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I chose this model boat to fill the gap between my sprint racing boat, a 17' Nelo Vanquish XXL, which is very fast but restricted to flat water, and my sturdy but slow sea kayak, a 15' Wilderness Systems Sealution 2XS. I wanted a boat that is safe in fairly rough seas, but which is fast. I've grown used to the performance of the racing boat, and want to capture the feeling of speed while touring. A little extra speed also greatly increases the range of a morning paddle, and opens new course options.
I've had the boat out four times now, twice on Lake Sebago (Sloatsburg, NY) and twice on the lower Hudson River (at Piermont, NY). I've been extremely pleased with its performance. It is extremely stable; I've had no capsizings so far. It keeps a straight heading with minimal tweaking of the rudder. Its narrow enough that I'm not hitting its sides with my paddle, even using a racing stroke. And its reasonably fast.
In flat water, and using a wing paddle, I can fairly easily maintain a pace of 7.0 m.p.h. This is significantly above the 5.5 m.p.h. that I can maintain with the Sealution, and only a little less than the 8.0 m.p.h. I can maintain with the Vanquish. I've pushed it a high as 8.6 m.p.h. in a sprint, which is above the speed cited in West Side's ad, but I think that I need to develop my paddling technique significantly before I would be able to maintain that speed for very long. The boat's speed in chop is, of course, less. But I was pleased to be able to paddle it at 6.0 m.p.h. into a strong headwind through light chop.
The boat handles the moderate chop that I encountered on the Hudson River very well. I was able to manuever through the rather chaotic standing waves that develop as the current races past the end of the Piermont Pier, with the feeling of being in firm control of the boat. I've had a few waves break over the deck and swish up to my chest. But the boat rides high in the water and has no tendency to submarine. I've also surfed some smallish, but well organized, rollers. The boat has some tendency to fishtail (yaw), as is typical under following-seas conditions, but I was able to keep its course fairly straight using mostly rudder control, supplemented by some variation of my paddle strokes. I could feel the pressure of the seas on the rudder as I moved the tiller bar. I hope that the rudder assembly is buit well! The advantage of a fast boat was very evident paddling into these seas, and against a tidal current that was maybe 3 m.p.h. I was able to make reasonable progress under conditions that would have slowed the Sealution to a crawl.
The overall design and construction of the boat is excellent, but I will probably futz with some minor things: The foot brace, made from 1" aluminum tubing, is a bit too narrow and hard on my feet. I can feel it even through light booties. I will probably clamp some sort of flat footrest onto it. The underside of the combing jabs my legs a bit. I will pad it, somehow. Generally speaking, I like the slung seat. It promotes much better paddling posture than the seats of most touring boats (including my Sealution), which are too reclined. But the bare kevlar, while fine for an hour's paddle, might prove uncomfortable during the course of a longer one. Some sort of cushion is probably in order there. Finally, I will have to find a way to get the pressure in the NRS flotation bags just right. I intentionally chose not to have deck hatches, but one of the consequences of this choice is that access to the extreme ends of the boat is very limited.
Overall, its a wonderful boat. Rating 10 (Excellent)
There were a few small things I would have changed. The finish has a couple of unnecesary elements of "hand made" about it - the stop nuts on the rudder wires were cheesy little wire nuts from electrical connectors - functional but unattractive, and the wires weren't capped off or soldered, so they frayed out unattractively. The carry-handles and their attachment fittings are also a bit cheesy, and hardly even necessary - I have never used them, so far, at any rate. Anyone able to paddle a boat like this ought to be able to hoist 33 pounds without popping a hose. The hatch cover needs re-thinking, and its straps are about useless in their as-delivered form, being too thin to hold without slipping. The rudder tiller is made to fit any distance setting of the footbar, I guess, but needs to be trimmed back to a peg - it's a pain in the neck otherwise, as it's always in the way when you climb in, and needs to be awkwardly coaxed over to center - easy in bare feet I suppose but I'm a winter paddler and found this awkward in mukluks. These things were all easily fixable, and of course what could be more fun than piddling around with your new boat anyway. Nevertheless ...
Other things I'm not quite crazy about include the height of the rear coaming/deck - it's ok for using as a seat-back during rests, but sucks for rolling, and the same goes for the fit of the seat at the sides, and the thigh-strap system. Great for paddling forward - which is what the boat is made for after all - but strictly so-so for rolling. It's a trade-off I suppose, and again one that you can adjust some with hip pads and so on. But since rolling securely can kind of be the difference between living and dying, in the winter, it's something that matters to me, at least, and something you need to test out some before heading out in poor conditions in cold weather. I haven't ever capsized in this boat though - waves and chop move easily under the rounded hull, and the 20" beam is relatively forgiving.
The hatch-cover is the thing I like least about the boat, and if I had it all to do over again, I would have asked Doug to make the hatch in the bulkhead, instead of in the deck. Not quite as functional, but good enough, and more waterproof; and this boat is not really, after all, a 'real' touring boat so much as a really, really nice boat to paddle, that you could also camp with if you wanted to.
I would certainly buy another EFT from WSBS - wouldn't really consider anything else very much - if this one was stolen or something. I like paddling it, which is about 99% of what matters, really, for this kind of a boat. Honestly I have no idea what another reviewer meant when he said that the EFT can be turned easily. It turns well for adjusting course - with its rounded hull it doesn't track well for its length, but is actually about perfect since a little edging and body english keeps it gong where you like, without using the rudder (which turns the boat fast, considering it's just a little thing). But trying to turn the boat in its own length by putting it over on its side is a bit of a flop. You get it around eventually, but it isn't pretty.
So, not a boat for everyone maybe, and not in every respect perfect. But for what it's made for - moving along comfortably at a decent speed, it rocks.
The Eft is Light and responsive. Very well made by Doug. This is My 7th boat built by him. Handles rough and quartering water very well. Stable enough to get a water bottle Out in rolling seas. Tried some time trials on 6 minute strech. It is about 10 to 15 seconds faster than my DR boat. It is probably a little slower than my ski. It has a Smart Track Rudder system. Very nice addition. Large cockpit for ease of entry. All in all a really great stable Boat.
The first thing that you notice is the ease of ingress and egressto the cockpit. You sit with your knees & feet together with a couple of velcro straps accross you knees and thighs for bracing. Stability is fairly good for a sea kayak and outstanding for a performance boat. The speed is incomparable. I opted for the rear bulkhead and hatch. There is lots of room albeit 'skinny'. I am enjoying the boat for training and day cruising - a DEFINITE 10!
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