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My Background: Fifteen years sea kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay and southeastern…
Fifteen years sea kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay and southeastern US coast. About 13 years using Greenland paddles. Able to perform about half of the Greenland rolls. Typically paddling 2-3 days per week during Spring to Fall, with 1-2 days per week in the winter. I ordered an Outer Island, and have been paddling a demo model until my boat comes in. At this time I have spent about 60 hours in the boat, and had about six day trips of 14 - 28 miles each, plus several hours doing rolls and rescues. Conditions ranged from flat calm to 1-2 foot seas. Winds from zero to fifteen knots.
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.