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Submitted: 04-09-2002 by TimW
Never mind the numerical rating. Time to update impressions on the Alto. The boat is polyethylene, 15'8"X22", rear bulkhead, bow float bag. "Light Touring" is an insulting designation for such a capable boat, especially as described in current WS catalogs and website. They make the whole category sound like it has training wheels. Perhaps they need a new category, "Capable Day Boats," for Alto and Shaman.
In the interest of simplicity, I paddle rudderless. Alto's maneuverable shape can lead to some frustration, but persistence pays off. I didn't know any better than to work on my skills, so now the compensating strokes are an easy habit. In the size range in polyethylene, 15-16 feet, Alto's shape is unique. The positive reviews here attest to its versatility. It will surf the smallest wave, giving "free speed" to those who know how to take advantage of it.
Loading the aft compartment improves handling, which I find pretty good even without a load. Secure cargo that does not fill the compartment by inflating an air bag in the aft end to hold things snug. Otherwise items may shift when you're trying to roll, making it difficult or impossible to right. But that's not unique to this boat. It's bulkhead 101. To carry more than the aft stowage allows, load the bow through the cockpit in the old-fashioned way. Some reputable experts to this day say that bow hatches are a potential weak point in boisterous water. True or not, it gives you "expert testimony" to make a virtue of the apparent shortcoming of the Alto.
Footbraces could be more substantial, but after-market ones are available. Perimeter deck lines are fashionable, but can be added. Seat back can be cut down flush with rear cockpit rim to make layback recoveries easier. Also interferes less with tight neoprene skirts. When paddling cross wind, I lean slightly to windward and sweep the windward stroke slightly. Lean too far and the stern pops right out of the water. The boat than swings rapidly in the direction you have been trying to prevent it from going. This only happened once, though, when crossing very shallow water with a strong wind, so the waves were small, steep and close together. In the troughs, the boat nearly rested on the bottom. That's shallow. I've seen longer boats with shorter waterlines, but the Alto's bow overhangs enough to help it override obstacles like floating weed. Singer designs all tend to have similar bow rakes, all in keeping with designs that avoid extremes. Reviews of his boats on this board have reflected the versatility that stems from a moderate approach. However, most people like their boats no matter what they are. Natives had their boats built to fit them. We industrial people have to try on production versions until one fits.