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Submitted: 01-14-2002 by gproaction
I bought my Kevlar Eclipse 11/00 (my prior boat was a Necky plastic Kyook) I fell in love with the design when I rented a fiberglass Sea Lion, the Eclipse's predecessor, for a four day offshore tour in the California Channel Islands. It was the sweetest boat I had ever paddled at the time. After trying out MANY boats, I bought the Eclipse, for the quality, the sea kindliness and performance. It's also a great looking boat. I have used it approximately 70 days, averaging 3-5 hours per day. I have done a number of long trips, up to 125 miles, up to 33 mile days, offshore in the California Channel Islands.
Keep in mind that the kevlar and fiberglass Eclipse is really a different boat than the plastic version, which has different performance characteristics and even different hardware, although there are similarities. The plastic version seems tippier, slower and less luxuriously outfitted. The kevlar version is a lot more expensive, but it is worth every penny. The Shadow is the Eclipse's little sister, basically a scaled down version, little people love them!
I am 55 years old, in fairly good condition, 5'10", 180 lbs (a little overweight), paddled for 6+ years, took advanced lessons, rate myself intermediate++.
Hull and outfitting: - The boat is 17'3", 23" wide, a featherlight, car-toppable 44 lbs. Fit and finish are excellent. Hardware/outfitting are excellent. Hatches are secure and dry, with heavy duty straps. They are fairly watertight. My back compartment leaks through the rudder cable tubes, especially when rolling. I tried a little silicone sealer, but steering became almost impossible. Steering cable is routed haphazardly through the rear compartment, binding in places (Newer models seen have corrected this). Steering gear is very sturdy, although the pedals were undersize and kept falling off and the paint on the industrial strength rudder mounting peeled off after 6 months. The dealer gave me some runaround on this, but a call to Perception produced replacements very quickly. The new design steering system on the later models is MUCH better- great, especially the pedals. There is an optional low drag rudder, which I may get.
The Perception is comfortable. The only problems I have in that regard are a slight tendency for my legs to fall asleep, which I counter by periodically flexing myself up from the seat. I have never really achieved the perfect fit for my thigh braces, although I have sufficient edging control and can roll the boat OK (I did install some hip padding). The Eclipse came with a separate stick-on seat pad, which reduces slippage. The seat back is very comfortable and adjustable. Others have complained that the back adjustment cord slips-just tie a knot and it's fine. The seat back is a little too high and gets in the way for a cowboy or paddle float re-entry. Now I see why the pro's favor back bands. With the high seat and high rear deck, it's a balancing act to get back in the boat, but some practice will do it. There is room for safety gear, jacket, food and water behind the seat in the cockpit. I keep my pump on the starboard side in the cockpit, tucked between the seat and the hull, with a cord to secure it. Storage space is pretty good, although I had gear lashed to the deck when I did a 6 day trip as a leader and also had to carry 8 gallons of water. I was able to carry 3 gallons in the front of the cockpit. The cockpit entry is fairly large, which is nice for claustrophobic people. Wet exit is a cinch.
The deck bungees and hardware are top grade, much better than, say, Necky. There are really neat soft grip carrying handles. Great on shore, but not so great in the surf zone. A couple of out of boat in surf experiences made me understand why toggles are so ingenious. There is a built-in rudder tie down bungee, nice for those 80 MPH trips back home at night.
Let's see-what else? There is a stainless steel anti-theft ring aft to fasten your lockup security cable to. The coaming has a deep recess, great for holding spray skirts on-- you have to work to get a tight one off. There is no compass mounting pad, a surprising oversight for a touring boat. I have my compass secured with bungees. Kayak manufacturers should consider incorporating a GPS mounting pad, too- Maybe a PC also J. There is lettering on the bow, proclaiming it is a Kevlar Eclipse, so they'll know which boat to steal.
Regarding performance: - It is one of the most forgiving boats I have ever paddled. With a little judicious bracing, you can handle most conditions. I have been in 18-20' seas with 4' wind waves, in 30 knot winds. It was hairy, but the boat really performed for me. Edging is good. I wouldn't agree with some of the other reviewers that the boat is a cinch to turn, but if you lean the boat hard, it will carve pretty well. Until I learned to do this, I was unhappy with the lack of maneuverability.
The Eclipse feels slightly tippy at first (more so for the plastic model), but one becomes quickly accustomed to it. I find the boat easy to edge and control. It is very predictable in anything but the trickiest surf. Speaking of surf, it really doesn't track well going down wave faces. I have gotten so I can usually anticipate what it will do and put in control strokes just before they are needed. Fortunately, the boat is very easy to do a controlled broach in.
Tracking sucks without the rudder. Cross/following seas and wind effect are considerable. I just leave the rudder down all the time, and then it's pretty good. My buddies razz me, because it's not macho to rudder, but I can run their asses into the ground on long distances. The extra rudder drag is more than offset by the improved control.
Acceleration is phenomenal and performance is excellent to about four knots, but hydrodynamics rears its ugly head above that speed, requiring exponential increases in effort to exceed that. I have had the boat up to 5.5 knots (GPS) in calm water with no wind or current influence. It required Herculean effort to do so, which I could not sustain for long. I can paddle the boat comfortably at 4 knots all day in mild conditions. As speed increase, the bow rises and tries to plane, affecting performance adversely.
The bow could use a bit more buoyancy, as it tends to plow in to waves a bit. I have pitchpoled a few times in surf, a hair-raising experience. Otherwise, it rides fairly dry, but pounds in rough water, more than boats such as the Necky Arluk (X), Current Designs Extreme and various Eddyline models that buddies have paddled alongside of me.
The Eclipse is a top quality, seaworthy boat, worthy of extended ocean open touring. The major drawbacks are the poor tracking and relatively slow speed, although the Eclipse is a rocket compared to 85% of all kayaks. It just that a few are faster.
I'd rate it at least an 8 out of 10.
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