Submitted: 07-06-2007 by bls
I have been paddling SOT's for over ten years now, and this boat is probably the best all-around of its kind. Being recently removed from Florida's gulf coast, I was surprised to find that Wisconsinites are not as fond of the SOT. Although I can only speculate that the weather has something to do with it, I find that getting a little wet from May through October is perfectly fine with me. Winter paddling, even in Florida, never really interested me anyway. And most of all, the right SOT can be so much more fun and completely hassle-free.
My first Wilderness Systems SOT was the 15' Freedom that was sold prior to my 1,200 mile move. It was a great design that fit me extremely well. After test paddling a Tarpon 160 prior to leaving Florida, though, I felt that it would definitely be my next purchase. Two months ago, however, I found a Tarpon 140 for $550 at a dive shop in Steven's Point, Wisconsin. It had about an 1/8" of dust on it as it had probably been there for quite some time. I never realized there was so much of a mark up! For the money I decided to settle for it instead of the 160 model. I figured that the smaller size would be more suitable for my wife anyway when I eventually did get my 16 footer.
After a couple of camping trips in beautiful northern Wisconsin, as well as paddling my local Fox River, I have found that this model is just fine for me as well. From the reviews on this site, I was already prepared to take on some water (being that I am 6'3" and 270 pounds). About an inch of water stays in the foot wells. As I mentioned earlier, though, I do not mind getting a little wet. Being on the bigger side with a higher center of gravity, I have found that I am much more stable on SOT's than in cockpit kayaks or solo and tandem canoes. I cannot imagine dumping this boat unless you are either very careless, or do it intentionally. If you do go in the drink, though, being able to get back in your boat in the middle of a 640-acre lake is an invaluable asset. After a little practice with a moderate amount of upper body strength, most people could probably be back in the boat and paddling again in less than a minute. I love the freedom to do this when I feel like taking a swim.
The 140 seems fast and tracks pretty well (although the 160 seems slightly better in both departments). As I did mention in my first sentence, this model is a great all-around boat... it is smaller and a little lighter than its bigger brother, but maybe a tad slower with a few more corrective strokes required. All-in-all, not a significant amount of difference.
I recommend this boat without hesitation. Although I still may purchase a 160 for myself, I will probably wait until I find another that has collected some dust (and a bargain-style price tag). And why not, until my wife get upset with me for using "her" boat, I am completely satisfied with it!