I purchased the Islay after an outing with friends who had touring kayaks. We went to Elk Horn Slough in Moss Landing California for our outing. I had a 10' Wilderness Pungo and got waxed trying to keep up with them. I called California Canoe and Kayak to ask their opinion on touring Kayaks with durability (plastic) The recommended the Islay. When I tried it out I was ex tactic, It handled and tracked like a dream with the skeg. After I purchased it I have been in Carquinez Straits which are along my home town Benicia. The straits can be difficult with tide current and wind. The Islay was awesome. It has great balance and secondary lean which took some time to get used to. I have been able to zip around in a comfortable cockpit that was not wide open as the Pungo was. I have used with and without the spray skirt and like the option of being able to have an open cockpit on hot days. The Islay has two storage compartments fore and aft that are more than adequate. The kayak is very squirrely without the skeg and does not track well. I have a 5th wheel RV that I used to mount the Pungo to (vertically on the back ladder I have kayak stirrups and straps) I was able to take the Islay on my RV ventures and in a lake it is an absolute dream. It is heavy but that is what I expected because I am hard on kayaks and wanted durability
The Islay 12 is a tough plastic day touring boat, with good quality outfitting and safety features like a proper sea kayak: full perimeter lines, deck bungees, front and rear hatches, floating backrest, adjustable thigh braces, and skeg. A 'skudder' (combination skeg-rudder) is available as an optional extra, but on a boat this short, the normal cable-operated skeg is plenty. It weighs only about 20kg, making it much easier to lift and carry than most sea kayaks, so it could be a great choice for anyone paddling on sheltered water where a full 17' sea boat would be overkill.
On the water, there isn't much primary stability, but there is loads of secondary stability. This is not ideal for absolute beginners; my beginner tester (Mrs. SeaBadger) found it hard to keep the Islay tracking straight without dropping the skeg. But for intermediate paddlers, rolling is easy (also thanks to the low rear deck), and weaving around rocks using edging and low brace turns is great fun. A sustained straight line speed of around 4mph is achievable. The surface area of the skeg is generous, making it simple to keep the Islay tracking straight in breezy conditions, and it handles confidently in a 1-2' swell - and maybe more, but then I am a fair-weather kayaker :)
Overall it's a great little boat. Only a couple of minor niggles: the spraydeck size is nonstandard; and it would be better if the removable pod fitted into the front deck with a more positive click. But apart from that, if the 'mini sea kayak' idea appeals then this boat is definitely worth a look.