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Submitted: 05-22-2012 by toprich

I am very much a beginner, so let's start there.
I received the Elie Strait 120 as a gift from my wife for our anniversary. I finally got it wet this weekend with something other than pool water. We went out to Topsail Island NC near Surf City and put in to the ocean side. The boat was much more capable than I was. It handled well and took quite a pounding with nary a blemish. With Tropical Storm Alberto sitting off the coast we were facing 6-10 foot storm waves. I am sure that is nothing to most of you, but bracing is not reflexive yet for me and I do not have a reliable roll so I spent a lot of time swimming the boat in and trying another surf launch. Self rescue and pumping through the skirt did not seem viable in the surf zone.

Once I got past the breakers, about 1/2 mile out, the boat was quite pleasant on the rolling sea with just enough stability that I didn't feel nervous and enough secondary stability that I stayed very buoyant and stable as the waves rolled under me. I now understand primary and secondary stability much better.

The 12 foot length made it a nice surfing boat and it was very maneuverable and responsive. The waterproof bag in the bow hatch... failed and the rear bulkhead was not entirely watertight, but I think in more capable hands it would have taken on much less water. After a few hours of ocean pummeling we transitioned to the ICW on the Sound side of Topsail Island and paddled on calmer water with a stiff northerly breeze, about 17 knots worth. Again, the boat just rode up over swells and wakes from the bigger boats on the ICW and I did not feel unstable at all.

The boat was quite fast for it's length and handled very well. The seat was quite comfortable, even after about 4-5 miles of paddling, with no unsettling effects in my lower limbs. On the downwind leg, headed home, we had a right rear quartering wind and there was some tendency to weathercock but a slight lean and the occasional bow stroke was all I needed to track straight.

I am planning to work up to longer trips so this will not be my long term boat, but it seems like a great boat to get a base-set of skills in. I would recommend it to anyone. It is a light quick boat with features normally found on much more expensive boats. That makes it a solid buy, especially if you want to get started kayaking without dropping four or five grand for a composite. I kitted it out with a Sealz 1.7 skirt, a Werner Skagit paddle and an Astral V-8 vest. For the 56 degree water, I had a full sleeve wet top. A local loaned me a helmet and I was grateful for it.

The Strait 120 exceeded all of my expectations so I rated it a 9. I have very little experience to compare it to anything else or it may have gotten a 10.

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