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I have found it fast and an ease to paddle through all types of weather conditions. Even though I have now upgraded to a bigger touring style sea kayak I will still be keeping my Squall.
My only bad comment is at the end of a long days paddle, putting the kayak back on the roof of the ute it tends to be a bit heavy. It does weigh a bit more than others in its class, even my new eco at 5.4 metres long is lighter. I still will be enjoying my Squall for many years to come
For the width of the boat it has exceptional stability in big waves and is fast for a plastic boat. I use the boat in both lakes and rivers and I find the handling a bit sluggish at times on tight corners in a fast flowing river, but with practice it is easy to lean over for a quick turn. After nine years and about 300 day trips it is a bit scratched up on the bottom but otherwise good as new.
Only draw back is car-topping as it is a heavy boat for its size - once in the water I don't notice the weight at all. The boat definitely likes to point it's nose into the wind, but the rudder works very well and is easy to deploy and retract.
Overall I give the boat a 9 out of 10 - if it was a little lighter in weight it would be a 10.
I'll begin by saying that this review comes after paddling 60 to 70 miles in the boat, a 4 day trip in the Everglades, and some serious weather (4' seas 25 to 30 mph winds - hard rain). I'm 5'8" and 150 lbs. The boat fits like a glove. I wouldn't suggest anyone over about 165 in weight and 5'10" tops in height - any taller and it would be tough to get your knees in under the deck. Initial and secondary stability are both good and predictable. The boat is actually very forgiving. Seems to handles better with a load as with many touring boats. This is probably the fastest rotomolded I've paddled. GPS says tops out at about 6mph on a hard push, 4 to 4.5mph with a good steady cadence, 3 to 3.5 with a good easy cadence. My buddy has a CD kevlar Caribou and our speeds were almost identical.
I believe you could pack the boat easy for a week of camping - 10 to 12 days on a stretch (dehydrated food and obviously sharing camping gear with a buddy). Some have complained about the high deck, I don't find it to be a problem, actually provided for a pretty dry ride in the rough stuff. No water in any of the compartments and we were definitely in the right conditions for water to be in everything. Tracking isn't bad (nothing like the caribou) and the weather cocking can be noticed at times but all this is corrected by the rudder.
Some have also complained about the seat. I don't find it to be uncomfortable, put a thin air seat under your bottom and one under your heels and you're good to go. All in all, I don't know if there is a better touring "rotomolded" boat out there for the midsize paddler. I really do like mine. In addition, this is my third Current Designs boat and all of them have been very well made.
I have substantially downgraded the rating from 9 to 6, mainly because of quality issues, at least one of which I identified only well after the long AK trip. There is also a handling quirk that I first thought was "just me" but turns out was not.
First, the defects:
The only reason I am leaving the rating as high as 6 is because the Squall is very forgiving, and it has a long glide on calm water. Although I dislike the high deck, some people might actually prefer that for its dry ride and "keep me away from the water" feel.
But due to quality issues alone, I will never buy CD again.
Though the Squall is not a big boat, I managed to load it up with camping gear and enough food for up to 2 weeks at a stretch. (We sent caches of food to post offices along the way.) The catch is that I put any food that did not fit in the hatches in a big drybag that sat on my rear deck. Not exactly a great location for reasons of weathercocking and stability, but the boat actually remained stable, possibly because I am a bit light for the boat in the first place. A Pelican box for my SLR camera sat in front of my feet in the cockpit.
So.....it IS possible to use this small a kayak on an expedition, but if you don't like bags on deck, one week of camping would be a better duration so that the decks can remain "clean." Typical speed during this day-after-day stretch of loaded paddling dropped, compared with unloaded day paddles--about a quarter to a half a mile an hour. This was expected.
As also expected (from previous experience), the loaded kayak felt heavy and bargey, not exactly confidence-inspiring for leans but I still *could* lean it when I (tentatively) practiced with it like that. However, in actual progression I usually just flipped down the rudder and used that instead of body language. Less tiring. This was another big difference from using the same boat for day paddles.
Being plastic, the Squall endured the abuse from typical Alaskan "beaches" well. It came back with more scratches from 25 days of shore-hauling than it had garnered in the previous 2 years of day paddles, but nothing horrible. One odd thing everyone in my group noticed was that sea lions always popped up behind my blue Squall, NEVER behind any of their yellow kayaks.
Anyway, the Squall did its job well and I would say that I have gotten my money's worth from it. It is forgiving enough for a beginner to learn on, yet it still rewards diligent practice with improved handling. I just wish CD had made both the front and aft decks a bit lower.
My one complaint is I dont like the pedal movement even when the rudder is in the up position. It's held in place but a single bungey and when you press hard such as during a brace, the rudder jumps out of the holding "groove" and turns outward anyway. Not a big deal but is annoying and prefer it held better. Actually have yet to use the rudder as the boat tracks well with very little weathercocking. All in all I'm impressed with CD's quality and recommend.
Since this was my first narrow kayak, it's the one in which I learned to do J-leans, hip snaps, low and high braces, and sculling -- anything that uses edging or leaning. Recently I also learned to roll it. This boat behaves predictably (maybe because of the rounded hull?), making it easy to learn new skills.
The Squall has served me well on camping trips along the North Platte River (Wyoming), Lewis and Shoshone Lakes, and Yellowstone Lake. While the longest trip I took was 3 days/2 nights, it appears that a week's worth of supplies would fit if I used the water filter instead of carrying it as backup. Four gallons of drinking water takes up a lot of space. While there is adequate room for camping trips (if one packs carefully), the Squall is no slug for daytripping, either. It has a nice glide, very noticeable when I demo'd it before and after other plastic boats. I have had no trouble averaging 4 to 4.5 mph on outings of 7 to 10 miles, and a friend with a GPS has clocked me (us) hitting 6.1 mph in a sprint. It's a plastic boat, but don't let that deter you from using it to the max; it might surprise you.
If you want to TURN fast as opposed to barreling ahead fast, you'd better put the Squall on edge, because when sitting flat it is a leisurely turner. I have not found this to be an obstacle, though.
Lest it sound as though I consider the Squall perfect, let me describe the shortcomings also. I find the foredeck higher than it needs to be; I have a paddling style with high enough angle that I rarely scrape knuckles, but the height undoubtedly contributes to weathercocking. (Some people thought the deck might be too high to allow me to roll the boat, which has not turned out to be the case.)
Another area that could use improvement is the standard rudder footpeg/rail system. I do not like the fact that the footpegs move if I have the rudder deployed -- there are times I put the rudder down merely to improve tracking in a quartering wind and do not wish the footpegs to move when I am exerting normal pressure on them. (I do like Current Designs' rudder activation lever better than the usual pull-on-the-cord-with-hands set-up.)
Finally, my boat shows some sloppy touches that I am surprised passed inspection. For example, a bolt on the left side of the cockpit does not align with its counterpart on the right side. Also, the stern hatch cover (the plastic lid, not the neoprene undercover) has two buckles whose release snaps are oriented in opposite directions, whereas on the bow hatch cover they both face the same way.
Overall, the Squall seems like a good touring all-rounder: stability in waves, decent speed, enough volume for several days of camping, predictable handling.
1) It is very fast and easy to paddle. My wife and I went out She in the Carolina, me in the Squall. While the Carolina could keep up in calm water, it took a lot more effort to do so. In rough water, there was not contest. 2) Tracking is awesome. I went for a paddle where calm conditions changed to a strong wind. I tried paddling in all directions, headwind, tail wind quatering winds, etc. and the boat went straight. I didn't have to lower the rudder. 3) It handles rough water very well. That upswept bow slices right through waves without too much spray. It Has very good secondary stability as well. 4) It is a great fit for a smaller paddler. I'm 5'6" and 150 pounds. I wouldn't recommend this boat for a big person. The neat thing about this boat is that it is designed for the little guy, but it is 16'6" long. Most boats designed for small people are shorter. 5) The rudder has very low drag. I really don't plan to use it, but it is one of the nicest ones I have tried.
Now what I don't like.
1) The fit and finish is a bit disappointing. I bought this boat used and would hesitate to pay over $1000 for a boat built with this little regard to the finish. 2) It is plastic. While this boat is a great performer, it is not a fiberglass boat. It will never go as fast and it is a bit heavier.
Bottom line is, if you want a good performing kayak and don't want to spend $2000+, the Squall is a great alternative.
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