I've owned this boat for eighteen years and have learned almost everything I know about good kayaking skills in it. I'd bought it for a 450-mile solo circumnavigation of Lake Ontario for my 50th birthday virtually without knowing anything about it, other than it looked small and petite and would fit me. Little did I know the gem I would end up with, practically living init for the duration. In 'those days' boats had initial and secondary stability. Initial stability was then defined as how well it handled without being fully loaded. It was wiggly feeling at first but I got very accustomed to that feeling quite quickly. What I wasn't prepared for was how well it handled in the diciest situations I could throw at it, while fully loaded. In one situation I was paddling a long dreary, sullen day with an increasing tailwind. It had started out as nothing at all...I was drenched to the bone after paddling for 7 hours and had the shoreline ahead in my sights, a mile off. I was feeling a bit glum and knackered so wasn't really paying attention until suddenly I was aware of confused waves coming off shore a mile out! I was now quite awake and alert. There was suddenly the roar of whitecaps and my boat was being covered with breaking waves on all sides. I thought for sure "this is it, I'm capsizing." I was bracing for all I was worth when I realized the boat seemed calmer than I did somehow, as if it was telling me, "calm down, I know what I'm doing." Continuing to brace, but more easily now that I had the confidence of the boat, we glided toward shore, FAST. In the end a wave picked me up and dumped me on shore and I scrambled out, hardly able to walk. In the process of this six-week trip I'd taken many of the skills I'd learned in a class and had put them to work, nearly effortlessly now. Such as carving turns, all kinds of bracing plus surf landings and launchings. The two things I could never master with this boat were a roll (I have a back injury so had to be content with learning bomb proof self-rescues) and correcting a nasty little habit the boat has of turning immediately to port when about to land in surf, but not always so I could never figure out what was going wrong. But that was SO minor compared to all the beautiful feelings I've had controlling and playing with this boat. I know the boat is no longer being made and the design creator, Derek Hutchinson, is deceased, but if you have a chance to buy this boat used and are small in stature I can't recommend it highly enough. I've only seen one other in all these years. It was on a car top and the guy had borrowed it from his wife, liking it better than his own boat. He was slight of build and loved the boat as much as I love mine. I'd seen him on the highway and pestered him to pull over so we could chat. If I could find this boat in Kevlar I'd buy it and paddle off into my seventies, still doing gung ho long mileage.
First, it is beautiful. The shape of this boat is very sexy, a head turner on the water or on your car rack. Glides through water like butter. Used to own Eddyline Nighthawk that slammed its bow after every wave/wake. The Slipstream rides effortlessly through the water. Turns easily, but be vigilant; like an earlier reviewer said, an inch too far on edge and you'll go right over. Super small but dry hatches - pack wisely. I find the cockpit is a bit long & deck a little high where I need extra foam to have more control. When rolling or sculling, I found myself wanting to float out of the cockpit. Wish the deck height was around 12" instead of 13.5. Seat and backband are extremely comfortable. Very light boat - am able to load/unload solo easily.
Was looking for a Valley Avocet LV for my long term mate but have fallen for the Slipstream and this seems to be THE one. Too bad they don't make them anymore unless you special order one. You won't find a lot of details or discussion forums on the web about this boat. I found this one on a web classifieds ad, drove two hours to get it, bought without paddling it, kept my fingers crossed that it didn't drown me on my maiden voyage out due to what others describe as twitchiness, hoping this wasn't too advanced of a boat for me, and was rewarded with a well behaved (if you respect its capabilities) boat that is so, so much fun to paddle.
If you find one and you're the right size for it (I would say less than 170lbs), you will be very pleased with it.
My impression is that it is a great boat at the beginner and intermediate levels. It handles well, rolls well, paddles easily at touring speeds. It does have some minuses that surface as skills improve such as the secondary stability point is not very distinct (it's hard to tell how far you can edge it without capsize - I can't do a graceful reverse figure 8 in it), gets hard to control in heavy rear quartering seas, has much less usable storage space than similar length kayaks because the bow and stern are heavily pinched (very narrow near the ends), the front deck is a little higher than I'd like. Does my wife still paddle it? Usually No. As her skills improved we would go out in more challenging conditions and last year she found herself in some two to three foot rear quartering wind waves that made her feel unstable and made it hard to maintain control (this is also true to an extent for many boats)- so the luster of the Slipstream started to fade in her eyes. So she decided to try something new and now has a NDK Romany (in Elite layup so the weight is the same as the Slipstream, 47 lbs) and a plastic WS Tempest 165. So far she really loves both the Romany and the Tempest, but often prefers the Romany (elite) for its light weight. FYI, the Elite layup of the Romany is visibly not as strong/durable as the regular Slipstream layup. The only maintenance problem we've had with the Slipstream is that I had to re-seal the hatch rims. (ugh)
More details on storage - I think that the Slipstream has much less storage space than the other boats you mentioned. For camping you'll have to think and pack like a backpacker, especially if you need to carry all of your drinking water.
In summary the Pros and Cons are:
Pros: Fits the smaller paddler comfortably, light weight, good quality construction, easily maintains touring speed, handles well, rolls easily, nice hatch covers, good skeg, relatively inexpensive.
Cons: Low storage for camping, low secondary stability distinction, poor control in moderate to heavy quartering seas, high front deck.
1) Re the seat: I find the seat extremely uncomfortable. The ridges at the seat/seat-side of the molded seat cut into the outside of the very tops of my thigh bones (about 6" below my hip)...just about where a woman is widest. (I weigh 150, so it's not like I'm an obese person.)This is a shame for such a great boat. Padding helps somewhat. Still trying to figure out how to deal long-term with this significant problem; may try cutting it out and buying a closed-cell seat.
2) Also need to pad the fixed peddles as they are a waffle design. Sure enough there is a good grip, but after a short while paddling barefoot, the balls of my feet hurt quite a bit.
Otherwise, construction is good (except 1 thigh pad has separated a very small bit from the boat). Primary stability twitchy-but that's what I wanted, as its secondary stability is very good as well as lots of fun. Very responsive, maneuverable. Low, narrow profile makes it cut nicely through wind. Fast. A light 43 pounds in kevlar makes it easy to sling over my shoulder. I've been kayaking for 13 years, so its twitchiness was fun but quick to get used to. An excellent boat for intermediate and advanced kayakers; a challenge and surfs well. I don't think I'd recommend this boat for a casual user. However, if you're a serious beginner, you will find this a boat that gives you lots of room to grow into.
The hatch fittings have been a problem for me (leaks) since the first year of owning the boat. They are not well fitted into the deck openings, are secured with only 4 screws, and in my boat at least were not well caulked. My rear compartment takes on a considerable amount of water whenever the rear deck gets reasonably wet, and it comes in right between the deck and hatch fitting. I have pulled the hatch off and recaulked it, but that has only helped marginally. Again, in examining many other brands of fiberglass boats, nearly all have much more carefully finished and sealed joints between the deck and hatch fitting.
One other more minor issue; I had the compass factory installed, and it was placed aft of the forward hatch. This placement not only impedes my ability to move the bulkhead forward and/or add a footpump, but also tends to induce neck strain and seasickness if I have to refer often to the too-closely positioned compass.
Now that I have paddled, examined, and learned about many more boats than I did when I first bought the Slipstream, I would think twice about buying another CD kayak, despite how much I like the design.
The Slipstream is just the right size for my son and doesn't feel tippy to him, but I have very little freeboard and it's way too easy to dip the coaming underwater. I've only capsized while horsing around, though, and have paddled maybe 10-20 miles in quiet water (and with motorboat waves) without a problem. I don't know how I'd fare on the sea with it - a sprayskirt would be imperative.
It's remarkable how different the Slipstream and Gulfstream are for two boats of the same design, only a few percent different in dimensions. The Slipstream is a lot faster but tight and tippy for an average-sized man. The Gulfsteam is smooth and stable and big enough for a large fellow - it's a little slower but still turns beautifully when edging. The Slipstream is more manageable and stable for a smaller person than the Gulfstream, and my girlfriend also has done well with it on quiet water, with no prior experience (aside from one dunking while climbing in).
My main point is the big difference between the two boats and how the Slipstream is much more suitable for a smaller person, though it does work with someone up to my size, if you want a fast, responsive boat that has little margin for error in balance.