Submitted: 08-15-2008 by SJD
Iíve owned my glass Gulfstream for about 2 years now and itís time for a review.
The Gulfstream was designed by the iconic Derek Hutchinson. With its upswept bow and stern, the Gulfstream is an attractive boat. Iím 5í11" and about 220 lbs. and I feel Iím a beginner to intermediate paddler. The boat fits my fat butt quite well.
Overall I am quite pleased with the performance of the Gulfstream. As others have mentioned, this boat is a true all-arounder. Having an almost 24" beam, itís not the fastest boat around. However, once up to speed, it seems to have decent glide (because of its Swede form hull I presume). That beam width also translates into some very good stability (both primary and secondary). You have to lean over pretty far to capsize. I canít speak to its rolling ability as I have not yet acquired that skill. Likewise, I havenít gone camping with the boat yet but, it appears to have adequate capacity if I pack smart. The skeg box might get in the way a little bit.
With its generous rocker, the boat is very maneuverable and responsive to both sweep strokes and leaning. Of course this comes at the expense of tracking and, as a result, the boat weathercocks quite a bit. However, if the skeg is deployed, the boat tracks well. I try to rely on corrective strokes and boat lean to hold course but, the skeg is absolutely necessary in any significant beam wind.
The Gulfstream seems to prefer rough water to calm and itís most at home in 1-2 foot wind waves and chop. The features that make it slightly slow (width and rocker) contribute to its excellent rough water performance. The only conditions the Gulfstream doesnít seem to like are large quartering or following seas. I find I must fully deploy the skeg in those conditions. Even then I find I must occasionally brace or rudder to stay on course.
The quality of construction of the Gulfstream appears quite good both inside and out. Likewise the skeg system seems to be well designed and sturdy. Unfortunately, my 2006 model has the plastic bulkheads and plastic H-channel seam with a glass strip on the inside. I understand newer Gulfstreams have glass bulkheads and can be ordered with the optional glass outside seam.
As for the rest of the boatís features, I like the looks of the minimalist deck rigging, deck lines and end toggles (BTW Ė theyíre not for carrying). The seatís pretty comfortable although Iíve replaced the stock back band with a more comfortable one from NSI. The Kajac Sport hatch covers seal very well and are easy to work with.
All in all, I believe the Gulfstream is a high quality boat well suited to larger kayakers paddling in somewhat rough water. Iím only giving it a 9/10 because I wish I had the glass bulkheads and glass outside seam. Nonetheless, I am quite pleased with the Gulfstream and hope to paddle it for many years.