Absolutely wonderful boat to paddle. When it came into the shop I work at, I saw the 24 inch beam, and after before saying I would never go back to anything with more than 22, my first though was that this was an old man boat. Boy was I wrong however, as this is one of the finest performance sea kayaks I have ever paddled. I use mine for teaching (mostly kids) and it is very well suited for that purpose. It is very easy and forgiving to edge, and on edge can just about spin around inside its own length. It is also an easy boat to roll, it was in fact the first boat I got a dependable roll in. As for speed it definitely isnt what my Arctic was, but it goes along well enough. In a heavy sea the Orion is a blast to paddle. The fine narrow ends cut through waves, and the boat surfs quite well. I did one trip in it this past summer and was able to carry all of my gear, water, and food, as well as some of my comrades stuff.
Overall just an awesome boat, I got mine in carbon/kevlar all white. The layup is perfect, no bubbles or rough edges. On the outside the gel coat is flawless, no chips/cracks at all. It is still a bit heavy at 50 pounds, but itís as close to bullet proof as you would want it to be. The hatches stayed dry through everything I've done, and the spare paddle recess fits all of my paddles fine.
Favorite boat, definitely.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.After spending more than 2 years looking for an Orion, I had the opportunity to paddle one. The conditions were challenging for this novice: 20-25 knot gusting winds, 2.5 knot ebbing current with strong eddies and 1-2 foot swells. I would never have considered taking my current boat (I'll be kind) out in these conditions. The Orion handled superbly! I spent 2 hours in this most versatile, confidence building and FUN kayak. Don't let the 24 inch beam fool you: it's a dandy performer that leans/edges/maneuvers very responsively. Most importantly: it doesn't over-react to you, it gives you exactly what you ask for.
Big Point: The Current Designs 'Gulfstream' is NOT THE SAME BOAT! BIG differences in quality of construction, COMFORT (the Gulfstream seat is painfully unsupportive), and physical dimensions. The Orion's bow/stern sheerlines are 'finer'; which equates to less bouyancy at the ends - less tendency to broach, weathercock, or get pushed around when crossing eddylines. The bouyancy of the Orion is more centered around the paddler which makes it much more stable when turning through all points of cross-swells and gusting winds.
An absolute pleasure to paddle! It may be an old design - but I believe it's performance will stand the 'tests of time'.