Submitted: 08-22-2001 by Paul Kenyon
The West River 180 is the first boat I have built. It is a composite boat, that is it is made of marine grade mahogany plywood skinned with fiberglass. The result is a strong, light, rigid, durable and beautiful kayak. I built it last winter and have been paddling it since April. It is also my first kayak. It is a joy to build and paddle. Though long and narrow, I have found no trouble staying upright and enjoying myself in heavy wind and waves. I learned to roll it and that seems easy to me. I have wet-exited, reentered and rolled it up. Though rolling a kayak is harder when there is water in the cockpit it is far from impossible. As my roll improves it should become easy also. On flat water--those absolutely still evenings--the 180 is effortless to paddle. Put the blade in and just glide forever. Through the glide, it will turn gently just by your leaning it a little to bring the chines into play.
I made a number of modifications to my 180 including adding a day hatch (by Valley and supplied by CLC) designing, building and installing my own flush hatches, my own skeg and I stained the kayak the red-brown color of Honduran mahogany. With every mod, I received generous and enthusiastic support from CLC staff. The finish came out so well following CLC's instructions no paddle goes by--even if I set out alone--when the kayak isn't noticed, approached and complimented. The 180 tracks straight as an arrow and it's fast. In my first race (recreational class) I took a surprising third place in a field of over thirty kayaks, covering a three-mile course in wind and waves in a hair over thirty minutes. I expect to do better next year now I have learned how to turn it around the marks...and, by the way, learned how to paddle more efficiently. But I didn't build it for racing. I was talked into that. I want it for touring with extra fun thrown in. Fun for me is surfing and the 180 surfs beautifully. It will catch a wave easily and stay in it for long, easy runs.
The 180 does not turn as easily as some other kayaks. It won't pivot sharply paddling flat. You do have to put it on edge but I have found, once I was taught how, that high brace turns are a solid joy to perform in the 180. It goes on edge and stays there even at relatively slow speeds. Sharp ninety degree turns are a given and, as I gain experience, I expect to be able turn it a good deal further. If you build this boat, don't hesitate to contact CLC with every question you might have either by e-mail (they answer promptly) or by phone. My experience building and owning the West River 180 has been and continues to be a great pleasure.