This is an update to my earlier review (see below).
Nearly three years with the Islay now, and I'm still impressed. I use it solely now for training on the river. I bought a second-hand P&H Scorpio for the sea. I'm updating the review in the light of comparison with the Scorpio - they are both P&H designed so share the same DNA.
Speed. Now I've got my technique back I can cruise the Islay at 4.2 knots (4.8 mph) on flat water over a 4 mile course. That's a strong pace for any kayak. I put it down to the low rocker which gives a long waterline. In comparison I can cruise the Scorpio (17') on flat water at 4.5 knots. Not much difference - but the Scorpio has a lot more rocker. The Islay is hard work to accelerate into a sprint - I can reach maybe 5.8 mph, but you really feel the hull has reached its limits.
Tracking. With more practice I now think the tracking is good. I guess it's down to the low rocker again. I still think the boat is a bit too high volume for my weight - 65 kilos; there is too much freeboard so I'm weather cocking a lot. The skeg fixes it no problem, but in wind I need all the skeg all the time. If I were buying again I'd definitely take a lower volume model. I get similar problems with the Scorpio (I'm right at the bottom end of the weight range), and overall it tracks less well than the Islay.
Maneuverability. The boat is still a joy to paddle for practicing edging, bow rudders and draw strokes. With the low rocker it's all about edge of course - so it's a great way of developing edge control. The edge is stable, secure and predictable. With practice you can make tight fast turns; and under way it's just great fun to be able to put the boat exactly where you want it.
So my summary after three years of use: it suits my needs as a training boat for developing my forward stroke. Great for beginners and intermediates for developing boat control. Great as a rock-hopper and explorer where agility counts. Fast enough for any club outing. I'd recommend it for lakes and rivers - I wish I had more opportunity to try it on the sea again.
I've been using my Scorpio for about two years. I do mostly day trips on the North East Coast (UK). Conditions up to force 4 and swell/ waves 4-5 feet. I am BCU 3* Sea - so paddling at intermediate standard.
I got on well with this boat from the start. Soft chines and the flattish area under the cockpit give reasonable primary stability. Secondary stability is really good; it's a boat which likes to edge, and when you give it a moderate angle it becomes nimble and agile. This makes rock-hopping great fun, and with a range of draw and bow strokes you'd never think the boat was 16' 11".
There is enough keel and a reasonably narrow beam to ensure good tracking and speed. I can cruise at 4.5-5 knots and experience no difficulty keeping pace with friends in composites.
In rougher water it is a confidence-inspiring boat. Paddling with biggish flows around Penryn Mawr it was rock solid - and great fun. Surfing in flows (waves 3-4 feet) - no problem! It broaches when landing in breaking-surf with 3-4 foot waves - but then most kayaks would.
What I like most about it is that it's quick enough for the company I paddle in (I like to be out in front), it's got great maneuverability, and it looks after me in rough water.
Cons - I am 65 kgs which puts me right at the bottom end of the weight range for the boat. I'm also 5' 10" and can't get my size 8 boots properly into the LV version. If i don't load extra ballast into the boat I float too high and start to weathercock in even a moderate breeze. The skeg is effective, but I find I'm using it much of the time and it's always all or nothing - if I need skeg I need it all.
P & H have introduced an MV version in the new Mk 2 Scorpio - I tried this recently and found it better for me. I'm nearer the middle of the weight range for an MV so there was less windage and I could actually trim the skeg to the wind conditions. I just can't afford a brand new boat.
I think the Scorpio Mk 1 is a great all-round boat and the perfect platform if you are looking for something on which to test and improve your handling and rough water skills.
Check out Ebay or Gumtree and you'll see they are popular on the second-hand market which means when you come to sell it on it will hold its value well.
I was using a Werner Tybee FG 215 for some time. It's reasonably light, reliable, and has worn well.
About 6 months ago I bought a Shuna Bent 210 (carbon shaft, glass blade). I've used it training on the river a lot, plus a few sea and lake trips. I chose the size using the guide on Werner's web site - I'm 5'10" and I found it better for high angle than the Tybee (at 215).
What I like about it:
1. The two piece design is a brilliant piece of engineering. No messing with keys or bulky clips. I really cannot tell I am using a two piece paddle because the connection is that good. It allows you to easily vary the feather to cope with wind conditions. Air pressure difference in the shaft can occasionally make it difficult to separate the parts - rotate it to free because it won't pull apart!
2. When I first used it I noticed how little it weighed. This has to reduce fatigue in the hands and arms. It is easy to speed up the stroke for a sprint. The weight feels little different whether I use high or low angle.
3. The blade design suits my style. It grips the water and I get no energy wasted though blade slip or flutter. I feel an occasional flutter under hard acceleration, but only if I exceed the blade's ability to grip. I can use a high or low angle stroke. The blade always feels reassuringly planted.
4. The shaft diameter is the same as my Tybee but the Shuna just feels more comfortable to hold. It feels a bigger diameter in the hand and the carbon is smooth and warm. It just feels good to hold. The bent shape and indexing make it easy to find your grip.
It took a while to get used to the bent shaft - but once I'd relaxed into the difference, it behaved exactly as a straight. I noticed on a recent long distance lake trip my average speed on the GPS was the same at the end as at the start. I put this down to the ergonomics of the paddle - I felt tired as if I should be travelling slower but I wasn't. I had no wrist ache so I'm sure the bent shaft made a difference.
My Tybee FG is a two-piece with the same ferrule connection - it's a good paddle for 1/3 the price - I pack it now as the spare.
Baffin Swamp Buggy's are 3/4 height, rugged water boots. I use them in my sea kayak; they have a wide fitting so they are all-day comfortable, plus give you stability and grip walking on rocks and uneven surfaces. They drain almost instantly; dry quickly and are easy to keep clean. And the cord and toggle fastening is more convenient than laces.
I wear fleece socks under dry-suit socks which is all quite bulky, so buy large. I'm normally UK size 8 (42), so I bought a 9 (43) - which was a good fit.
My first boat since returning to paddling 2 years ago. Owned for about 18 months. I'm an intermediate paddler (UK 3 star). I bought it new on the basis of reviews.
I use the boat for training on flat water and for club day-trips on the sea. I'm a sport-junky so it's seen a lot of use.
This boat is stable and confidence-inspiring, which was good for me at first as I came back into the sport. But it's not a beginner boat - it has some P&H design features which means it's capable of growing with you as you develop skills. In particular I'd mention:
1. Turning and manoeuvreing is amazing. Even on a moderate edge the stern comes round fast, skimming the water. Brilliant fun playing in rocks and caves - it keeps calling to you to make another turn;
2. This secondary stability gives you confidence and so helps develop technique;
3. I can cruise all day averaging 3.8 knots - so it's fast enough through the water for most situations. But it's not 'tracking on rails' - I had to re-learn technique to keep the keel in the water;
4. At 25 kilos and 14' it's no problem loading/ unloading single-handed.
I am 5' 10" and 68 kilos. I've added hip pads and extra foam to the thigh braces. It's now a snug fit, but still room enough to get legs in from a seated position. Venture now sell a low volume version of the boat which I think may have suited my size better.
It's not the cheapest of boats in this category. But what you get is good quality materials and fitting and of course the P&H design.
I'm thinking about buying a new boat now - but to be honest I struggle to think of a reason why I need one. Which I think says a lot for the Islay.