Don't be discouraged, the scanned text (with the graphics) near the beginning of this review is hard to read, but the review that follows is not . At least some computers (including mine) have trouble showing some of the GIF files so skip through any blank spaces. If you think you know why those pictures aren't visible any longer please contact me, I'd like to figure out how to fix them--Matt.

This review of the Coaster appeared in the Summer 1994 issue of Sea Kayaker.
1994 Sea Kayaker

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Designer's Statement:
(Note: words in lightweight italics were edited out by Sea Kayaker--for space --from the statement and response Cam Broze provided the magazine.)

I designed the Coaster for extreme conditions on open coasts. When introduced in 1985, sea kayakers accustomed to a world of seventeen footers didn't know quite what to think of a sea kayaking playboat. It took a while to catch on, but within a few years the Coaster achieved cult status in surf, surging sea caves, rock gardens, high winds and similar opportunities for fun.

Paddlers from 90 to 150 pounds discovered the Coaster was also an ideal touring kayak. The cockpit that provides a "whitewater kayak" fit for a kayak surfer (up to 210 pounds) allows a roomier yet still secure fit for small paddlers. The low cockpit area means small kayakers don’t need to feel they are reaching over the sides of a bathtub to paddle. A small wetted surface and a prismatic coefficient that maximizes the effective waterline length makes it easy to maintain cruising speed of four knots or more in a Coaster (top speed is over five knots). Small paddlers love it because they easily keep pace with larger companions who had previously left them behind

Because of full volume ends, (designed to lift over waves and not dive in surf) the Coaster holds a surprising amount of cargo. It performs best with a displacement below 300 pounds (although it has performed satisfactorily with almost 400 pounds). Lots of big guys are having fun with this boat on day trips, surfing, and poking around in tight places, but when touring they should limit their gear weight and/or pack with a stern heavy trim.

The Coaster’s short waterline makes it among the quickest and easiest sea kayaks to turn, yet it also tracks well with its deep V-keel. It is very responsive to strokes and leans, and its secondary stability makes leaning both easy and secure. This, a windage balance that minimizes weathercocking and a hull designed for control when surfing, explains why not one of our customers has ever had us install a rudder on a Coaster.

The Coaster is most appreciated by paddlers who have discovered that the physical act of handling their kayak skillfully in all conditions is a big part of the fun.

Cam Broze
Mariner Kayaks

Mariner Coaster Review

Reviewers:
CC 5'7",
140-pound female. Day trips in winds to 20 knots. Five-day Baja cruise with surf launchings and landings.
ST 5'4", 115-pound female. Owner report. Day paddles to 8-day cruises. Winds to 25 knots, seas to 8 feet.
SK 5'10", 165-pound male. Day trips, winds to 15 knots, moderate chop offshore, surf to 6 feet.
CP 5'7", 155-pound male. Day trips, winds 15 to 20 knots, 10-foot swell. Surf 4 to 7 feet in calm air. Two- to 5-foot storm surf in 15- to 25-knot winds.
RS 6'2", 190-pound male. Day trips. Surf play and competition, 4- to 6-foot surf.
DM 5'10", 180-pound male. Owner report. Day, trips and cruises to 4 days. Protected waters to exposed coast.

The appearance of the Coaster takes getting used to. Several of our reviewers thought it looked "squat and stubby," even "ugly" at first sight. But "the beauty of this little beast is in its function." (RS) The quality of the construction is excellent, with well-crafted fiberglass seams inside and out.

All our paddlers found the lightweight Coaster easy to carry. Even our two shortest paddlers could easily manage the Coaster on and off the roof racks. Toggles at the extreme ends of the kayak make it a very easy carry for two. The cockpit was roomy enough for our paddlers to get in and out of but not so large that the had trouble getting a good leg grip an it when seated. The padded thighbraces are comfortable and provide good control for bracing and rolling. SK felt "glued to the boat."

The seat and adjustable back support were comfortable for most of our paddlers. CP, at 5' 7", found the back support too high. ST, at 5'4", added a lumbar support for a better fit. The foot braces are solid, comfortable and easily adjusted.

The deck lines drew some raves: "the best I've seen on any kayak," (SK) to "I'm still mystified by the system." (CP) RS describes the deck lines as: "very clever and well-executed deck lines run the entire length of the deck, making it easy to grab from any, position. The single line crosses the back deck in several positions, cleverly creating snug lash-down points for a spare paddle and extra gear. Nifty snugger gizmos allow for simple and secure cinching of load in three separate areas." CP would have preferred some bungies (available as an option).

Rudders were not on any of the Coasters paddled: "putting a rudder on this boat is to miss the point entirely." (RS)

The Coaster got high marks for stability. It "quickly gained my confidence with its comfortable initial stability and predictable nature when leaned." (CP)

The Coaster tracks well for its 13-foot length and is very responsive to leaned turns. It carves turns well without added sweep strokes and returns to straight tracking when the boat is level again.

The Coaster is quick to accelerate to cruising, speeds. ST notes that in the Coaster she can keep up with stronger paddlers. DM pushed the Coaster to 5.17 knots for a mile at maximum effort, 4.9 knots for over an hour, and 4.6 knots in rough water. CC reported she could keep a 4 knot pace.

The high bow rides over most waves and doesn't throw much spray. The fore-deck sheds water well.

Most of our paddlers found the Coaster to be very well balanced in wind: "totally unaffected by wind...ideal storm boat." (CP) Only ST had trouble with weathercocking, but only with a cruising load.

In surf the Coaster "is very nimble, able to spin 180 degrees to catch approaching waves with only a sweep stroke or two, fast enough in a sprint to catch slow breaking waves; its buoyant bow staunchly resists pearling; and its hard chines have a strong tendency to carve across wave faces rather than broaching." (RS)

The Coasters tested had no bulkheads or hatches, so cargo was loaded through the cockpit. Some found that difficult; others liked the access unimpeded by hatches and the stowage space broken up by bulkheads. Even the two large paddlers could imagine carrying, a week's worth of cruising gear in it. Carefully packed to maintain trim, the Coaster still tracks and carves turns well, and holds a 3- to 4-knot cruising pace.

"It may look like an ugly duckling, but it handles like a swan." (CC) As a surf kayak, a rough-water playboat, and a cruiser for small paddlers, the Coaster fits its purpose to a T. Three of our reviewers thought it a good choice for beginning paddlers to have fun in while learning leans, braces and rolls.

Designer’ Response
It's always nice to hear others are enjoying the Coaster as much as I am. Like all our kayaks the Coaster is an original design produced on a custom order basis, and outfitted to individual preferences. For instance, there are different seat widths and the height of the seat back can be varied. (Note to CP: most that request a change want it higher than standard.) A few of our customers have even designed their own deck rigging. We can provide a custom kayak because we deal directly with the paddler.

We provide a detailed user's manual to, among other things, "demystify" the function of the deck lines and show how to avoid inducing weather helm when loading for a trip. Other’s cover safety, rescues, and paddling skills (from basic strokes to techniques that are beyond what's available in any present book). We cater to expert paddlers and want all our customers to understand their kayak and become expert in its use.

The kind of performance that draws these tester's rave reviews is the result of extensive research in hull design, naval architecture and hydrodynamics. We spent weeks test paddling and fine-tuning several prototypes in conditions from calm to terrifying before putting the Coaster into production. Its success has spawned a slew of small kayaks in recent years, including one look-alike. The versatility and fine handling qualities of our design were not easily achieved. It is not difficult to make a boat look like a Coaster. Subtle differences in design detail can make quite marked differences in performance [handling] characteristics. If you've already paddled the impostor and believed the salesman's "it's just like a Coaster" line you must be very confused by the enthusiastic response of these Coaster testers. Please do not draw conclusions about the Coaster on the basis of a disappointing experience with a boat of a similar size even if it looks just like a Coaster.
Cam Broze
Mariner Kayaks

Options
Design in production since 1985
Standard Layup: Vacuum-bagged laminate; fiberglass seams inside and out prevent leaks and folding; reinforced gelcoat for sun, abrasion, and chip resistance in over 60 standard colors; black trim.
Standard Features: Built in padded thigh grips; padded adjustable seat back; Directional control integrated into the hull shape is operated by leaning; 3/8" Stainless steel U-bolts imbedded into each endpour support comfortable carrying for toggles and provide impressive lockability; Functional and easy to use deck lines: for self-rescue, to securely hold a spare paddle and/or deck gear, and to provide a safety grab line around the entire kayak; "No spray" access port 4" foredeck port; Keeper adjustable foot pedals; choice of seats and backrest height; Detailed manuals.
Approximate weight: 39 lbs.
Layups Available: Big surf and rock bashing layup (46-49lbs.); Heavy duty hull -- for regular surf use (44-46lbs.); Kevlar with graphite reinforcing (34-36lbs.); Graphite with Kevlar seams (31-34lbs.); or call and tell us what your needs are.
Availability: Only from Mariner Kayaks, Seattle

Manufacturer's Address: [in 2007]
Mariner Kayaks,
P.O. Box 65011,
Shoreline, WA 98155-9011
(206) 367-2831

[For more photos of the Coaster check out the "Fundamentals" articles in Sea Kayaker by George Gronseth from the Fall 1990 through the Fall 1991 issues, the "Surf Zone Techniques" article by John Lull in Summer 1991, the "Bow Rudder Strokes" article by Matt Broze in the Summer 1993 issue, and the cover of the June 1997 issue. The video "Kayaking Ocean Rock Gardens--A Tsunami Ranger Guide" is full of wild action and it is well populated with Coasters in their element. That's a Coaster on the video cover going "over the falls" on a ocean wash-over rock. ]