I built my West River four years ago. It has been used a lot. I am 5í8 and weigh 180 pounds. It is a good fit for me. I guess it would be good for somebody 30 pounds lighter and 40 pounds heavier. It tracks well, responds to leaned turns, is low profile / not effected much by the wind, packs very well for being low profile, with minor use does not weather cock, looks great, and its super comfortable.
I have sat in my West River for 20 mile paddles without getting out, and still felt great. One time when all my paddling buddies where dying about 15 miles into a 20 mile paddle they got out at a fly and mosquito infested Island. I just stayed in the boat and was amused as I watched them dodging the bugs. You can just let loose and relax in this boat.
It has a 8 panel hull, which I originally thought means it would have fairly soft chines, but I was wrong on that one. The chines are still hard. If you want responsiveness to leaned turns its great. I was looking for softer chines, so I was a little disappointed when saw this spec during the building process. Itís not talked about much if at all on the CLC website. For some people itís a positive point. Personally I believe the most efficient hull designs have more rounded chines. Since I am looking to take it easy as much as possible when paddling with my friends that like to go fast itís not ideal for me. Though I like playing in the rock gardens, so itís leaned turning ability is handy at times. Of course if you like rock gardens stay away from wood boats. If you have a wood boat and you go in rock gardens make sure you have control.
Some times I like to paddle in conditions that push my limits. In our end of lake Erie the water depth is 95% under 30 ft deep, and a lot under 20 ft deep. This means 4 or 5 foot waves are quite steep at times. When they are steep and breaking my West River tends to give a surprise broach now and then. It's quite concerning on the days I have bitten off too much & am miles from shore. On the rare occasion that I have done this to myself in this boat I wish I where paddling something different. British style hulls with more rocker and not so much vertical volume at the ends do not have such a noticeable tendency (though the 20 mile paddles in reasonable conditions are not so comfortable in a British style hull). In rough conditions it becomes hard to keep up with paddlers in boats with out this tendency as they are not taking such deliberate strokes, but are just focusing on paddling fast and having fun surfing waves. My guess is only 1 out of 10 paddlers put themselves in this position, so the broaching is only a issue to a very few people on a very few occasions.
After discovering what happens in this boat when I am in steep waves and having some issues with power boats near the Erie Islands, I decided to add a bright colored British design to my collection of kayaks. I decided on a roto molded valley Nordkapp. You can see my review on that boat also. After paddling the Nordkapp I felt as though the West River had more drag at my typical relaxed pace. Though the West River at top speeds appears to be a lot faster. Especially when you surf down a big wave. When surfing the West River it looses its resistance (I think it just starts to plane) and takes off like a rocket. When in following seas if you catch a wave right the gps will commonly read 8mph, and many times accelerates beyond that. The West River is not a maneuverable boat, but with good paddle strokes, and leaning you can make it do what you need to do.
The one thing I like most about this boat is its comfort along with its load carrying ability. It is an awesome boat to take when doing multi-day wilderness trips. Packing it and unpacking it is a dream compared to my British boat. The usable space is very good, but it still has low windage.Bought one of the last kits that CLC sold for the WR180 prior to it being discontinued upon the introduction of the WR18. Assembly was straight forward and followed closely the approach used for the chesapeake series of boats. The wr180 is a multichine design so the additional hull panels were the only significant construction difference from the chesapeake series. any questions were efficiently handled by the clc staff or answered in the forum clc maintains on its web site.
Boat was built primarily for exercise and is paddled on relatively flat water along the westchester shores of long-island sound. Boat is very stable and an easy transition from single chine craft. The boat tracks very nicely in wind and wave and surfs easily and efficiently. A down side of this boat is how straight she tracks and the challenge of executing efficient turns in a constrained area....she just loves to go straight. I receive a number of positive comments on the boats great looks and she is fun to paddle...my understanding is that the new wr18 design has addressed the turning issue by adjustments to rocker and hull form...probably a welcome improvement given the boats go straight reputation.I bought the West River 180 kit last February and assembled it during the ensuing three months. I have been delighted with both the boat building process and the kayak's performance on the water.
The few occasions that I had questions while building this boat, CLC was there to help. Essentially, it was a simple matter of following well written instructions and along with the numerous hints available on the CLC web site, the process was easy. However, do not confuse easy with quick. I was limited to weekend work and it took me about three months. It required careful planning to take the greatest advantage of the frequent 12-48 hour dry times.
On the water it is a pleasure. I consider my skill to be approaching intermediate, and I am aware that I will be able to get much more out of my 180 as my skills improve. But, even so, I find it easy to control even when the fetch kicks up the waves along the east shore of Lake Erie. Weathercocking is minimal, yet there does seem to be some tendancy to broach.
I look forward to building another CLC with my son in a year or two.This is my first true sea kayak. I built it from plans (which I dont recommend due to the exacting measures needed for this craft) and I have to say I'm very pleased with it...
Speed is effortless - which isn't to say it requires no muscle. However, it is a kick to watch the miles rackup as the water goes wizzing by in your peripheral vision. Still, this isnt to say it cant be handful... in choppy water over 1' the multichines tippiness becomes quite noticably evident. What few times I needed a low brace, the boat responded very very easily. Just gentle pats here and there.Turning just cant be said to be easy. Infact, turning with a beam wind in 2' seas is a pain requiring some good technique, balance and many sweep strokes. Still for all that, it tracks amazingly straight in winds that would surely have sent other kayaks weathercocking long ago. It is quite the loyal dog in this respect.
I've been told that a more stable kayak is faster in high seas requiring less bracing and support strokes. I wish I'd known this - and I feel the point wasnt stressed enough - or at all in a previous catalog of this manufacturer. Still, on flatter water, she whisks along.
Broaching is very very common in 2 foot seas requiring stern rudder strokes - again slowing the craft. Still, I love it.The West River 180 is the first boat I have built. It is a composite boat, that is it is made of marine grade mahogany plywood skinned with fiberglass. The result is a strong, light, rigid, durable and beautiful kayak. I built it last winter and have been paddling it since April. It is also my first kayak. It is a joy to build and paddle. Though long and narrow, I have found no trouble staying upright and enjoying myself in heavy wind and waves. I learned to roll it and that seems easy to me. I have wet-exited, reentered and rolled it up. Though rolling a kayak is harder when there is water in the cockpit it is far from impossible. As my roll improves it should become easy also. On flat water--those absolutely still evenings--the 180 is effortless to paddle. Put the blade in and just glide forever. Through the glide, it will turn gently just by your leaning it a little to bring the chines into play.
I made a number of modifications to my 180 including adding a day hatch (by Valley and supplied by CLC) designing, building and installing my own flush hatches, my own skeg and I stained the kayak the red-brown color of Honduran mahogany. With every mod, I received generous and enthusiastic support from CLC staff. The finish came out so well following CLC's instructions no paddle goes by--even if I set out alone--when the kayak isn't noticed, approached and complimented. The 180 tracks straight as an arrow and it's fast. In my first race (recreational class) I took a surprising third place in a field of over thirty kayaks, covering a three-mile course in wind and waves in a hair over thirty minutes. I expect to do better next year now I have learned how to turn it around the marks...and, by the way, learned how to paddle more efficiently. But I didn't build it for racing. I was talked into that. I want it for touring with extra fun thrown in. Fun for me is surfing and the 180 surfs beautifully. It will catch a wave easily and stay in it for long, easy runs.
The 180 does not turn as easily as some other kayaks. It won't pivot sharply paddling flat. You do have to put it on edge but I have found, once I was taught how, that high brace turns are a solid joy to perform in the 180. It goes on edge and stays there even at relatively slow speeds. Sharp ninety degree turns are a given and, as I gain experience, I expect to be able turn it a good deal further. If you build this boat, don't hesitate to contact CLC with every question you might have either by e-mail (they answer promptly) or by phone. My experience building and owning the West River 180 has been and continues to be a great pleasure.