Submitted: 09-05-2012 by greatmeadows
In 2006 I owned the Ellesmere and because of lack of experience couldn't get comfortable in the boat and sold it. Six years later I tried again:
I've been paddling my Kevlar Ellesmere with clear coat hull for 5 weeks now but I've had it out for 8 trips, some of them in fairly rough water and strong winds. I don't think that you can separate the boats characteristics from the paddler in its cockpit. I'm 170 lbs, at least an intermediate skilled paddler of 7 years experience and a septuagenarian.
The Elle is light 44 lbs. and fast. It is also a most aggressive turning boat in all conditions. Many times in a strong beam sea when we try to correct the boats course we limit the amount of edge due to caution in a rough sea. Not so with the Elle. The hard chines dig in providing a feeling of security. The Elle is an active boat, perhaps too active for some tastes. It is not a relaxing feeling in rough water but fun and playful. The primary is tender and the secondary quite strong. Unless you're heading directly into the wind, the Elle wants a bit of skeg. I use 20% almost all the time and it still turns strongly on edge with 20% down. Following seas are thrilling and while I haven't yet surfed with her I suspect she's quick and unforgiving. Just a little angle off the vertical and you may be in trouble. This is clearly a boat for the skilled paddler or one who wants to build those skills.
Seat and back band are fine and perhaps a matter of personal taste. The cockpit needed to be seriously foamed out for my slim hips and thighs. The Elle looks svelte and dynamic but has actually more volume than an Explorer. Should be a great camping kayak. Full disclosure: I also own a Romany which is my rocks and surf boat. I love the Elle as a second more exciting boat but would be uncomfortable if it was my only boat.
One last thing: The seat is positioned a little too far back which allows the lower back to contact the rear coming during layback rolls. Also the boat needs to be weighted a little in the bow to compensate and provide better performance. Build quality is excellent but a little light for the Maine coast with its rocky put-ins and beaches.