Submitted: 09-29-2010 by Doug Robison
I was in the market for a stable touring kayak for calm coastal and river paddling on the west coast of Florida. After researching numerous manufacturers and models, and test paddling quite a few, I purchased a WS 145 in August of 2010. On my maiden voyage I noticed that I could not get the rear hatch cover to stay on. I took it back to the dealer and he said that I needed to "stretch" out the hatch by forcing it on and then putting some weight on it to hold it down for a few days in the sun. I tried this and it did not work. The dealer then gave me a new hatch cover and I had the same problems. I finally took the whole boat back and the dealer concluded that the hatch opening was slightly too large or warped. He said that rotomolding is not a very precise manufacturing method, that WS has had issues with their oval hatch covers, and that they redesigned the rear hatch unit in 2009 (my boat was a 2006 model). He said WS would warranty the boat and gave me a new boat (a 2008 model) on the spot. I was impressed with the dealer's customer service, but asked him why he was selling inventory that was 4 years old. He said that my boat was discounted by $50 because it was an older model, that he keeps all his inventory inside, protected from the elements, and that it is not uncommon for kayak dealers to sell models that are several years old. I don't know about that, but oh well.
Anyway, my new 2008 model has been fantastic, and I have had no issues with the hatch covers at all. Since this is my first touring kayak I don't have much to compare it to, but I love this boat. Initial and secondary stability are great, and I can still effective edge turns. I am 6'1" and 200 lbs. and this boat fits me perfectly. The Phase 3 seat is very adjustable and comfortable for long paddling outings. The boat does weathercock into the wind somewhat, but it can be overcome by corrective paddling and edging. I do, however, plan to buy and install the optional rudder system in the near future to minimize corrective paddling. I have taken the boat out into to small surf and choppy conditions and it performs very well. The high front deck provides a sense of security, and I am confident this boat can handle anything I might get into in my local area. Finally, the storage capacity is very large, and I can easily fit all my wilderness camping gear and ample food/water into it. I plan to do several extended day trips this fall and winter.
In summary, although I had some issues with my initial purchase, WS and my local dealer made it right without any hassles. The WS 145 is a solid, well designed, touring kayak suitable for beginner and intermediate kayakers. I am an intermediate paddler and don't plan on needing to learn how to roll this kayak. It is perfect for my needs.