The design concept for the Dagger Sitka was to create my boat of choice for long distance paddling. I wanted a responsive tool that I could take anyplace I desired, in comfort, whether I was carrying heavy gear or just out for the evening. Aware of the drawbacks of most rudders, we developed the Sitka’s integral “trim tab” rudder. As a result, the boat is noticeably faster due to reduced drag, and also has increased durability, lighter weight and no need for a flip-up mechanism. The lock out lets you paddle the Dagger Sitka as if it had no rudder, so you get the best of both worlds. If you have been using an old style rudder, it may take a short while to adjust to the integral rudder, which has a softer feel since it runs inside the streamlines of the hull and works by lifting force. I keep it locked out when not adjusting the weather helm, but I have used the rudder in serious surf play to kick the boat around between waves. With its substantial volume, speed and excellent handling, the Sitka seems to love harsh conditions. We’ve been there, done that, liked it, and we’re going again. Steve Scarborough
DM 5’10”, 180-pound male. Day trips in chop to 11/2 feet, winds to 15 knots.
TW 6’1″, 180-pound male. Day trip in light winds with gusts to 15 knots. Small wind waves and large boat wakes.
TE 6’1″, 200-pound male. Day trips, flat calm to winds 15 to 20 mph, waves 11/2 to 2 feet and whitecaps.
Dagger’s Sitka has “very nice lines”(TW), “a clean lay-up and a high standard of workmanship” (TE). The hull and deck are joined with an plastic extruded seam and glassed inside. Its rudder is faired into the hull and its controls are hidden under a small cover on deck. The Kevlar Sitka tested was “relatively light and easy to lift on a shoulder and balanced well” (TW). Toggles at the extreme ends make for an easy tandem carry.
“The cockpit is roomy enough for large paddlers”(TW). “I could get in seat first then legs, making for easy reentry”(TE). “Kudos to the recessed deck fittings. In addition to adding a finished look to the kayak, they are positioned in a standard, but useful, format”(TW). In addition to the bungies, there is a nylon grab line the entire perimeter of the boat. There is a water bottle holder under the foredeck.
The deeply contoured fiberglass seat was comfortable for TE and TW. “The center [of the seat] has a molded-in hump that gives the feeling of sitting on a saddle and helped keep me positioned in the seat” (TE), though he would add some padding to prevent sliding laterally when bracing and rolling. TW would have liked a bit more support under the thighs and DM would have added some foam for a better individual fit.
The back band by PD Designs “provided good support”(TW). “A perfect fit for me. It was very comfortable and provided good support without restricting movement”(TE).
The thigh braces are molded into the coaming and padded with foam. “The best I have seen. The braces fit around my thigh without any edges digging in, [and are] hooked down to provide a solid grip”(TE).
The foot braces have pivoting foot pads for steering and provide solid support for bracing. The webbing-and-buckle attachment to the rudder cables makes it easy to adjust. The system impressed all the reviewers. The secure grip provided by the foot and thigh braces makes rolling easy.
“The rudder is an interesting one: The advantage is that it doesn’t hang down to snag on things and pick up weeds. The disadvantage is that it isn’t a very effective one. I found the boat’s response to the rudder to be somewhat sluggish” (DM). TE agreed that the rudder “doesn’t have a powerful turning effect. Initially, my tendency was to oversteer, putting the full rudder angle on. Later, I learned to wait for the rudder to take effect. Once I got used to its limited power, I found it worked well for maintaining a general course” (TE).
On the water, the Sitka’s initial stability was described as “comfortable” (TE), and “slightly tippy”(DM). Its secondary stability is “very solid” (DM). “The combination makes it easy to set the boat on edge for carved turns” (TE). “The thigh braces and rigid foot braces complement the ability to execute bracing and leaning” (TW).
The Sitka’s tracking drew a divided response, with DM noting that it had a tendency to wander, TE noting that it did not. With the rudder locked, the Sitka responded to leaned turns: “the bow won’t swing around immediately, but once the turn starts the Sitka turns well” (TE). “When leaned completely over, the Sitka turned easily” (TW).
TE thought the Sitka was “a pretty fast boat”: he could easily hold 4 to 5 knots, sprint short distances at 6 knots and hold 51/2 knots for longer periods. DM thought the Sitka had “average speed.” Paddling at fast cruising pace over a measured mile, he clocked 4.8 knots.
The Sitka rides fairly dry. DM noted “the bow hatch tended to deflect a bit of spray into my face when paddling directly into chop.” TE noted that “in 2-foot waves I only occasionally took water over the bow. Water that got on the foredeck was not thrown up by the deck hardware.”
TE thought that the Sitka was “fairly well balanced” in winds to 20 mph. It showed “a slight and slow weather-cocking, but it was easily corrected by edged turns or with the rudder.” DM thought the Sitka “tended to weathercock when paddled with the rudder locked in the center position.” On wind waves to 2 feet, DM and TE found the Sitka surfed well. “The rudder may come out of the water as the wave lifts the stern. Once up to speed, the rudder doesn’t have the power to steer quickly. Fortunately, the Sitka has enough maneuverability in its edged turns to provide good control” (TE).
The Sitka loads easily through two large Kayak Sport rubber hatches fore and aft. There is plenty of stowage space for extended cruising. The tethered day hatch opens to a flexible pouch. Its small volume keeps items from getting too far out of reach. TE reported a slight leakage into the aft compartment, TW noted about three cups forward and one cup aft after an afternoon of rescue practice. The fiberglass bulkheads are glassed in on one side and caulked on the other. The aft bulkhead is “hard up against the seat and sloped to reduce floodable volume and to make for quick and complete draining” (TE).
“The Sitka is a very nice kayak with some outstanding merits, the day hatch for one, and the thigh braces for another. It will meet a variety of paddling styles and will appeal to a wide range of boaters” (TW). For DM, the Sitka was an “adequate performer in many respects, though not really an exceptional boat in any way I noticed.” For TE, “the Sitka is on my short list. Once I changed the way I thought about the rudder, not as a substitute for paddle and edged turns, but as a supplement for course holding, I grew to like it. I think it is a great choice for a cruising kayak. It has the capacity to carry a lot of gear, and it is no dog when paddled without a load for fun.”
Wow! Great review, guys. Sushi’s on me. The Dagger Sitka has found quite a following since we introduced it in 1996. The problem with an awesome review like this is that I don’t have much of anything to discuss. Any performance kayak is going to engender differences of opinion, and we expected as much with the new ground (water?) broken with the Sitka. The trim-tab rudder drew the most attention and found a reviewer who appreciated it. Most folks quickly learn how to paddle the Sitka and no longer need that monster blunt instrument of a sea kayaker’s crutch, the rudder they’ve gotten used to.
Even so, if enough people requested it, we would develop a more powerful rudder blade, since it can be replaced with no tools, but so far this has not been the case. Our experience with the Sitka has been positive to the point that you will soon see other new touring kayaks from Dagger with the integral trim-tab rudder. As for hatch covers, expeditionist Bob Powell chose the Sitka to circumnavigate South Georgia island off the coast of Antarctica, and for the entire 52 days (in 8 meter waves and 30 knot winds at times) he only got a small amount of water one day when he failed to put a cover on straight. (There are alignment marks on the hatch cover.) The Dagger Sitka is easy to paddle and will serve you well in a variety of conditions. While no kayak is perfect for every paddler and paddling style, and even though I have several boats to choose from, I now find myself drawn to the Sitka as my personal boat of choice in many situations, and nearly always when it looks rough out there!
Steve Scarborough, designer
Options and Pricing
Standard Lay-up: Glass/Spheretex or Kevlar/Spheretex
Approximate Weight: Kevlar, 50 lbs.; Glass 56 lbs
Standard Features: Integral urethane foil rudder with internal lock, PD Designs backband, neoprene-padded thigh braces, Yakima foot braces with “butterfly” pedals, carrying toggles, water bottle holder, deck rigging, recessed deck fittings, hatches witbuilt-in day hatch bag, bulkheads, recessed compass mount Price: Glass, $2,300; Kevlar, $2,650 Options: Thigh brace kit, under-deck tray, seat and backrest pad custom-fit system.
Availability: Any Dagger dealer
P.O. Box 1500
Harriman, TN 37748
Phone (423) 882-0404