The Stellar Tandem 17 is ideal for family outings in lakes and rivers. The wide beam provides a stable platform for paddling and the generous cockpit openings make it easy to enter and exit the boat. Dry storage in bow and stern hatches provide ample room for your gear, whether a light snack or gear for a multiple day adventure.
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Gelcoat finished heat cured polyester Fiberglass and core-mat laminate.
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Stellar really makes Stellar boats, if you ever want to put a smile on your face try one and you'll see! Just when you thought tandems were heavy, bulky beasts to lug around and maybe fast but a little too like bloated luxury cars in their demeanor when you wanted the room for a second paddler or a little more gear but didn't want to give up the sports car feel in your kayak. Enter the spectacular Stellar ST17.
This is a very different kind of boat that is confusing at first to paddle as the performance and speed is disconcerting. If ever you wanted a certain kind of immunity from the elements, at least as far as your speed goes, this craft does it very well. You can paddle right into the wind and current almost as if they weren't there. Like a good composite minimal effort already gets you underway at a very satisfying rate of speed. If you want to go faster, all you have to do is paddle harder. It's not like the shorter boats where the length limits your speed and more effort makes you go at best marginally faster. Here it's incredible how little you have to try to reach any speed so with a strong partner it's tempting to try to push the "MORE FASTER" button and paddle the living daylights out of the boat. It will erase any misconception that "speeding won't get you there any quicker. As a matter of fact this Kayak can be so fast that you'll be passing motorboats in no-wake zones at breakneck speeds; we get a lot of looks! As a matter of fact the other day we crossed Wallum Lake in MA and RI where some woman who was waterskiing behind her parent's boat encountered us, was buzzing around the lake as we were paddling North, and couldn't believe how quickly we reached the boat ramp on the northern shore.
Another element that is endearing of this boat is the light weight in the Advantage layup at 55lbs. Two people, even an adult and a strong child like our little one, my 10 year old who is 5'2" and VERY strong can carry it anywhere for rather long distances without tiring. Compared to our plastic doubles that we adore and cherish for dealing with rocky landings in rough conditions you have to be very careful as the fiberglass cannot be beached or launched from rocks unlike plastic. However this boat is so light it's very easy to be careful with it so unless you have strong waves that dash you against the rocks faster than you can get in getting on board with it already in the water isn't a problem.
Like many doubles it's very stable so jumping in with aplomb, even with my very long legs (I am nearly 6'5") is easy thanks to the large cockpit. The boat is stable enough that I don't need to brace much with the paddle but it's demeanor is much more playful than a heavier plastic boat.
The initial stability isn't there as much so you have to be very careful or you'll feel tippy. I went paddling with a friend of mine who had Canoe instructor certification from his younger days but gave it up as he doesn't derive income. He just came back from Canada where he canoes a lot and started to paddle my ST17 with the same kind of vigor and "digging in" where you roll the boat slightly to the side as you're paddling it. The ST17 and I didn't like it. Every stroke would make the boat wobble. Stellar boats are like that. The "calmer", more "recreational" as opposed to race boats have really good secondary stability and won't really flip unless you really do something wrong but like a docile yet playful hunting dog will startle and nip at you if you pet them the wrong way.
I liken Stellar boats to a high end race car with coilover suspension. There's a way these cars like to be driven, usually giving gas as soon as possible a certain way when going into a corner and unwinding the wheel, much like you'd have to handle a motorcycle, ATV or dirt bike. Each race car, or should I say each Stellar boat has its rythm and stroke and approach it likes best. You have to adapt to that otherwise you're in for a miserable ride but finding this is easy and once you get into the groove with how the boat wants to be handled, you're off to the races and feel like you're flying over the water.
This playful nature is spectacular. Turning, maneuvering and playing with the boat is very easy. Who thought anyone would describe a double as "playful". Stellar ST17 loves to romp. It's a two edge sword though because this responsiveness also means that wind, waves and current will toss you around more than an equivalent plastic barge, it's a two edge sword. The rudder helps a lot to maintain trim and is sometimes necessary to keep control of the boat especially in a bad crosswind. I must mention I love the spring loaded rudder both to retract and the fact that it's easier to find center.
On this vein once you get a feel for how the boat reacts you can take advantage of this playfulness and increased repsonsiveness to give minimal control inputs to set your course thus wasting the least amount of momentum when executing maneuvers so you get there sooner. And to stay on my motorcycle example, rather than looking close, it helps if you keep sight of a landmark or waypoint in the distance instead. If your bow is moving away from that you need to gently, without overcompensating as the responsiveness makes it easy to do, especially if you're used to plastic boats, maneuver to face it again.
One other element I am not crazy about is the Stellar seats. They are just not that comfortable. For longer paddles you can get back aches, butt aches; your legs don't fall asleep thankfully as they are reasonably ergonomic but these are lightweight seats made of Kevlar with minimal padding. Think racing and weight reduction which is Stellar's DNA. All is not lost though, you can find Airpro type over-seats for about $100 to stick on top and make your paddling experience comfortable on longer journeys across large expanses of water. This kayak devours miles so quickly it's an ideal boat for the task.
Another potential pitfall is a slight divorce boat tendency. At 17' 5" the two cockpits are close enough that one paddler can interfere with the other. One of the pair had better be attentive to what the person in the front is doing otherwise you're going to be hitting each other's paddles all the time. It's not horrible, you don't have to be in perfect synchrony but as opposed to doubles that are only a few inches longer like the Wilderness Systems Northstar or Polaris the difference in hitting each other's paddle is definitely felt. It's not so hard as to be divorce boat levels, but it's on the spectrum in a mild to moderate way so make sure to put the more attentive and experienced paddler in the stern as always.
What is particular about Stellar as opposed to other kayak companies is that their weights are not only realistic but a maximum. What I mean is that the 55lbs of the Advantage boat feels feather light and I can carry this boat alone whereas I have difficulty carrying a nominally 55lb plastic boat like the Wilderness Tsunami 140. This is because Stellar is one of the few companies that weighs all their components at every step of production and makes sure that the advertised weight, in this case 55lb is a guarantee in that their boat will never exceed that. So the truth is that while Stellar's trademark is making their boats lighter, the deviation from that weight is minimal and if anything will always be less. Other companies might advertise their boats weight but a boat clocking in at 55lbs might actually be just the bare hull, and have more variation hull to hull so it could have been their lightest hull ever produced while still not accounting for the weight of the seats, handles, rigging, rudder, foot pedals and other accessories. This is why the Stellar boats at their given weights feel so much lighter than any other boat that is sold at the "same" weight because in the end, thanks to Stellar's attention to detail and quality control their boat will always be lighter and I appreciate that.
I also appreciate that the Advantage layup, while expensive compared to some other fiberglass kayaks, is still very reasonably priced (look at the PH boats!) and is satisfyingly cheap to repair. So even if you're boneheaded you're not going to be hurting as bad as if you put a hole in a Kevlar or Carbon Fiber boat. And it can take a bit of damage impact wise, more than you think, just don't push it. The lighter weight means thinner hull so while a much heavier PH boat can go rock gardening or surfing with ease the Stellar boats will never withstand that kind of abuse and it is specifically so stated in their manual, their website and their warranty.
Then again as long as you're not involved in abusive type of activities best saved for your plastic boats, which is why I will never get rid of my rotomolded kayaks, all else being equal it's much easier to handle and be careful with these delicate, lightweight boats. Plus the maneuverability goes a long way to dodging rocks! Oh the question, agility vs raw power, who can survive better? There's no correct answer but Stellar is really the apex when it comes to lightweight, lovely, easy to handle, delightful to paddle and playfully maneuverable craft. They are the answer to everything you disliked about your plastic boat.
I am smitten with Stellar boats and their lush, deep personality and interactive feel. They are fast, efficient, playful boats that are easy to get going and very, very fast at all levels. They are a step up from the plastic boats' monolithic, one noted personality and a joy to not only paddle around, but carry thanks to their light weight yet relatively forgiving enough that you don't need to be an expert as the boat not only tells you when you're doing it wrong but rewards you with its stellar performance and handling when you're doing it right. No praise is too great for these exceptional Kayaks except for the seats which thankfully are not expensive or laborious to upgrade, you just slide an Airpro style kayak overseat for hours of paddling comfort.
If you've wanted a longer and faster boat to enjoy with a partner but was concerned about the heavy reputation and turned off by the idea of lugging around the lead sledge that a plastic double can be, try Stellar. You can actually carry or paddle these boats singly either alone or sticking a young child in front of you. They are forgiving enough that an older child who enjoys paddling can be with you and not worry about tipping, and so efficient that even minimal effort on their part can be felt in greater speed. But there is so much depth, so much performance, so many layers to this boat. It's a hard choice, if I only could have one boat to rule them all, it would be a tie between the Grabner Holiday 3 inflatable (also spectacular in its own way) and the Stellar ST17. Both are doubles that are light enough that can be carried by one person alone. Both are fast and playful for different reasons. The Grabner is more stable and holds 3 and is suprisingly efficient, maybe even more so than plastic despite being inflatable; it also weighs less. But the Stellar is more fun, playful and faster. A lot faster. And it has more layers of personality.
One boat to rule them all, if I could pick, it's a tough decision, but the Stellar boats offer so much depth, so much character I'd have to go with their design. If you want a lightweight, efficient composite with performance, handling and personality to spare, you'll love Stellar. They are exceptional and magnificent. I love our Stellar boats, and maybe the nicest paddling kayak I've had the pleasure to take out is the ST17.
As a postscript just to show my esteem of the ST17's characteristics I am planning two longer paddles, one an 11 mile trek north through the Sakonnet River where I live and it's considered a very challenging paddle to start at ocean's edge and go North. If all goes well I might do the big Sakonnet paddle with the wife. I am also training and getting into even better shape for a potential Block Island paddle through 15 miles of open Atlantic Ocean for next year with my canoe instructor buddy. I just paddled 20 miles this last weekend, 12 of them in the ST17 but in a more leisurely, touristy route on the northern Sakonnet so I think I am very close and up to both challenges with a little more training. Guess which boat I am thinking of taking out?