves. It was my boat of choice for a week long paddling camp (symposium if you might) around the Noorderhaaks sand bar, and we do get a slight tidal race there as well as more interactions between coalescing water flows in and out of the Wadden Sea. There is a zone named “hell’s doors” there for good reason. The currents, waves, and wind were never too strong to make conditions hard for me in this boat. It is really an area where this boat excels – I think I was the only Scorpio paddler, but there were plenty of Cetus paddlers.
Rolling and re-entries
It’s one of the easiest kayaks I’ve ever rolled. The lower back deck helps a lot with any exercise you might do. I try to do some rolls every week after our club paddle nights and I’ve never had a moment of doubt with it. Re-entries are also easy. I can climb on the back deck with so much more ease than any of the club beaters, or my old Valley boat which has a much much higher profile. Gymnastics on the back deck are easy to do and I’ve been impressing people by standing up inside my cockpit. The primary stability is a good thing to have.
For a swimmer rescue I’ve managed to have a swimmer sitting on my back deck behind me without significant loss of stability.
The Scorpio is a fantastic plastic boat so I’ve dubbed it the Plastic Fantastic and I have no doubts this will be my boat for many years to come. If it ever finds its way to a club will be a great boat to put the younger and wilder paddlers in because it will allow them go all out.
I do find it easy to scratch the Corelite-x plastic. Practically every rock I hit or brick surface that the boat drags across even slightly, will cause scratches and will sometimes leave little turquoise plastic curls twirling in the water. I’ve paddled across barbed wire at high water and the wire left some impressive cuts too. There’s still plenty of plastic left and I guess that with a new boat, just like with a new car, you will notice every scratch you make.
The ability to carry weight is great. The hatches add up to nearly 150 liters and while this might be slightly less than other entry “expedition” models on the market I’ve not reached the point where I have more camping gear than the boat can handle. Even then, I reckon that the problem would be easily solved by moving equipment to bags on deck.
To sum things up:
The Scorpio MKII MV is an accessible and empowering boat that does not compromise on load, comfort or stability. It rolls easily and paddles like a breeze. While it may not be the quickest boat to turn it makes up for it by how much you can do with it. It can carry a lot of gear and is easy to re-enter with any manoeuvre you might want to attempt with it. I would recommend the boat to a beginner but also experienced paddlers because it’s a great boat for rougher conditions as well. The seat is so comfortable my girlfriend might steal it. I plan on giving her the Scorpio if I ever move to a faster boat.
The only downsides I’ve experienced are the leaky day hatch and I might have underestimated how quickly I can gather scratches on it – though that means I haven’t been able to leave the kayak dry much since I got it!
Update (October/November 2018): Mat of P&H kayaks got in touch with me and addressed some of the points I raised in this article. Regarding my concern over the plastic: They perform several quality checks on the plastic inside the factory and anything odd would have been spotted long before it got to me. It is normal to gather scratches on a plastic hull and this is not really cause for concern, I should not be worried about it. He also offered to send me an all-rubber hatch lid for the day hatch, which is supposed to be much more resilient to leakage, free of charge. Thanks P&H for their excellent customer service!