Submitted: 07-28-2005 by DJ
I have a kevlar Solstice GT High Volume. The extra deck height makes it easier for me to do a butt-first entry. I'm a T7/8 complete paraplegic, and I bolt an extension onto the factory backrest and then brace it against the inside of the rear coaming. Due to the rigid, high backrest, butt-first entry is the only way I can get in.
The beauty of the Solstice GT HV for me is that it has more primary stability than any touring kayak I have tested. I like to take pictures. Mind you, at 24.25 inches wide, the secondary stability is also very strong, such that a person with a high center of gravity (me) feels quite secure. And the secondary stability kicks in with just a slight lean due to the very shallow V hull shape.
For a boat of this width, my Solstice has a nice, easy cruising speed. A friend and I recently paddled 52 miles in 13.25 hours (total elapsed time). We beached our boats for fifteen minutes every two hours. In other words, about 4.5 mph is an easy paddling speed for the Solstice. 5 mph is very doable if you're breathing a bit, but I couldn't keep it up all day without wearing out. Two hours at 5mph is okay.
The only negative about the Solstice is that of course it won't turn. Add a little wind, and it pretty much takes an Act of Congress to bring it around. The tracking is spectacular though. I ordered my boat without a rudder since I can't use my feet, and in the vast majority of paddling situations, in my opinion, the boat does not need a rudder.
If you edge the boat heavily, it does turn slightly better, but nobody will ever accuse it of being maneuverable if they've paddled something that truly turns well.
I've recently learned an extended-paddle high-bracing sweep that enables me to lean the boat 90 degrees. The stability still feels predictable. Likewise, I can heel the boat over with a low-bracing turn, and it feels good. Of course, it does help that I've epoxied some brackets on the bottom of my rear hatch and I bungee a 20-pound leaden bar in there. The boat is stable without the ballast, but with it, it's rock solid for a person with a high center of gravity. It makes up for my lack of leg weight.
Overall, if you're looking for a more nimble, easily leaned boat, then the Solstice is not for you. But, if you want a very stable, efficient touring kayak, you can't go wrong with the Solstice. And my hatches are cavernous.
The only reason I give the boat a 9 rather than a 10 is that it won't turn.