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Submitted: 10-21-2008 by JC

After having problems with the rudder on my Eclipse 17 Airalite, Confluence graciously traded that boat for a new Essence 17 Airalite, a recent release. This is a company that treats their customers extremely well.

The Essence appears to be an amalgam--British bow and North American stern with a slight rocker, modestly hard chine, and a shallow v-bottom. It's a big boat with a roomy cockpit and plenty of room for larger paddlers. The seat is excellent and the thigh braces are adjustable. Three storage compartments have plenty of room for gear, if not overly long. The boat carries a retractable skeg, and is rudder-ready with everything required except the rudder. I'm puzzled as to why this boat would need a rudder, however.

This is a very easy boat to paddle, a solid tracker, even with the skeg up, and weathercocks minimally. And it is fast and easy to push to speed and maintain. My fist day with the boat covered about five miles, after which I felt none of the fatigue I experienced after the same distance in my Eclipse. The boat has just enough freeboard to edge well, which helps maneuverability, as this boat tracks as if on rails. Initial stability is very good, and secondary is about what one would expect of a boat with this hullform (Swede), length, and beam.

For a vacuformed boat this one is quite light -- about 50lbs. My Eclipse was nearly 64lbs., mostly, I think, because the material was thicker. However I noticed no tendency to oilcan with the Essence. This boat is a keeper.

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