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Submitted: 04-05-2013 by PHILIPJEDLICKA
I recently got rid of my Seaward Chilco 18' after a brief stint with a Point65N XP18 as well. Both kayaks in short were fast but overall unpleasant to live with (see respective) reviews.
As a previous Aquanaut RM owner I found the Etain familiar but different. The triple layer poly was rock solid and can take major abuse. The low point is that at close to 60lbs there is a bit more heft to carry from car to launch point. The new Valley seat is a huge improvement over the old and I cannot find any fault in terms of comfort. The new back band is better but I still replaced it with an Immersion Research lounge back band with the pro straps installed ( I can't say enough good things about this set-up!). The original thigh pad placements were uncomfortable. I moved them forwards, drilled some new holes and rebolted them in place. Easy fix. The rubber hatches work well and are easy to put on and off. I fitted some bungy cords with plastic snap clips to secure the hatches to the deck rigging. I also bolted the day pod/4th hatch to the hull and used rubber washers to keep it watertight. I did this because I saw a video on Vimeo that showed the pod blowing off in surf as well, the pod easily moves out of place when you remove the hatch. Another easy fix.
I have only taken it out once for a 10km paddle in calm conditions as it is still cold on Lake Ontario in March. The primary and secondary stability were just awesome compared to my previous two 18ft kayaks....I can't wait to go out in white caps! I also find the Etain is more responsive to turn than the Aquanaut. As some pebbles jammed the skeg in the up position I can't comment on it. The good news is that even though the wind picked up the tracking was still very good. I still think the rope & cleat system was more robust and reliable than the slider system as I never had a skeg jam with it. I did not bring my GPS but I was probably doing 6-7 km/hr (I still need to build up my endurance after my winter break from kayaking).
All in all a very nice kayak that should complement my requirement for a kayak that is good for day tripping, multi-day camping and handling rough conditions. I also wanted something that could take the abuse of hitting rocks and being dragged out of the water. So far this boat is a home run! I gave it a 9 because I still needed to do a few modifications to make it perfect.