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Submitted: 10-07-2003 by pstivers3

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 180 is presently in prototype and is scheduled for retail in fiberglass layup in February, 2004. Earliest date for retail in polyethylene, if the decision is made to do it, is Fall, 2004. Since this boat is in prototype and not widely available for demo and is a boat that I really enjoyed paddling, Iím going to be extra detailed in my review.

I will compare the Tempest 180 prototype in places to the CD Sirocco/Gulfstream and to the Eddyline Nighthawk 17.5. The Sirocco being a boat I had high hopes for until I tried it, and the Nighthawk having been my default choice if I didnít find something better.

Summary: I think the Tempest 18 ft x 23 inch will address very well a segment of the market that is unaddressed so far, namely a British style boat for the 240 to 300+ lb paddler. I think the boat will also appeal to paddlers over 6 ft 2 in tall. It may also appeal to a smaller paddler who wants a British style boat with some extra initial stability and capacity.

Body characteristics: 6 ft 3 in, 285 lb, waist: 44 in, chest: 50 in, thighs: 26 in, inseam: 31 in, Shoe size: 11

Experience and aspirations: Enthusiastic new paddler for the past three months, 50 hrs on the water, 2 lessons, 1 book. I used to paddle a canoe on a lake in the summer as a boy, and will always enjoy a day kayaking on a flat lake or bay. I also want to learn performance sea kayaking; rolling, sculling, etc.; initially for the sport of it and to be one with my boat and with the water. I used to be an avid body surfer in Southern California and abalone free-diver in Northern California. Once my skills are up to it, I suspect I will enjoy getting out on the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington. I would also like very occasionally to do multi-day wilderness trips.

Desired characteristics in a boat: A boat well suited for day trips on lakes and bays. Well suited for flat water as well as wind and chop. Capacity for at least a 1 week wilderness trip. A boat with which I can enjoy learning to roll, scull, and edge turn. Once my skills are up to it, a boat that I can take in the surf and on costal waters. A boat that challenges me a bit but that I can also enjoy as a beginner.

Conditions: Calm seas. Up to a 5 knot breeze at times. Up to a 9 inch ripple on the water.

Duration: A 20-minute paddle on Saturday, and two 45-minute paddles on Sunday.

I had an opportunity to go to the West Coast Sea Kayaking Symposium this year. Wow! Just about every boat I ever wondered about was there, including even my curiosity list, like Pigmy wooden and Ocean SOT. I had tried many of the North American style boats over the past couple months through rentals and demos, and so on Friday I focused on the British style boats. (I hope youíll forgive me for the generalization, British/North American, but I think you know what I mean.) Now that Iíve lost 15 lbs/ 2 inches around the waist, I can fit in some of the Brit boats with higher volume and bigger cockpits, though Iíd still need to lose more weight and inches to really fit in them well, and more still to be ok with the low primary stability. I tried: Seaward Shadow (Nigel Foster deep V), NDK Explorer HV, Valley Argonaut, CD Sirocco and Gulfstream, P&H Capella, Neckyís new (approximately) 18 ft x 20 inch and 16 ft x 23 inch skeged boats, Impex Assateague and Serenity Sport, a boat from NC, and a boat from Boreal I think. I was a little frustrated by the end of the day. Most of the boats were a little small in the cockpit, particularly in the knee and thigh area. All of them were way too tippy for my big inexperienced torso sitting above the boat.

There were two Tempest 180 prototypes that were on the water almost constantly on Friday and Saturday, so I didnít get to the boat until Saturday afternoon. By that time, I was thinking, ok Iíll try it, but I know what the storyís going to be. I was very pleasantly surprised. The boat fit me better than anything Iíve tried, at the symposium or otherwise, Brit or North American. The bigger hull gave me enough room to be comfortable. The Phase 3 seat with back band, and adjustable thigh hooks that wrap around your thigh nice, really gave me good contact with the boat. On the water, oh my, not bad primary stability, not bad at all. I could definitely sit still with a 9 inch ripple on the water, and relax and take in the scenery. I could focus on my forward stroke technique without expending too much energy and concentration on balance. While the CD Sirocco/Gulfstream, for example, is also a 23 inch wide boat, the Tempest 180 had much better primary stability. Not as much primary stability as the 24.5 inch wide Nighthawk, but the narrower Tempest, as expected, felt like it had better acceleration, was faster, and took less energy to keep the boat moving, than the Nighthawk. The secondary stability in the Tempest seemed good, though the secondary stability seems about the same in most sea kayaks that Iíve tried. Iím not experienced enough to split hairs in this attribute.

The boat is basically a Tempest for the bigger paddler. In trying to fill the big-paddler niche, some manufacturers seem to be driven more by business cost and time to market than by customer needs. They either take an existing hull and put a larger cockpit in it, or conversely, they build a larger hull and turn around and put their standard size cockpit in it. The Tempest 180 is re-sized from the ground up and fine tuned for the bigger paddler.

The cockpit opening on the prototype had actual inside dimensions of 32 inch x 16 inch. The designer, Steve Scherrer, was at the Symposium and emphasized that in the next rev of the prototype, he is going to enlarge the cockpit opening in both length and width. I have been willing to compromise on that attribute, but it is nice to be able to get your feet in and out of the cockpit while keeping your butt in the seat. The seat is already pretty low, which helps the primary stability and room in the cockpit. Steve said he is going to try to lower the seat even a little more.

I didnít pay that much attention to how much extra rail length I had on the foot peg settings (would be of interest to really tall paddlers), but I think it was at least a few inches. In contrast, in the Sirocco/Gulfstream, I had to move the pegs all the way to the end of the rails, and if I stretched my legs and toes out past the pegs, my toes would hit the bulkhead. Definitely not the case in the Tempest. My toes never hit the underside of the deck on any boat, so I canít comment on that.

One test I like to do is to put on a spray skirt and lean past secondary stability and brace using the sculling stroke. While Iím not yet very good at sculling, I think it makes a sensitive test for how easily I can keep the boat well connected to my body. I think itís a good indicator of how effectively I will be able to do hip snaps and learn to roll the boat in the future. I was able to scull brace better in this boat than any other boat Iíve tried, owing I think to the really nice fit of the seat and thigh hooks. In contrast, in the Nighthawk, the cockpit is so big that the boat starts to get away from me after a few strokes. Then while Iím distracted by trying to bring the boat back in line, my stroke starts to go unstable and I have to get upright real quick before I capsize.

There wasnít much wind. Having said that, the boat tracked very well. Iím early in my learning curve on edge turning, so Iím not qualified to do a good evaluation of that attribute. The boat seemed to edge turn about average, not as well as the Nighthawk. The Nighthawk is the one boat that I can edge turn really well. The Nighthawk on the other hand doesnít track very well for me with the skeg up, but does track well with it down. (I realize the intended purpose of the skeg is to trim the boatís tendency to point upwind or downwind or in between. But it also has the sometimes-useful affect of stiffening the tracking.) I think thereís a fundamental compromise that has to be made in boat design between robust tracking and ease of turning. Steve said he does intend to put a little more rocker in the boat, I think for better handling in the surf and in rough water. I imagine that will make it easier to edge turn on flat water as well.

Steve emphasized, and a Wilderness Systems representative reiterated, that they donít intend to change the shallow V cross section at all. Iím glad, since the primary and secondary stability seem good now.

For an indication of how the boat might handle in rough water, Iíd recommend you read the reviews at for the Tempest 170 and 165. I believe the designer intends the 180 to handle for a big paddler like the 170 handles for a medium-large paddler. For details on construction and hatches, I recommend you visit a kayak shop that caries the Tempest 170 or 165. The 180 will be the same.

I found out after demoing the boat on Saturday and talking to some people at breakfast on Sunday, that the designer, Steve Scherrer, is out of the Alder Creek kayak shop in Portland, Oregon, about a 2 hr drive from my house. I talked with Steve some more on Sunday and asked if I could spend some more time with the boat after the next rev modifications to the rocker and cockpit. He said sure, he needs testers that are my size. Iíll write an update afterwards. I hope I will get a chance to try it in some wind and about a 2-foot chop. I think thatís about as much as my experience level can handle. If you have other questions about dimensions or attributes of the boat, email me and Iíll try to find out during my next test paddle.

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