Submitted: 12-06-2004 by feltman
This is my second kayak. I got it mid-way into my second year of paddling and was the perfect upgrade to my first boat.
The Orion is a forgiving, stable sea kayak that can handle any conditions you care to put it in. Very confidence inspiring with one notable exception that may or may not apply to everyone. I am on the light end of the spectrum for this boat (165lbs) and I paddle it relatively empty most of the time. I am also a relative novice. I have noticed that in a following sea this boat can be tough to control. Not "white-knuckle" tough, but a bit unruly. I'm sure another 20lbs in ballast, gear or belly would help.
The boat has the best turning performance I have seen in boat its size (or a bit smaller.) You can pretty much spin it on axis. It puts other boats to shame in this area. It edges well too (though it's hardly necessary.) Learn to edge before you get this boat because you may never learn once you get it.
The Orion is not fast--it's no slug--but don't get your hopes up on winning any races. You'll get your revenge on your paddling partners when they turn back or slow down in tough seas and you just keep plowing through.
Speaking of plowing....the unusual bow and stern of this boat are so fine they just plunge into waves--I happen to think this is a good thing although you do occasionally get whacked by a wave. This is the reason for the wide beam. The Boyancy is around the paddler in the middle so there is less pitching. The ride is more comfortable and you don't loose steam when paddling in a short sea.
The Orion tracks fairly well without but very well with the skeg. The skeg itself is relatively small and doesn't affect speed much at all (thank god.)
I'm not much of an expedition paddler so I'll reserve my comments about the storage. Seems like there is a decent amount.
I think the Orion is a beautiful design, and an excellent all-round boat, it won't get you there in a hurry--but you will get there and have a good time on the way, and dang-it if it's good enough for Derek Hutchinson (see the Complete Book of Sea Kayaking)--it's good enough for you.
PS: I got the 'ocean cockpit' unaware of the extra technique required to ingress/egress from it. It was a week or so of flailing and fretting and then I was fine. Now I love it. I am a major klutz and if I can get in and out of it so can you--it's worth the effort.