To point out that it doesn't turn easily or carry a lot of cargo is a bit silly because that's NOT what it's supposed to do. If you want to rock garden or expedition, buy another boat. If you want to do both buy two boats. If you want to get out there and make some miles, maybe get some rolling in, try out the GP for a while: then this is your boat.
Quality is good. Nice looking boat--gets a lot of compliments.
An excellent design as Jay Babina himself says you will choose it before any other kayak once you have used it. Only complaint is that it has not got much storage, but then it never was designed for long trips.
Turning and handling: The boat turns just fine. You just have to initiate the turn is all. You will not be able to turn the boat quickly without a solid lean and some paddle control but with a little practice you will turn it very quickly and it is amazing what this will do for your skill level in a more rockered boat.
Every boat is a compromise. This boat for me just presents less compromises than benefits, and I would strongly recommend it to paddlers with moderate skill levels.
1. To go from Point A to Point B with speed, stability and precision.
2. To be a dependable day-tripper, not an excursion boat.
3. Big storage space was not required, but a day hatch was.
4. To be able to carry my boat with one hand and my gear in the other.
The OI has fulfilled these requirements completely.
I'm 59 years old and paddle regularly with kayakers 10, 20 and at times 30 years younger than me. My old boat could keep up with these guys, but it was clear that I was working harder than all of them. That problem is now a thing of the past.
Fit and finish are excellent. Point-of-balance during over the shoulder carries is superb. Tracking is 99% perfect. That leaves only 1% for turning ability, but Impex states this shortcoming right up front. No one should be surprised.
Gripe: yeah, one. A locking lug of some type would have been appreciated.
Very good attention to detail in the finishing and fitting of deck and hull and bulkheads. The bulkhead in the rear of the cockpit is slanted to allow easy draining of water via an inverted boat rescue. Inside glasswork is well done. The deck to hull seam is glassed well. There is a double loop of glass that is placed forward of the point where the skeg cable enters the skeg box, which prevents a user from stuffing something into the rear compartment that would knock the skeg wire/box connection loose. I have not seen this on other skegged boats and consider it a good detail. The insides of the cockpit and cargo areas are well finished, with no rough edges. All through deck bolts, except the u bolt at the stern, are capped. I consider the construction quality of Impex to be second only to Seward for North American built boats. Impex's specifications state the weight to be 55 pounds, but it feels lighter when carried and balances well during a solo carry. It is a very easy two person carry.
Deck fittings are recessed and the fittings themselves are sturdy. The fittings are fastened to the boat with stainless steel bolts or screws (it is unclear which). Some of these penetrate through the deck and are capped, which is done well. However, there are several in the demo boat I am paddling that do not penetrate through the deck and I am wondering why. When my boat arrives I will remove, rebed in 3M 5200, and through bolt with nylock nuts and stainless steel oversize washers. The deck grab line is well located on the boat and made from a size of line that is easy to hold onto without cutting into your hand. The line does not stretch noticeably when wet, another good feature. There is plenty of deck rigging for storing items. A better line system on the bow deck for storing a Greenland paddle would be appreciated but will be easy for the owner to install. Rear deck lines do not support the storage of a euro blade spare well, but would support the storage of a take a part Greenland paddle in a position which could be accessed during an inversion. The bungee lines on the foredeck and immediately aft of the cockpit feature a slip knot tightening arrangement that allows you to change the tension in the lines. This is a nice feature and allows you to adjust the lines to handle bulkier items. Bow and stern hand toggles are provided. These are molded for gripping. With my weight in the boat, the rear toggle dragged in the water, making an unwanted gurgle when paddling. I added a loop of bungee from the nearest deck line to the toggle line at the bow and stern to pull the toggles up onto the deck when not in use. If you use this boat is surf or extremely rough conditions where holding onto the toggle is important, you may not want to do this modification.
If you don't like the Greenland sitting position with your legs almost straight out in front of you this boat is not for you. At 6' 1" and 230 lbs, the cockpit and thigh braces hold me very snugly into the boat in a manner with which I am comfortable. The ratcheting immersion research backband is comfortable, with a nice adjustment feature. It seems to have two downsides. Storing items behind the seat (limited to a sponge or a paddle float) may press against the backband release straps, unintentionally releasing them. The second downside is that some of the metal components in the demo boat's backband do not appear to be high grade stainless steel. There is some evidence of corrosion after approximately 60 hours in salt and fresh water use. The backband rotates easily during layback for rolls, and does not pose a problem during rescue reentries. The coaming holds my neoprene skirt securely. The low front of the coaming allows you to really lower your Greenland paddle stroke down toward the deck. The rear coaming height allows very easy lay back rolls. Combined with the flat low rear deck, rolling is easy. I find the seat comfortable, but it would be easy to change out the seat and use a closed cell foam seat to add more depth, allowing a looser fit for some paddlers at the thigh supports. Remember that the correct posture for paddling is not to be leaning back in the seat anyway! The footpegs are plastic, but feel very solid under foot. Space for feet is limited. At size 11 shoes, I can not wear my Solomon amphibious shoes in this boat. Neoprene boots work well.
If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of skegs. I think rudders are better for many reasons. But even I admit that a rudder on a boat designed for Greenland rolling would look odd. On any typical paddling trip I go on with friends, we end up having to fix at least one jammed skeg. I own two boats, one with a rudder and one with a skeg. In over six thousand miles of paddling I have had a rudder failure once, but even the skeg I have, which is an extremely sturdy design, has had numerous jams. The skeg on the outer island is a typical skeg in that it does jam because of gravel or sand particles. However, it appears that the skeg, when in the full up position, jams into the housing somehow and will not deploy. There are indications the plastic skeg is warped. Additionally, the tube holding the skeg cable is not glassed to the side of the hull or deck as it travels through the rear cargo compartment. This may cause some of the jamming problem. When my boat arrives the skeg's bottom leading edge will be drilled and a loop of monofilament with beads will be added to allow a fellow boater to easily pull the skeg down when (not if) it becomes jammed. Note that this is not only an IMPEX problem. I have seen this same issue on almost all skegged boats with the exception of the skegs that are lowered by a rope system. Luckily, the boat tracks extremely well, so skeg use has not been needed to date.
The forward hatch is an eight inch round, as is the day hatch. The rear hatch is the VCP oval. With how I float the boat, I do not anticipate placing many items in the stern, and an eight inch hatch in the rear would be fine. I would like to see how the boat floats with a 145 pound paddler, in terms of how much weight could be stored aft without affecting the lines. Having a day hatch is new to me. I'm used to carrying the items I need on the water in a deck bag, in the cockpit, or on my pfd. You help the boat's sleek profile by using the day hatch. Again, because I am over the recommended paddler weight, I am not sure that I would be willing to open the day hatch in heavy seas where it may flood. Overall, though I find the hatch useful, I find that I can store all the items I need for a three season day trip in the front hatch, with some items going in the day hatch and have plenty of storage room left over. Impex gave me the option of having the bow bulkhead moved toward the stern to create greater storage space, as there is some excess space in front of the foot peg braces. This may be an option some people may want to consider, especially if they are going to do limited camping out of this boat.
All the hatches are VCP models, and are molded in well to the deck to allow adequate drainage from around the hatches. I have not found any perfectly dry kayak hatches to date, but my experience with the minimal water entry on this boat is equivalent to other VCP hatch equipped boats I have owned and paddled. On the demo boat I do appear to be getting some leakage around the stainless steel U bolt set in the rear deck for a security cable. The single nuts on the bolt had loosened (they should have been double nutted or have been nylon bushed to prevent loosening), and there appeared to be no bedding material at the deck penetration for the bolt. After several days of use, I found a single stainless steel nut rolling around in the rear storage area. I have not figured out if it came from anything, or was an extra just left in the hull during assembly.
I bought this boat for two reasons - an increase in speed over my current boats, and for Greenland rolling. I am very well satisfied with both. With almost no rocker and close to a 17 foot waterline length, the boat tracks very well. I have yet to need the skeg. Since the boat tracks so well by its hull form, it also does not turn quickly. I find that it responds best to a bow rudder stroke to turn. Stern rudder strokes are less effective. A sharp lean/brace will also turn the boat. This tracking works well for me. I did not want an overly maneuverable boat at the expense of tracking being dependant on a skeg.
My typical boat speed using a Greenland paddle of 3.5 inches blade width is 5 mph in this boat. That is about a 1 mph increase over my CLC hard chine and I don't try to push my Pisces with such a narrow paddle. Top speed in a dead calm has been 7.2 mph. Top sustained speed for a fifteen minute run is 6.4 mph. Using my wider Greenland paddle, acceleration and speeds increase, though I have not conducted uniform measurement comparisons to date.
During a paddle of this boat at a demo day, I went to do a one handed paddle (butterfly) roll. Going over, I lost my hold on the paddle. I reached out one hand along the surface to grab the paddle, and missed. I did this again, and realized I no longer needed to get the paddle, as I had just hand rolled the boat. As noted previously, I am over the recommended paddler weight for the boat. In flat water, I have about two inches of freeboard at the deck at the rear edge of the coaming (only the tops of the capital letters in the "Impex Kayaks" on the side of the boat are visible). This means that coming up from a stern deck roll is much more like sliding the back deck underneath you. The boat rolls very well.
Because of the tight fit of the cockpit, wet exits do require a "push" to come out of the boat. Reentry and roll is easy. Assisted rescues, practiced by Jenny and I showed no difference between this boat and others except the low deck shipped a bit more water during reentry. Jenny noted that she appreciated the grab line layout and line thickness for bringing the boat across her boat to empty the water out.
Handling in Seas.
So far, my worst conditions with the boat have been 2 foot seas. The boat showed no problems handling these conditions. Tracking remained great in any direction. With waves from the side, the two footers washed over the rear deck. This did not cause any handling problems. It is a different feeling to get used to though. Bow on, the ride is dry in one foot or less, and at two feet some waves may come over the bow. Interestingly, waves from the stern did not come over the stern deck, instead lifting the boat up. Stability in seas to date is very good. Surfing wakes with the boat, because of it's higher top end speed, is good. Once on a track down a wave the boat holds the track very well.
A great boat for rolling. The outer island may be the closest you can come in fiberglass to a true Greenland style rolling boat. With it's speed and tracking, good for day touring, though that will depend on your personal preferences for cockpit comfort. If you don't like a Greenland fitting boat you won't like this one. Not highly maneuverable - this is not a rock garden boat. Overall, I am very pleased with this boat so far. I would be interested to see how paddlers considering boats such as the Sparrow Hawk and some of the Betsy Bay's react to this boat. With it's cockpit fit and low decks it may appeal to some smaller paddlers who are looking for a faster boat.
Tracking and speed.
General fiberglass construction.
Impex customer service.
Things to improve:
Better grade of metal in the Immersion Research backrest to prevent corrosion issues.
Skeg problems (not unique to Impex boats - common to almost all skegged boats)
Minor quality control issue on fastening the deck hardware.
The OI was clearly not designed for surfing or big water conditions. The boat has little rocker, and the bow plunges when paddling out through or surfing down big waves. It has so little maneuverability, it is absurd. However, it was not designed for these tasks and understandably does not perform well in these conditions.
The OI does do many things well, such as track straight, run fast and roll. It is amazing how well it rolls, and yet is beyond stable in all conditions.
My biggest problem with the OI is that despite its low profile, it is affected by wind. The bow consistently wants to blow downwind and off course. This behavior means that the skeg is a useless ornament, serving only to exacerbate this problem when deployed. People have suggested weighting the front end to rectify this. Perhaps that will work, but it will make an already none too buoyant bow even less so.
Not to be misunderstood, I very much enjoy paddling the OI, and would recommend it to those paddlers who do not rely on a skeg to maintain course, who enjoy rolling for fun, who camp only overnight or daytrip, and who appreciate the comfortable fit and nice finish and appearance.
I am 5'9 150lbs and a fairly skilled paddler and was in a boat already outfitted for me in the ocean on the New Jersey coast.
First the low volume and long lines make a beautiful boat. I have paddled next to it several times and it looks great in the water, and just seems to glide along.
Once inside it, it's really comfortable, I love the low rear deck for rolling. The boat just pops up incredibly easily. It is also extremely stable in both flat water and rough waves. Much more stable than I would have expected.
I did not like the back band much but like the others said, that's a very fixable personal preference.
I like the deck lines and layout a lot. As for a paddle float, if you need to use a paddle float you probably are not looking for a boat like this. With this boat you will learn to roll easily anyway.
As for handling, its a beast to turn. I am very comfortable leaning even bring my head to the water on a sharp turn, this boat does not respond, sweep strokes, rudder strokes, very unresponsive. Basically it will turn in good time when its ready with a slow smooth arch, but nothing really sharp or really quick.
In the surf it's not bad. It tends to nose dive like all long boats with out rocker but it really does handle the surf fairly well. The added stability and support of the hull design makes you very comfortable in rougher water.
As for speed its fast, faster than most, but my silhouette can out run it easily. I noticed the difference immediately in my speed, and had two other paddlers of equal ability swap boats and race each other. The OI was never the winner of the group regardless of who paddled it. In its defense however it was racing some really fast boats.
I also noticed the bow tends to blow around in the wind a lot. (I can't explain that, its really low volume and should not do that) however I really had to lean and use corrective strokes to avoid being blown off course over a long distance.
Overall I liked the boat, nice design, comfortable, stable, fairly fast, and just incredible to roll. Not bad at all for a stock production mold.
First off The OI I paddled was brand new and was flawlessly finished. It is very light for a kayak of its length. It won't be quite as durable as a valley or NDK of course, but the weight savings are where it's at for this kayak anyway.
The deck rigging was good. My friend noted that he would prefer a better aft deck rigging for a paddle float rescue. But I didn't care too much about that. The hatches are valleyesque, and stayed dry even after repeated dunkings.
NO Compass recess. Well you can't have everything? I saw this kayak as a day touring kayak, so that didn't bother me, but it is worth mentioning.
Seat was ok. IR backband is terrible. The IR reggie is smaller and wouldn't stick out past the coaming. Laying back was a pain, and very stiff. I would replace that backband.
The thigh bracing was ok, would probably make it a little more aggressive. Also an option for a small round ocean cockpit would be nice.
Skeg worked flawlessly.
Pro's of paddling the OI.
This kayak is fast. Very fast, had no problem maintaining 3-4 knots in a headwind.
It does behave very predictably edge-edge.
It rolls pretty well due to the low windage. But the stock backband was a little tough on the body. (But it's obviously replaceable.)
It is not prone to weather cocking due t that low windage.
Con's of paddling the OuterIsland.
Poor maneuverability. When edged this kayak did not want to skid out. Coming up wind or downwind. Stern ruddering, stern draw, bow ruddering, or whatever made no difference, this kayak wants to go straight. This is great if you are keen on speed and tracking, but it is not a very loose kayak.
I would like to paddle it again in higher winds, I only had 5-10 knot variable winds on a relatively calm couple of days. But it was a fun kayak to keep moving, I did about 12 miles in pretty short order.
I have not paddled babina's strip built design, but I think it's pretty cool that an amateur builder came up with a design this fast, this low volume, and it is made by a great company.
Quality of construction: Impex's layup is a lot lighter than the Romany, but I feel that it is very durable just the same. The finish and construction are first class. The attention to detail is superb, far better than any British boat I have seen. That being said, my boat did have a tiny crack in the gelcoat of the cockpit rim on delivery.
Outfitting: Again, Impex did a great job. This boat came with an Immersion Research ratcheting backband and a foam seatpad. The seat is bolted in rather than part of the coaming. Also, the two small and one large oval Valley hatch covers are all tethered - the small ones internally. The cupped thigh braces are pre-foamed, very aggressive and comfortable. I needed to add 1" thick foam hip pads. The OI comes with rock-solid aluminum foot pegs. There are plenty of deck lines secured by recessed anchors.
Appearance: I love the sleek lines and low profile. I very much like the small hatch up front. I think it has better aesthetics than a huge oval hatch.
Options: none to my knowledge. I wish in some ways that there were a compass recess, that there were no skeg or possibly an option for a deck pump. However, Impex has kept the price down by not offering any options. Also, no deck pump or compass recess keep the boat light and clean looking. I happen to detest skegs. The cockpit is a large keyhole, which I happen to prefer to the more traditional ocean cockpit.
Other physical characteristics: The hull is a shallow V with soft chines. I much prefer soft to the indexed feel of hard chines. Again, the cockpit is large making it easy to get in and out. Although the sprayskirt size is the same as the Romany, the OI cockpit is more nearly round making skirt tension higher - great for surf work.
There is much less rocker to the hull than the Romany. The front bulkhead on the OI is way far forward. Apparently Impex wanted to make sure Shaquille O'Neil could get his legs in, although I'm sure the rest of him won't fit. I think Impex would do well to forget the 7 footers and move the bulkhead to a more realistic position, given the already very limited cargo room.
Performance: I have thus far paddled the OI on flat water on Chesapeake Bay and several lakes, as well as one surfing session on the Atlantic in about 5 foot seas.
Speed and acceleration: The Outer Island has excellent hull speed and quickness. It is much faster than the Romany and about on par with the Silhouette.
Stability: At only 21" wide, the OI is amazingly stable, both upright and on edge.
Maneuverability: As mentioned, the OI has little rocker and a long waterline. Therefore, it doesn't turn too quickly.
Front deck has been raised about 1 inch and the thigh pads moved so that it is actually secure yet comfortable. Haven't taken the new design on open water yet as the ice is a little thick yet.
However, as good as this craft is, it is only as good as the customer support in making me a happy paddler. Have owned British boats in the past, and I am still amazed at how little support we all thought was "status quo" ... till now. Buy an Impex OI, if not for the boat, then for the boat AND the way they treat you AFTER you buy!
One thing that I definitely didn't like was the cockpit size. It's best described as a "small keyhole". It's not as easy to enter as many keyhole cockpits, but doesn't offer the security of the "ocean" (small) cockpit, which the original design calls for. I found that this "neither fish nor foul" size wanting, but paddlers with shorter legs may find it ideal. When the O.I. becomes available with an ocean cockpit (it's in the works), I'll be interested.