The Cortez is Dagger’s highest performance polyethylene touring boat. The Cortez is sixteen and a half feet long with a narrow softly multi-chined hull. The deep hull is topped with a slightly rounded deck with little rise in the bow or stern giving the boat an overall pleasing but sausage-like like.

A rudder is standard, along with full deck rigging of thick stout lines. The carrying toggles are burly, comfortable pieces with a clever bungy system to keep the bow toggle tightly retracted against the deck when not in use. This prevents that annoying rattle during transport or in crashing waves.

The compartments store considerably large amounts of gear. One-piece, Sure-Seal rubber hath covers roll on easily and keep water out. The narrow hull allows for only a small hatch in the bow. Anything bulkier than a 5 litre drybag will have to go in the larger stern hatch. The bulkheads are welded plastic and proved to be solid and dry.

Boat performance

Climbing into the Cortez, we note the large comfortable seat. Our bigger paddlers loved the roomy fit but some of the smaller paddlers would build up the hip area and add foam to the thighbraces. The adjustable backband is attached to the boat independently from the seat but doesn’t tighten forward enough to provide maximum lumbar support in an upright seating position. The cockpit is very long allowing for easy entry and exit but also contributes to an awkward forward placement of the thighbraces that take a little getting used too. The rudder cables run close to the leg area, noticeably coming in contact with the legs when working the rudder.

When putting the boat on the water it feels tippy or unstable initially. Paddlers used to wider kayaks may find getting into the Cortez is a little tricky requiring careful balance at first. Fear not, the wobbly initial stability quickly blends with rock solid secondary stability. With a moderate tilt of thirty degrees or so the boat stabilizes comfortably. But don’t stop there…the deep multi-chine hull allows you to confidently tilt the Cortez almost completely on its side making it feel extremely playful. The multi-chined hull reacts incredibly quickly to its tilts. When tilted it spins quickly—responding effortlessly to sweeps. This is by far one of the fastest turning boats of its class. Under power the Cortez carves through turns on both inside and outside tilts making for outstanding performance. Remarkably, the turning performance does not compromise the speed of the boat making it easily the fastest in Dagger’s plastic fleet.

The quick, playful performance comes at a cost to tracking ability. The Cortez weather-cocks almost instantly in the slightest quartering breeze. The weather cocking or turning into the wind is caused by a lack of lateral resistance at the trialing end of the hull—the same lack of resistance that lets the boat turn so quickly. Dagger went out on a limb with this design creating a boat that would always be equipped with a rudder. This way designers could concentrate on an alternate hull formation that performs as a non-tracking sporty day tripper with the rudder up and as a load bearing cargo hauler with the rudder down. The rudder deploys easily with a firm tug and instantly prevents weather-cocking. The rudder stows easily, retracting into a molded groove on the deck. The pedals operate smoothly and run freely on the standard adjustable sliders.

Dagger stepped out of the mold with the hull design of the Cortez. They’ve produced a sporty plastic boat that holds its own as a day tripper, wave surfer, and multi-day touring boat. Dagger markets the Cortez to intermediate and advanced paddlers but it should not be overlooked by the ambitious novice who sometimes prefers to play with tilts and strokes rather than rudders.


  • Length: 16 ft 6 in
  • Width: 21.625 in
  • Weight rotomold: 54 lbs
  • Cockpit: 19 x 34 in
  • Rear hatch: 17 x 12 in
  • Forward hatch: 10 in round
  • MSRP: $1,995

This article first appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of Adventure Kayak magazine. For more boat reviews, subscribe to Adventure Kayak’s print and digital editions here.


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