Firstly, I am a rather large paddler, 6'3" and 250 lbs with an athletic build. I already own a CD Extreme HV in Kevlar (renamed Nomad GTS HV) which I love except, is a little small for me. With a cockpit size of 29.5x 15 and a seat width of 21.25 it made for a tight fit of my 22 in wide bottom and 36 in legs. I was unable to draw my knees up as the cockpit hit me mid thigh. Made for some gymnastics boarding as I had to lay on the deck and pencil myself into the cockpit. Once in the boat, though tight, fit like a glove and handled beautifully. In comes the new Solstice GT Titan.
First, the fit and finish is what I've come to expect from CD. Absolutely beautiful. The boat really is considerably larger (1 foot shorter at 17'7" but felt much deeper than its extra 1/2 inch, 14.25 vs 13.75). The 3 inches of extra width was very noticeable, 24.25 vs 21.25. The keyhole cockpit hatch at 35 in long vs the 29.5 was awesome. Made for much easier boarding and exiting while allowing to draw up knees on long paddles. This was the main reason for buying this kayak.
The interior volume, as said was much larger than expected. Unlike the Extreme that fit like an extension of part of my body with legs securely in the braces and feet on the pedals, the Titan had a lot of room to move around. I found myself using the keyhole to brace as the built-in braces were too high and wide to be effective. I'll have to add some padding to customize the fit.
This boat could easily handle someone much taller and larger than my 6'3" 250lbs size. Props to CD on the dimension seat back. It is well worth the money as it is the most comfortable thing I've ever paddled. The smart rudders are also excellent. The pedals stay fixed for solid bracing while the rudder moves with just a slight toe pressure on the pedals attached and just above (like an airplane braking system). Deploying and retracting from the cockpit is extremely easy and positive.
Only complaint (a small one) is that for storing in a rack, the rudder folds either fully down or pointing straight up (as far as I can tell). Unlike the basic rudder that retracts all the way up and over to lie flat on the rear deck. This leaves a shark tail sticking up that can hit the ceiling or a rack above the boat. It's remedied easily enough as the rudder itself has a quick release pin and is removable.
As for the handling of the Titan. It was awesome while the deck did feel slightly higher it wasn't really a big factor on crosswinds. Even thought the boar was a foot shorter and 3" wider than the Extreme, the extra volume made the boat sit higher in the water for my heavy weight. This definitely made the boat feel more lively and a little faster for me. This might be different for a smaller paddler but the Titan is aimed at the larger paddler.
Overall, first impression is very good for the Solstice Titan. A very nice handling, well made, and attractive boat for the larger paddler. I'm sure after I get the inner cockpit padded with some closed cell foam to customize the fit, it will be absolutely outstanding.
In turning, possible to edge the Titan at 90 degrees to water. Try that and the snap roll with a 2 bag paddle float practice, one bag both paddle ends.
Reviews had the Solstice blowing in the wind. The Titan I paddle tracks into and downwind when trimmed evenly with MRS waterbags, like a train. Trimmed to the rear, the hull rides over standing waves at 6 mph on the Fraser River side of Haro, does not bury the nose, surfs with control, slaloms with pleasure. I weigh 165, add 70 pounds water in MSR bags, 10 for cart plus food for trim and ballast on the touring load hull design. Keep in mind, I am a novice kayaker. The steps of learning on Haro Straight are covered by the design. Swallowed into a trough by standing waves, deck awash, at the Nacelle's mouth with incoming tide during a 20-25 mph wind also incoming, the hull was stable then popped out with stability. Repeated on Haro.
My second long crossing on Haro was during a small craft warning condition. I do not know how to effectively turn the straight cruising hull into the wind, even humming a good jazz background. The hull, in going your way moving water is maneuverable, giving ample setup time for positioning the hull straight into each waveset, the long stable buoyant design working for cresting continuous but variable incoming directions, series of 3-5 foot waves. As a beginner, I'm avoiding parallel paddling along waves higher than 4 feet. On choppy water, the hull slaloms effortlessly floating with tidal or river flow. Not on a dime, of course, but responsive and effortless. Fun cruising. The hull is lean able to wet your ear.
I assume using a to be learned turn skill of shortening the wet hull shape using wave crests and slopes, will effect a quick(er) upwind turn. This turning skill thwarts some of the preliminary BS read of west coast rocker needed hull vs the east coast or Great Lakes design on the Titan. No, it's not for rock gardens but dissing the Titan design for a rocker design because the hull is on the west coast is not logical in practice.
The design supported my meager skills in rough water conditions leading into productive learning. Looks like the hull design will lead me safely as my skills advance toward off shore, beach surf and Misty Fjords cruising. Rudder pedals need fastening down. The pedals jump out of position like PEEE time before the 6 foot drop or rip: 1/8th shock cord hooked to hardware store clothing hooks using 3M marine urethane fixed jumping pedals. Hull storage covers leak several tablespoons worth per afternoon. The gasket tubing needs fooling with. Workmanship there and in total is above acceptable. Gelcoat thicknesses in the usual wear prone areas are adequate for protecting the cloth. Straps hold covers tight, are durable, shock cord rigging is extensive, durable quality hardware. The seat doesn't irritate or annoy, nothing in there to bang yourself on. Hull finish is smooth, no lumps, loose ends, flapping tapes. Hardware does nit rust, quality durable shock cording is extensive, side hull cord anchors are recessed.
Well, how fast is it? On Haro and elsewhere, I bask in "Awwwww geeee whiz lookit that its a Ferrari." Paddlers watching me zoooom down Haro into standing waves at 6 mph wonder why they have a weenie rockered 15' West coast hull. Ask yourself, does your yak draw attention? Are you concerned the grocery cart man will steal it?
I have the strength of an old woman. On Florida Bay with GPS, I cruise around 4-4.5 mph without traveling against a current. Crossing a mild 4 mph current and 10 mph cross wind with a 100 pound camping load, I work at 4 mph. My roll works well, but the hip snap is unlearned so I'm using a self-inflating deck bag back up rolling aid for rolling up easily, loaded or not.
I'm glad I got the Kevlar model but it shows the scratches more easily than the plastic boats. I've already got my first few dings and scratches so I'm not quite as worried about it when I go out. I've not had bulkhead leaking problems but have found additional "finishing touches" that Current Designs needs to fix. Whenever they drill a hole for something, they end up chipping the Kevlar/Gel Coat most of the time. I opted to have the manufacturer send the gel coat and repair kit to me rather than have the dealer fix it... or Current Designs (thinking that I needed to know how to do it anyway). It wasn't too difficult, but it's a bit harder than they indicated it would be.
I love this kayak! It's so far above my prior kayaks in terms of fit and performance that there is little comparison. I've taken some longer trips in it and ended up getting an inflatable back support and a gel cushion from Skwoosh (sp?) via the Internet. Both help... but when paddling hard and using my legs/glutes in the process, my butt begins to get sore in spite of the gel seat. I'm not sure there's a good fix but I'll keep working on it.
All in all, I am very, very happy with the kayak. The problems I've found are more cosmetic. Oh..and one thing that really needs to be fixed is the sharp edge on the seat back. It's covered with a very think stretchy nylon. When leaning back into the seat, it comes into contact with the cockpit rim and the sharp edge of the seat back cuts the nylon i.e. makes a hole where it hits the cockpit rim. I put a velcro self sticking patch over each hole and removed the cover on the seat back, sandpapered the sharp edge and used black plastic self sticking auto trip (used for edges on cars in a variety of applications) and put it on the edge of the seat back. It looks good and helps protect the material from further damage. Anyone getting a new Current Design kayak should take a look at the seat back for this kind of problem. Remove the cover from the seat back and make SURE that there's not a sharp edge. I suspect that it's a problem with most of the Current Design Kayaks.
I tried several kayaks, the WS Tempest 170 was the closest competitor, it was tight but thought it would work, couldn’t find a 180 to try. I didn’t paddle the Solstice because it was just too tight. The Solstice Titan felt like a barge, the Titian LV “as the story book goes” felt just right, when I paddled it, I bought it.
What I know and like so far. Takes head on waves like a dream. I was paddling a Pungo 140 before this and was used to being slammed but the Titan LV rides up and settles back nicely. Feel more stable then the WS Tempest 170 but matching stroke for stroke with a fellow paddler I have the speed advantage. Tracking is so nice I prefer to paddle with the rudder up and only use it when I absolutely have to. Gets a little squirrelly when the wave action is coming in from the stern but in light chop and powerboat wakes it hasn’t dumped me yet. I love the gas peddle rudder control, when I do use the rudder it nice to adjust it and still have a solid foot peg brace.
Negatives: well it is a lot of boat out of the water and it very subject to the wind. Also between the high deck and a PDF that rides up on me “long torso” I have had to make my paddle float rescue with a stirrup. Hopefully when I fix the PDF problem I hope to also dump the stirrup. I don’t have anything to compare this comment to but when doing self rescue practice in nice calm water, when the cockpit is filled with water it is very unstable. Kind of makes me wonder what it will be like in chop, will have to find out when paddling with the group.
One other rather serious negative. After taking the kayak out for the first time, I found a small but deep chip in the paint by the hatch(kevlar). Took it back to the store and after some back and forth with the manufacture they replaced the kayak, it took six months but at least I had the old one to use before the swap. I inspected the new one as well as I could, put it on the truck and headed home, and there I found a small crack in the paint that I know I didn’t miss so it must have happened on the drive home. Now I don’t really care the paint is damaged, I plan to do a lot of that this year myself. But I am disappointed to see a pattern in the manufacturing process. Maybe its just bad luck but I think I will shy away from Current Designs next time around.
One other note, I purchased the kayak at Annapolis Canoe and Kayak, Dave and his staff are great folks. The original paint damage was disappointing to me but I took it to Dave more as a just so you know kind of thing then anything else, and he led the way for repair or replacement so I didn’t have to deal with the manufacture. I will always check out Annapolis Canoe and Kayak when looking to add to my gear or flotilla.
As for score: the boat does all I want, but no kayak is perfect so I would say a 9 out of 10 for my needs, two examples of manufacturing problems makes it a 7 but they did replace the first with little hassle so I will score it an 8.
Those looking for a larger kayak (it has the same dimensions except for the height as the Titan) and are in my size/weight range, might want to consider this as an option to the full sized Titan. I found the thigh braces too high for me on the Titan but perfect on the Titan LV (Low Volume).
Very responsive to paddling, except for turning, but I didn't buy it for its turning ease, just for straight ahead speed and comfort. Storage is huge as you can imagine.
This was a 2006 boat, and the bulk heads are going through a running change according to the factory. Used to be both ABS, then ABS with glass reinforcement on the rear(just between the bulkhead and the hull under the waterline. New boats now are using all glass bulkheads. Factory shipped me , no charge, fiberglass bulkhead retrofit kits, so if I am so inclined, I can change them out. My rear is reinforced, so the most I will do now is reinforce the front, then keep my eye on them, and change if needed.
Overall, superb quality! My first CD, and I was impressed.
I find the Titan to be stable and not too tippy. I paddle through the surf and in the intercoastal waterway almost every week. I also practice rolling in it every time I go out. I feel pretty comfortable with the balance even when paddling in large swells.
For camping trips I'm able to store a 5 man tent, 10 gallon cooler, bed roll, and small gas grill in the large sealed bulkheads.
Since you probably can't find a Titan to tryout, the only difference between it and the Solstice GT HV is a deeper volume and larger cockpit. The Solstice HV is a very tight fit for me but in the Titan I have room to spare. My father who weighs 300 pounds and is only 6' tall was able to fit in the cockpit of the Titan without any problem. I ended up ordering the Titan based on my demos of the Solstice HV and faith that it would be the right size.
I've paddled my Titan hard in some rough conditions. The only problem I've had was both of my bulkheads eventually began leaking. The local shop resealed them for me at no cost and I think CD has started reinforcing the bulkheads on the latest boats.
I've tried a lot of boats (CD Storm, Wilderness Systems, Pinta, etc), but for the big guy comfort, storage capacity, and speed the Titan has been great.