Submitted: 11-02-2008 by Wayne_Smith
Like the other posters here, I really like this boat a lot.
My comments are on the 2008 ocean cockpit model, which is a little different from earlier ones. And for reference, I'm 5'7" & 170 lbs.
Appearance is classic - an adaptation of a real Greenland skin boat to western physiques and uses, yet not bloated beyond recognition like so many other commercial kayaks. A good compromise between the old and the new. Looks as sporty as it paddles.
Quality of construction is now on a par with many North American boats, and attention to detail has increased significantly over older models. Shining a light through the layup shows inconsistent thickness or coloring of gelcoat on the bottom of the hull, but it is not obvious looking at the inside or the outside of the boat. I was just glad to see a British kayak that wasn't 90% gelcoat. Fit and finish are very good, and I found no voids or anomalies in the layup.
Skeg slider placement is very intuitive, and works smoothly. Skeg blade is large, and very effective in keeping the boat tracking straight in winds up to 25kt. The boat balances well for a solo carry, and is not heavy - maybe 50 - 52 lbs. Hatches are watertight, and bulkheads do not leak. Deck now has a recess for a 70P compass right in front of the front hatch. And speaking of hatches - THEY ARE ACTUALLY TETHERED TO THE BOAT. I can't count how many VCP, P&H, and NDK owners that I know that have lost hatch covers in the past. A welcome upgrade! Bow and stern toggles also have tethers to keep them on the deck and out of the water while paddling.
Deckline and bungee layout is very logical, and there are more bungees than you need. Recessed fittings are very well finished. Rear deck bungees and hatches aren't optimally laid out for a Greenland storm paddle, but it works. I'd have liked to have seen reflective decklines at this price, but you can't have everything. They're easy and cheap enough to replace anytime I like.
Seat feels high until you try to put your finger between the back of the seat and the hull - it's actually pretty low in the rear - as low as you'd get sitting on a foam seat. This seat isn't for everyone, though. I find it comfortable so far after a month of owning the boat. The backband is so-so, but I'll leave it in for now.
Paddling -- Wow! More maneuverable than any other commercial sea kayak of that length that I've ever paddled, yet easy to keep on course, especially with the skeg. The boat loves rough water & breaking waves, and is reassuring while still being a lot of fun to paddle. It catches waves easily, and surfs with good control characteristics. Turns on a dime in rock gardens, too. Steep waves bigger than 1.5 feet tend to wash on the decks, but I don't mind that. Boat rolls very easily, and is well suited for G-style rolling, sculling, and balance braces. Even hand rolls aren't difficult. I can layback almost to the deck with the stock seat, which makes rolling a breeze. If I scoot forward a little in the seat, I can bang my head on the rear deck.
Top speed isn't great. However, maintaining a normal cruising pace (4 - 4.5 MPH) is easy. I topped out at just over 6 MPH on a GPS when it became more effort than it was worth for any further gain in speed.
Overall, this is an excellent low volume day/play boat for the small to medium paddler that remains fairly true to its Inuit heritage. It's also one of the oldest commercial sea kayaks, which is a testament to it's design.