Submitted: 06-04-2004 by FVH
The end of a long road - I've finally purchased a poly Tempest 170. The quest for a kayak started by looking at rec boats. I paddled a few, my favourite being the Necky Manitou. But in the process my wife and I realised we really wanted touring / weekend tripping kayaks. So the quest took on a new direction.
Given that the boats would do a lot of daytrips, we wanted "playful" boats as much as straight-line tourers. A Current Designs Expedition would not fit the bill for example. Given that we're buying two, glass boats are too expensive, and plastic boats are a bit more tolerant of our rocky beaches anyway. We didn't care about rudder versus skeg; we've paddled with both, and they're both okay with us. So the end criteria were: plastic, decent speed, decent tracking, good turning when edged, a boat that would surf when on the swells, comfortable, reasonable initial stability (so we can drift around & take photos) and good secondary.
I looked at the following boats: Boreal Designs Inuckshuk, Current Designs Whistler, Storm, Squall, Sirocco, Necky Elaho, Eloho HV, Looksha IV, Chatham 16, Perception Carolina, P&H Capella, Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 15, 17, Tempest, and some others I forget now. A lot of paddles and demos! Fun though.
Some comments on the boats that made the shortlist. The Capella didn't have enough initial stability for the "drifting around" and taking photos idea. Although it's quite stable when it's moving. The Elahos are nice boats, like to surf, but their comfort and outfitting just don't fit me all that well (5'9" 160 lbs); the seat would numb my legs, and the thigh-braces were in the wrong place. If the Elahos were more comfortable they might have won. The Sirocco was a real fun boat on a windy choppy day, decent comfort too. But it didn't seem overly keen on surfing the swells. Maybe that's a good thing for stability, but it's certainly less fun.
The Tempest won out. It's comfortable, with a good adjustable seat and well-placed thigh braces. The back-band is also decent. It paddles straight when it's kept level, and I found I didn't really need the skeg most of the time. Good initial stability. On an edge it turns great, and it happily surfs the swells. Even a small lean on the boat will have an effect, making it easy to keep yourself pointed in the desired direction.
Some folks commented about weathercocking. I took it out on a reasonably windy day (15 knot winds blowing whitecaps on the water) and had no difficulty at all. In fact I hardly needed the skeg in those conditions, although it did help a little.
The hatch covers are tricky to put on properly, but once they're on they seal very well. The rubber hatches need to hook *under* the plastic hatch combings. It's easy to just push the hatches on, where it'll appear that they're on, but in fact are not fully sealed. The trick is, push down on the edges of the hatch cover. If the edge moves, it's not on right. When it's on properly, the bottom of the rubber hatch cover touches the kayak deck, and pressing down on the hatch cover edge results in the edge not flexing down at all. The hatch covers are tied down from the inside, so you can't lose them. The retaining bungies are not however, so it's not a bad idea to tie them to their respective hatch covers.
Deck rigging is the best of all the boats on the list. One minor comment is the rear bungy which crosses immediately behind the cockpit. It's so close to the cockpit combing that putting anything under that bungy will get in the way of your sprayskirt. I'll be moving that one bungy aft just a little bit. Speed is good; on the GPS the Tempest was on par with every other boat on the shortlist.
So that's it; I've finished boat-hunting. Thanks to everyone for posting their kayak reviews on this site; it's really helped me. The poly Tempest 170 came out on top.