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Submitted: 12-27-2002 by DJ
I purchased my Atlantis new in the summer of 2002. It was a leftover boat from last year. I test-paddled it first of course. It's interesting to read others' reviews, because it seems that boats perform differently for different people.
I should add that I am a T7/8 paraplegic, completely paralyzed from the base of my sternum downward. As such, I have no trunk stability of my own -- if I lean in any direction, I will tip over. So, I retrofit all my kayaks with my own very high, very rigid backrest, usually bracing it against the inside rim of the coaming. The backrest reaches up into my functional musculature, which allows me to brace off the backrest. Since all my stability ultimately comes from the boat, the boat must have significant resistance to tipping. In testing numerous boats, the Atlantis (the Dagger Halifax is the same hull, but with conventional rudder) offered the best resistance to tipping in the 24-inch class. Did I mention that I'm also extremely top-heavy in my body? Any boats that I tested under 23 inches wide offered little to no resistance to tipping.
I find the Atlantis to be a little twitchy on initial stability, but surprisingly strong on secondary. To ratchet the stability up another notch, I carry a 20-pound leaden bar velcroed in the forward section of the rear hatch. This bar really lowers my center of gravity.
I see that some say the Atlantis is maneuverable. For me, that depends. If you keep the integral rudder, which turns at the rear end of the keel as if it were an airplane tail flap, locked in the straight position; then it takes an Act of Congress to turn the boat. I can not edge the boat of course, since that requires hip control. I'm sure it would turn better with edging. I mounted a Cascade Designs trim tab on my Atlantis, which gives me hand control of the rudder, and when I use the rudder to make a turn, the boat is very maneuverable indeed.
I find the Atlantis to be a hard tracker, and for me, it almost ignores wind. Perhaps the lead bar has something to do with it.
I wanted a plastic boat because I get in on high, solid, wheelchair ground, and then ski-pole myself in my boat down to and back up from the water. I fear that I would break a glass boat, and it just doesn't seem right to abuse Kevlar the way I buff my plastic. My second choice in a long, reasonably efficient touring boat is a Storm by Current Designs, but the cockpit is smaller and I couldn't fit my size 13 feet in it very well.
For a safety net in my Atlantis in rough water, I mount inflatable sponsons far enough rearward that they don't interfere with my paddling, and also high enough that they clear the water by an inch or two. Then, if I lean the boat over, the sponspons catch and provide ludicrous secondary stability without any drag during normal paddling. It's an idea that seems to work great in practice. I paddle Lake Superior a lot, though I haven't ventured into more than two-footers yet with the Atlantis. It is superb in two-footers, and seems to be totally unfazed even when waves come from the beam, thanks to the shallow-arch hull. The twitchy intitial stability is a plus in waves.
I did move my seat rearward about two inches in the cockpit, which makes for an easy butt-first entry. This probably also makes for better wind balance to reduce weathercocking.
Personally, I really like the integral rudder over the conventional. It doesn't catch wind, but fulfills its function nicely. This may be a little weird, but when we installed my trim tab, the rudder cables weren't tight, and I test paddled the boat with slack cables. This allows the rudder to fly freely for 10 to 15 degrees in either direction. I found that I actually prefer this. With tight cables, the boat tracks too hard for my taste. Even a minor course change required major paddle effort. Now, I can make minor course corrections with an easy paddle input, so I don't have to keep reaching for my trim tab or try to horse the boat over with the paddle.
The only reason I don't give this boat a ten is that it weighs practically 70 pounds. I don't take it on solo paddles, because it's a bear to load by myself. I have different boats for different purposes, and I use a Yukon Expedition by Prijon for solo paddling outings. It's much slower than the Atlantis, but lighter and more stable, and extremely maneuverable on land due to the pronounced rocker, but I digress.
In short, if you want an excellent plastic big guy boat, with really strong secondary stability, and a high volume deck in front of the cockpit for big feet, plus excellent rough water handling characteristics, you can't go wrong with the Atlantis or Halifax.