Submitted: 11-21-2008 by kocho
Had a chance to try it in probably the worst it would see: flat water with 10-15 miles per hour winds and gusts up to 20 or a bit more. Up to 2 feet short waves with some white caps. And I thought this was a very nice small boat. Stability seemed similar I thought to my Tempest 170 but it felt livelier it seemed as it is lighter and shorter. Being shorter it also did not impress me with very good tracking compared to the 17 foot Tempest but it was not bad either.
I can understand beginners finding this boat tippy, especially if they are lighter than I am. The seat was OK, though my tailbone felt pressure after an hour paddling though. The back support is nice but high for a layback roll - maybe a backband would be better suited for this.
At 6'4" and size 15 feet I needed maybe 1" to 2" more length on the foot rails, but otherwise there was very good foot room - moving the rails would make it a good fit. At just under 200 lb with wet gear I expected that the boat would ride lower in the water but it stayed pretty high IMO - providing for a dry ride in up to 1' waves, but a very wet when the wind picked-up and the waves came up to 2 feet - the nose would bury rather than go over these steep waves. But so does my 19 foot kayak, except that the bow of the Sonoma is very close to me, so the spray would hit me in the face at each wave pretty much (due to the wind).
Going downwind was a lot of fun - due to the short length and relatively hard chines it catches the small steep waves easily and goes along just fine at a good speed. Side-winds however were not good to tackle - too much weathercocking and even with slight edging it still required pretty much full-time one side paddling to stay on course. A skeg would be very good to have in this situation. May be with hard edging it would go where you need it, but that's too much work compared to just dropping a skeg... Also, being that tall I probably shifted the designed center of gravity forward of the intended point, thus increasing the tendency to weathercock - I noticed that if I lean back it was easier to stay on course, so perhaps for a lighter/shorter paddler who's legs won't weigh down the bow so much it may behave better - my bow was pretty well planted and the stern would slide downwind more than the bow.
Did not get a chance to measure speed with GPS - it did not strike me as a terribly fast boat but it had OK glide b/w strokes and for its length it seemed pretty decent.
Why 8? Because of the strong weathercocking tendency - it required a lot of work to keep on track. But as I said, may be for a lighter and shorter paddler that may not be a problem: the bow will be lighter and the center of gravity - a little further back than with me having all of my 36" legs and size 15 feet in drypants and layers in the front