Submitted: 06-30-2011 by TommyC1
I have been paddling an Expedition Kevlar Osprey for about 6 years now. She is currently outfitted with Aluminum Gunnels and a minicell saddle which is 9" off the floor. I just got back from running the Saranac River from Saranac Lake to Lake Champlain 60+ miles of river, quiet to class VI, with a couple of lakes in there for good measure. We portaged anything class III or higher.
I go 190 lbs and carry roughly 70 lbs of gear. I kneel all the time and use a variety of paddle techniques including Marathon (switch) J stroking and Slalom/Freestyle.
The Osprey is the only solo tripper I'd care to take on that sort of trip. She is lively and maneuverable in the class II+ rapids while still being efficient on the lakes. She is dry in waves and supremely stable (at least when I am on my knees, which I always am). The Expedition kevlar layup has stood up to some serious abuse with only gel coat repairs required. I love this boat. She is the one that goes on almost all of my trips.
So why only an 8?
She is efficient, not fast. Below her hull speed (somewhere around 4 mph) she cruises effortlessly. Good luck pushing her faster. She is not the boat I would use to keep up with Marathon canoes or fast kayaks. She can be an absolute bear in following seas as she really wants to broach. In lighter conditions that is manageable. In heavy conditions - like we encountered on Chesuncook in October 2009 - it was not. I'll add that she was not the only boat having trouble in those conditions. Personally, I would prefer more rocker in the stern.
So I'll give her an 8. But remind you that she is my go-to-boat for almost any tripping.