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Submitted: 08-24-2009 by Splash

I am glad that I have learn to read between the lines in life and to take what information is out there as part of the decision making process and not to make my decisions. I have been paddling touring kayaks for at least 7 years and have had the chance to paddle many different boats in all kinds of conditions.

I have paddled canoes and kayaks for at least 30 years including quite a few years doing whitewater. I'm 46 years young. I'm 6'1" and weigh about 230lbs. I love big water and big waves but unfortunately do not live in close proximity to the ocean, so I normally make do with the amazing selection of lakes and rivers that we have in Ontario and Quebec.

After renting and borrowing many touring kayaks on countless day trips and extended trips and reading I could get my hands on and talking to all kinds of people with different skill levels I whittled down my choices to the Impex Assateague, The Wilderness Tempest, The P&H Cetus, and Seawards Quest. I actually had about 10 boats that I really loved but at some point you have to start eliminating some. I really loved the Current Design Extreme also, now named the Nomad, but our local Current Design distributor didn't want to stock it so I couldn't try it out again to make my final decision before buying one this spring.

I went to Frontenac Outfitters near Kingston Ontario to make my final pick as they have a lake right beside their facility so you can try the boats as much as you want before deciding. They also happen to have most of the boats I wanted to choose from in stock. Check out their web site, it's really awesome:

During my tests I quickly eliminated the Quest for various reasons. The Cetus I didn't feel tracked all that well and had less of a weight capacity than I was looking for for extended trips. I also did not like the skeg controls. I didn't find that you had a good feel for where the skeg was when partially or fully deployed. It was however vary maneuverable. It came down to the Assateugue and the Tempest. In the end the Tempest stood out on all counts.

It tracked well, it pretty much has the ability to turn on a dime with a good edge. It held an edge with little effort. It was very comfortable. It rolled well. I could paddle a comfortable 4.5 to 5 mph with top speed of about 7.5 mph on flat water, according to my gps. Very respectable speeds for this style of boat. The deck riggings, and hatches are top notch. The finish was beautiful. I loved everything about it. The boat I tried was lime green. I bought the red version, put it on the van and went down to Lake Ontario for a few days to try it out properly.

The first evening I tried it I noticed after a few hours that the back storage compartment was half full of water. The day hatch and front hatch were dry as a bone. I went back to Frontenac to determine what the problem was. As previously mentioned in other comments the skeg box was the problem. It was easy enough to see the problem by putting the boat upside down on stands and filling the skeg box with water. Sure enough you could see the water coming in from the inside of the boat. Frontenac said the boat was defective and gave me another one. No problem. I took my new boat to their lake to put it through the test while still on site. All hatches stayed bone dry. You could visibly see the difference around the skeg box. It was much smoother. I had a bit of water leaking in from the skeg control lever box which I later fixed with a small amount of epoxy. Weird! I checked everything on the boat from A to Z to make sure it was ok before leaving. So far so good. I left to continue my testing for the next few days.

That afternoon the wind picked up like crazy. I was paddling on a good size lake with the full force of the wind coming right at me. Going through a fairly tight channel about 700 feet wide the wind really kicked up the waves. I could barely stay upright due to the wind pressure, probably 50 kph +. Some of the waves reached about 1.5 meters. I couldn't dream of better testing conditions. The boat handled like a dream. After getting a feel for the wind, the waves and the boat which took about 1/2 hr I relaxed enough to really start having fun. I tried just about everything you could do. It felt very stable bopping around. Going into the wind I didn't find it plowed through waves that much even after cresting when hitting multiple big ones back to back. Keep in mind the boat had minimal gear for a day outing. It would cut in but pop up quick enough which minimize splashing over the deck. I paddled in every direction to get a sense of weathercocking without using the skeg. I couldn't believe how well it handled. It seem to respond instinctively to whatever I wanted to do. I was having so much fun that I would break out in fits of laughter realizing that this thing could really rock. A little edge and modifying my paddle stroke was all that was needed to deal with weathercocking. The wind later calmed down after maybe three hours to my hearts chagrin.

I have since paddle my Tempest in all conditions on multiple trips and could not be happier. Loaded down with gear really has an affect on its friskiness and ability to bop but all boats react the same way when fully weighed down. I have paddle it on totally calm water, as smooth as glass, where the boat seems to glide effortlessly while tracking straight with absolute minimal effort, no skeg. I find that I hardly ever use the skeg. Only if gliding while approaching wildlife or taking a break.

After a number of trips I did notice that the seat pan was loose. After investigating I noticed that it had been poorly modified and installed at the manufacturer. I took some pictures and sent them to Frontenac who then sent them to Wilderness S. They immediately agreed to send me a new one. I am still waiting for it after a few months but supposedly I will have it by tomorrow.

Another important change to note is as of this year Wilderness boats are now built out of China, using a different type of FG or composite material. Supposedly the boats will be slightly lighter and stiffer. Hopefully the Chinese will stay on top of the quality control a little better than the builders that were putting them together in the States.

The moral of the story:
..... Take everything you have read about the Tempests and make your own decision. Thoroughly, I mean THOROUGHLY check the boat before leaving the store. Do the water test with the skeg box upside down, check that all fasteners are tight and all other boat components are the way they are suppose to be. Test the boat thoroughly as soon as you get it and ensure you have an awesome supplier that will back you up like Frontenac Outfitters. Make sure you get the right boat for your weight class. A lot a people don't put enough emphasis on this. If all that looks good, I assure you that you will not be disappointed. This is truly a really really good boat with lots of room for gear. It's hard to make a decision when buying. Everyone has their own opinion and preferences. There are so many great boats to choose from that finally committing to one seems impossible. After all $3,000 to $4,000 for a boat is not peanuts for most people, so you want to make sure you chose one that you will be happy with. At some point you have to get off the fence and go for it. Go with your gut but educate yourself first.

I wasn't sure how to score the boat in this case as I would score it differently for various categories. Probably more along these lines:

  • 10 for handling abilities & comfort
  • 9.5 for boat design & construction, and finishes if no problems
  • 9 for load capacity
  • 4?? for quality assurance before leaving the factory
It's just hard to understand how they could have such an amazing boat design which looks and performs really well yet show a serious lack of quality control verification. However, I look forward to paddling my Tempest for many years.
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