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 .

This review of the Mariner MAX appeared in the December 1995 issue of Sea Kayaker.
1995 Sea Kayaker

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The scan of the Hydrostatics below is hard to read. Most of the information can be found in Dimensions.

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Mariner Max

Designer’s Statement
The Mariner MAX is a versatile sea kayak for paddlers who demand the best in design, materials, and construction. It is suitable for paddlers from about 150 to 230 pounds (up to size 13 feet and a 37" inseam).The MAX will accommodate a total displacement of over 400 pounds. Most paddlers find the MAX's cockpit comfortable enough to spend an entire day in, yet plenty secure for Eskimo rolls and end flips in surf.

In head seas the MAX doesn't pound, slap or throw much spray into the air for the wind to blow back in your face. In fact, the MAX rarely takes water over the deck even when speeding into head seas or surfing steep waves. The MAX doesn't weathercock into sidewinds or broach suddenly in following seas. In steep beam and quartering seas the MAX doesn't skid sideways but rather stays comfortably under you. In short, the MAX's neutral handling in difficult conditions puts you in control, rather than the wind and waves, (a rudder becomes annoying clutter). The instantly adjustable sliding seat can tilt the neutral handling in your favor.

The MAX responds readily to the subtleties of stroke and lean. This provides a sporty maneuverability that is surprising in a kayak that also tracks so well. An emphasis on secondary stability makes tilting the MAX for control both easy (even when heavily loaded) and secure (even when empty).

A few design secrets combined with a prismatic coefficient that minimizes wave drag in the 4 knot range, a relatively small wetted surface and narrow waterline make it easy to maintain a fast cruising speed, even in rough water. The paddling ease and responsive handling are astounding in a kayak with such a large gear capacity.

Matt and Cam Broze

Mariner Max Review

5' 10", 175-pound male. Crossings in winds to 18 knots, wind waves to 2 feet.
5' 11 ", 165-pound female. Day trip with 20-pound load. Crossing in winds to 15 knots, swell to 4 feet with wind waves to 2.5 feet.
5' 10", 180-pound male. Same conditions as SC as well as surf to 4.5 feet.

Our three reviewers thought the Mariner Max had a "clean, high quality finish" with a "flawless fiberglass lay-up."(SC) DL noted that the decks both fore and aft were sufficiently strong to support his weight with "only a minimal amount of flexing" during rescue practice.

The end toggles make a comfortable two-person carry. For solo carrying the balance point is toward the front of the cockpit. While SC and DL managed well with a solo carry, DM mentioned that the cockpit rim dug into his ribs when carrying the kayak on his shoulder.

The cockpit was large enough for easy entry and exit, especially with the sliding seat in the aft position. "Small enough to provide a secure grip with my legs, yet large enough to easily allow wet exiting." (DL) SC and DM liked the fit and comfort of the fiberglass bucket-style seat as well as the back support it provided. DL fared well on short stints and thought the secure fit of the seat transmitted his body movements to the boat, but on long tours it made his tail bone uncomfortable. He recommended padding. The thigh bracing is an integral part of the deck design and padded with 1/4" foam. It is "very secure and very comfortable in any position of the sliding seat." (DM)

The foot braces are attached by aluminum strap to the sliding seat so that they move when the seat is moved. They "provide firm support for rolling and other maneuvers." (DM) DL and SC found adjustment of the foot braces was simple whether off or on the water.

"I was impressed with how well the deck rigging had been thought out." (SC) "Well designed spare paddle holder makes it possible to reach back and get half of the [spare] paddle and use it [to roll] if a capsize occurs after a paddle has been lost."( DM) Among the highly rated deck fittings are provisions for holding a wide chart case, and lines for paddle float rescue. Under the foredeck there is a clip to hold a pump (an optional feature).

The Mariner Max is not equipped with a rudder, and, in the unanimous opinion of the reviewers, it doesn't need one. The sliding seat allows an adjustment in trim "that makes it possible to balance [the kayak] when paddling in the wind" (DM) as well as adjust the kayak for "maneuverability with the seat in the forward position [or] better tracking with the seat in the rear position." (DL)

The stability characteristics of the Max make it "easy to tilt on edge for carved or pivoted turns, but the secondary stability makes it easy to hold on edge without fear of an unexpected capsize." (DM) "Stable even when surfing wind waves. Stretching out or reaching for items below deck was no problem."(DL)

The Max tracked well for all of our reviewers, while still being very responsive to leaned turns. DL reported that he could "easily glide through an S [turn] with no paddle strokes at all."

SC expressed the shared opinion that the Max is "a pretty fast boat. Holds its speed well and accelerates without hesitation.

SC and DL both reported a dry ride in the Max. "The foredeck shed water well. The bow tended to ride up over the waves well and didn't have problems with submerging. Of the boats I have paddled this provides one of the drier rides." (DL)

The Max is well balanced in the wind. "In a cross wind I could fine tune the boat [with the sliding seat) so that it had no tendency whatever to weathercock." (DM) "No problems with balance or maneuverability, although the boat was not unaffected by wind and swell. I never felt it wouldn't give me a rapid response when I needed one." (SC)

DL and SC reported that the Max easily caught and surfed wind waves. In the surf zone DM and DL took on waves to 4.5' and 6' respectively." The boat handles well on a wave, but as with most cruising kayaks, it isn't exactly easy to turn once it's planing on a wave. But it is much better than most of the sea kayaks I've surfed in." (DM) According to DL, with body lean and paddle ruddering it is possible to steer the Max away from a broach.

The Max has enough room to carry gear for extended trips. The Max, without bulkheads, is easily loaded from the cockpit. A 4" hatch forward helps in moving gear bags into the bow, but has some hard edges inside. DL recommended smoothing them down to keep the skin on your knuckles intact.

Our reviewers gave the Max high marks overall. "A very solid design." (SC) "An excellent boat. Stable enough that a beginner should have no problem with it, and responsive enough that an expert will really enjoy its handling characteristics." (DM)

Designer’s Response
(text in italics was edited out for space and replaced by whats in the brackets [ ] by Sea Kayaker magazine)

Thank you for confirming our experience. We would like to point out a couple features not yet mentioned: The gear capacity is greater than most kayaks with the same volume because the hull shape is relatively narrow in the cockpit and foot area and bigger in the storage areas. The unique stern improves tracking as speed or gear load is increased (just the times straighter tracking is most helpful). This stern also slides easily over kelp (or waves) when backing up.

The reviewers agreed the Max didn't need a rudder. Rudder systems have many disadvantages. 1)Loose or spongy foot pedals diminish the power of your stroke and the security of your leans. 2)Possible injury from sharp edges and corners creates difficulties during rescues. 3)A jerky ride as the rudder is batted sideways by [in] cross-chop. 4)The rudder can trip you as it reenters the water during a broach especially if you try to correct the broach by using the rudder (straightening your down wave leg off its thigh brace. 5)Broken rudders, cables, corrosion, and wear [More parts] mean more maintenance [and breakage]. A rudder dependent paddler can suddenly go "cold turkey" in extreme conditions if the rudder fails. Or imagine your rudder stuck down and hard over during a rough solo crossing. 6)In tank tests a rudder added 10% more drag at 3 knots 7)Due to the toggle's location the hull bangs against your leg when carrying the stern. Changing tired hands often means a choice between risking back or groin injury or putting the clean (wet) hull down in the sand. 8)Slower turns because you straighten your knee to push the rudder pedal rather than lifting that knee to tilt the kayak. The average turning time of 175 sea kayaks we tested (turned through 180 degrees at cruising speed) was 85% longer when level than when leaned. Precariously forcing a lean while using the rudders still averaged 17% slower (88 tests). Spinning in place is usually slower as well because of the rudder's drag (the average of 75 tests was 22% slower with the rudder down) 9)Fouling towing or fishing lines. 10)A rudder aggravates weatherhelm by adding windage at the stern. 11)Correcting weatherhelm with a rudder adds considerably more paddling resistance because you must angle the rudder to go straight. 12)Backing up the blade tends to flop to one side. (You might also be stopped or tangled here by seaweed) [is more difficult].

The MAX is most appreciated by those who consider handling their kayak skillfully in all conditions using the paddle and body English a big part of the fun.

Matt and Cam Broze

Design in production since 1993.
Standard Lay-up:
Vacuum-bagged using woven and bi-axial fiberglass roving with foam core reinforcements and a tough vinylester/polyester co-resin. Huge color choice. Fiberglass outside seams as well as tapered thickness inside seams (to minimize stress risers).
Other Lay-ups: Lightweight, heavy duty (Expedition) and super heavy duty (Ice breaker) in standard or exotic materials.
Standard Features: Standard lay-up with 3/8" stainless steel U-bolts (lockable security) and toggled T-grabloops at each end, chart holders, paddle park, bow towline/painter/grabline, rear deck storage/self-rescue/grablines, spare paddle holder, stern tow line/grabline, tethered 4" bow access port, "hung" seat (with choice of widths), adjustable footbraces and extensive detailed manuals.
Approximate Weight: Standard lay-up with hung seat: 48 lb., with sliding seat: 53 lb. Custom lay-ups 39 to 70 lb.
Options: sliding seat/foot-brace unit (as on the tested kayak), large (13" by 17") double sealed stern hatch, Fiberglass or foam bulkheads, under-deck chart pocket with hand pump holder, Feathercraft rudder system.
Availability: Limited production, and only available directly from Mariner Kayaks (dealers please don't inquire!). From order to delivery is seasonal but is rarely less than four weeks or more than ten weeks for a custom kayak. Stock kayaks (or slightly blemished kayaks) are sometimes available within a week or two but don't count on it.

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