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Submitted: 07-03-2013 by Staida
I did not have the good fortune to get this boat new as Wilderness had long since stopped making them when I bought mine last year. After a solid year of taking it out nearly every weekend I have good weather - I'll drop some tips for those of you dealing with this as a used boat (IE, no dealer options, never got your hatches fixed, etc.)
This is EASILY the fastest SOT ever made and quite a bit faster than even the super-fun (also a good choice if you can't find a Freedom) Necky Dolphin. It takes 3 strokes to reach hull speed, after that you're fighting drag but you're already at about 5.5 miles per hour on flatwater. In wind or waves she is very very decent as well.
The boats at Folsom Lake really enjoy trying to knock me over with wake since I have the audacity to be in the middle of such a large body of water that they consider their territory. They fail, of course and the Freedom has no problem with even extreme chop. I hardly notice. 1-2' waves break evenly on the bow and no water even gets in the boat. If it does, simply pull the one giant scupper and keep paddling. This is definitely a long-haul touring boat with a huge amount of cargo space inside. I take an Ice chest, my folding cart, extra life vest, camera equipment, lunch, a tent, folding chair and a small collapsible BBQ and they all fit fine in the hatches since there are no bulkhead structures in the way (the inside of the boat goes straight through, end to end - making room for very long / large objects.)
On rear hatch placement: This is a greenland style boat. As such, you can roll it! I don't know if there's another SOT like this, but you can lean all the way back against the rear deck and roll it (this is surprisingly simple with thigh straps and a little practice.) I love doing so to cool off though it's not necessary for an SOT to have this feature because it's so easy to get back on. Which brings me to my second point.
On getting in from the water: Someone stated in another review above that he doesn't recommend climbing in from the water via the rear as the greenland style deck means that the rear hatch (which leaks, it's true) is barely above the waterline. Why are you climbing in like that? From the water: Reach ACROSS the middle of the boat to the handle on the far side from you. Pull your self over the boat sideways. (you end up half pulling yourself up, and half pulling the boat under your stomach) Turn slightly and sit down. It's that stable, there's no need to go crazy.
On leaking hatches: For some of you it may be too late (if your seals are already too compressed and dried out so they aren't pliable any further) but this is what I did. Put your hatches on and tighten the strap as much as it can be tightened comfortably. Now unlatch them and tighten them about 6mm-8mm more. Now, re-latch them. Enjoy. When you get home, UNLATCH THEM and leave them that way. Let the boat dry out and let the hatch seals remain at rest when not on the water. If you hang your boat sideways on j-hooks at home (rather than storing it on a riser, or on the ground) and you think it looks funny with the hatches hanging off, then loosen them considerably instead. You should be able to jiggle it around (IE no seal contact with the boat)
If your seals are completely spent, there are a number of Do-It-Yourself materials which would work fine but you can also order this seal from Harmony or from TopKayaker. (Talk to Tom, he knows this boat)
On rigging (or... mine didn't come with paddle stow, seat, rudder, etc.):
The OEM equipment for this boat is sold here: http://topkayaker.com/
**The seat you want is the Surf to Summit Drifter - It's also available in a taller model
**These are the side handles with paddle stow (same as Tarpon 160)
**Day hatch is a Viking 5" (I believe)
Great boat, can be had for a song compared to what they would be worth. Nothing like it was made before or since. It stands utterly alone among sit on tops. There was nowhere near enough demand for such an odd thing in order for wilderness to continue making it, but if you like everything about touring kayaks (except you'd rather sit outside it) this is your boat.
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