Submitted: 09-18-2010 by splathrop
About 6 weeks ago I purchased a fiberglass Isle from Current Designs. I now have almost 150 miles in the boat, and can offer a few initial impressions...
I'm 63 years old, built like a pro football lineman gone to seed. I'm 6-foot 3-inches, with short legs and arms for that height, and a long trunk. Weight when I bought the boat was pushing 300 lbs., but it's now about 280—one of the reasons for the boat. Age, injuries and medical conditions have left me with a few skeletal peculiarities. One knee has been surgically replaced, and both sacroiliac joints have fused spontaneously, because of arthritis. The physical stuff taken together pretty much dictates a large boat with a large cockpit, and the Isle provides that.
The other boats which I have paddled extensively enough to provide comparisons are the Impex Assateague and the Current Designs Titan — both big-person boats. I liked paddling both of those, and each has its points, but I prefer the Isle as an all-around paddling experience. The Isle differs from the others in having hard chines, a few inches of extra length, and an amount of rocker intermediate between them, with the Assateague having the most rocker and the Titan the least. The Titan has a rudder; the Isle and Assateague are skeg boats, which I prefer. The Assateague is narrower at 22 inches (the others are 24), and has a lower deck and shorter cockpit. I found it somewhat less comfortable than the other two for that reason, but adequate. The Isle has a lower deck than the Titan, which I prefer because the deck on the Titan is so high that it sometimes forced me to hold my hand higher than I wanted to.
The Isle was actually quite uncomfortable for me at first, because the thigh braces molded into the cockpit combing were too low, and badly positioned for my large thighs. They dug in without adding utility—because my knees have plenty of contact under the deck—and complicated getting out of the boat. I had a fiberglass guy take the thigh braces off, making entry and exit much easier, and vastly improving my paddling comfort. A further improvement came when I removed the soft seat cushion that comes with the boat. It was comfy, but inhibited changes in body position and body rotation when paddling. I don't mind the hard plastic seat at all. The back band on the Isle is narrow and hard. It doesn't bother me, but I may sometime replace it with one like the Titan has, which is a bit taller and softer. Or I may let well enough alone, because I LOVE the way the boat paddles as it is now equipped.
The Isle gives me better initial stability than either of the others, perhaps because of the hard chines. I can sit at rest without the slightest unsteadiness, which I could not due with the Titan, and could do only with concentration with the Assateague. Because of my build, long trunk, height and weight, I seem to be a bit challenged for stability in rough water with any of these 3 boats. I have inadvertently capsized both the Assateague and the Titan when caught broadside by boat wakes. Compared to them, the Isle seems better, although it too makes me nervous at times. But I have had it in rougher conditions than the other two, and so far no mishaps. Small whitecaps have been okay, as well as a couple of 4-foot tugboat wakes coming in simultaneously from different angles (when I saw that developing I expected a swim, but came through okay). With 20 mph winds kicking up 2- to 3-foot waves over a 3 mile fetch across the bay the Isle has been right there for me. When heading into waves that are close together, like boat wakes often are, the Isle rides nicely over the first, then drives the bow through the next. Even then the cockpit has stayed dry. Surprisingly little spray comes off the bow, and so far no solid water into the cockpit even when the bow cuts through.
With the skeg up, the Isle seems to turn a bit easier than the Assateague, and far easier than the Titan without the rudder. The Titan tracks amazingly, but with the skeg down the Isle does nearly as well. The Titan seems to be the best of the three for glide, but the Isle is not far behind. The Assateague glides well too, but not as well as the other two.
In a strong crosswind (20+) with the skeg down, the Isle has a slight tendency to turn toward the wind. It is so slight it doesn't even seem to require extra energy to correct. I do wonder if someone who weighed less than I do might experience a bit more of that.
Overall, the Isle feels to me like the fastest of the three boats, the most easily driven, and the most responsive. Using a GPS on flat water with no wind or current I find I can paddle the Titan for 2 miles at about 4.8 miles per hour, and the Assateague at about 4.6, but with somewhat more effort. I think the extra rocker on the Assateague makes a bigger wake, (although it also make the Assateague much easier to turn than the Titan.) I can push either boat above 5 mph with effort, but it's hard to sustain that speed, especially in the Assateague. In the Isle I find I can sustain 5.2 mph for two miles with relative ease. When I switch back to the Titan I find that it feels absolutely stately by comparison.
I'm not particularly fit, but may be a bit stronger than average for someone my age. Plenty of young athletes are far stronger and fitter than I am, and they could probably make the Isle fly—if they didn't end up choosing the similarly designed but lower-volume and narrower Current Designs Caribou.
Anyway, I'm very happy with the Isle so far. I go out for an eight-mile paddle and come back in less than two hours with a great big grin. Hope this helps.