Submitted: 07-03-2012 by mprogers
A short follow-up—the Xplore is still excellent!
I'm still several weeks away from a couple of multiday trips, and as such, I haven't had the chance (or made the chance!) to paddle this boat fully loaded. And I've paddled it only Lake Champlain — not in the ocean yet.
Per my earlier review, I'm 6'5", 210 lbs. My height puts me outside the range of the recommended paddler for this boat by Tiderace (I'd fit in the Xplore X parameters). There were a couple of tweaks I made to accommodate this — and it means I fit well in a boat with lower volume than many of the Big Guy boats -- one of my goals.
I did move the seat back one inch; made for a good fit. With my torso height, I felt I didn't have the primary stability in the boat unloaded — hey it's an expedition boat for a smaller paddler, I can't fault the boat for that! Since I've been paddling in the lake, often with wind waves, motor boat wakes from multiple directions at once and some funny rebounds of breakwaters and such, I felt high and bouncy, and wanted more stability. I've now pulled the seat out, and sit directly on the padded deck. I think if you're 6'2" or under you wouldn’t think about this, but its made a noticeable difference for me. I was out in 25 knot winds yesterday in some very confused water, waves only 3' high but a very short wavelength, sometimes 10-12', and I was glad to have the extra primary. The boat's secondary really shines on the few larger (on the lake, I have to call 4' large) I've been on—looking forward to the ocean soon.
I continue to be impressed by the fit and finish. I haven't found a flaw in construction, and this boat feels solid. I sat on the back deck on dry land while playing with the seat, something I wouldn't try on my other boats, and fit now flexing at all (and remember, I'm not a petite guy).
The gelcoat seems particularly strong, too. I thought gelcoat was gelcoat, but Tiderace seems to do something better. The bulkhead stay bonedry, even with water frequently splashing across the deck. In fact, I feel I need to counter one complaint in the Xplore S reviews. The review stated the hatch covers were loose and leaky and the coaming not able to keep a spray skirt on. That's odd since all other mention of the hatch covers in the reviews I saw had them as working quite well — as was my experience. As others have, I actually drilled a 1/32" hole in each bulkhead to allow for pressure equalization—something that wouldn't be necessary without tight hatch covers! The coaming seems no different there others boats I have—I use the recommended Seals sprayskirt sizes, it's a 1.3 in neoprene. It fits great, stays on, and requires a solid tug to remove it. I used a 1.4 when test paddling and it wasn't as tight—but it then it wasn't the right size, was it! That solitary Xplore S review does not match at all my experience.
I still like the front/center micro day hatch just fore of the cockpit. No interference inside. It does move the bungees further forward, and that might be annoying for some.
Any kayak is a mix of tradeoffs. But I like the tradeoffs here, and I'm sticking with a 10. We'll see what I say after finally making it out on some bigger water and with a couple of trips, not just fitness/play paddling on the lake. And it's worth a look by bigger guys. I bet a 6'2" person at 230+lbs would be thrilled with the fit right off.