First of all, this vest is so comfortable that I absolutely look forward to putting it on. The vest provides more than adequate flotation, but still allows perfect paddling freedom. The lifting capability is rated at 1300 pounds and it is equipped with a quick release towing device that works like a charm. I always use this buckle device and in warm weather I leave the zipper open for better ventilation without worrying about the integrity and effectiveness of the jacket.
If you're looking to upgrade to a higher level pfd, this one deserves a look.
I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg for this new paddle, but I wanted quality and performance. I thought I had my choice narrowed down to about two choices and then just when I was about to make the buy, this very nice looking paddle caught my eye. At first glance my impression was that this paddle would be priced above the level I had set. To my great surprise, the paddle was well within the range I had decided on and my shopping was done.
The Carlisle Expedition is an all fiberglass paddle, relatively light weight with very rigid shaft and blades. The blades are about mid-sized (7"x17") and work very well for low and high angle paddling. I like a blade that has a solid catch, no flutter, no cavitation and is absolutely silent; the Expedition excels in all of these requisites and just feels so right. Some paddles take some getting used to—not so with this paddle, it was right on with the first stroke and it just got better from there. I should mention that the paddle is beautifully finished and looks like it is built to last.
The Expedition uses the simple hole and button ferrule, which isn't fancy, but it is solid and for me it works just fine. My initial trial day of paddling included plenty of wind and waves and the new paddle performed beyond my expectations. I was even impressed with how naturally this paddle handles maneuvering strokes and how surprisingly effective they were in handling the boat in the wind.
The manufacturers price for this paddle is $159.99 and at this price you really have to give it a try.
The Expedition continues to surprise me in ways I never expected. I knew all along that the boat is very stable, but along with that, it is just remarkable how the boat acts like it has a gyroscope on board when it comes to confused sloppy conditions. It is actually fun to play around in tide rips where the waves are often quite daunting in a lesser craft. The Expedition leaves no doubt that it can handle anything that I am likely to blunder into.
After an outing in one of my other boats and then switching to the Expedition, I still sometimes have to ask myself if this thing is really faster. I've checked it with the GPS several times and it really isn't even close; the Expedition just slides through the water with such ease.
In my initial review, I mentioned that I had the builder position the seat as far back in the cockpit as it could be. I'm very glad I did; it makes getting in and out much easier and there is no downside to it. The seat itself has got to be one of the best in the industry and is more than just a spot to plant your rear end. Along with being very comfortable and supportive, it is an integral part of the structure of the boat. It obviously creates an additional connection between the hull and deck and serves to stiffen the entire boat. The seat is very solid and stiff, which means that it contributes some to the overall paddling efficiency. I have to say though, that I very much enjoy the pad my wife made for me, especially on longer trips.
So far there have been no problems with the finish, or any of the fixtures, but I did have to check with the builder about something I thought could lead to trouble. The front hatch and to a lesser degree, the rear hatch are sealing so well that pressure builds in the compartments. Up until the weather got hotter it wasn't enough to get concerned with, but recently it got to the point where I was worrying about it. They told me to bring the boat by and they'd fix it, or I could just drill a tiny hole in the bulkheads. I drilled a very tiny hole in the forward and rear bulkheads, but I left the one behind the seat alone, because the day compartment seems to be fine. As of this writing, I haven't had the boat out in the sun to see if the problem is fixed, but I'm reasonably sure it is. Oh, by the way, I love the hatch covers and wouldn't trade them for any other type.
One of the unique features about NC kayaks is what they call the performance flange. It is created by the method with which they join the hull and deck. It really does do all the things they say it does (stiffens the perimeter of the hull, deflects spray, lifts the bow in waves, etc.), but I have found that it also helps enormously in handling the boat out of the water and keeping it stable on the trailer that I haul it on.
To sum it all up, the Expedition has satisfied my quest for a long distance cruising kayak, far beyond my expectations. If there is a better boat out there for that purpose...well I guess that's just a matter of opinion.
I ordered the NC Expedition after looking at a lot of other boats, most of which I dismissed without even trying them out. I guess I knew what I wanted and nothing else was able to change my mind. I'm very happy that I settled on the 19 foot Expedition and not one of NC's 17 footers. That's not to say that the seventeens aren't great, but as I said, I knew what I wanted.
The seat, being an integral part of the structure of the boat is not adjustable, so I had them mount it as far back in the cockpit as is practical--so that I can enter and exit the boat in my accustomed manner, which is while in the water, one leg at a time and not having to sit on the rear deck (I'm 6'2").
I've only had the Expedition in the water a few times, but I've already gotten used to its handling and stability. Because of the boats remarkable ability to track, I had to use a little different strategy for turning than I do with my other boats, but I was pleased to find that the Expedition can be comfortably managed. The boat's stability actually took no getting used to; both the primary and secondary are exceptional—probably as good as it gets. Even so, edging the boat, which is seldom required, is effortless. I added a couple of knee pads under the deck in just the right spot for me and I'm good to go.
Naturally, I'm interested in the potential speed of the boat—not so much its ultimate banzai speed, but its comfortable cruising speed. My first impressions left me wondering if the 19'-2" boat is actually any faster than my other boats. The boat gives little to no sensation of movement through the water. There is barely a bow ripple and the same goes for the stern. My GPS revealed what my senses weren't able to—the boat is fast. Even against a fairly strong outgoing tide, I was able to maintain an easy 4 ½ mph. There have been a few instances when I got an adrenalin shot for one reason, or another and powered up. The Expedition can move and sometimes it's comforting to have raw speed to get you out of a situation.
The builder claims the boat tracks with little regard to wind and current; they don't lie. That cannot be said about wind when you're carrying the boat on your shoulder. This is a big boat and very light for its size, so you'd better be aware of what a gust of wind can do if the boat is sideways to the wind.
I have no doubt that the Expedition will live up to all the expectations I had about it being my long distance boat and from what I've learned about it so far, it instills a lot of confidence that it can handle anything I'm likely to take on and do it with style, comfort and very, very good looks.
My first kayak paddle was a Seylor Super Pro and I've put that one through some extreme use and many, many miles of paddling in several different kayaks. When I first saw the Fiber Pro, it caught my attention and I began to compare it to everything else I came across. I was looking for a little shorter paddle than my 240 Werner. The Fiber Pro is 230 cms and that, it turns out is exactly right for my sea kayak.
After some extensive use of the new Sevylor, this has become my number one paddle. The paddle strikes a fine balance between power and cruising ease. Considering the price ($79)and light weight, this paddle is a super bargain. I give it a 10.
The Loon, of course is the quintessential recreational kayak; it doesn’t pretend to be anything else — like some boats that are called transitional. At first, I thought that as a recreation kayak and with Old Town’s description of the boat in their brochure that the boat would have limited capabilities. I have to admit that it took a while before I realized the true potential of the boat, but as my experience progressed, my confidence in the Loon increased exponentially.
Stability is the Loon’s strongest suit, but seaworthiness, versatility and fun are all part of the package. I think the Loon is the all-time easiest kayak to get in and out of and with the adjustable seat it should fit just about everyone.
When I want to go exploring where I might be in and out of the boat a lot and don’t want to be concerned with balance, my sea kayak stays home and the Loon gets the job. The 138 Loon isn’t going to break any speed records, but with the right paddle/paddler it moves right along. I have no qualms about taking the Loon just about anywhere I take the sea kayak.
Along with its other assets, the Loon passes muster on specific features that I think are a must. The Loon’s hull and deck are solid and rigid; its coaming is sturdy and the boat’s ends are fine (as opposed to blunt, or rounded). And the whole thing looks right.
The 138 Loon for me is indispensable and as an all around recreation kayak, I give it a 10.
As I began to look at sea kayaks, naturally the long slender sleek designs were very appealing. At that point I didn’t realize that there are several definite and very different categories of design. I’m not sure how I gravitated toward the British style, or design, but I did. I think the Necky Chattams were the first real sea kayaks that I got to actually touch and see up close. I even got to sit in one at that time. To say the least, I didn’t like the fit at all, so I immediately started to look elsewhere. By luck there just happened to be a Sirocco sitting on the floor of the store and I was invited to try it on. My reaction was, “this is more like it.”
This initial trial sitting in sea kayaks, limited as it was, got me to thinking that I’d better do a lot more research and looking. The short version is that I narrowed my sights down to a P&H Cappella; I liked its looks and it got very positive reviews. Finally, the day came when I got the chance to try one on. Just like the Chattam, the Cappella didn’t fit. No matter how I squirmed around and tried to adjust, I couldn’t find room for my legs. There were a few other points that discouraged any more consideration of the Cappella, but the bottom line is that it got crossed off my short list.
Again, by pure luck, or providence this store just happened to have a brand new Sirocco on hand. And it was the color (white) that had caught my eye in the CD brochure that I had picked up from the previous introduction to the Current Design brand.
When the Sirocco was brought out and sat down on the floor next to the Cappella the looking was all but over. However, being a non-impulse kind of buyer, I tried to be coy and act like I was only mildly interested. The salesman took the bait and offered me a deal that I couldn’t refuse, but I managed to keep my cool composure and said, “yeah, maybe I’ll give it a test paddle.” Maybe my rear end; I could hardly wait ten seconds to get that sweet looking beauty on the water.
I knew from having read all the reviews I could find, that the Sirocco would feel a little tippy at first. I was somewhat surprised that it really didn’t feel all that tippy to me at all. I also was aware that there would be some inclination for the Sirocco to cock to windward. Nothing revealing about that, but I was taken with how adding a little skeg, instantly changed the Sirocco’s attitude.
Two other things that occurred to me during this demo were how very little evidence of velocity through the water there is and how easy it is to maneuver this boat. On the first point, I mean that it cuts such a minimal bow wave that by just looking at the water you don’t realize just how fast you’re moving. On the second point, the Sirocco isn’t the longest sea kayak, but at 16’-10”, I was all prepared to have my hands full getting the thing to bend to my will. To the contrary, the Sirocco complied with my guidance without any hesitation, and with almost no effort on my part.
I started out to talk about style, but I had to lay the groundwork. If you’re looking for the absolute fastest thing on the water, the British style probably won’t be your choice. If you’re looking for an expedition boat, you’ll probably want something with more volume. But if you’re looking for something that has curves and graceful lines in spades, in my opinion, nothing tops the British style. In the Sirocco/Gulfstream case, designer Derek Hutchinson has blended form and function into a package that I find simply gorgeous. The fact that the Sirocco is amazingly seaworthy, comfortable and competent at everything I ask of it is all pure bonus to its good looks.
Finally, in addition to all the above, I have found no reason to argue with CD’s assertion that the Sirocco is “the finest rotomolded British Style kayak available.”