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The Ocean 17 has efficient forward speed similar to the Cetus LV, yet it turns smartly when put on edge. It's also easy to roll as my play in the above tidal race proved. The kayak is a high quality fiberglass/diolene build and for those of you who may not know it comes out of the Valley factory. All four Valley hatches are tethered and stay bone dry.
I find the stable and robust Yakima foot braces to be a real plus and the fourth hatch on the fore deck is very handy for quick access items (glasses, flares, etc.)
North Shore is best known in the UK, but their kayaks can be found in the US. If you are looking for a 16-17' all-rounder give this one a try. As with all my kayaks purchased since 2007, the Ocean 17 came from Marshall at 'The River Connection' in Hyde Park, NY, where customer service really matters.
If I have any complaint it's that the Telos takes up a bit of storage space in my vehicle. I generally end up storing it in our roof box. The user needs to take some care in wiping off the areas on body panels where the Telos suctions cups will go. That will eliminate scratches. You also need the set the placement of the suctions cups so they fall near an edge or contour on a body panel. This is where the panel is most ridged. If you simply place a suction cup in the middle of a thin body panel that can lead to the denting that has happened to some owners.
I first test paddled the P&H Scorpio LV during a 4-day sea kayak camp back in the Fall on 2008 (see my initial review below). I eventually purchased a Scorpio LV ('Mark 1') in June 2011. I paddled it for 4 years before replacing it with the newly updated Scorpio LV (MK2) early this summer. Since taking delivery of the MK2 I have logged quite a few on-water miles including trips to Narragansett Bay, RI; and the mid-coast of Maine. The kayak has been paddled in a wide range of conditions from dead-flat local waters; to bumpy beam seas in Rhode Island; to tidal races and rock hopping/surfing in Maine. I've found that although the Scorpio LV (MK2) may not be the "best boat" for any single task, it performs quite nicely in a wide variety of venues. Hence the label "all-rounder".
The Scorpio LV (MK2) inspires confidence in challenging conditions. Novice will appreciate it's initial stability, but intermediate paddlers will like it on edge. It is well out-fitted kayak and rolls easily. Three of the four Kajaksport hatches are nearly water-tight, letting in only a teaspoon or two of water even when getting window-shaded multiple times in the surf zone. The small 4th hatch on the fore-deck is not watertight, but it is handy. The hatch lid seals solidly, but this "glove box" style compartment can pick-up water internally via the cockpit (e.g. when rolling or deep sculling). P&H kindly warns users of this. I simply dry-bag any items I am worried about, such as a cell phone.
Having paddled both the Mark 1 and now the Mark 2, I can offer a direct comparison. The MK1 was quite skeg dependent if one was trying to maintain a straight course even in moderate crosswinds. However, the kayak could easily be turned when on edge and with the skeg was fully deployed. I found this handling characteristic odd, but usually fun. It's understandable that many users did not care for this trait in following or beam seas. The new MK2 really does not need much skeg at all and if the skeg is deployed the boat will remain on a straight course even if edged, which honestly is the way it should work. The MK2 will turn nicely for a 17 footer if edged when not deploying the skeg. Yes, the MK1 could carve a slightly tighter turn than the MK2, but at the loss of predictable forward tracking.
Handling summary: The Mark 2 definitely has a better overall balance of handling characteristics.
My Mark 1 came with the original P&H skeg control slider, which had the annoying tendency to be a sticky and often difficult to use. I find the new skeg or 'Scudder' system on the Mark 2 easier to deploy and trim. The slider has also been relocated to a more convenient location right along the cockpit coaming. This allows one to easily avoid hitting it unintentionally with the left hand.
With the new MK2 P&H reduced the height of the rear of the cockpit coaming making lay-back rolls a little easier, however, I found my original MK1 was no slouch in the rolling or bracing department. One nice change I did not anticipate was a reduction in the overall length of the MK2 cockpit and a corresponding increase in the volume of the bow storage compartment. I believe P&H moved the forward bulkhead closer to the paddler by approximately 2 inches. I only noticed this because on my MK1 I had the footbraces set back two slots from their forward most setting, yet there was still considerable empty space between the forward bulkhead and the foot braces. The original cockpit was really too long. On the MK2 I have the footbraces set all the way forward in the last available slot, and the wasted volume in front of the foot pegs has been reduced. Ironically I also found that I have just a little more toe room for my size 10 shoes in the MK2. In the MK1 toe room was tight, particularly if I was wearing my dry suit and heavier water shoes/boots. With my 31" inseam I fit nicely in the boat and it appears that the length of the bow storage area has been increased by those 2". I appreciate the additional storage space. Note: if you have a 32"+ inseam, or greater than size 10 shoes I suspect you will have to move to the larger Scorpio.
P&H continues to use their 'Corelite' tri-laminate poly for the Scorpio. Having bounced off many rocks in both versions I find it to be a very durable and UV resistant material.
Is there a downside to this boat? Well, it's not the lightest 17' kayak on the market, but I never expected it to be. Ironically it's only ~5 pounds heavier than my comparable 17' glass British-style boat. For all its features, balanced handling characteristics, and durability the Scorpio LV (MK2) costs less than half the price of many new composite sea kayaks.
User Summary: This is a solid sea kayak and has become one of my all-time favorite boats. It's a very nice upgrade from the original model design. The P&H Scorpio LV (MK2) is a keeper and I am temped to give it a 10 out of 10, but I was taught that there is always room for improvement. If one is looking for a 16 to 17 foot, plastic all-rounder, I believe it is the best currently on the market, and I have paddled quite a few including, but not limited to: WS Tempest 165 and 170; WS Tsunami 145/155; Capella 166 RM; Chatham 16 RM; Valley Avocet RM; and Aquanaut LV RM.
Fwiw: my Scorpio LV was purchased from Marshall at The River Connection. Based on the great service I have consistently received over the last 8 years I will continue to buy my kayaks there.
It's a wonderful paddle and feels like an extension of one's upper body. I believe it is the lightest paddle I have ever used, yet the lay-up feels quite robust. My current paddle is a Werner Cyprus, which is a nice blade, however, I find the flutter that that Cyprus generates to be an annoyance. I found the Storm's blade entry to be quiet and there is NO flutter!
The Storm's dihedral blade made some strokes, that I occasionally struggle with, simply effortless (e.g. draw with in-water recovery). The Storm has very positive indexing for proper hand placement and it's easy to adjust the feather with Lendal's Pad-Lock system.
The crank version of the shaft is the first bent-shaft I have found acceptable for my personal style of paddling: high angle; Ben Lawry and Marshall Seddon coached, etc.
There will be one of the Storm's in my future. I just need to chose whether I want to stick with a straight shaft or go with a the crank, both would work for me.
Regrettably, for those looking for a review of the Cetus LV, you are going to be disappointed. "Move along now, there is nothing for you to see here." Perhaps someone else will review the smallest Cetus, or maybe I'll write it up at a later date, but only after I get some additional butt time in the boat. Meanwhile, back to the demo...
After I padded the new P&H for about 30 minutes Marshall politely suggested that I also try the North Shore Polar. In all honesty I really did not want to give up the Cetus LV. It is currently "The Hot Boat" and what I was really there to paddle. The Polar hadn't even garnered a second look from me. It was a lesson learned: Don't always go for the 'prom queen' when the cute, shy girl in the corner may be a better bet. Part of this was my own bias. The Polar has noticeable hard chimes, and I had previously owned another hard-chimed boat, the NF Silhouette. Over time I grew to really dislike many characteristics of the Silhouette. The Silhouette has rounded bottom to go with its hard chimes. It tends to rock from chime-to-chime and it is far more stable being underway and locked on one chime than it is sitting at rest. The Silhouette has a twitchy feel and rather vague secondary stability. I expected similar characteristics out of the North Shore Polar, but I had not looked at the boat closely. I would be quite wrong in my preconceptions. I grudgingly gave up the Cetus and gave the Polar a try.
I immediately noticed a number of positive things that I often take for granted in a sea kayak. The Polar has quite a comfortable seating arrangement, which included Valley's latest seat pan and backband; aggressive knee hooks (more aggressive than on my Aquanaut LV); and easy to adjust Yakima footpegs. The Polar is also equipped with 'bone-dry' VCP hatches (two ovals and the round day hatch). The build quality of this boat was very high with fully glassed-in RDFs; quality perimeter lines and elastics; a clean, even gelcoat; and no sharp edges in the lay-up. It's a nice looking boat. It may not be the 'prom queen', but it's very well done.
Paddling the Polar was another eye-opener. It inspired confidence, even when testing my very rusty balancing abilities. Yes, the Polar sports hard chimes, but instead of a rounded hull, it has a shallow 'V' shape. Its personality is substantially different than that of the NF Silhouette.
The Polar has very good initial stability and secondary stability that just did not seem to end. Boy can one really heel this boat over! Fully committed sculling for support was easily. Even with my long unused rolling skills this boat almost rolled itself. The Polar has a low back deck, so lay-backs were a non-issue. The Polar's hull is an interesting design and is better seen in-person than having me try to describe it. It is unique in the boats I have paddled, but it works quite well. The Polar does not have a lot of deck overhang in either the bow or stern as found on most British-style sea kayaks. The bow is not plumb, but neither is it needle-nosed. This helps reduces its windage (susceptibility to wind) and it also increases the Polar's wetted waterline. This makes the Polar as efficient to paddle as many boats that have a longer overall length. In short, the Polar could easily match the pace of the 8" longer Cetus LV (Hey we had a gps and checked-it out).
There was some wind during this flat water demo (10-15 knots) and with no paddler input the Polar had slight tendency to weathercock. That was easily corrected with just a touch of skeg. The Polar's cable controlled skeg was easy to deploy and adjust. It appeared to be identical to the skegs found on my personal Valley boats. The Polar has a bit of rocker, so it is also no slouch in the turning department, particularly when heeled. The Polar also had a surprising amount of cargo capacity even though it has the look-and-feel of a 'low' volume kayak. According to each manufacturer's specs the Polar actually has 60 liters more carrying capacity than the Cetus LV. One would certainly not realize that by looking at the two boats side-by-side!
I'm roughly 5'8", 153 pounds and I have size 10 shoes. Although I could not find any sizing guidance on the North Shore website I suspect that I fall right in the middle of the Polar's intended paddler weight range. I will hazard a guess that the Polar would best fit someone from 120 to 180 pounds. It would not be the boat for a truly petite person or the Johnny Beefcakes of the the world.
Summary: The entire North Shore kayak line is sort of being stealth marketed here in the US, so you may not have heard of them. However, North Shore has been around since 1982. I was so intrigued by the Polar's on-water performance that the Cetus LV received the short-end of the stick at the demo. Ah, an excuse to give the Cetus another spin in the future! I think it can be generally agreed that for many small to medium sized paddlers, who are looking for one, good 'all-round' sea kayak a 17 foot boat, give or take, is often a great choice. That is why there are so many roughly 17 foot boats out there. If that is what you are shopping for don't make the initial mistake I did, and overlook the 16'9" Polar. The Polar's maneuverability, efficiency (speed) and low windage are a real nice blend of characteristics. This is one fine sea kayak.
Finally the icing on the cake is the Polar's MSRP. It runs about 10% less than comparable composite British-style kayaks. I should note that the Polar is only available in a fiberglass/diolene lay-up, but with hatches it only trips the scales at about 53 pounds.
John had just taken delivery on the boat from P&H and it was still sporting new factory tags. Initially John asked me if I wanted to try it on for fit, since I had indicated to him that I had demoed the Standard Scorpio at The River Connection on the Hudson River (Hyde Park, NY) earlier this summer. I had really liked the standard Scorpio's characteristics, but it was simply too big on me. I go 5'9" and about 150 pounds with size 10 feet. I slipped into the cockpit. The boat was a decent fit and I had yet to adjust either the pegs or movable thigh/knee braces. I could get my bum in the boat and then slip in my feet, which is a feature I really appreciate in a kayak. I estimate that those having feet much over size 10.5 or 11 are going to find foot room quite snug. This is due to the relatively low fore deck and the 'knee tube' that forms the compartment for the fourth hatch. I had no problems using my size 10.5 ankle-high Five-Ten water booties with a dry suit and medium weight socks.
After lunch on Day one of the camp John asked if I would like give it a test drive? Oh, boy! The Scropio LV would end up being the only boat I would paddle for the next 3+ days as my own Valley Avocet RM sat collecting sand on the shore.
Conditions: I paddled the boat in a variety of conditions from nearly pancake flat water with less than 5 knot winds, up to 4-5' seas with some breaking waves, steady 20 knot winds and some higher gusts.
In short the Scorpio LV was a dream to paddle. It is one of the few plastic boats I have been in that feel like a composite kayak. It paddles and maneuvers as well backward as it does forward. The Scorpio LV exhibited very good initial stability for kayak with a 21" beam, yet I could really crank it up on edge before I got it past the point of no return (great secondary stability).
The Scorpio LV did very well in the soup and handled the 4-5' beam seas without difficulty. It holds a straight course better than my Avocet RM, but turns just as well if edged. Boy does it turn.
I noticed that the Scorpio does weathercock quite a bit more than either of my Valley boats. This is easily corrected with proper use of the skeg. I did not have to fully deploy the skeg in the 20+ knot beam winds. P&H's new 'Kink-Free' skeg is quite different in design than those I have previously used. It is not quite a simple slider. As a rookie user, I did struggled a bit with skeg deployment and adjustment. I simply should have asked John or Ben how to use the new skeg, but I was reluctant to look a bit foolish. Note to self: "The only stupid questions are the ones not asked". :-[
I came across this video after I returned home from the camp. I recommend it to all potential P&H kayak users. I was definitely trying to squeeze the slider and click release mechanism together, which IS NOT the way to adjust this skeg.
The Scorpio LV is equipped with four Kajaksport hatches. Apparently P&H uses slightly different Kajaksport lids on their new composite boats. The forward/aft hatch covers on the Scorpio and Scorpio LV are of a soft rubber material, where as the hatches on the new composite P&H kayaks have a harder plastic-like top with softer rubber-like sides (the day hatches are the same on both composite and poly P&H boats). I am not sure why P&H uses slightly different forward/aft hatch covers on it's composite boats than on the Scorpio series. Cost?
I did have to adjust my mounting technique when using the Scorpio's Kajaksport covers. I am quite use to using VCP lids, which have almost a Tupperware-like seal. I found that the soft rubber Kajaksport hatches had some stretch to them. They are almost like mounting a tight spray deck or cockpit cover. At times I would just about have the aft KS hatch fully mounted when it would slip off the opposite side of the rim. Once properly sealed, the KS covers proved to be water tight. I had no unintentional hatch dislodgements, even after performing a number of rescues. I had previously experienced this sort of problem on the 2004 Tempest 165 Pro, that I once owned (with Wildy's proprietary hatches).
The Scorpio LV is the only boat, since my Tempest, that I could perform a successfully scramble/cowboy rescue on. I believe that is due to the very flat aft deck and the boat's overall stability.
The Scorpio LV rolled quite nicely, but I could probably do even better with some additional personalized fit adjustments.
- A very nice all-round British Sea kayak. It actually feels like a composite boat
- Overall cockpit fit
- Handling: a very nice balance of initial and secondary stability
- Great forward and reverse maneuverability, yet the Scorpio LV still has very decent tracking (ability to hold a straight heading)
- Excellent rough water handling manners
- Outfitting: handy 4th hatch, 'kink-free' skeg, very comfortable seat pan and backband, even without the seat pad in-place (see below)
- Tri-laminate poly construction. You can kick the Sh!t out of it.
- With an MSRP of $2,000 it is not cheap for a plastic sea kayak. That is about $250 more than comparable Valley RM boat, but it is $1,400 less than a stock P&H composite kayak.
- I would prefer that P&H use the same Kajaksport hatch covers on the Scorpio LV that they use on all their new composite boats. I actually tried the aft lid off a new Cetus on the Scorpio and I found it a bit easier to mount. It snapped right into place without stretching and slipping off the hatch rim.
- I had an issue once on a reentry. The P&H backband became really twisted around. I almost had to wet exit the boat again to unwind the backband, but I received an assist from a follow paddler. It should be noted that the fabric/foam seat pad had not yet been installed in this boat. It is shipped that way from the factory and the pad was stored in the forward compartment. The presence of the seat pad might have aided in keeping the backband in place.
I need to spend more time using the new P&H skeg slider. I am obviously not accustom to it.
Observation: on the last day of the camp we had our boats lined up on the beach prior to launching. We were working on navigation 'problems'. One of the teams actually used the aft deck of my Scorpio to lay out their chart and calculate their course. Two in their group apparently ended up pulled quite a bit of weight on the deck of the Scorpio. Ben noticed that they had deformed the hatch cover. Initially I didn't think anything of it. Ben reset the lid, but then I watched him put up on the aft deck lines near the day hatch to pull the deck up. Apparently the aft deck had sagged a bit under the combined upper body weight of the two paddlers. This surprised me a wee bit. The Scorpio is built from stiffer tri-laminate poly. It was not a hot day, nor where the paddlers overly heavy.
Standard Declaimer: I have no affiliation with P&H or Sea Cliff Kayakers, nor do I own a P&H boat.
Scorpio LV specs:
Length: 509 cm / 16'7"
Width: 53.8cm / 21"
Volume: 2755 lts / 73 gals
Weight Range: 45-105 kgs / 99-235 lbs
Depth: 325 mm / 12.8"
Front hatch: 35 lts / 9 gals
Day Hatch: 17.6 lts / 4.6 gals
Rear Hatch: 55.6 lts / 14.7 gals
Fourth Hatch: 4 lts / 1 gal
Cockpit Length (internal): 75.7 cm / 30"
Cockpit Width (internal): 45 cm / 17.7"
Cockpit Length (external): 84 cm / 33"
Cockpit Length (external): 48c m / 18.8"
I run about 5' 8" and weigh around 155 pounds. I prefer a close fitting cockpit for greater boat control. I have to pad the heck out of many popular boats with foam to get a decent fit (i.e. VCP Avocet, QCC 600, Explorer). I tend to gravitate to all-round day boats. Kayaks that can used for coastal exploration, in surf and rock gardens, but will not be left behind on a long crossing. Moderate gear carry capacity is also a necessity for my normal day kit and the occasional overnighter. The Tempest fitted my needs nicely and I purchased a Tempest 165 Pro (glass) in the summer of 2004.
The Tempest shares many attributes with the Romany/Explorer including its seaworthiness. maneuverability, and secondary stability. I give the nod to the Tempest in these areas:
Initial stability: I find that's its a shade better, but not by much. It's a toss-up on secondary stability, both have an ample share.
Maneuverability: laid on edge the Tempest turns more quickly than the Explorer, but then it's over a foot shorter, so that's to be expected.
Deck rigging: plenty of well thought out spots to store your stuff. You can secure you spare paddle on either the fore or aft deck, your choice.
Skeg: it is very easy to deploy and adjust trim on the Tempest, particularly when compared to an Explorer with a rope skeg.
Weight: the Tempest is about 5-7 pounds lighter than the NDK boats in a glass lay-up.
Quality of construction: no rough interior edges, uneven hatch rims, blems in the gelcoat or leaky skeg boxes
Paddling efficiency: it seems faster that the Explorer, but I have not taken any GPS readings for comparison.
The Tempest is considerably faster than the Chatham 16. Boy, paddling the Chatham 16 is like pushing a barge up river. Necky raves about the Chatham 16's surfing ability but you have to catch the wave first. Good luck! ; - ) Footbraces: being able to adjust the footbrace on the fly, but see my counter-comment below.
Obviously the Explorer has the Tempest beat on carrying capacity, but I'm normally a day tripper, so the Wildy has more than enough room. I am sure that with the use of my backpacking gear I could paddle and camp out of the Tempest for a week and that would be all the room I would need.
If you are wondering why I didn't make a closer comparison to the NDK Romany, it is because I do not fit particularly well in the Romany's cockpit. The knee/thigh braces just fall in the wrong place.
Now what do I perceive as issues or disadvantages of the Tempest?
Wildy is owned by Confluence, a huge outdoor sports conglomerate. You will find direct customer service from Wildy/Confluence to be nonexistent. They will send to your "local dealer". I have found dealer support to be spotty a best. It should be pointed out that I have received great support and advice directly from Steve Scherrer (Flatpick) the designer of the Tempest. I just wish I lived in Oregon near Steve and the rest of his paddling buddies. They are a great group of folks.
Unlike P&H, NDK, VCP, Impex and others you cannot order a Tempest with any owner specified options, such as custom placed forward bulkhead or keel strip.
If your back-up self-rescue is a reenter-and-roll you will most likely find the Tempest's foot braces problematic. Under normal paddling conditions the ability to adjust the Wildy footbraces on the move is pretty handy. However, if you capsize, wet exit, and try to re-enter the boat you will probably knock the footbraces all the way forward. When inverted these foot braces do not lock in-place like Werner/Yakima braces. That's the trade-off. The adjustability feature makes it a bit harder to solidly brace your feet when reentering while upside-down. It's certainly doable, but you have to really concentrate on the position of you feet.
Hatch covers. This is the single biggest issue I have with the Tempest. Wildy uses a proprietary in-house hatch system for their boats. This in itself is not an issue, but......
I have had my bow hatch (once) and aft hatch (multiple times) dislodged during rescue drills. Sea conditions were not a factor. Conditions were flat. The hatches were mounted with care, so it was not user error. Wildy's large oval aft hatch is particularly irksome in this area. Due to the size of the hatch and the beam of the T-165, the aft hatch actually over-hangs the hull by just a smidge (Note: this is not a concern on the wider T-170 and T-180). It is very easy for a swimmer/victim that is coming up over your deck to hook the lip of the hatch cover with their PFD and pull it off. I have done this myself performing a 'cowboy' reentry. It can even occur if you use the supplied bungies which aid in securing the covers. I have never had this happen with VCP or Kajak Sport hatch covers when performing rescues.
I should note that the Tempest's hatches have never accidental dislodged while just paddling, even in rough water. It's rescues that are a cause for concern. I can foresee an ugly scenario: you have to perform an assisted-rescue in heavy seas, and one of your hatches is accidentally knocked-off by the victim. At least Wildy tethers the hatch covers to the boat, so you will not lose them.
I see two possible solutions to this problem:
(1) develop a hatch that seals more securely (e.g. that old Tupperware vacuum seal)
(2) replace the aft oval hatch with one that is circular. The aft storage compartment on the Tempest 165 is not overly large. You do not need a hatch cover that is almost 1.5 times larger in surface area than that of a VCP to gain access to the compartment. A smaller circular opening, ala NDK will do just fine.
As others have indicated, I have had some weepage with the Tempest's hatches, particularly the aft oval (half cup of water). I have had both the day hatch and bow hatch remain bone dry, but occasionally I will see a less than a teaspoon of water in the bow compartment. This is after extensive rolling and sculling practice and I do not normally use the provided bungies on these hatches. I should mention that Wildy hatches are far easier to mount and remove in cold weather than either VCP or Kajak Sport.
The Wildy Phase 3 seat is pretty high tech (i.e. straps, adjustment, moveable padding) and possibly not to everyone's liking, but I find it extremely comfortable and easy to adjust. With the multitude of adjustments you can get a customized, secure fit with little effort. The Tempest backband provides more that adequate support and does not get in the way on reentries. Lay-back rolls are a snap (pun intended) in the Tempest. I can fully layout on the aft deck.
As to durability, I have not babied the Tempest in practice or rock gardens and it has held up well. The Tempest tips the scales at every ounce of its stated 55 pound weight in glass and I find that it balances well and is an easy solo carry.
I will not give this or any other boat a rating of '10'. I would have given it a '9' if it wasn't for the hatch covers, but you should keep in mind that the only kayak I would currently trade it for is another Tempest in Kevlar. ; - )
Manufacturing issues: Roughly finished interior on the underside of the cockpit and a leaky skeg box. Seaward provided materials for me to fix the rough finish and I leaned a lot in the process of making these repairs. The work on the cockpit came out very nice, but these problems should have been caught at the factory. As for the leaky skeg box, it stayed a minor annoyance. I located the leak at the point where the skeg cable housing enters the compression fitting above the skeg box, however, after repeated tries I was never able to eliminate the leak completely.
Note that my rating of this boat is based mainly on its handling characteristics and not several small QC issues. Most new composite boats seem to have one bug or another. Heck, they are not put together by CNC robots.
What did I like about the Silhouette? It is a beauty. The design has clean sharp lines, and strong hard chimes. The Silhouette handles heavy "chop" very well and usually manages winds nicely, but more about that below. In Kevlar the boat weighed 53 pounds including hatches and skeg, so it made for a easy lift on to my roof rack and carry to the launch site. At 5' 9" and 150 lbs., I fit in the cockpit very well.
The Silhouette is equipped with two oval and one round VCP hatch covers. These are water tight if installed correctly (i.e. double sealed). Be sure to use 303 Protectant on them occasionally for UV protection. Nigel Foster designed boats are unique in that the day hatch is mounted behind your left arm. To my knowledge, all other boats from major kayak manufacturers are equipped with the day hatch the right side. I actually prefer Foster's set up. It allows me to brace with my right hand and open the hatch with my left. In the Silhouette it is easy to store a hand pump along the side of the seat pinned between the hull and seat hanger.
The Silhouette is a quick boat, but it is not the fastest 18 footer on the water (OK, you caught me. It's actually 17' 10"). The low rear deck, cockpit coaming and back band allow for easy lay-back rolls. Some have complained about Seawards paddled polyethylene backband, but I had no problems with it.
Edging up on a hard chime allows fairly easy turning for such a long boat and you can really lock it up on edge when sculling for support. The Seaward version of the Silhouette is equipped with a much larger diameter skeg cable than the Walden or Dutch version. The skeg itself is a nice thin alloy foil and is easy to deploy or adjust from the cockpit via a large slider.
Now, what didn't I like? The Silhouette does not have full perimeter deck lines. I am not sure why, you will have to ask Nigel Foster about this omission. Not a major issue you say? Well, if you miss your roll and someone has to perform an assisted rescue on your boat the problem will become evident. There is no adequate place for a rescuer to quickly grab on to your boat during a T-rescue. Don't believe me? Give it a try. My paddling partners hated to pair-up with me for rescue practice.
The hard plastic seat pan is not overly comfortable compared to let's say P&H's fanny pans. I managed to crack mine doing hard practice rolls, but the seat was still serviceable and easy to fix with a bit of epoxy.
The Silhouette has light initial stability and moderate secondary stability. Some call it "twitchy". It is not a boat I ever fully relaxed in, even when I became accustom to it. The Silhouette is most stable underway, not rocking in place from chime to chime. I mentioned that the Silhouette takes on chop well, however, I found it to be a load to handle in heavy beam or following seas. If the wind is also blowing from the beam the boat's handing characteristics further deteriorate as it does weathercock a bit. Deploying the skeg will help, but if the sea is rough and the wind is strong you will be in for an interesting ride. Due to these handling characteristics I decided that the Silhouette was not for me and I have moved on to another kayak.
I am sure there are more capable paddlers out there that would have no trouble using the Silhouette in "conditions" (Mr. Foster comes to mind), but I prefer a less nervous boats for going out in "lumpy" seas. Your miles may vary ; - )
Thanks for listening.