I've had my Rotomoulded Etain 17-5 for a large chunk of a year now, having worn out my 8 year old Scorpio. To be fair, checking the specs, I'm just faintly under the minimum weight (65-100kg) for it at my 63 kilos but my mates always complain that I carry too much stuff, even on an easy paddle, so don't think I'm really "out of spec". I have odd legs, my left is quite disabled and bends only half at both the knee and ankle while the right is fine. But I find that I can largely get the correct footrest position compared with many boats including my old Scorpio. I wish I could bring the left up half a click - wouldn't that be nice. One day, I'll fit something on that to do what I want. The foot and leg room and the knee braces are excellent. I've also fitted one of those keel strips along the whole length in an effort to avoid wearing out the base of the boat as I did with the previous (I'm also old - 69 - so either drag or use a trolley - hence the problem). This boat has a proper keel with quite an amount of rocker, which I like. It does mean that it has an initial wobble at no speed but once on edge, it has a brilliant secondary edge and it's easy to hold. The rather small skeg surprised me and I'm still in a pondery here. This boat does not point into the wind. If I sit still, it will end up crosswind. But once I put even a little power on, its course is very true anywhere near into the wind. Strangely, as the wind approaches a crosswind I find myself putting on more and more skeg - too much! As it goes to the rear quarter, I find that irrespective of the amount of edging, it becomes a challenge. However, us old gits have old shoulders and it's usually wind in the right rear quarter where I end up using a hint of stern rudder every so often to get back on track. Perhaps I need a younger right shoulder to sweep a bit better, because on the left rear I seem to handle it somehow. As the wind approaches rear, all is well once more - I just leave the skeg fully down. As ever though, you're sometimes left wondering why the boat won't handle a decent bow rudder until you realise you've left the skeg down!! My boat rolls well. If my roll were even approaching good, I'd come up every single time. It almost seems to want to be only the right way up. I have yet to fall in by mistake but that's normal for me. In rough swells up to 2.5 metres, it handles like a dream and cuts through it like a knife through butter. This is a heavy boat and you can feel it. You can't easily accelerate into a good surf without a lot of hard strokes but it does surf well once there and I like it (not that I'm that good). The stowage areas are lovely and spacious. Contrary to what you may think, the small forward day hatch is not a removable pod, it's a piece of moulded plastic screwed under the foredeck which makes up the lower portion of the hatch. Damp comes in there if you roll - is it round the hatch cover or round the join? I do not know. The front hatch is enormous and is hard to fill up!!! The rear is a bit smaller but still pretty good. The rear day hatch is also very spacious which is just lovely. Is there anything wrong with these hatches? Yes! The covers are Valley's own and they are the worst point. First you have to fight to fit on the front and rear of each of the oval cover without the other end popping off. You finally succeed in doing that, only to realise that the whole of the hatch is not fully home. You now have to force the edges in one bit at a time with your finger tips. Here in Ireland it is often cold and cold fingers can't do this job. I've had to invent a tool to act where cold fingers can't. I've got a small wedge of wood to apply the right amount of force without compromising the rubber over time - and it works beautifully! I stow it in the front hatch, permanently. Phew! Is that all? No! The oval hatch covers have no attachment to the boat, so on your first day with your new toy, don't expect to go on the water as you'll need to fit some cord onto the wholly inadequate external attachment. And just before I finish here, the rear day hatch where you put all your 'need occasionally on the water' stuff while dry also has no attachment points at all, external or internal! I invented my own by linking together a couple of cable ties right round the rim and then attaching a cord to that. I did talk to Valley about this and was told that was why I had bought a cheaper boat - I couldn't expect all the bells and whistles!!! Thanks! I bought it because I wanted a robust boat which doesn't bust when rock hopping which I dearly love to do - and on that you really can trust it! Anything else? Seat is lovely and comfortable. There's an amount of deck lines which appears good but I'd still love a weeny bit more. Spare paddles, bilge pump, maps, paddle leash, occasional liquid refreshment tie, towline bag and I'm seriously running out of space. but there's always something you'd like even better. All in all, I like my lovely spacious boat and I'm not rushing to change it
Other issues in my generally beautiful boat (I love it really) is the skeg. Yes, you do have to tighten and eventually replace the bungee on it but it's the ratchet system which becomes impossible to pinch to move without the use of 2 hands when my hands are really cold - I paddle in all weathers.
Lastly, the wonderfully convenient small hatch in front of you, houses a totally un-watertight compartment. It's a good place to put things but don't do so if they can't cope with being wet. I keep choc bars, glasses, spare compass and spare paddle mitts and my mobile/gps in its own waterproof box in here.
I noticed one person say they could fit their size 10s inside. I have trouble with my size 7s - it's certainly not spacious. I also changed the area round the footrests by carving out a plank of wood to the shape of the inside-foot area and then cable-tying it to the footrests - I now have a foot-board and I wouldn't do without it.
I frequently come into contact with rocks on local lake island shores as well as rock-hopping in the sea. This boat takes a huge number of knocks, pain-free. It's a fast boat - I rarely come across paddlers who can keep up with me when I'm really trying and I'm not young any more.
All in all, it's a lovely boat with one or two minor issues above which I've learned to live with.
Firstly, the size of the TLC twist-lock means that, on occasions, the knurled knob comes into ever-so-slight contact with the spray deck - it's finally damaged it so much (again, the dreaded 700 hours) that I have had to replace it, due to water leakage.
Secondly. the amount of flutter has always been an issue for me. I don't do the greatest roll and I must admit, a firmer blade would build a definitely better and positive roll.
Lastly a comment about one comment made about it having "stick-tion" on withdrawal - yep, it does IF YOU LEAVE THE PADDLE IN THE WATER AND MAKE TOO LONG A STROKE. So don't, and it's fine, 'cos at that point, your stroke is way too long.
If I could rate the Company for Customer Service, I would score it 10 out of 10.