Appomattox River Company manager, Brian Vincent, and I have a lot in common. We’re both in the paddlesports business, passionate paddle anglers and busy family guys. So, any time we get a minute to hang out, the conversation turns to the best kayaks for our hectic, demanding lifestyle.
Eddyline Caribbean 12FS Specs
Weight: 45 lbs
Capacity: 275 lbs
Last time we spoke, Vincent made me a proposition. “How’d you like to paddle my personal kayak?”
“Hell, yeah!” I jumped without asking about the boat.
Vincent told me about his Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS. “The FS stands for frame seat,” he said.
I know Eddyline from their beautiful and high performance thermoform C-135, winner of the 2015 ICAST Best in Show award. I was stoked to hear the quick, little Caribbean 12 comes in a frame seat model. “It’s rare to find a sleek paddling machine with this level of comfort,” Vincent told me.
I was sold. A few weeks later, I picked up Vincent’s red and white Caribbean 12FS at my local ARC store in Hampton, Virginia.
After hearing Vincent’s stories about quiet days, effortlessly paddling through sylvan water with his heartbeat connected to each paddle stroke, I was quick to put the Caribbean to work.
My first impression, the Caribbean is breathtaking. Vincent warned me, “It looks amazing.” Eddyline kayaks are thermoformed. The process starts with two sheets of multi-layer plastic vacuum molded into the top and bottom of the kayak. Then the two sides are joined together with powerful glue.
Eddyline’s acrylic exterior coating shines like a new penny on a sunny day. Carved and shaped with smooth flowing lines, the color falls off the curves like a custom paint job on a classic car.
There is more than just beauty to thermoformed plastic. The Caribbean is impact and ding resistant. The material is also 30 percent lighter than rotomolded polyethylene. I was afraid of leaving a scratch on Vincent’s baby, but he encouraged me to fish as normal. “She’s my grab-two-rods-and-roll rig,” he told me.
So, that’s what I did. At my first opportunity, I grabbed two rods and rolled out to the local speckled trout hole. As paddling enthusiasts, Vincent and I have a higher understanding of performance. He told me, “As fishing kayaks have gotten bigger and heavier, the joy of paddling has faded.” He promised the Caribbean would reignite my flame.
He was right. Two paddle strokes from the launch and another advantage of the thermoformed ABS was added to my list. The glass-smooth surface of the boat cuts through the water, letting a gentle wave roll down the side of the hull before being released effortlessly from the stern. Poetry in motion. Vincent told me, “the rhythm of the paddle stroke is mesmerizing.”
I was so mesmerized, I paddled past the first two fishing spots. When I finally broke out of my trance, I stopped to take advantage of the redesigned Caribbean’s stand and fish capability.
Built on the same hull as the original Caribbean, the topside has been redesigned to accommodate a frame seat. While they were at it, the designers narrowed the center console and removed the center hatch to create an open deck with more room for standup fishing.
Eddyline commissioned Cloud 10 to build the ultimate frame seat for the new Caribbean. The aluminum frame is covered in UV resistant, breathable, fast-drying mesh for comfortable support. The side straps are low and out of the way of my paddle stroke. The seat bottom sits low in the kayak to improve paddling power and increase stability. Best of all, the removable seat doubles as a comfortable beach chair.
Eddyline lists the Caribbean 12FS as a recreational kayak, without extensive fishing features. Luckily, Vincent saw the casting and cranking potential in the boat. To bring the Caribbean up to contemporary fishing standards, he installed flush mount rod holders behind the seat and an anchor trolley along the port side of the boat. “I kept it simple,” he explained, continuing the grab-and-go theme.
My favorite new feature is the side handles, which double as a paddle holders. The Caribbean is perfectly balanced to lift and carry with the handles.
I’ve always been a fan of Eddyline’s bow hatch. Molded to flow with the lines of the kayak, the hatch opens on two hinges and closes with locking latches.
Gear tracks on either side of the cockpit and a bungee stretched over the small gear well round out the Caribbean 12 FS rigging. I added a 13-by-13-inch YakGear milk crate to the stern well and threw a drybag of warm clothes in the bow hatch.
To power the sport fishing machine, I grabbed my Bending Branches carbon Angler Pro paddle with enough torque to push the boat and keep her gliding.
The Caribbean FS shares her forefather’s solid performance. The boat’s wide, rounded hull is stable for standup fishing. The new frame seat makes it a little easier to leave the seat, but it’s low to the deck so less agile anglers will probably need to add a stand-assist strap.
The 12-foot waterline is manageable when standing and paddling, the boat tracks well without being a bear to turn. The more I paddled Vincent’s boat, I wanted to add a rod holder and paddle holder to the cockpit to keep my sticks in the boat when I’m standup fishing.
When I hooked my first speckled trout, Vincent’s boasting turned out to be well founded. He had told me, “After I release a fish back into its natural environment, I sit back and think, ‘Yep, good call. This kayak is fun.’”
I agree. The Caribbean’s sporty performance makes it a fun fishing boat. A three-pound redfish pulled me across the water, but the Caribbean’s stable platform never made me hesitate. Minimal rigging made the boat easy to paddle one-handed. The gunwales are low enough to slide a foot in the water and scoop the fish into the boat. As the fish flopped around the cockpit, I realized one disadvantage to such a nice kayak, I’d have to wash this boat when I brought it home.
The Caribbean 12FS looks too nice to fish hard but looks can be deceiving. With a couple upgrades, the recreational boat turns into a fun little fishing machine. “Each paddle stroke will bring another dose of peace,” Vincent promised. He was right.
Smooth operator. A thermoformed hull glides through the water | Featured photo: Roberto Westbrook