Submitted: 01-19-2004 by pstivers3
This is a follow-up on my review in September 2003 of the Tempest 180 prototype. Since then the designers have added about a half inch of rocker in the bow and enlarged the cockpit by 1.75Ē in both length and width, now 33.75Ē by 17.75Ē actual inside dimensions.
I had the chance to paddle the latest prototype on three different days in various conditions:
Columbia River, from the Alder Creek kayak shop on the South side of Tomahawk Island, heading East across the channel and back Ė calm, 1-2 knot current.
Green Peter Lake, Oregon Ė calm, like glass in the coves.
Alsea Bay, Oregon Ė Light wind, 5-10 knots. 1-2 foot waves from two sources: wind waves on the bay, ocean waves from the mouth, attenuated by the sandbar. Main current of 2 knots, local currents up to 8 knots. Rips from incoming tide apposing the high winter water flow of the river.
During these outings I wanted to evaluate several attributes that I wasnít able to evaluate at the WCSKS, and also see what difference the latest modifications made--handling on flat water (with the added rocker); handling in waves, current, and wind; ease in performing deep water rescues; ease of getting my feet in and out of the cockpit.
The boat was a pleasure to paddle on flat water. I had been concerned that the little extra rocker in the bow might compromise tracking. That wasnít the case. The tracking was still quite good. The boat was truly just more responsive. In that sense, if I was paddling unevenly, or otherwise starting to yaw, a little extra pressure on the opposing foot peg on the next stroke or two and I was back on course. After a while it became subconscious. The boat seemed to just go where I wanted it to go. A very satisfying feeling, more so than if it tracked ďlike it was on rails.Ē Also, the boat carved an edge turn much nicer for me now.
I spent some time exploring around some house boat docks on the Columbia, and in a narrow cove on Green Peter. Wow! Maneuverability was really good. I spent time playing around in tight spaces just for the fun of turning the boat. Not a stiff feeling at all. Making bow turns was especially fun. (Plant the blade near the toes, press on the outer foot peg, sweep out about 20 or 30 degrees, and the boat comes around 20-30 degrees. Really nice! A big lean isnít necessary.) I think I felt what people mean when they refer to a boat as ďplayfull.Ē But again, it tracked well while wanting to go for long, straight distances, which speaks to the versatility of this boat.
On Alsea Bay, the rips, waves, and current were a blast! Whole different world than the lake. (I was out there with a fairly experienced sea kayaker.) We went all around the bay in every direction through various currents and wave directions. Steering seemed surprisingly neutral. I remember thinking toward the end of the trip, ďI canít believe Iím not having more trouble out here,Ē given my lack of experience in waves and current.
The boat cut through forward approaching waves nicely. There were some steep waves from a rip current under the bridge that were especially fun. The bow rose over each wave, and the hull cut down through each wave, providing a nice ride. Toward the last of the series, the bow rose over, the hull cut down through, and the top of the wave rolled over the deck and splashed me in the chest, drawing a ďYeee Haw!Ē from my paddling partner. (I think he was enjoying watching me take a little bit of rough stuff.) Iím no expert on hull performance in waves, but I liked the feeling. The boat didnít bob entirely over the waves and it didnít punch straight through them either. The ride felt really nice.
The boat also took beam waves (waves from the side) surprisingly well. I had been concerned that the extra primary stability might result in a trade off of sideways rocking in beam waves. I didnít feel any of that. I leaned slightly into the waves and the boat rose up and down with each wave without rocking, supported nicely by itís secondary stability. Closer to the mouth of the bay, I caught a beam sleeper out of the corner of my eye, and leaned a little further into it (being thankful for having read how to handle that), no problem. It drew a ďWoo HooooĒ from my paddling partner.
The boat also handled well in following waves (from behind) though they were only a couple feet high.
I had one condition in a following current and confused waves, approaching a rock jetty off port, where I had the skeg down for extra stability. The boat wanted to yaw to starboard causing me to need to make corrective strokes on the starboard side. That was more a problem with my having the skeg down for stability when I should have had it up for looser, more neutral steering. I canít honestly say I felt comfortable in confused waves with the skeg up, though I donít know if I would in any boat. I need to work on taking the waves in stride with loose hips. I think that will come with time.
Iím a rookie in waves for sure, so canít compare the T180 to most other boats in this regard. (I did have the CD Storm in 2 ft chop once. It was very stable in waves, though even 2 ft quartering waves (from the back at an angle) rolled right over the stern, something that didnít happen in the Tempest.) Also, the feeling in waves depends partly on how well the weight of the paddler and gear is matched to the volume of the boat. I can say in absolute terms though, that the T180 handled those 2 foot waves very well for me, and left me looking forward to bigger ones.
Regrettably, I didnít get to test the boat in any significant wind. I know the Tempest line has a good reputation for handling in wind, so Iím not too worried about that, though I would like to experience it myself.
I also tried some wet exits and rafting up rescues. The deck rigging is very sturdy. There are strong, non-stretch lines along the sides, with strong fittings, that aid very well during rescues. The boat seemed very tough, even with this 285 lb person climbing around on it. My paddling partner commented also on the superior rigging relative to most boats. That can really help in rafting up in rough water, and in pulling yourself on to the stern.
With the extra 1.75Ē in cockpit length, I can just barely get my feet in and out of the cockpit while keeping my butt in the seat. In the production prototype, the cockpit is going to be moved another inch forward relative to the seat. Right now itís too far back. That should give me enough room to get my feet in and out comfortably. Iím probably close to a worst case for this.
I did have a couple items I wasnít satisfied with.
1. Presently the hatches consist of a round front, round day, and large oval rear, all with Brit-style rubber covers. When practicing rescues, I put my knee on the rear hatch cover and pushed it half way into the hatch. It didnít take that much pressure with my hand to do the same. There was a lot of 303 lube on the rim which may have been a factor. A textbook rescue wouldnít have my knee on the hatch cover, but still, stuff happens. I could inflate a flotation bag when the aft compartment isnít loaded, to support the hatch cover.
I checked out the rear hatch on a new poly Tempest 170 and the cover seemed a lot stiffer and tighter than the one on the 180. I put some pressure on it and it didn't seem to want to cave in like the one on the 180. Maybe I wasnít being as zealous as I had been out in the water, but I think I was pressing on it pretty good. Maybe no lube on the 170 rim if it was new. I imagine the rear covers are the same size on the 180 as on the 170, but donít know for sure.
From what Iíve read, I suspect most people would be happier if WS had leveraged hatch covers from Valley or Kajaksport. No way the hatch cover would be a deal breaker for me, but I think itís an area for improvement.
2. Unlike the earlier prototype I paddled at the 2003 WCSKS, I needed another notch past the end stop on the foot pegs in this boat. My knees were up where they should be but my feet had to be at right angles to my lower leg. I would have liked to extend them some, closer to bicycle riding angle. It kept me from using my legs more, and kept me from being really comfortable. I felt like I wanted to get out and stretch, about every hour. I emailed Steve Scherrer, asking if the foot peg rails could be mounted further down to give 2 or 3 more notches past the present end stop. He replied ďdone Ė EZ fix.Ē
3. This last one is a peeve. WS doesnít actually offer all of the colors in their color browser on their web site. Also, a retailer told me WS wants to charge $200 extra for certain colors and for certain COMBINATIONS of standard colors, if you can believe that.
In summary, Iíd say the Tempest 180 is a great choice for an extra large paddler seeking a Brit. style boat. Itís a good choice for a large paddler seeking a Brit. style boat with some extra primary stability and capacity. Itís a very versatile boat with a well balanced hull. A pleasure to paddle as a beginner, and a boat that one can grow with. Strong boat. Tough, complete rigging. Back hatch cover could be better.
This boat certainly meets my original stated needs.
I hope to paddle the production prototype in March if Steve Scherrer brings one back to his shop. I would like to experience being comfortable in the boat for several hours (had the foot peg limitation this time.) Getting to paddle in some big wind and waves would be a bonus. Iíll write another follow-up on anything new, probably brief, as I donít think there will be any further modifications to the hull. Just moving the cockpit opening forward about an inch and moving the foot peg rails forward a few inches, I believe. The latest schedule is that the fiberglass Tempest 180 will be available for shipment in mid April, 2004.