Submitted: 07-24-2006 by desertpaddler
Bought my Loon 138 about 3 years ago. The reviews in this forum were my inspiration for buying the OT 138 and I have never regreted the decision. Got a great deal from REI as it was the end of the summer, the last one they had, and it was a model that they were not going to carry any more.
My wife and I are both 50-something and she has a Current Designs Kestral and we do a lot of local stuff (Utah Lake, Deer Creek Reservoir, Silver Lake Flat, Huntington Reservoir, etc.). We also took them to the Tetons this summer where we kayaked Jackson Lake (had a great time in the rain) and Jenny Lake where we barely beat a microburst off of the lake. We then spent a few days at Green River Lakes down near Pinedale, Wyoming. One of our favorite evening activites is to run down to Utah Lake in evenings when there is a 10-15 mph breeze. This creates a 1-2 foot swell which is great fun to play in.
The 138 is great. It is very stable in the breezy conditions we have experienced and I have never felt even close to going over. It glides well, tracks well, and with a little practice I have found it very easy to turn. It is very stable for fishing and photography. We have practiced wet entries in a pool both with assistance from another boat and with a paddle float. The deck is a bit high and the high-back seat is a bit awkward to get over but it can be done fairly easily with a bit of practice. I needed a rope loop with the paddle float to keep the paddle in place but the foot loop made it easier to hoist myself onto the high deck.
It has been great fun customizing the boat over the past several years. I started by adding bungee cord triangles to both the bow and the stern. They are anchored on the very ends by looping them through the carrying handles. This gets the carrying handles on top top of the deck so they don't drag in the water but they still easily pull over the ends so they would be easy to hold onto if you were in the water. I can also slip the blade of my paddle under the bow bungee and it holds the paddle in place so I can land a fish. OT's paddle holder works fine but it takes two hands to operate which is a luxury that you don't have when a fish hits your line. Slipping the paddle under the bungee is very fast and simple and can be done with one hand.
I also added a bungee between the back of the cockpit and the hatch cover. I used a simple X pattern so it wouldn't conflict with the hatch cover. My hope was that it would work to facilitate a paddle float but there was too much flex in the bungee. However, it is great for holding small things like gloves and a rolled up paddle float.
I have added OT's clothesline anchor, hatch cover, and sprayskirt. The anchor is easy to deploy and works great for keeping me in place while fishing. The hatch cover is a bit on the expensive side but it was one of the better things that I added to the boat. I had to make my own bulkhead to go behind the seat but the hardest part was getting the shape right. It took several tries with cardboard but I finally got a template that fit and then cutting and installing was easy. I added foam moulding to the hatch cover to make it a bit more waterproof. It will not seal water out as delivered in the kit but the foam made it better. I am still experimenting trying to get a better seal on the hatch. I have mixed feelings about the sprayskirt. First, I love having a spray skirt, especially in the rain, and on cooler days. The problem is with the zipper that is necessary because of the large cockpit. The easiest approach is to put the cover on before you get in and then step through the zippered opening. OT has backed up the zipper with velcro but the zipper still leaks a bit of water and it all ends up in my lap. I am experimenting with an aluminum arch that goes across the cockpit to keep the water from pooling around the zipper. My first attempt worked great at keeping the water at bay but was high enough that I kept hitting my knuckles on it. Version 1.2 will not be as tall and is ready for the next outing. I have also finally figured out how to contort myself enough to get the spray skirt attached while I am wearing it. My boat trims best with the seat close to the most forward position so it is a bit of a reach behind me to hook the sprayskirt around the back, but once I have hooked the back curve, I can just reach the front and then it is easy to drop the sides in place. Being able to put the skirt on while I am wearing it negates the need for a zipper so I might consider sewing something waterproof over the zipper, although I do like being able to unzip the sprayskirt to get at things in the boat.
I am also experimenting with a small arrowhead shaped deck that fits into the front of the cockpit. 1/4 inch material (plywood, hardboard, etc.) fits neatly into the groove just below the top of the cockpit and the deck gives me a great place to put a small tackle box when I fish. OT makes a nylon work deck that accomplishes the same thing but it can't be used in conjunction with a sprayskirt. The sprayskirt won't go over the top of the nylon work deck and it would be dangerous to put the sprayskirt under the nylon work deck because you would not be able to get out of the boat in the event of a rollover. My goal is to be able to pop the sprayskirt off when I get to my fishing spot and have easy access to a spot for my tackle box. It is also easily removable for when I take one of the grandkids with me.
The 138 is heavy to load and carry but is great once you get it in the water. I am looking for a cart that will fit inside the back compartment so we can do the portage between String Lake and Leigh Lake when we go back to the Tetons. The ones I have tried so far will fit through the hatch without problems but won't fit in tapered end of the kayak behind the bulkhead. I could strap it on top behind the seat but that would make reentry after a spill very difficult so I am not willing to do that.
Sorry for the long review, but I thought it might be useful to share more than just my initial reaction to the boat. It has become a bit of an obsession, both to paddle (2-3 times a week in the summer) and to customize. I'm sure it is not as fast or as light as a touring kayak but I would wager that it is faster than any sit-on-top. It has been perfect for the kind of water (lakes of all sizes) that we paddle and the daytrips that we do so often.