Submitted: 10-05-2004 by HTS
I'm primarily a whitewater boater but I've lived in SW Wisconsin for the past seven years w/o any chance of getting to an area with steep rivers. I therefore decided I'd get into flat water boating since there seemed to be a lot of it around, but I wasn't going to get the $2500 kevlar Layup sea kayak. I tried a couple of boats at Rutabagas and the Whistler looked to fit the bill: tracks well, but maneuvers well enough to paddle windy narrow rivers without hitting the banks. The plastic is rigid and once it gets moving, it stays moving. The 58 pounds and 92 gallons give it plenty of room to be comfortable and move around, as well as be much more stable than a whitewater boat. 2 storage areas are handy but I only store equipment in them when hanging it in the garage. The covers are difficult to get on but I figure if you want to keep something dry or maintain flotation, you don't want it coming off. I'm 6' 1" and my feet are just a couple of inches from the front bulkhead. A 6' 4" friend touches this when his feet are off the foot braces.
I quickly tired of the small rivers and now spend most of my time on the Mississippi, where wind, barges, and cabin cruisers can put up some good-sized waves. This is the only place where the boat has some shortcomings. Certain frequency waves have a pull-push effect that can throw off paddle strokes. A 17' 6" boat I've paddled in similar conditions seems to just slice through these waves with only a rolling sensation. I've also put it a half mile from shore in moderate to strong winds (25mph) with no noticeable weathercocking. I could just be adjusting with small leans and sweeps but course corrections were easy without a rudder. Compared to paddling a whitewater boat to the inevitable 2-mile lake paddle takeout, this tracks effortlessly.
I like the seat. It's more comfortable than any other boat I have. I've been in it for 4 hours non-stop with no problem. I sometimes wish it had a bottle holder, but there's space behind the seat for a sponge and small items. The back brace seems OK once it's adjusted. Once there, I haven't fooled with it since.
I paddle with a spray skirt out of habit since a roll without one would fill the boat up. It also keeps drips off and on cool days, it stays warmer.
This boat was manufactured in July 2004 and I take it out at least once a week.
It seems to be a perfect boat for short paddles. However, it really only whets your appetite for a Solstice GT to see what touring performance is all about.