Submitted: 02-06-2006 by medicineman
Well you have to give anything as impressive as FC's Wisper a 10, in fact during a 2 hour get-to-know paddle of the Wisper one cannot stroke without constantly reminding himself/herself that this boat was a few minutes before in a backpack.
Why a folder? I've had one before, from another manufacturer so I know the advantages of having a complete paddling package in the trunk of the car, plus I'm hoping to visit Norway this summer and want to have a boat with me to negate having to locate an outfitter and rent...too many times in New Zealand a body of water presented itself but there was no outfitter anywhere near. Another desire was to move closer toward a true Inuit boat, a more human boat in having skeleton and skin versus the exoskeletal hardshell that is so insect like-this I've heard espoused by the Greenlanders. I've heard of the differences in feel a SOF can provide and during the two hour paddle experienced it...it truly is a pleasing departure from hardshells feeling a wave dissipate its energy into the skin.
The stats of the FC Wisper are on the Feathercraft website, no need duplicating them here. I chose the lightweight skin (its offered in 2 different weights) because 33 pounds is important to me. I was shocked to discover that the backpack provided by FC is an excellent product that has room not only for the complete kayak but also the necessary paddling accessories: PFD,spraydeck,drysuit,paddle float, and so on. Once you add the necessary components you will not be at 33 pounds anymore so care must be taken in chosing the accessories to keep under the magic weight limit the airlines will impose. The only challenge in the accessories department will be the paddle, yes 4 part paddles do exist and even 2 part Greenland paddles but you cant get the 2 part Greenland paddle into the backpack...and that puts me into a quandry because the Wisper begs for a true Greenland paddle. If you choose the black hull/black deck like I did then anything other than a true Greenland sik will seem out of place.
The construction of FC boats is METICULOUS, quality control like you will find nowhere else in the industry....and its not just the skin, pick any part/piece/accessory supplied by Feathercraft and you can get out the magnifying glass and go over each mm of seam, each stitch (but not on the boat, its completely welded!), and find nothing that isn't perfect. I found myself admiring fully the hatch design and after installing the hatch rims and rolling the top closed I wondered why other boats have hatches that leak, it is simple, effective and foolproof.
The paddling experience was wonderful. I'm used to faster craft but you already know that this boat at 15'7" wont be as fast as a boat with a waterline length of almost 18 feet, but its fast enough considering most can't fly a QCC700 to the west coast or anywhere else for that matter.
The seating is fasciating...FC has a hammock style arrangement that is comfortable on its own, but couple that with a dual chambered inflatable seat and you have gluteal bliss....I did experience operator failure here-when entering the cockpit (with seasock in place) I inadvertantly pulled the seat back down to far, began paddling and felt back discomfort, eventually pulled over and got out to discover that I had not strapped the back of the seat down..my bad and easily fixed.
The cockpit is snug for me- 6'1", 189 pounds, and I have to sit on the deck and slide my feet in straight legged at one time, so I would fear for anyone taller or with longer legs having easy access.....the seasock is just smart for SOF, obviously keeping out crud and providing for quicker water removal in the event of a wet exit...but know that with wet feet you will stick a bit sliding in. Note that the seasocck nor the spraydeck are options, they are included but you can and I did upgrade the spraydeck to a nylon-neoprene model, both of which again show that Feathercraft invests in quality control.
The foot rest works, just establish proper placement before a long paddle, once the distance is established it is easy to reproduce.
As far as storage the Wisper has plenty, being an ultralightweight backpacker I could easily store enough for a week long paddle, but do consider the optional forward hatch, it also makes it easier to install the longerons and chine bars. You should also pay attention to the weight rating of this boat, at my weight I have 60 pounds of gear I can add-if you have to pack a lot of water this may be an issue.
The assembly of the Wisper is no biggie....my first attempt took over and hour and a half but that was watching a movie and playing with the kids. I've put it together 4 times now and can do in under 30 minutes at this point and that includes the optional hatch installaion, the seasock, and inflating the float bags (get these, cheap insurance).
I have not rolled the kayak yet, but if I can roll an Eggemoggin or a QCC700 the Wisper should be no big deal, and some established champions in the rolling sports have used the Wisper in Greenland.
Stability and sponsons....another distinct advantage over hardshells is the existance and use of sponsons in SOF kayaks...with the inflation tube you can essentialy dial in however much stability you desire. The sponsons also effect the final tensioning of the skin and with them you can achieve a hardshell look that has decieved onlookers.
I could not recommend the Wisper to anyone without knowing their intended use, shouldnt do that with any kayak but I can now fully recommend Feathercraft...I've just never seen attention to detail, and that is EVERY detail, from any other company that matches what they put out. If you have any questions about this boat dont hesitate to ask.