I recently purchased a used Oracle GTS and now have about 50 hours paddling rivers, lakes and bays. The CD Oracle GTS is the sister boat to the Solstice. It was designed for smaller paddlers and it is constructed with thermoformed plastic, weighing 54lbs. I moved up from a rotomold Dagger Atlantis weighing almost 70lbs and the change was dramatic. Big differences were the tracking and the obvious weigh.
It's a North American style kayak with it's main objectives being straight tracking, efficiency and stability. In wide rivers and bays, the straight tracking and the efficient hull design, is a strong advantage but in meandering sloughs, it becomes a hindrance and inefficient. It takes forever to turn and the the effort leaves you exhausted. The Dagger is more suited to narrow rivers and sloughs with it's flat bottom and slight rocker.
That being said, I really love the profile and the sleek design. And the details such as the recessed deck hardwares makes it a well designed expedition kayak. It cuts through calm waters like a hot knife through butter. Leaves very little wake and the ride is smooth. Being just over 21 inches wide and 17 feet long, it take very little effort to get it up to cruising speed. And with soft chines and shallow v hull, choppy water doesn't affect it's stability.
Me being 150lbs the bow action in choppy waters is very controllable. In larger waves, it doesn't carve as well as a hard chine boat, but can surf smaller waves without much effort. The seat isn't the best compared to current modern offerings but I can paddle for hours without problems. I'm a 62 year old male with size 8 shoes so fitting into the cockpit is no issue. Anyone taller may want to look at bigger volume kayaks.
When it comes to rolling, because of the upright resting position of the rudder, it's a little difficult. Also during couple of self rescue practices, I noticed afterwards that 1)both hatches leak...rear hatch more, and 2)the rudder need to be lower to get back on to the kayak... hard to straddle a rudder sticking 1 foot above the deck when you're neck deep in water.I just got the Oracle and generally love it. I had a 14ft Current Design Vision and was ready for more of a boat. I have had it out on the water in all sorts of conditions for 8 (or more) paddles and when I switch back to the Vision, I miss the Oracle (even though I still love the Vision).
I too had some problems with the front hatch leaking with white cap waves breaking over the front, but bought some marine silicone to reseal the cowling for the hatch cover in the front. Problem seems to be solved. I really like the way the boat rides low in the water to resist cross winds. But because of the low ride, I do use my spray skirt more than I did with my Vision in rougher water.
I have a friend with a Delta Kayak which is a great boat, but I really feel that I got better value for the money I spent. The Oracle is a great kayak for those who want a boat that will handle more difficult conditions and more cruising speed. The rudder system is easy to use and the narrow fit is great for more efficient paddling.I have owned my Oracle GTS for a full year. I really enjoy the boat. The tracking is excellent and at 21 1/2" wide, it is a fast boat if you want it to be. However, even a novice can handle it as it is quite stable once you are in it. Real kudos to the Smart-Trac rudder (with its spring loaded insides) as I tend to be the guy that finds every tree that is hiding 6 inches below the water.
So here is the detail:
Pros: Great tracking, fast, great turning, good volume (if you are an overnighter), light enough to load onto a full size SUV by yourself.
Cons: I have had to contact CD a few times with leaking in the front hatch (odd since it has a rubber cover and a cover over that). I have been told that I am not the only one who has discovered this, but they resent me a new rubber cover with new band that has "almost" resolved the issue. On a really rough day or the "oh-no-here-I-go" roll, I still get a few tablespoons of water.
My final comment is that as of 2009, CD no longer makes the TCS material. This concerns me a little but all around, a great boat.First of all, it may be unfair to rate any boat based upon a demo. But since I did not buy the boat, and there are no other reviews for this very deserving model, I'll add my 2 cents.
I am a big fan of the CD Solstice GTS, and I used that boat as the comparison to the Oracle, which is very similar in design. I loved this boat. I found it to be beautifully made and finished, comfortable for my 53 y.o. 5'9"/188 lbs, and as stable as the Solstice GTS. The Oracle is light & easy to handle off the water and very sweet in the water.
This boat is one for anyone who wants the Solstice GTS but is on a budget. Being 7" shorter, the Oracle is easier to turn than the Solstice GTS, but this is a boat for those who want tracking. It tracked great in very light wind. It edges as well as the Solstice GTS. There was no tendency to weathercock or leecock in these mild conditions.
I did not try the SmartTrack rudder as I was having too much fun going fast and straight without it. If my paddling was more of the expedition variety rather than day gunkholing, this boat would be my first choice if I could not afford a Solstice GTS. I don't know about the material so my rating is for the performance and fun.