Both my wife and I have been enjoying the XT-17 and 15 that I purchased from you late summer 2014. I find their paddling characteristics much to my liking. The boats are fast enough to deal with some pretty nice composites and they are SEAWORTHY, more on that a bit later.
The boats are a snap to put together; in fact, except for the first build of her 15, my wife gets upset with me if I try to lend a hand. Taking our time and joking around it takes right around 30 minutes to build and about 15 minutes to take down. On water manners are very mild, yet very capable for some pretty serious conditions. Initial stability is quit good and secondary is excellent. Much fun to lay into a turn and feel the air sponsons/hull design do their thing. They are capable of taking on some good size breaking waves in stride. And, the boats carry a nice touring load.
I wanted the boats for touring on Lake Superior and Boundary Waters trips; this letter is about a Superior trip; but, as a side note, I think you’re missing out on a market that your kayaks seem to be custom made for – Portaging in the BWCA (very, very easy with these boats). With a sail board/SUP nylon sling carrier, I wrap it around the mid section of the kayak (unloaded), put the padded shoulder sling over my neck and hike on down the portage trail with the kayak at my side.
In late September we took a five day paddling trip to Sand Island in the Apostle Islands. Our first day of paddling was absolutely perfect, no wind and water like glass. It took 45 minutes to paddle the four miles to the island, where we set up camp and goofed around for the rest of the day. The second day, again we had perfect weather and perfect glassy seas; we paddled the circumference of the island counter clockwise (12 Miles), taking many pictures and playing for a long time in the caves. On the west side of the island we beached on a mile long beach and ate and swam, also hiked a trail up above the beach. It was mesmerizing looking down into the glassy waters, 30-40 feet deep and seeing all the boulders crystal clear!
The remaining days the waves grew and grew and grew some more; we played around in the waves some and kept tuned to our marine radio hoping the waves would settle, no such luck. On the morning of our last day our radio informed us that there would be small craft advisories for the next two to three days, with waves of 5 to 6 feet. We talked it over, and since the water was very warm for the time of year, and since we were completely geared up safety wise, we decided to launch into 4 ft. surf and play around a little bit, then make up our minds about doing the 4 miles.
I was a bit unsure about how much water we would take on through the Velcro deck seals and how a fully loaded boat would handle in 5-6 ft. waves. We both soon realized that the deck seals performed very well and we weren’t taking on water. Also, the character of the boats on the waves inspired confidence. So, we headed towards Little Sand Bay and the waves grew larger and larger….But, the boats handled very well, even without rudder. We kept close to each other (really the only thing that worried me was my wife’s skill in the waves). I’d watch her go over a crest out of my view for a few moments and then there she was again.
For my part I had quite an allergic reaction to my new wetsuit…bloated up like a puffer fish. Never felt in danger, but my lips bloated so much that they split wide open in a few places, and it felt like I had about half my normal strength. The experience was quite good even with the allergic reaction, although the trip felt kind of surreal during the height of my reaction. we paddled safely to our landing in about 1 hr. 45 minutes. I took a 45 minute hot shower to flush the neoprene chemical from my skin, three Benadryl, fresh clothes and I started to feel good again!
So yes, I really like your boats. I looked a the Superior trip as a shakedown of your boats capabilities, and it was just that and fun to boot; good to have a boat you can trust when you’re running at half speed and resemble a large puffer fish (Chuckle). Keep that I beam hull…it is a remarkable design for a folding kayak. Perhaps you could bring out a true, sea capable, touring double of 18 – 19 ft. Take care Alv, be talking to you soon.
Notes on Safety
Safety gear – Closed cell foam paddle floats, marine radio, bilge pumps, back up paddles. Wet suits are a must on Superior and depending on time of year I would go with a dry suit. We did not use extra air flotation, nor do we plan to…as it would take up too much gear room and is not needed; the air sponsons in the XT fill that role, with plenty of redundancy – 3 cells on each side, independent of each-other. The boats float well even when full of water. One mod that I might make is to create a sealable bilge pump hole in the fore part of the spray skirt, so I can leave the skirt fully fastened as I pump water from launching into surf etc. We did not use sea socks on Superior – If I was going to do a coastal trip, in cold water climes, I would look into fitting a sea sock.
Re-entry: I can climb back onto the boat cowboy style and slide into the cockpit. Paddle with float is also an easy option, or use your buddy for support. The boats are tough. At first I was overly gentle with it, until I found I could really rest my weight on the gunwales as I entered. There is no need to be gentle with them. I most certainly was not expecting to encounter 6 foot waves on the Superior trip, and those size waves toss a small craft pretty handily. I learned to trust the integrity of the frame. Of course, If I should go on a coastal trip I’d stay close to the coast when at all possible, watch things very carefully and thoroughly, check out frame, sponsons, and skin at safe and regular intervals.
One last note on self rescue – If you’re not in shape then get in shape, work on arm/shoulder strength and do stretching exercises. With any kind of self rescue it takes strength and you’ll likely feel quite sapped after dealing with getting drenched, muscling/finessing yourself back into the boat, bailing the boat….better to stay in conditions you are sure you can handle. That being said, bad things can and do happen…better to practice, prepare before it happens, then trust in the Good Lord and hope it never happens.!
Have fun with your boat. Give it some time. My wife and I had been out in the boats, getting to know their characteristics a few times before attempting the easy Superior trip and even that trip was, in part, to get more acquainted with the boats.