Submitted: 05-01-2006 by William Menke
Mine is the kevlar version of the boat, with an under-the-stern rudder. Its 19'4" long and weighs 30 pounds. The kevlar is naturally a muddy yellow color, so I've nicknamed this unpainted boat Lahar, the technical term for a mudflow, in keeping with my use of geological names for my boats.
I chose this model boat to fill the gap between my sprint racing boat, a 17' Nelo Vanquish XXL, which is very fast but restricted to flat water, and my sturdy but slow sea kayak, a 15' Wilderness Systems Sealution 2XS. I wanted a boat that is safe in fairly rough seas, but which is fast. I've grown used to the performance of the racing boat, and want to capture the feeling of speed while touring. A little extra speed also greatly increases the range of a morning paddle, and opens new course options.
I've had the boat out four times now, twice on Lake Sebago (Sloatsburg, NY) and twice on the lower Hudson River (at Piermont, NY). I've been extremely pleased with its performance. It is extremely stable; I've had no capsizings so far. It keeps a straight heading with minimal tweaking of the rudder. Its narrow enough that I'm not hitting its sides with my paddle, even using a racing stroke. And its reasonably fast.
In flat water, and using a wing paddle, I can fairly easily maintain a pace of 7.0 m.p.h. This is significantly above the 5.5 m.p.h. that I can maintain with the Sealution, and only a little less than the 8.0 m.p.h. I can maintain with the Vanquish. I've pushed it a high as 8.6 m.p.h. in a sprint, which is above the speed cited in West Side's ad, but I think that I need to develop my paddling technique significantly before I would be able to maintain that speed for very long. The boat's speed in chop is, of course, less. But I was pleased to be able to paddle it at 6.0 m.p.h. into a strong headwind through light chop.
The boat handles the moderate chop that I encountered on the Hudson River very well. I was able to manuever through the rather chaotic standing waves that develop as the current races past the end of the Piermont Pier, with the feeling of being in firm control of the boat. I've had a few waves break over the deck and swish up to my chest. But the boat rides high in the water and has no tendency to submarine. I've also surfed some smallish, but well organized, rollers. The boat has some tendency to fishtail (yaw), as is typical under following-seas conditions, but I was able to keep its course fairly straight using mostly rudder control, supplemented by some variation of my paddle strokes. I could feel the pressure of the seas on the rudder as I moved the tiller bar. I hope that the rudder assembly is buit well! The advantage of a fast boat was very evident paddling into these seas, and against a tidal current that was maybe 3 m.p.h. I was able to make reasonable progress under conditions that would have slowed the Sealution to a crawl.
The overall design and construction of the boat is excellent, but I will probably futz with some minor things: The foot brace, made from 1" aluminum tubing, is a bit too narrow and hard on my feet. I can feel it even through light booties. I will probably clamp some sort of flat footrest onto it. The underside of the combing jabs my legs a bit. I will pad it, somehow. Generally speaking, I like the slung seat. It promotes much better paddling posture than the seats of most touring boats (including my Sealution), which are too reclined. But the bare kevlar, while fine for an hour's paddle, might prove uncomfortable during the course of a longer one. Some sort of cushion is probably in order there. Finally, I will have to find a way to get the pressure in the NRS flotation bags just right. I intentionally chose not to have deck hatches, but one of the consequences of this choice is that access to the extreme ends of the boat is very limited.
Overall, its a wonderful boat. Rating 10 (Excellent)