Submitted: 01-31-2006 by tvcrider
I have been paddling semi-seriously for about 5 years and have owned several composite boats including the QCC 600, P&H Vela and NF Silhouette. I have demoed many more, including the P&H Sirius, VCP Avocet, Impex Currituck, NDK Explorer and Chatham 16.
I run about 5' 8" and weigh around 155 pounds. I prefer a close fitting cockpit for greater boat control. I have to pad the heck out of many popular boats with foam to get a decent fit (i.e. VCP Avocet, QCC 600, Explorer). I tend to gravitate to all-round day boats. Kayaks that can used for coastal exploration, in surf and rock gardens, but will not be left behind on a long crossing. Moderate gear carry capacity is also a necessity for my normal day kit and the occasional overnighter. The Tempest fitted my needs nicely and I purchased a Tempest 165 Pro (glass) in the summer of 2004.
The Tempest shares many attributes with the Romany/Explorer including its seaworthiness. maneuverability, and secondary stability. I give the nod to the Tempest in these areas:
Initial stability: I find that's its a shade better, but not by much. It's a toss-up on secondary stability, both have an ample share.
Maneuverability: laid on edge the Tempest turns more quickly than the Explorer, but then it's over a foot shorter, so that's to be expected.
Deck rigging: plenty of well thought out spots to store your stuff. You can secure you spare paddle on either the fore or aft deck, your choice.
Skeg: it is very easy to deploy and adjust trim on the Tempest, particularly when compared to an Explorer with a rope skeg.
Weight: the Tempest is about 5-7 pounds lighter than the NDK boats in a glass lay-up.
Quality of construction: no rough interior edges, uneven hatch rims, blems in the gelcoat or leaky skeg boxes
Paddling efficiency: it seems faster that the Explorer, but I have not taken any GPS readings for comparison.
The Tempest is considerably faster than the Chatham 16. Boy, paddling the Chatham 16 is like pushing a barge up river. Necky raves about the Chatham 16's surfing ability but you have to catch the wave first. Good luck! ; - )
Footbraces: being able to adjust the footbrace on the fly, but see my counter-comment below.
Obviously the Explorer has the Tempest beat on carrying capacity, but I'm normally a day tripper, so the Wildy has more than enough room. I am sure that with the use of my backpacking gear I could paddle and camp out of the Tempest for a week and that would be all the room I would need.
If you are wondering why I didn't make a closer comparison to the NDK Romany, it is because I do not fit particularly well in the Romany's cockpit. The knee/thigh braces just fall in the wrong place.
Now what do I perceive as issues or disadvantages of the Tempest?
Wildy is owned by Confluence, a huge outdoor sports conglomerate. You will find direct customer service from Wildy/Confluence to be nonexistent. They will send to your "local dealer". I have found dealer support to be spotty a best. It should be pointed out that I have received great support and advice directly from Steve Scherrer (Flatpick) the designer of the Tempest. I just wish I lived in Oregon near Steve and the rest of his paddling buddies. They are a great group of folks.
Unlike P&H, NDK, VCP, Impex and others you cannot order a Tempest with any owner specified options, such as custom placed forward bulkhead or keel strip.
If your back-up self-rescue is a reenter-and-roll you will most likely find the Tempest's foot braces problematic. Under normal paddling conditions the ability to adjust the Wildy footbraces on the move is pretty handy. However, if you capsize, wet exit, and try to re-enter the boat you will probably knock the footbraces all the way forward. When inverted these foot braces do not lock in-place like Werner/Yakima braces. That's the trade-off. The adjustability feature makes it a bit harder to solidly brace your feet when reentering while upside-down. It's certainly doable, but you have to really concentrate on the position of you feet.
Hatch covers. This is the single biggest issue I have with the Tempest. Wildy uses a proprietary in-house hatch system for their boats. This in itself is not an issue, but......
I have had my bow hatch (once) and aft hatch (multiple times) dislodged during rescue drills. Sea conditions were not a factor. Conditions were flat. The hatches were mounted with care, so it was not user error. Wildy's large oval aft hatch is particularly irksome in this area. Due to the size of the hatch and the beam of the T-165, the aft hatch actually over-hangs the hull by just a smidge (Note: this is not a concern on the wider T-170 and T-180). It is very easy for a swimmer/victim that is coming up over your deck to hook the lip of the hatch cover with their PFD and pull it off. I have done this myself performing a 'cowboy' reentry. It can even occur if you use the supplied bungies which aid in securing the covers. I have never had this happen with VCP or Kajak Sport hatch covers when performing rescues.
I should note that the Tempest's hatches have never accidental dislodged while just paddling, even in rough water. It's rescues that are a cause for concern.
I can foresee an ugly scenario: you have to perform an assisted-rescue in heavy seas, and one of your hatches is accidentally knocked-off by the victim. At least Wildy tethers the hatch covers to the boat, so you will not lose them.
I see two possible solutions to this problem:
(1) develop a hatch that seals more securely (e.g. that old Tupperware vacuum seal)
(2) replace the aft oval hatch with one that is circular. The aft storage compartment on the Tempest 165 is not overly large. You do not need a hatch cover that is almost 1.5 times larger in surface area than that of a VCP to gain access to the compartment. A smaller circular opening, ala NDK will do just fine.
As others have indicated, I have had some weepage with the Tempest's hatches, particularly the aft oval (half cup of water). I have had both the day hatch and bow hatch remain bone dry, but occasionally I will see a less than a teaspoon of water in the bow compartment. This is after extensive rolling and sculling practice and I do not normally use the provided bungies on these hatches.
I should mention that Wildy hatches are far easier to mount and remove in cold weather than either VCP or Kajak Sport.
The Wildy Phase 3 seat is pretty high tech (i.e. straps, adjustment, moveable padding) and possibly not to everyone's liking, but I find it extremely comfortable and easy to adjust. With the multitude of adjustments you can get a customized, secure fit with little effort.
The Tempest backband provides more that adequate support and does not get in the way on reentries. Lay-back rolls are a snap (pun intended) in the Tempest. I can fully layout on the aft deck.
As to durability, I have not babied the Tempest in practice or rock gardens and it has held up well. The Tempest tips the scales at every ounce of its stated 55 pound weight in glass and I find that it balances well and is an easy solo carry.
I will not give this or any other boat a rating of '10'. I would have given it a '9' if it wasn't for the hatch covers, but you should keep in mind that the only kayak I would currently trade it for is another Tempest in Kevlar. ; - )