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If I put it on edge it turns beautifully. I found that it handles beautifully in 2' waves and confused water. However, I don't like to get out in anything rougher then that. On rolling waves its easy to get on top and ride them. I enjoy the Night Heron's handling as much as my Tahe Greenland T.
I paddle with a friend who has a Tide Race Extreme. I think we both feel the NH handles the rough water a little better and surfs a bit better, and turns on edge a bit nicer. However the Tide Race with its deployable skeg tracks better then my NH in really rough water - more then 2' waves.
The NH rolls fairly easy, but I have to do it right, unlike my Tahe in comparison which rolls even when I really screw up the roll.
In my opinion if you are 165 lbs or more the NH is a super boat even if you are a new paddler.
At 18 feet long and only 20 inches wide, it is oriented to the more experienced paddler but feels very stable due to the relatively flat bottomed hull design.
The flatness of the hull bottom is brought farther towards the bow and stern than in most kayaks. This hull shape probably contributes to higher efficiency at higher paddling speeds. The flatness of the bottom also means the boat has a very shallow draft and I find it a little more prone than most kayaks to side slippage in cross wind. I encountered no significant weathercocking, even in winds greater than 20 miles per hour.
The Night Heron is very maneuverable for an 18' kayak and a 'fun' kayak to paddle. It is responsive to paddle strokes and leans on the hard chines. The maneuverability allows the paddler greater control, but paddlers who prefer strong tracking kayaks may not find the Night Heron's performance appealing. To improve its course-keeping, I enlarged the stern stem of my Night Heron to form a very small keel and am pleased with the performance.
The Night Heron seems to be a well designed boat, but my preference is for a slightly more rounded and finer bow entry. This should produce a smaller bow wave and a less hard 'slap' coming down when heading into waves.
The strip plans include both 'high deck' and 'low deck' design options. The low deck being closer to a Greenland styled deck, and the high deck option having more storage capacity.
As far as strip-built kayaks go, this boat was relatively easy to build. The plans are very complete and easy to follow, and includes full-size cut-out mold station templates. I receive many compliments on this kayak design.
When I was ready to build the Heron my Okoume supplier was out of 4mm and informed me that it would go up to over $70 per sheet (4 required) when it came in. No way. I searched around and found 4 good shets of Luan and decided to use this. Not my favorite medium, but this is kayak 3 that I have used it on. The construction is straight forward, Nick uses a true reference surface, cradles and forms. This yields a much better kayak than the common "Oragami" method of stitching the panels, prop them open with a stick and hope you can eyeball good enough for a true hull. Seldom works. Good design feature, Nick. The rear hatch cover is a neat project and looks good. The kayak came out just as designed, 19 7/8 inches wide, just under 18 feet long (I trimmed the points front and rear, Lee).Weighed 38# ready to paddle.
The kayak paddles easily, maintains good speed with minimal effort, less than most other kayaks. It tracks nicely, extremely minimal weathercocking and easy to correct. It responds so well to leaned turns that I jokingly say that you could run into docks if you don't pay attention. The low rear deck sacrafices cargo area but this is not an expedition kayak. Maybe weekends. The bow bouancy is excellent, the kayak just bounces over the waves and shows no tendency to bury in heavy conditions. Good dry (in a kayak?)ride. The stability, both initial and secondary is superior, better than most wider kayaks. The hull speed seems to be in the 5-6 mph range which is normal for kayaks this size. I ran a series of speed tests with my Speedmate, speeds through the water. Easy cruise for extended periods is just under 6 mph for me and I can sprint it up to 7mph plus , but there better be a finish line near!. v My conclusions are that this is a great day and fun kayak. It is a good build and a great paddle. I understand that it is also available in kit form from Newfound kayaks.
Only 20" wide, it asks that the paddler have sufficient skills in steeper waters, however on the 6" chop I paddled, it behaved unusually well. A few mild boat wakes were no problem either. I found its initial stablility a little better than my West River 180, tho my own construction methods with that particular kayak could have caused more initial instability than the designer intended. Speed was all that, and tho I cant tell if it was any faster than my WR180, there was no doubt this hull likes to move quick and effortlessly. Turning was easy for a hull that tracked so well. Storage space is ample, especially the roomy bow where I'd have to imagine all feet would fit with room to spare.
What didnt I like? Not much. I prefer a cambered deck as opposed to the handsome panels Shade offers but thats just me. And frankly, if camber is your cup of joe too, then adding one to a kayak you are building anyway is hardly a tall order.
I would recommend this fast mover for anyone wanting to rack up miles while enjoying a hull that enjoys a paddler interested in applying skills in the more challenging waters.
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