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Messing About in Boats Review

a review by Bob Hicks, editor of:
Messing About in Boats
from: vol. 5, no. 9 9/15/87

I've tried before to feel good about one of the British sportier kayaks, like Nordkapp or Selkie or Huntsman, but my slow old reactions and inexperience have, until now, made each experience one of keeping upright rather than of going somewhere. Not the boat's fault, obviously, lots of people enjoy these boats without qualms.

Now, I have paddled one that felt good to me and my limited capabilities. It was the Islander, (designed) by Wye Kayaks in Great Britain, and exhibited at the (annual L. L. Bean Sea Kayak) Symposium by Ed Friedman of Dragonworks, Inc., over in Bowdoinham, ME (near Brunswick). When Ed first urged me to try the long lean layak with its beautiful finished slender hull (low deck), recessed deck tie-downs, built-in-compass, built-in-bilge pump, I was tempted but demurred with my usual disclaimer about not being into the balancing act this sort of boat seemed to require of me. "Oh, no, this one'll not be like that," Ed urged.

Well, okay, but I went on and got into the boat half expecting that Ed's assurances were just sales smoke. Not so. The boat sat nicely while I fiddled with the skirt and so on. Then I paddled off one the placid bay, and it kept on feeling okay to me. Kind of a tighter fit than I'm used to, my size 11 feet wedging between hull and deck until I cocked them aside. A simple sort of strap backrest felt good to lean the small of my back into, and I was beginning to really like this. It moved so easily, and this is what I've been told repeatedly by those in the know about sportier kayaks. I didn't use the rudder and it wasn't at all needed in these conditions. The boat sits way down in the water compared to the bulkier craft I've favored and windage surely would be much less of a problem.

Looking at the underbody afterwards, I noted it to be nearly flat across beneath the cockpit area, then sharply tapered inward and upward towards the narrow ends. Hence, I would guess, that greater initial stability I seem to prize...