Submitted: 05-15-2007 by emanoh
Iíve had the opportunity to demo the Eddyline Fathom on two extended occasions; in addition Iíve done a lot of comparative research across almost every similar make of boat on the market. The end result is that I ended up buying the Fathom, what youíll find below is my opinion related to this boat and my needs. The first demo was on the Detroit River in mild conditions and 50 degree water and the second demo was on the White River in Indianapolis. On the White River I was able to compare the Fathom to the Nighthawk in mild moving water with eddies and ripples. I paddle primarily open water in the Great Lakes Region and also find myself on moving water quite often. I occasionally race my kayaks and participate in adventure races that involve paddling. Iím comfortable in most situations and would consider myself an advanced intermediate paddler.
For the price and features, Iíve found the Fathom to be a good value. When I decided to upgrade I was paddling a soft chine Perception Eclipse. I was looking for a boat with hard chines, a skeg, mid to high volume, 16-17 ft in length, something lighter than my 66-68 lb tug and something that could perform like a composite boat, but still take some abuse. The Eclipse is a good, fast, long distance hauler for a ton of gear, but Iíve found my needs donít require hauling that much gear and the weight of the boat was wearing on me, especially during races. After researching thermoform boats and looking at the Perception, Hurricane and Eddyline boats, I narrowed the search to Eddyline after reading about the company and seeing the Fathom. The boat seemed to have everything I wanted in an upgrade, it had the hull features and skeg I was looking for, it weights between 50-52 lbs, is 16í6Ē in length, a 22Ē beam, has a day hatch and nice features like the retractable grab handles and a flat compass perch molded into the hull. Youíll pay more than a roto-molded boat, but not as much as a composite boat. The carbonlite material will put you closer in price to composite boats, but I believe you get similar performance capability without having to worry about your gel coat every time you land on the beach or near a rocky shoreline.
The review in Sea Kayaker Magazine featured smaller paddlers and a paddler that resembles my dimensions 6í2Ē, 210 lbs and the specs from Eddyline say that it's designed for both larger and smaller paddlers. Iíd encourage anyone to demo it, but in my opinion the boat will feel large on anyone under 5í9Ē, and that is basically because of the high volume front deck. The rest of the boat fits the specs of a mid-volume boat except the area right in front of the cockpit. The low windage rear deck is clean and low to the water. My wife paddled it as well and she's 5'9" and considerably lighter than I and she looked like she was sitting in a pot-hole up to her chest. The high arch deck is designed well for a paddler with a vertical paddle stroke, smaller kayakers and paddlers with a horizontal stoke may have trouble with the deck height. The width for me is perfect at 22" and is a touch narrower than my Eclipse and is basically an inch narrower than similar length boats in its class. My current boat (perception eclipse) has a 14" depth to the front deck. The specs on the Fathom say 13.5" deck height. In my opinion there is a weird optical illusion between the Fathom and my Eclipse. The Fathom front deck appears higher and I think it's because of slightly shorter length than the Eclipse. On the Eclipse the front deck is stretched out a bit. I think Eddyline did a good job angling the deck so it shouldn't interfere with your stroke. The inside knee bracing is well padded and you feel locked in. The food pegs, back band and seat padding are comfortable and easily adjustable. My current boat pegs are attached to a rudder and can be squishy when I bear down or brace hard.
For the past 5 months I've researched hundreds of boats, compared specs and pricing and have eventually come to the conclusion for my weight and height, the height of the front and back decks are only off by an inch or less across every make and model of boat out there. I'm a bigger/taller guy so my weight and cargo puts me into higher volume boats. The fit of the cockpit is almost identical to that of my Eclipse, so that comparison put both boats neck and neck but everything I mentioned in this review puts the Fathom heads and tails above my current boat. I get my current fit and feel, but I pick up a ton of the features I'm looking for. At first it was weird for me because the cockpit feels like my old boat, but in the long run I gain everything else I want in a boat. The final tipping point for me comes down to two things: hull material and price point. For the price, I think you get a lot of boat from Eddyline. You get the performance characteristics of composite but the durability of plastic with their carbonlite material. Engineers reading this will probably disagree and pull out their slide rules and try to show that carbonlite flexes more than composite, but if you want to measure the results in microns, go ahead. For me the performance characteristics are almost non-distinguishable. The curve between roto-molded and the carbonlite is much greater than carbonlite to composite. The price for me comes in below composite and I don't have to worry too much about destroying the gel coat on rocks or beaches. The specs say this is a very maneuverable boat, but at my first demo, we weren't in conditions to really try this feature with 50 degree water on the Detroit River. At my second demo, I was really able to play with the maneuverability and was pleased with the results.
As I narrowed my search, I wanted to compare the Nighthawk and Fathom before I made my final decision and ultimately went with the Fathom. With the new release of the Fathom the word of the day at the second demo was from people wanting to compare the Fathom to the Nighthawk. Ultimately, the Fathom had the few extra bells and whistles people were looking for. Even though I'm on the lower end of the weight scale for the boat, I loved the control the hard chineís offered. The Fathom tracked straight and fast, and I felt I could knock off a 90 degree turn if needed by edging the boat. My current boat has soft chines like the Nighthawk and after spending a second lengthy demo in both the Nighthawk and the Fathom, I enjoyed the performance handling of the Fathom. I was on a moving river with some ripples and I could put the Fathom on edge and without a stroke, knife across the current to another eddy. With the Nighthawk, I really had to work the paddle, like my current boat to keep it on edge and work my way across the river. I ended up making my way up river fairly easy to a low head dam/waterfall in the Fathom, I tried to do the same in the Nighthawk and I really had to work to get close to the same spot. For my size, the Nighthawk was snug but not uncomfortable. Several other demo participants similar to my size found the same thing and liked the extra volume of the Fathom. I still think I'll look into getting a Nighthawk for my second ďbuddy,Ē exercise and racing boat, but the Fathom will serve me well as my daily hauler / excursion boat. In comparison, the Nighthawk is a fast boat, but I felt the Fathom accelerated faster, easier and held its speed well. It might be the extra 6 inches in length and the hull configuration, but I would be curious to see how they would compare at race distances or a long-day haul. Any corrective strokes I made with the Fathom were instantly recognized by the boat (chines), where the Nighthawk needed some extra hip action and an occasional corrective stroke to keep me in line. These extra strokes and hip corrections can add up to a lot of extra effort over a long day. I'm more interested in saving my energy and putting it to good use going forward when racing or on excursions.
Iím curious to hear what others are saying and for now, Iím looking forward to growing with my new purchase. I wish we didnít have to rate the boats when we post reviews, because almost everyone posts a 9 or 10. Each boat needs to fit the paddler in needs, fit and capability, for now Iíll give the Fathom an 8 with the hopes that in time it will be a 10 for me.