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I love this boat. The SE-L (Stellar Elite Low) is the low volume…
The SE-L (Stellar Elite Low) is the low volume sibling of Stellar's flagship surfski, the SE. At 21'6" and 17.5" at the beam, it's a hair wider than the rest of the elite class of HPS (high performance skis); not enough to slow it down, but just enough to impart an extra measure of stability that some of the others lack. I've had the opportunity to spend some time in the bucket in all manner of conditions, from glassy, rolling calm, to confused, washing machine jobblies. It is comfortable and predictable and goes like stink. Handsome, also, to boot. Mine is a unidirectional prepeg carbon layup with a yellow cockpit, and deck peaks. It's nice that Stellar incorporates a UV inhibitor into their clearcoat-something that most of the other manufacturers do not. Hence, their carbon boats, if left in the elements, often develop a chalky, milky look.
Stellars come in four different layups from heaviest to lightest construction: Sport, Advantage, Excel, and the high zoot, all carbon Ultra. IMO, the Excel incarnation of this boat offers the best of all worlds. The Ultra is feathery light, and looks fantastic, but you do feel every little subtlety of the water's texture and the roll rate's a little quicker due to the stiffer layup/lighter weight. I'm at about 205 now, and it fits perfectly; the bucket is actually a bit wider than my Huki S1-R's 'wide' seat. While at my bodyweight, I'm probably on the cusp of the move to an SE (which I've also owned), I don't find the low volume an issue. I have buried the bow in some short duration, steep swells almost up to the Stellar deck decals, but it always pops back up, and doesn't seem to leech speed from the run.
The three point footplate/pedal assembly adjusts by unscrewing two wingnuts and sliding it forward or aft along a horizontal track. Unique to Stellar is a locking lever at the base, which makes for an extremely solid platform to drive from; no flex and no creaks. The Dynaleen rudder lines self-adjust. The hump between the seat and footwell is low, enabling strong leg drive. There are bungees forward of the foot pedals, and on the rear deck. The deck itself has a raised ridge to shed water, and stiffen the body structure. Believe you me, the Excel and especially, the Ultra, layups are plenty stiff. Power is transferred instantaneously-the SE-L responds nimbly to input. For taller paddlers, the SE-L will accommodate. At 6'1" with a 34 inseam, I still have five inches left on the adjustment tracks left.
The boat goes upwind extremely well, with a bit more bow slap than say, a Fenn Elite. It is wonderfully controllable; the amount of secondary (somewhat of an oxymoron in an elite class ski) is reassuring. Beam chop is similarly handled with aplomb, but where this boat really shines is in the sloppy stuff. It eats this stuff up. My rough water boat is a Huki S1-R, which is reknowned for its sloppy water prowess. As I spend more time in the SE-L, the Huki has been spending more and more time at home. Speedwise, it's a hair off the fastest of the fast elite boats on flat water, the Fenn Elite, Epic V12, Nelo, Think Uno, and its smaller stablemate, the Stellar SES. That said, I'm reminded of the adage: 'stability before speed.' What it lacks in out-and-out velocity (maybe a tenth or two mph), it more than makes up for in its stability through open water.
The SE-L also loves to surf. It picks up a wave nicely, and carries its speed from runner to runner as well. Once atop a ride, it will calmly sit there all day. There is an available spray shield that Velcros on the boat a la an Epic V12 for bigger water, but honestly, I've never used it. Remounts are easy due to lower side rails and the boat's trademark stability.
Yes, there are items on my wish list. The catch could be narrower, and the steering response quicker and more precise. Also, the cavernous footwell carries a whole lot of agua (I'm working on filling the extra space before the pedals with minicell block that will also house my drinking system.), and the draining is merely satisfactory. But that's it; the sum of its parts may very well make this 'THE' boat. Having owned a good amount of other elite skis, this one's well... Stellar.
The Pygmy is a flat out beautiful boat-most outings garner people coming up, running their hands along its flanks (very equestrian-like), and admiring its mahogany beauty. It's quite comfortable - mounted two Perception one piece seats, and retained the stock back bands. I also mounted a Smart Track tandem rudder, and it has no difficulty turning this craft. the cockpits are very spacious; I'd like to see another bulkhead between the Captain and Stoker cockpits, but that would add to its very reasonable 60 lb. weight.
The Osprey tracks extremely well, and although beamy, carries a decent turn of speed. Both my surfskis and the Tango would blow it in the weeds if racing's your game, but for pleasure outings, it's a great boat to paddle. It handles beam waves exceedingly well-surfed it on 4 footers off the coast of Maine and regularly take it out on Long Island Sound in CT, hunting out big pleasure boat wakes. The bow could use a bit more volume-it tends to knife through a oncoming swell rather than riding up and over. Most is shed by the deck, but in bigger conditions, it can be a wet ride.
This boat handles extremely well. There's just enough distance between cockpits to avoid the occasional paddle clash if your partner paddles out of sync. the hatches are huge, with a somewhat cobbled looking closure system, but it seems to work, albeit looking like it was designed in a middle school shop class-smile. Maybe it just adds to the homebuilt feel of this boat.
That said, I love this Osprey double. When people ask me if I built it I reluctantly have to say no, and weakly add that I did the rudder and outfitting. I wish I could claim that I did the build; it's that handsome. It's our boat of choice for vacations as well. Buy one. Build one.
Jude can build. It is a handmade boat, and that said, there will be some minor cosmetic glitches, however, you also have the freedom to design it as you want it. I've holed it once in a Nor'easter, but the structure is, although lightweight, extremely strong. It has a few dents, dings, and blips, but has always been watertight and solid. Love the sound of slapping down off the top of a wave and hearing it resonate through the carbon fiber structure.
The only thing I'd do differently about it is to have mine in a single footwell (Jude offers this now), and maybe round the side rails a bit more, and bring them in slightly closer for a tighter catch. Adding a piece of minicell to the seatwell back area to sit more upright is commonly done. Hence, the '9' rating; no boat is perfect, but this one comes mighty close.
Jude is an exceptional individual to deal with, and a true ambassador to the sport. As one friend says, and is so fitting: 'He sells happiness.' I would buy this boat again in a heartbeat should I need to replace it. This one is my favorite horse in the stable.
Jude at Huki was extremely helpful discussing the layups and options to suit my needs in addition to working with me on a price that was competitive with other boats in its class. It is immediately obvious that paddling is his passion-this is communicated in his efforts to, as one friend puts it: 'sell happiness.'
After careful discussion, we ascertained that for my purposes for racing and training, the carbon/'s' glass weave would provide the balance of light weight, stiffness, durability, and cost effectiveness that I would need for training and racing. It's come in at approximately 27-28 lbs., light enough for my needs and very strong to boot. The beauty of Jude's offerings at Huki, besides the boat designs themselves, is that he can truly tailor them to your needs. Different sized hatches, bungees, etc. can be placed literally anywhere, and his gelcoat painting staff are artisans with a spray gun-plain vanilla boats are no longer de rigeur; a selection of paint schemes can be chosen from his graphics tool, or you can custom design your own. You'll spend hours clicking on the multitude of combinations available. My boat fades from a brilliant mango yellow in the center section to a vibrant viper red at the ends, with black flames licking back from the bow and on the rear deck. Striking and distinctive, I get 'thumbs up's and compliments wherever I go. Confession: Sometimes I wander into the garage at night just to gaze at it. A friend appropriately named it 'J.J. Cash' after 'Ring of Fire.' Perfect.
Mine was spec'd with a 6" front hatch that easily holds wallet, cell phone, keys, and drinking bladders, and I spec'd rear deck bungees. Additional options were the wide seat (highly recommended), and adjustable footwells that, although they add weight, are invaluable for arriving at the perfect seating position, allowing others to use the boat, and potentially increasing resale, although you'll have to pry this one out of my hands. Also added were a weed deflector and cables to allow the use of the P-41 kick up rudder, for shallow river racing. You have an infinite selection of rudder choices. Something Jude does is provide you with a system that allows a rudder change in literally 30 seconds flat, AND several mounting points on the spreader to adjust the sensitivity of actuation. After fiddling with an Epic rudder recently, I was cursing the usual rudder mounting design and muttering under my breath that they should have 'done it like Huki.' In retrospect I should have opted for the lockhole on the center divider. My only criticism of the cockpit outfitting would be that the footstraps are mounted to the center divider on the adjustable footwell boats and thus may or may not be useful depending upon leg length as an aid to pull (Huki!) when actuating the legs. Where my legs fall relegates them to nothing more than something to hold onto when carrying the boat or a convenient place to fasten my paddle leash and GPS cord. I'd like to see them individually attached to the foot braces. Beyond that, the seating is quite comfortable. The squared edges of the cockpit occasionally have me banging my paddle, but I've lined them with heavy duty plastic film as well as in the strike zones to prevent gelcoat damage from paddle strikes. The catch is fairly narrow but not as tight as the S1-X-if there's ever another incarnation of this wonderful design, I'd expect some deck cutaways, a la the S1-X special. My GPS fits nicely on the flat profiled center divider, and it also provides a convenient spot for gel packs when racing. For overall efficiency of rotation, a single footwell is probably more advantageous. Advantages to the double wells however, are they clear quickly through the venturis when flooded, and also add a measure of boat control in rough conditions as you can use a little body English against them when being tossed about. The footbraces/pedals are aluminum and flex a bit when driving with the legs; they haven't shifted however, but I'd recommend that you apply some sort of heavy duty tape or film to the wells below each as constant cycling will wear through the gelcoat and into the material below.
Now for the really good news. This boat is so much fun to paddle, that when a high wind forecast is issued, I'm gleefully rubbing my hands with excitement and anticipation of the rides that will be soon be had. Unlike my Mako XT, which was a fine boat, but always felt listless to me, the S1-R has a light and responsive feel in the water, even on the flats. It gives away sheer speed to its longer, narrower brethren on the flats, but holds its own upwind and downwind. Unless you're in the upper echelon of boat handlers, you may find you're faster in the S1-R than some of the other faster, more tender boats, by virtue of the fact that you'll be at ease as the water erupts around you, just smoothly putting the power down. When conditions kick up is where it really shines. It rocks easily over crests, allowing you to change direction with a flick of your hips, yet somehow manages to track arrow straight when this is needed as well. Beam waves, particularly those of steep, short frequency, are this boat's forte-it literally shrugs them off. For our east coast conditions, the 19' length and substantial secondary stability for a surf ski allow me to power right through washing machine chop, and pick up rides that longer boats wallow in, in between the crests. On a following sea, it is wholly predictable. You can spin it on a crest and shoot down the face; the S1-R turns far more quickly than say, a V10. I imagine the V10 comes into its own in bigger swells, but the Molokai Channel is not in my backyard. Even in dumping following seas, the kind where the seat and foot wells flood instantly with water, bringing you to an abrupt halt, the S1-R is composed and well-behaved. I run the 8" rudder most of the time, but will be working on transitioning to the 4", which affords an extra measure of speed. The carbon kick up foil rudder, produced by Pat at Onnopaddles (He does the Huki rudders.) is a thing of beauty. It drops right in via a clevis pin onto the stern and two piggyback cables connect from the stock spreader. Simple, effective, and fast. Remounts, both cowboy and sidesaddle are easy-this boat is so stable in the water.
At some point, I may be inclined toward an extra measure of speed, and debated long and hard whether to pop for the S1-X Special, leaping over the R's transitional step. This is still a consideration for the future, as I amass funds with an eye toward adding to my quiver; I've read more than one account of paddlers who bought the higher performance boat and wound up missing and subsequently adding the S1-R back into their stables. It's that good. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to Huki population at least here on the east coast is geographic-shipping adds to the overall cost. That said, my boat arrived in perfect condition, and the Affordable Boat Carrier Company provided constant updates as to its expected arrival. A large number of paddlers are gravitating toward skis for their simplicity, safety (If you 'huli' you just climb back on.), and versatility. We're seeing more and more skis on the east coast, and more and more Hukis. This is a very good thing. Great boat, great company...'selling happiness' is entirely accurate.
First and foremost, the Tango is supremely stable. My tandem partner and I were tossed like a cork in the East River through 5-6 foot refracting waves, and never felt in danger of capsize. On one rogue wave thrown by a DEP barge, witnesses on the CG cutter next to us noted that my tandem partner was clear out of the water with nothing but daylight showing beneath, and all the time we were whooping and hollering. She goes to conditions extremely well. The deep V of the hull slices through waves, and the high bow ('prow' is perhaps a better descriptor) makes for a dry ride. You get the impression this boat was designed for big water. On a calm lake it's sheer overkill, like piloting a war canoe on a duckpond. It will complacently plunk around, but it always feels a little bored, if personification is admissable. It wants to head to the open water.
The big Feathercraft K-2 rudder takes a solid bite, and will turn this behemoth quite quickly for its length. In narrow tidal marshes, it capably maneuvered through the tight switchbacks, despite 21'of length, and rarely ran aground in as little as 6" of water. Surprising. Without the rudder, it's a lot of boat to attempt to lean or correct its tangent using paddle strokes alone. The sliding footpeg system works adequately, although the hull is very wide and your legs are far apart; I'd like to see a brace/gas pedal system on this boat to provide a more solid platform to push against, along with offering a variety of foot positions. Using the aluminum Yakima slotted sliders instead of the cheesy plastic tracks contributes a far more solid feel. Normally, such a wide stance could contribute to pressure on the sciatic nerve, but surprisingly, the seating front and rear on this boat is supremely comfortable. I suffer from sciatica in all my boats, but the Tango is the only one that I can go 4-5 hours in without a worry. It's exceptionally roomy-you can practically sit cross-legged in the thing, wonderful for changing up seating positions and stretching while on board. You do sit deeply in the boat; the cockpit coaming comes up high around you. Some have likened it to sitting in a bathtub, but I have no complaints here-keeps you high and dry. Due to the width of the hull, and my acclimation to narrower hulled craft, I do paddle strike quite frequently, which can be annoying. I'd like a narrower catch, as with two partners both swinging wings, you can make this baby go. While we're at it, some recessed fittings for the decklines would be nice-maybe the newer versions have this to avoid the occasional knuckle strike when your hands dip lower as the day wears on.
The Tango is surprisingly fast for its width, as one reviewer noted. At even a conversational pace, it is quite easy to gain on and pass singles, who will be more than happy to sit on your considerable wake. Paddling with my daughter, who's prone to laying down her paddle, swinging her legs over the side and just taking in the sights, I'm amazed at how easy it is to paddle her solo-the boat is well balanced, and maintains a good clip with only the power of one. Last year on vacation, this was the scenario, along with a tow belt line to my wife's single. when you've momentum built in the Tango, she just glides along.
The hatches remain dry through all manner of spray. the neoprene covers do a good job of sealing out even minor weeping. The fiberglass covers are a bit awkward to shoehorn on and off wedged under the bungees the way they are, and will sink when released without a stock tether to prevent this happening. Bungee placement is a bit strange due to hatch location; I do miss having bungees right behind me for drinking bladder use. The storage capacity is immense. Like a huge SUV, you'll be tempted to bring everything along just because you can. Just keep this in mind when it comes time to pull it up on shore.
The weight. I wistfully imagine what a new kevlar version of this craft both looks and feels like. My fiberglass layup probably weighs in at close to a hundred lbs. Thankfully, by positioning myself by the center hatch in the middle of the boat, and grasping the front and rear cockpit coamings, I can fairly easily move it around. Its length and bulk make loading it on the roofrack a prop and slide affair; I use a roller to assist, but there are always a few moments of 'focus' when the deep 'V' bow wants to flop from one side to another when on the roller. It goes without saying that front and rear tiedowns are de rigeur.
In closing, if I could afford a new, all kevlar version, I'd go for it. Ultimately, I'd like to see it a little less beamy, with some of the aforementioned items from my wish list as noted above. That said, it's clear this boat is meant to move two people along at a more than respectable clip for long expeditions, yet it is not limited to this purpose. The folks at Seda are always more than helpful at sourcing parts or assisting with questions. While no boat in my eyes is perfect, I have to say I do love this one.
Enter Pat at Onnopaddles. I had purchased a seat from him for my QCC, and was incredibly impressed with his enthusiasm, professionalism, and design and building expertise. His reputation is well-noted on these boards and in the paddling world at large, and for good reason-what he makes works, and he spends the time with his customers to assure that it does.
Purchased the carbon fiber gas pedal/footbrace system from him and installed it in the EFT. The wide, flat carbon footbrace is a thing of beauty, and superbly executed-the matching gas pedals for rudder actuation pivot easily on hinges at the top and incorporate a series of rudder line holes that secure the kevlar cord, making adjustments in line tension and pedal position a snap. Each pedal adjusts individually to the rudder, and there is no springback system-line tension provides this. The carbon surface has a matte finish that encourages a secure foot position even when wet, unlike the slippery metal footbrace that came stock. The width of the brace allows an extremely positive and solid platform to push from, as well as a multitude of foot positions. Possibly the most positive aspect of this design is that it is extremely easy to actuate the rudder from any position on the footbrace-the stock setup required you slide your toes in to actuate-with this one you can place your legs wherever you'd like and still get to the controls. I look forward to trying the boat out now in some real conditions, as I'm sure this benefit will be particularly valuable in situations where you might need to brace against the coaming with your knees and work the rudder at the same time, surfing, for example.
Set up was fairly straightforward. Pat took measurements provided and drilled the carbon brackets for the brace position I specified, allowing for proper leg length. I modified the brackets somewhat, drilling additional holes, and slotting them out using a Dremel routing bit; allowing a range of adjustability in the event someone else borrows the boat, or the unlikely event that I sell it. If the position were to be changed, line tension and pedal position would have to readjusted; an easy enough task with the cable system used on the pedals. The brackets each secure to the footbrace using four stainless bolts and nylon locking nuts-very strong and solid. The entire setup 'drops in' to the stock drilled 'L' brackets glassed to the hull, using the two bolts and wingnuts provided with the stock footbar. Simple.
Pat uses kevlar cord from the pedals. For ease of hookup without swapping out lengths of line and changing over the entire cable system, I mated the stainless cable from the stock rudder to the cord using stainless thimbles and Brummel clips for quick disconnect, in case I ever need to work on the system or replace part of the line. The new mounting has the cable sit further out from the sides of the hull than the stock tiller bar arrangement, and after some thought (and recommendations from Pat), I settled upon a stainless eyestrap cable guide with a length of pvc tubing hot flared to a bell shape on both ends to smoothly guide the cable and prevent fraying-this bolted to the very last hole closest to the cockpit on the 'L' channel, and the cable/line travels smoothly slightly away from the hull contours. Recently I sourced out simple Spinlock guides that bolt with a single mount from one sailing accessory manufacturer that would do the same without additional fabrication. Note that this is not necessary-I simply preferred to see the line follow the contours of the hull as closely as possible.
Now for the good part: Paddling the boat has always been sheer joy-it's light, fast, and responsive (although the addition of a deeper rudder is I think needed-hmmm...P-41...). With the footbrace installed, I can pump my legs from any position on the footbrace and still easily toe the gas pedals for minute adjustments on the rudder. In buoy turns, a simple push swings the rudder through its range of motion, again, easily actuated from anywhere on the brace. It has all the ease of usage of systems like Toe Pilots with the added benefits of simplicity of design, strength and light weight of materials, AND the fact that you are no longer locked in to a splay legged stance (Sciatica...Sciatica), or toe wrestling a wooden peg. Surf ski paddlers will find this system comfortable and familiar, and all will find it intuitive-allowing you to focus on stroke and torso rotation from any bracing position on the bar. Well done Pat; he shoots, he scores yet again!