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Name: RS1

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I bought an Ocean 17 in the early fall of 2015 in Eastern Canada after having retired and finding myself once again with time to spend paddling on a frequent basis. I have been a paddler for over thirty years, I mainly did long ocean tours and expeditions in my youth. Most were on the West Coast of British Columbia, including long trips in Haida Gwaii, the West Coast of Vancouver Island and the Inside Passage. I have long years of ocean paddling and expedition experience, though I would rate my technical skills at about BCU Level 2, especially now that with age, mid sixties, I am not as strong or limber as I once was. I bought the Ocean because I was looking for a British Style kayak that I could use as an all rounder, both as a day paddling and play boat as well as for longer tours. But it was primarily because I wanted a boat that would allow me to take some skills courses and to improve my technique in rough water and currents that I chose the Ocean 17.

I looked at other boats including the Excape, Atlantic, Cetus and Ocean 17.6. I chose the Ocean 17 for two primary reasons: 1) The partial hard chine, or wings as North Shore calls them; and 2) I wanted a slightly shorter boat that would be a tighter fit and would be more maneuverable and playful to paddle than my longer, bigger expedition style kayaks.

The hard chine bit: I paddled a North American designed boat called the Mariner Expedition as my primary expedition boat throughout the 80's and early 90s. It was 18'6'' long, 21 inches wide, had hard chines, no rudder or skeg, but carried a huge load and was extremely fast. It also surfed very well even when heavily loaded and had huge secondary stability, but it was a bear to turn without extreme lean and huge effort with the paddle. I loved that boat, but it was a young man's boat because of the effort required to maneuver it.

When I turned the Ocean 17 hull side up in the shop, I had an uh huh moment. It reminded me a lot of my old Mariner, but was much shorter and with the hard wing chine with a rounded hull profile at both ends. As I looked at the hull, I suspected it would surf well, have excellent primary and secondary stability and yet turn easily when put on edge. This because of its narrow width, shorter length and because both the bow and stern would tend to skid with their more rounded chine profiles. Looking at the hull profile, I decided on the spot that this was the boat for me.

I have been paddling this boat for 2 years now including on the Great Lakes, the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers, and a trip to the Maine Coast. I moved back to the West Coast last Fall and have since spent a lot of time paddling her in what is known locally as the Salish Sea. My family has a cottage in the San Juan Islands and I have paddled the Ocean on day trips in Fall and Winter gales and on a couple of extended tours in the area which is known for big currents, big channel crossings, wind and unpredictable weather.

Boat Fit - I am 6 feet tall, 210 pounds, with a 34 inch inseam and size 10 feet. The Ocean 17 fits me like a glove, the cockpit, seat and knee braces feel like they were made for me. The foot braces are rock solid yet easy to adjust. I can maneuver the boat easily with minimal effort because of its excellent cockpit design, seat and fit. In fact, some times when paddling, I look at the sea birds around me and feel a kinship with them, I literally feel at one with the sea. I can paddle the Ocean for hours and remain comfortable and happy.

Handling - This boat handles exactly like I envisioned when I looked at the hull in the shop. It feels lively, yet reassuringly steady and mannerly in rough water. The primary and secondary stability are excellent with a hard chine feel when put on edge, yet it turns smoothly and easily like a soft chined boat, the best of both worlds. It surfs wind waves and boat wakes very easily, though I have yet to try it in breaking shore surf. It is quite a fast kayak and keeps up with longer boats paddled by younger men easily, loaded or empty.

The Ocean 17 is a brilliant all rounder: I have paddled this boat a lot empty as a day boat and sought out rough conditions often with winds of 25 knots plus and with wave heights to 3 or 4 feet, in order to practice my paddling skills. I have also loaded it and gone out to the Boundary Pass Area of the Northern San Juans for a week as well as to the Gulf Islands in Canada. I need to pack a little more carefully than I do with my bigger expedition boats, but she carries enough food and gear for extended tours with a little thought and planning. She also handles very well loaded. Because of her low profile, she will take a little water on deck in rough conditions, but sheds it well and remains mannerly and solid in the handling department. She turns easily and can wander a bit in following wind and seas, but deploying a bit of skeg makes her track very well. The bulkheads and Valley hatch covers are excellent and the cargo remains bone dry, not a drop of water in the cargo holds ever. The boat is very well constructed and solid.

Finally, Aesthetics - The design of the boat and the colors are very pleasing to look at. I have had on several occasions had sail and power boaters come up to me on shore as I paddled in to the beach and ask me about the boat and tell me how beautiful she looked as I approached. My Ocean is the Tangerine orange and white color scheme. Having non-paddlers approach to tell me my boat is beautiful is not something I have had happen in any other boat I have owned or paddled.

So, I guess I have given my Ocean 17 a rave review. She is for me the ultimate all rounder, if I had to own just one boat, I still own several, the Ocean would be the one.

Impex Category Force 5, Now Manufactured by Abitibi & Co. in Quebec

About me: I've been paddling ocean kayaks for about 35 years. Mostly expedition paddling of two weeks or more. I've paddled a lot on the west coast of Canada, less in Nova Scotia, Maine and the Great Lakes. I have paddled a lot of boats a lot of miles: Mariner, Nimbus, Nordkap, Necky, Current Designs. I currently own the Force 5, a North Shore Ocean 17 ( another great boat ), and a Nimbus Telkwa. The Force 5 is my latest acquisition, purchased as a very fast expedition kayak with a nod to all the years that I paddled a Grand Mariner. I wanted a fast, rudderless expedition kayak that didn't take as much effort and body language to paddle and correct as my old Grand Mariner did.

I spent 4 days in early November 2016, trialing my K-lite layup Force 5 in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. The place where I launch is on Hale Passage, a small straight between the mainland and Lummi Island. It is known for strong tidal currents and verying bottom geography which creates strong rips and upwellings. The first two days, there were both strong tides running and winds from 25 to 30 knots. On the first day, the wind was gusting against a 3 knot ebb tide creating white capping waves of over one metre in the main channel.

So how did this boat perform? She is 18 feet long and less than 21 inches wide, with a flat bottom and virtually no rocker. I was paddling her empty for my sea trials.

What can I say/ I LOVE this boat! On calm flat water, she feels stable and docile. As soon as you get on living water though, she begins to show her Thoroughbred lines and personality. Each day, it took me ten to fifteen minutes to get accustomed to her liveliness in moving tidal currents and waves, but once my own skitishness settled, she showed her true capabilities. The boat is fast, very fast! She tracks like an arrow on a flat keel, but turns easily on edge. She handles rough water and breaking waves with ease, a simple lean or a quick brace and carry on. She fits like a glove and I felt wholly at one with this boat. She tracks and handles extremely well without deploying the skeg. The only exception is a bit of moderate weather cocking with strong following winds, which deploying a bit of skeg quickly corrects.

On my third day of trials, the wind moderated to light and I took her out for a power paddle around the South end of Lummi Island. Did I mention this boat is fast? On my return up Island again in Hale Passage, I paddled her against another strong ebb. She cut throught the ebb current and paddled into it with little decrease in speed or increase in effort.

The Force 5 is a fast expedition boat par excellence. The useable packing volume is rated at 181 litres. The total volume is listed a 380 litres which is excellent for a British style design. I can get an extra 10 or15 litres of storage with a dry bag in front of the foot braces, so she will definitely handle enough gear for extended expeditions. I plan to use that capability for two trips this spring and summer on the Salish Sea and the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

This is definitely a boat for an experienced paddler, however, I think she would also reward a keen novice who is careful, takes some time and instruction and is keen to learn. With the three versions, Category 3, 4 and 5, there is a size of this design to fit most paddlers.

The Impex line is now manufactured by Abatibi & Co. located in Northwestern Quebec. They apparently have the same quality control manager as did Mid-Canada Fibreglass who previously manufactured these boats. I am very happy, no "stoked" that Impex line of kayaks will still be built to the highest of North American standards. So many North American kayak manufacturers have gone out of business, or been bought out by multi-national corporations that decrease quality and eliminate models that are not huge sellers in the low end recreational market. Cudo's to Abitibi and Co., may you have success and continue to produce and sell performance ocean kayaks that are built for adventure and to last.