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Old Town Cayuga 130 Review

Posted by on September 11, 2012

The Deets:

Material: Single Layer Polyethylene

Class: Day Touring (Light Touring)

Length: 13’1”

Width: 25”

Weight: 50 lbs

Cockpit Size: 34.5 x 16 inches

Capacity: 225-275 lbs

Hull Type: Shallow U-Shaped

Hatches/Bulkheads: Bow and Stern

Rudder/Skeg: Optional Rudder

MSRP: $979 ($1219 with rudder)

The Review:

The Old Town Cayuga 130 is a well-outfitted, day-touring kayak that’s a great choice for the beginner-intermediate paddler interested in exploring near-coastal waterways. The fish-formed Cayuga 130 tracks fairly well for a 13’1”-long kayak despite lacking a prominent keel-line. As suspected, the 25inch beam and shallow, U-shaped hull demonstrates solid primary stability with a smooth transition to a reliable secondary. Material-wise, its single-layer, roto-molded polyethylene construction provides for a durable and relatively light-weight (50lbs) craft.  The 2012 Cayuga 130 is available in two colors: cloud (blue/white) and yellow, however, earlier models may be found in sunrise (red/orange/yellow), lime green and dark green. An optional rudder system is also available for an additional $240.

In all of my years of kayak instruction and sales experience it’s hard to think of two kayaks that are more substantially equivalent in design and performance than the Old Town Cayuga 130 and the Necky Manitou 13! This may not be all that surprising since both craft fall under the larger Johnson Outdoor umbrella. Anyway, the reasons why both of these kayaks are excellent choices for the beginner paddler abound. Reliable stability is one of the most sought-after features for a beginner paddler. Both craft are very forgiving in the stability department with excellent primary stability and a soft transition to reliable secondary stability. Furthermore, both track fairly well with minimal weather-cocking in light to moderate winds and seas. The Manitou 13 (45lbs) is slightly lighter than the Cayuga 130 (50lbs) but this 5lb difference should be a small compromise after reading the rest of this review!

I have mixed feelings regarding the changes made to the 2012 version of the Cayuga 130 cockpit. The most prominent cockpit change is the addition of the standard Johnson Outdoors “Active Comfort System” seat. This seat offers 4-point adjustment that allows you to tweak the seating position for perfect comfort. I’ve found it to be more comfortable, sturdier, and less bulky than the previous seat found in the Cayuga 130. However, the 2012 model took a step backward by reverting to the cheap foam pads for thigh braces that were once found in the older Manitou 13 models. The adjustable, contoured foam thigh braces which were once a standard feature on the Cayuga 130 are now offered as an option. I would not buy a Cayuga 130 without upgrading to this thigh brace option as it will better allow for you to develop edging and bracing skills.

The Cayuga 130 really separates itself from the Manitou 13 with its additional hatch and superior deck outfitting. The Cayuga 130 has fore and aft hatches and bulkheads while the Manitou 13 only has one hatch and bulkhead in the stern. This additional hatch accounts for most of the 5lb difference between the two kayaks but it makes the Cayuga 130 safer and more versatile for near-coastal adventures! The hatches feature the standard Johnson Outdoor hatch cover which is a one-piece, plastic cover with a rubber seal. I’ve found that this system is far from watertight so make sure to stow any gear that you want to keep dry in dry bags! Finally, Old Town offers an optional rudder on the Cayuga 130. I’m not a big proponent of rudders on light-touring kayaks as they typically do more harm (by creating bad habits) than good. The tracking of the Cayuga is fine for its designed use as a day-touring kayak and there’s really no need for a rudder in this case.

Word of caution: Some folks who are interested in the Cayuga 130 may be tempted to move up in length to the Cayuga 146 (14’6” long). I’ve test paddled both of these kayaks in windy conditions (15+knots) and I’m confident to report that the Cayuga 130 is a far superior craft in terms of tracking and even slightly so in terms of stability. It’s my opinion that the Cayuga did not scale up very well to the 146 length and that this version should be avoided!

In summary, I find that the Cayuga 130 is a great choice for the beginner/intermediate paddler interested in building their skills on near-costal adventures. This is based on its solid stability and good tracking in light to moderate conditions. I have mixed feelings with respect to changes in the cockpit outfitting of the 2012 Cayuga 130. The new seat is a nice improvement over older models but I highly recommend upgrading to the optional contoured thigh braces so that you can get the most performance out of this kayak. In general, the Cayuga 130 is substantially equivalent to the Necky Manitou 13 in terms of design and performance but I’d give the Cayuga the nod in a head-to-head because its second hatch and bulkhead improves safety and versatility for near-coastal use.

-Kayak Dave

Pros: Excellent stability profile, Comfortable seat, Fore and aft hatches and bulkheads.

Cons: Contoured thigh braces no longer a standard feature.

Demo Notes: I have test paddled the Cayuga 130 in both calm and windy conditions over the past 4 seasons.

Kayak Dave Rating:

UPDATE: The Old Town Cayuga Family will be rebranded in 2013 under the Necky Manitou Series as the Manitou R. See article,  Old Town Cayuga Family Introduced into Necky Manitou Series for more information on the Manitou 130 R and 146 R.


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