Submitted: 09-30-2008 by forrester
I built my West River four years ago. It has been used a lot. I am 5í8 and weigh 180 pounds. It is a good fit for me. I guess it would be good for somebody 30 pounds lighter and 40 pounds heavier. It tracks well, responds to leaned turns, is low profile / not effected much by the wind, packs very well for being low profile, with minor use does not weather cock, looks great, and its super comfortable.
I have sat in my West River for 20 mile paddles without getting out, and still felt great. One time when all my paddling buddies where dying about 15 miles into a 20 mile paddle they got out at a fly and mosquito infested Island. I just stayed in the boat and was amused as I watched them dodging the bugs. You can just let loose and relax in this boat.
It has a 8 panel hull, which I originally thought means it would have fairly soft chines, but I was wrong on that one. The chines are still hard. If you want responsiveness to leaned turns its great. I was looking for softer chines, so I was a little disappointed when saw this spec during the building process. Itís not talked about much if at all on the CLC website. For some people itís a positive point. Personally I believe the most efficient hull designs have more rounded chines. Since I am looking to take it easy as much as possible when paddling with my friends that like to go fast itís not ideal for me. Though I like playing in the rock gardens, so itís leaned turning ability is handy at times. Of course if you like rock gardens stay away from wood boats. If you have a wood boat and you go in rock gardens make sure you have control.
Some times I like to paddle in conditions that push my limits. In our end of lake Erie the water depth is 95% under 30 ft deep, and a lot under 20 ft deep. This means 4 or 5 foot waves are quite steep at times. When they are steep and breaking my West River tends to give a surprise broach now and then. It's quite concerning on the days I have bitten off too much & am miles from shore. On the rare occasion that I have done this to myself in this boat I wish I where paddling something different. British style hulls with more rocker and not so much vertical volume at the ends do not have such a noticeable tendency (though the 20 mile paddles in reasonable conditions are not so comfortable in a British style hull). In rough conditions it becomes hard to keep up with paddlers in boats with out this tendency as they are not taking such deliberate strokes, but are just focusing on paddling fast and having fun surfing waves. My guess is only 1 out of 10 paddlers put themselves in this position, so the broaching is only a issue to a very few people on a very few occasions.
After discovering what happens in this boat when I am in steep waves and having some issues with power boats near the Erie Islands, I decided to add a bright colored British design to my collection of kayaks. I decided on a roto molded valley Nordkapp. You can see my review on that boat also. After paddling the Nordkapp I felt as though the West River had more drag at my typical relaxed pace. Though the West River at top speeds appears to be a lot faster. Especially when you surf down a big wave. When surfing the West River it looses its resistance (I think it just starts to plane) and takes off like a rocket. When in following seas if you catch a wave right the gps will commonly read 8mph, and many times accelerates beyond that. The West River is not a maneuverable boat, but with good paddle strokes, and leaning you can make it do what you need to do.
The one thing I like most about this boat is its comfort along with its load carrying ability. It is an awesome boat to take when doing multi-day wilderness trips. Packing it and unpacking it is a dream compared to my British boat. The usable space is very good, but it still has low windage.