Native Ritual – Kayak Review

Native Watercraft’s Mariner 12.5 Propel uses a bicycle style pedal system to allow fishos to move in both forward and reverse. DAN BODE reports. Pics: Dan Trotter

The Native Watercraft Mariner 12.5 Propel is a member of the increasingly popular breed of large, exceptionally stable, tournament style, pedal operated fishing vessels. These best serve operators fishing within protected estuarine coves, suburban canals and dams.

Nerada Taranto from Sydney tackle shop Fish Outta Water initially helped me load 32.5 kilos of Native Watercraft onto the car roof and my early reservation about the dry weight of the Mariner Propel 12.5 was quelled.

Based on a kayak’s version of a recumbent bicycle, Native Watercraft’s Propel mechanism takes the unidirectional flap out of leg powered propulsion and replaces it with a fully sealed and watertight, pivoting anodised aluminium drivetrain. This allows the user to travel both in forward and reverse directions on a single drive placement. At 8.5kg this drive unit pushes the dry weight of the test ’yak to 41kg before any fishing and safety gear is added.

For the utility shop style kayak enthusiasts who demand massive amounts of storage and a juggernaut of rods, big is often beautiful and the Native doesn’t scrimp on space, while maintaining a compact appearance. From bow to stern this vessel is well set up for accessories.

A huge rear tankwell that doubles as a convenient flat wet re-entry point boasts four tie-down points for securing a large crate. A small but handy tackle box sits behind the cockpit with another four rigging points around it. The fully adjustable, padded seat keeps the kayaker high and dry. Within easy arms reach, the hand operated rudder switch is placed on the port side. The Propel drive smoothly slots into a moulded well and the pivot bar is secured by what I considered to be a somewhat flimsy overhand latching device that keeps the Propel drive fully locked and submerged.

The expansive and flat footwells lend themselves to kayakers who may be compelled to cast a line or battle a fish while standing.

The leading section of this kayak promotes even more rigging points, multiple well angled flush mount rod storage options, flat mount areas for GPS and fishfinders, along with netted gear retainers and sturdy moulded side handles. Up front, the generous but scantily sealed forward hatch lid allowed for some water penetration during the test.

In terms of overall build quality, Native clearly spent many hours refining the roto-mould process to ensure plastic density was evenly distributed throughout this complex hull design while maximising strength and delivering a clean final finish. If some extra attention had been paid to the front hatch, drive lock and test day rudder adjustments, I would have been a lot more generous in my final appraisal.

This test was performed in smooth conditions in a couple of protected and semi protected coves within Sydney Harbour in winds that varied between 0-15km/h. At first entry into the Mariner 12.5 it took a fair bit of strap work to get the leg and seating positions to a comfortable address. Considering my background as a kayak paddler using my dependent arms for propulsion, the whole pedalling thing required an entirely new mindset as well as a different set of easy to learn body controls.

Primary balance was never an issue and the 12.5 was so stable I could almost jump up and down on the thing. The pedalling motion itself encouraged similar body contortions and balance shifts expected of other recumbent transports and the motion soon becomes second nature. Once I got used to the distribution of weight and developed a feel for pedal rotations, I found myself working quite hard to achieve a cruising hull speed of around 6.5km/h using the unit’s preset 1:10 pedal to propeller gearing.

Due to what was later diagnosed by the dealer as a faulty rudder cable setup, I was frustrated by the 30m port side turning circle compared with the eight metre starboard turns that I experienced on the other side. I chose to use the starboard turn as my key benchmark for windward performance testing and quickly determined that the Native’s elongated twin hull design possibly lacked the kind of attack and responsiveness seen in mono hulls but provided exceptional stability and reasonable gliding properties. Again, it must be emphasised that no reasonable determinations could be made on turning performance in this instance due to the faulty cabling on test day.

In the calmest section of the bay, I pulled the ’yak alongside an anchored 8m yacht and tested the vessel’s holding capabilities using the slightest twitches of forward and reverse to keep myself within the shadow zone of the yacht while casting a small surface lure toward the anchor rope. It was during this test that the Mariner 12.5 excelled. In areas of defined structure or current, nothing beats being able to hold the ’yak in a singular position to work a lure or soft bait cast after cast. Like no other kayak, the reversing capabilities of the Propel mechanism create extended fishing opportunities that could mean the difference between a tournament win or loss. On the downside, the Propel mechanism, when locked, is a fixed depth unit and must be manually tilted in shallow areas.

For believers of bigger is better, the Native Watercraft Mariner Propel 12.5 has some unmatched position holding capabilities and is also big on adding on while retaining dimension. While it’s competitively placed as a thigh pumping, smooth water fishing machine, a properly ruddered unit would really shine as a slow water structure hunter.

Enquiries: Fish Outta Water, Manly Vale, NSW.

(02) 9949 9488; www.inmotionaus.com.au  

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