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After months of waiting and wondering, my Old Town Bigwater 132 PDL has finally arrived at its new home! Due to extremely high demand and supply chain shortages across many industries, it took months for Old Town to be able to fill even the first orders that came in for their new line-up.
When Old Town released the updates for the 2020 Predator PDL in the summer of 2019 I knew it was going to be my next kayak. This spring, as the Sportsman Series was released, Old Town reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in teaming up with them as a brand ambassador. The timing couldn’t have been better because I was already working with my local paddle shop, Aquabatics, to bring a Bigwater in for me. Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity!
So what brought me to choose the Bigwater PDL over all the other kayaks on the market? There were two big reasons, speed and size. The Bigwater is touted as one of the fastest pedal drive kayaks on the market. It has a long waterline, an efficiently shaped hull and a tall gear ratio to get the most speed for your effort. At 13 feet and 36 inches wide, the Bigwater is a massive boat. Everyone who’s seen it in person has made the same comment, this thing is huge. I’ve had two other 13 foot long kayaks before but the Bigwaters width and tall seating position makes it feel so much larger. 13 feet is an ideal length for covering water and my intention is to travel a lot of open water in a day. The wind in the prairies can really whip up some waves and I need a boat to handle them. For many people, the Bigwater will be too big, but if you are interested in traveling long distances and feeling confident in rough water, the Bigwater is for you.
The gear ratio on the Old Town PDL drives is taller than my previous kayak. Old Town sports a 10:1 drive ratio while the Pescador Pilot 12.0 has a 6:1 gear ratio with similar size propellers and pitch. So, for every 1 revolution of the pedals the prop rotates 10 times. I won’t lie, after pedaling the Pilot for years, the first couple hours in the Bigwater left a burn in my legs. It doesn’t take long to get used to though. I’ve been out in the Bigwater a couple times and have learned that I can slow down my pedaling pace and still maintain a great travelling speed without wearing my legs out. I’m not sure how fast the Bigwater is on flat calm water because I haven’t been able to find any since adding my GPS for a speed readout, but I will report on that when I get a feel for it. For reference, the Jackson Flex Drive has a very tall 16:1 gear ratio. I can’t imagine what pedalling that drive is like, perhaps I will take one out for a ride one of these days and find out.
There are other advantages to the Bigwater platform that drew me to it over some other kayaks as well. Coming from a kayak without any dry internal storage, I am quite happy to have that back. In my Trident 13, I would often throw my lunch, extra clothes and even my rods inside the hull and now I can do the same in the Bigwater again.
I find the seating position to be much more ergonomic. The Pilot has a very laid back recumbent position and the seat is very low to the deck. In the Bigwater, I am able to go from sitting to standing much easier because the seat is higher. Also, my legs are a bit lower while pedaling and it’s easier on my lower back.
One of my biggest gripes with the Pilot was the difficulty in raising the drive. Old Town has remedied that with their extra large drive opening in the hull. It’s very easy to raise and lower the drive quickly when beaching the kayak or when clearing the weeds from the prop. Speaking of large opening, when the drive is raised that opening is just begging you to drop things down it! If you keep a messy deck, be prepared to lose something through it.
Although I think the Bigwater is perfect for my needs there are some weaknesses. The kayak is big and can be difficult to move around on your own. I use the C-Tug kayak cart religiously and it’s a necessity for moving a kayak this size. My next complaint is that I find the steering way too light. The rudder is constantly pushed around by the water and requires almost full time input. Thankfully, Nick over at Navarre Kayak Fishing has a fix. A simple bolt and washer set replaces the rudder pin and with the right torque, that problem is solved. I’ve ordered the kit and will let you know how it goes. Another downside is that with so much freeboard the wind really pushes the kayak around. I was out in 20km/winds and was surprised at how fast I was drifting and how much more effort it was to pedal into the wind when compared with the Pilot. An advantage of having more freeboard is that it was a much drier ride than it otherwise would be in that kind of chop.
A question that is often asked is if the Bigwater is different from the Predator PDL? Actually, no, they are pretty much the same boat. The differences are the colors available, a new logo, new seat material (not a different seat frame) and it comes with a small branded tackle box. You can even see the shading where the Predator logo should be from the mold. It’s the same boat.
I’ve been patiently waiting for the Bigwater to arrive for months and I’m in no way disappointed! Although there are a ton of options for pedal kayaks on the market, I weighed my options carefully, I knew what my needs were and chose the boat that best suited them. The Bigwater 132 PDL isn’t a boat for everyone, but for me it represents the best choice for an all around big water, big mile, fish catching machine. Stay tuned to the blog for a full review once I’ve had a chance to really put it through it’s paces!
Check out the lineup of Old Town kayaks available at Aquabatics!