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Submitted: 12-10-2002 by Sanjay
The Elan is a low volume version of the Mariner Kayaks Express, with a similar hull but a lower deck. Although I am over 150 pounds (the upper limit for which this boat was designed), I chose it because of my preference for low volume boats—ideal ocean boats for me are the Superior Kayaks Hawk and Nigel Foster Rumour. Even though it is completely different from my usual favorite boat type, I find the Elan to be simply a superb kayak.
The construction is first rate. The strength of the layup (I have the standard layup) is remarkable--it does not buckle when strapped down hard,and the deck is strong enough to sit on with minimal bending. It is carefully reinforced in the most important locations, e.g. under the forward deck where the weight of another boat might rest during a T-rescue (although Matt Broze suggested generally avoiding doing T-rescues in with this boat).
There is a magical mystery quality to this boat's stability. It has high initial stability for its width and high secondary stability--an unusual combination--and also rolls very smoothly, without a "shoulder." The secondary stability is so high that even while balance bracing the boat still tends to right itself rather than capsize. The initial stability is so high that many beginners would feel quite comfortable in it.
The boat is moderately rockered, Swede-form, and places the cockpit well back of the center line, like many sprint kayaks. The hull design is unique, combining four hull shapes into one: the bow is a V hull, which smoothly becomes a rounded arch through the cockpit, which blends intohard chines behind the cockpit, and finally a wine-glass shaped stern with a prominent keel. This configuration provides excellent surfing (the keel comes into play as you head down the wave face, and the hard chines aid steering), reasonable speed, and the unique stability characteristics mentioned above. Weathercocking and broaching are minimal. The boat steers very well with leaning and edging, and a rudder is completely unnecessary—put it on edge, and it turns in about a 20 foot radius.
The deck is very carefully made and outfitted. A pair of cleats on the foredeck provide tie-downs for bow and stern painters. Another cleat on the rear deck is for towing. The forward cleats are turned sideways, creating ridges serve as excellent knee and thigh braces (Matt tells me the molded braces came first, and the cleats second), and ensuring that knuckles don’t bang on the cleats. Despite its 10 inch rear deck height, it is easy to lay flat onto the back deck because this boat shares the long cockpit of the Express (which can have a sliding seat)—there are several inches between the rear coaming and the seat back. This design combines the ease of entry of a long cockpit, but with the ease of access to chart and equipment of a small ocean cockpit. The only other boat I can hand-roll as easily as this one is the Nigel Foster Rumour, which has a 5.5 inch aft deck height. There are stell U bolts at the bow and stern, and rigging for paddle float rescues and spare take-apart paddle on the back deck. The rear deck bungies can be formed into "X" shapes with small clips, to hold any amount of gear. The front deck is long enough (96") to store a Greenland paddle in one piece.
Compared with a Greenland boat, which slices neatly (if somewhat wetly) through waves, the Elan tends to ride over waves. To me this is less comfortable than going through waves, but I know most people disagree. My only real quibble with this boat is that the rear cleat happens to be located right where my head meets the rear deck--I'd put it three inches farther back if I were to order another boat.
Like other Mariner owners, I bought this boat sight-unseen, based primarily on my friend Marty Anderson's enthusiastic recommendation. Matt Broze was incredibly generous with his time in answering my many questions with detailed responses. Decades in the kayak business don't seem to have decreased his enthusiasm for the sport.