See Current Kayaks from Wilderness Systems
in the Buyers' Guide
Select Kayak to View in Buyers' Guide
Now, here is the interesting part. Accepting that the Horn is a great tourer the obvious question (as asked by several reviewers) is one of speed. Well, on my quick-paddle exercise loop the speedy Falcon is consistently only about 1:00 faster than the Horn over five miles/one hour. Consider it. The Wilderness Systems is Just 1/60th slower than the performance Falcon but the Cape Horn 17 is so much more flippin' user friendly!
Great all around boat, and pretty sexy.
I see many of y'all mention speed. It's fairly fast for what it is, I averaged 5mph on the trip. Fastest recorded speed on my GPS was 13mph (well I was drafting a barge) My Horn is used for everything. Camping, racing and touring. It does it all.
I have found the boat to be comfortable for 8 to 10 hours although the back rest will recline some after several hours if you lean back to stretch a good bit. The thing held water out very well, with the exception of the open section for the carry handle loop. It tracks pretty well, although high winds (15 to 35mph) tend to shove it around. Rudder works good, just have to watch the sliders they are susceptible to dirt and trash (guess they all are).
As far as stability goes this thing is a rock. I can lean it over quickly, cockpit to water line and back to the other side no prob. Only got dumped once, 3 1/2ft whitecaps and and one got me when I wasn't looking. Wet exited, righted the boat and climbed back in, paddled behind a jetty wall at a lock, bailed it and continued.
Super solid, almost indestructible boat. I have a rumpled nose from an incident with a garage (try that with a composite boat) I plowed marsh and granite on the upper river, full load drags around a few portages, forcibly rammed it over beaver dams and parked it on rip rap. It looks a bit worn now but is still super serviceable.
I am a naturally athletic, 6ft 155lb guy. I don't know hardly any of the fancy kayaking terms, just taught myself to paddle. If you are in the market for a boat with good tracking, cargo hauling, butt hauling, stability, comfort and durability this is the boat for you. I now paddle a Ruahine Intruige for races. I will have the good ole Capn' Crunch with me for the rest of my life.
The second trip was in Indian Pass on Appalachicola Bay in Florida. I got out into the middle of the pass and slowly capsized. A jelly fish came along and gave me a painfull hello as I was being towed back by a friend. After pumping out the boat I did fine on the next crossing attempt. I concur with the other reviewers; the Cape Horn 17 is fast, tracks great, and yes, the openings for the deck lines do leak a bit, but not more that a cup of water got in for hours of operation. I hit some rocks on the shoreline going really fast with only a few small dings in the bow to show for it.
The boat is a bit heavy, but with a hull roller on my Aveo, I can easily cartop the boat myself. I am sure once I get the weight off the secondary stability of the Cape Horn will not be a problem for me. I can be dry and slow in a rec boat or fast and wet, I choose fast and wet. Buy the boat; you will be the fastest boat on the water.
Complaints: Outfitting is very recreational. The non-adjustable molded-in knee braces that are actually angled funny,at least for me.The seat back is rigid,high and hinged so its comfortable but not good for layback manouvers. Boat is quite un-watertight. with 2 seasons of use, the rear bulkhead leaked bad and it leaked through seat bolts and most spots where perimeter line goes through. Way to go WS, save 25c worth of plastic and make a leaky boat.
Still think it's a great hull shape, which by the way isn't any less prone to oil canning than any other rotomolded kayak out there, don't kid yourself about the molded keel keeping things rigid, it wouldve probably tried to oilcan worse than it did, but still it developed warpage in the front. Won't touch another Wilderness Systems boat for the very mediocre fit n finish, it could've totaly been a 9/10 if they put more thought into it.
First off, to throw a few stones at other reviewers: Fiberglass boats are NOT fragile, are easily fixed, and don't scratch near as easy as plastic. Just don't go rock bashing with one. And, "lean turning" is actually a legitimate and effective technique for making a long touring kayak turn quicker without use of rudder. Not just to 'look cool', though I think some people do use it to show off their skill.
Back to the boat: It has pretty decent speed, I second the 6-7 km/h claim with only cruising effort. It is pretty damn stable, primary and secondary stability. Phase 3 seat IS good. But, to me, not really any comfier than the previous generation seat. Only believe the advertising if it fits YOUR ass/back.
Tracking-It tracks fine in flat water, but in rough water, cross winds and following/quartering seas, the tracking really shines. I only used rudder once. The boat lost 2 points for what I believe are quality issues.
First and foremost is itís as watertight as Iíd like-water seeps a bit through hatches and fasteners. Worse yet, the hole that the perimeter rescue line goes through in the very nose of the boat can leak water in- i was very unimpressed when I saw water run out of there when I turned the boat upside down after couple hours in rough water. Since then I sealed it. Easy enough a fix, but I believe it should have been taken care of at the factory.
Second, I donít like how you have to turn the strap clips to get hatches off, means you canít have the bolts tight enough for max water tightness.
All n all, itís a great entry level touring kayak that can do it all.
First thing I notice is that the cockpit is a bit harder to get into than on the 15. Once in though, there's plenty of leg room. Also the new Phaze3 seats are a huge improvement over the old ones and you can stay on the water for many hours without having leg cramps or ass aches.
On the water, I initially found it a bit more tippy but got used to this very quickly once I realised that there was plenty of secondary stability. Tracking is not as good as the 15 with the rudder up, I think the 17 has more rocker, but on a positive note it's real easy to turn. With the rudder down, cross winds and surfing is a breaze. I thind though that the rudder system on the 17 is more sensitive to slight adjustments from the pedles than on the 15. Something else to get used to!
I took it out a few times on Lake Ontario around Toronto in what are rough conditions for the region: 60 kph winds and 1-2m waves. It is a much drier ride and almost no water gets into the cockpit or hatches.
On average I can manage 6-7 kph without having to strain myself, so it's quicker than the 15.
One last thing, I'm happy that WS offered the kayak in orange because now I am a lot more visible to traffic (unlike my grey-white 15 that blended in with choppy waves).
The only thing that could be improved upon is if they used a rubber hatch system like that on the Tempest 170.
I bought a Cape Horn 17 earlier this year (2002) as my third kayak (after a Necky Santa Cruze and a Necky Eskia) in less than a year after taking up this ridiculously addicting sport. I thought very long and hard about a glass boat, but I AM NOT the candidate for anything that fragile. I am 5'11", 165 pounds, athletic and somewhat reckless (also occassional mountain biker). So...I wanted plastic (beach it anywhere the urge hits me, drag it across rocks, plow over rocks, into rocks, under rocks, and literally toss it on the roof of the Jeep). I wanted speed (7.1 m.p.h. when I "get on it") and I wanted that FANTASTIC seat (the most important thing is its adjustment range--when the back hurts, just change the lumbar support).
The primary is very, very good (I fly fish from it). The secondary--well, who cares? I can't seem to understand the importance of this "lean turn" stuff, unless it's like pulling wheelies on a bike--you do it to look cool--nothing wrong with that. I've done plenty of lean turns (and, nope, the secondary on the Cape Horn 17 isn't as dependable as even my Necky Eskia, as I found out when I tested its limit, going butt-over-teapot so hard I was actually thrown out of the cockpit one night). I spin the puppy around with the rudder (EGAD! He uses a RUDDER! Yes, I am the "anti-poser") just as tight, and the Cape Horn 17's rudder surface area is very well matched to the boat and offers no drag--I prefer to use it all the time so I can concentrate on delivering maximum power from a smooth stroke (to get the speed-I-need).
For athletic paddlers,the good primary is important. Strong strokers will wind up bobbing between opposite secondary stability points like a pendulum on something tippier, like a Necky Looksha IV, like I did.
The keel is cool. It really adds to the arrow-like tracking and lets you give the tie down straps a good tug when you travel, without worrying about oil canning the hull.
The hatches could have larger openings, and the rear leaks a little bit in the big water (wouldn't know about rolling--I think rolls are for having with coffee--the only time I've tipped is when I've done it to myself).
So, if you want to go anywhere (3-4 foot waves/wakes in the Hudson River--no problem), beach the boat on barnacles (and actually think a scratched up hull is a sign of having fun), like to fish, like to, and have the strength to be, the fastest thing out there (Canadian Geese have to take flight, hard, to get away from me) and appreciate a cup holder in a seat that is an exact fit for a Foster's "oil can," BUY THIS BOAT.
The better half (5'2", 125 lbs.) has the Cape Horn 14, and we are so perfectly matched (do the math--length, power to weight ratio, etc.), I'd recommend the same combo to any other sporty couples.
By the way, she IS beautiful (mine's yellow), scratches and all :-)
After demo'ing everything I could get my hands on I choose the Cape Horn 17 for four main reasons - 1)primary stability 2)fit/comfort, 3)can take it anywhere, 4)boat I can grow into. It was not as tippy as Perception Shadow & Corona, Eddyline XT, Necky Looksha, etc. giving me the courage to paddle alone with hopes that I would get back alive and dry. If you've ever ridden a bicycle or skied in boots that didn't fit you know what self-imposed torture is. The Cape Horn 17 has room in the cockpit for my legs and feet sans that flattened 'pancaked' feeling I got from boats with less height, the higher seat back gives more support for torso, and the not at all constricting thigh braces (as opposed to the Necky line which forced me into a position I could not maintain) assured me a comfortable ride. As a performance boat it could be safely paddled in any water conditions. When I explained to one of the many salespersons that I would be going into Boston Harbor with big wakes and plenty of chop he advised me to buy a longer boat and don't go alone. His explanation for a longer boat: when one part of it was in a wake a large other part of it would not. Whether this makes sense or not my first paddle was in the harbor and the Cape Horn 17 did very well in rough conditions with no thanks to my puny abilities. And on another ferocious paddle into 30 mph winds I held my own with six others who were in reputedly faster fiberglass boats. Unlike boats in class of the Perception Carolina, Wilderness Cape Look-out (which I eventually bought as a second boat for non-kayaking friends), Current Design Breeze, Necky Zoar Sport, the Cape Horn 17 is in the performance category which gave me a boat I could grow into, and one that would not present limitations on where I could paddle.
The reasons I did not give it a score of 10 is because no boat can be everything to anyone. Although the primary stability is better than other performance kayaks, that does compromise its secondary stability. I was able to set an edge with let's say the Eddyline XT much better than the Cape Horn 17, but since I do not conspire to become an expert and I don't plan on tipping the boat very much the primary is more important than the secondary. Also, keep in mind that the boat is heavy for one person loading. I am tall enough and strong enough to just get it on top after a long paddle without whacking it into my new car, but this car is much lower than the roll bars on my Jeep Wrangler. Then again, I didn't care if I whacked the Jeep. In summary, by all means buy the Cape Horn 17 if it fits your parameters. I got lucky and it works well for me. Proof's in the pudding - when it came to buying a more stable second kayak for unskilled friends I choose the Cape Look-Out by Wilderness for all the same reasons.
This past w/e we played around two afternoons on Potomac, several hours on the water each time. Let me add that we are "watersporters" (sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and recreational kayaking), but so far have little experience with sea/touring kayaks. In any event, we loved our outings with these 2 Cape Horns. My g/f should add her on review of the 14. She certainly kept up with me w/o any problems. On the 17: it tracks beautifully, one of my first criteria. I found the speed amazing comparing it to my recreational kayak. One of the nice and exceptional features of the Cape Horn is that it has a "keel" (a very shallow one over the length of the boat). And it has only modest rocker. I have not seen other kayaks that have a "keel". I has a long waterline as well (no upswept stern, more like a built-in skeg). These features accounts for its great tracking. Also, the keel adds to the rigidity of the hull (which can be an issue with a plastic boat). I used the rudder just to try it out although I did not really need it and noticed that in windy conditions it does help. Generally, however, you don't need to use it.
The boat felt stable on the water (we are still learning how to lean it properly). We helped a guy who had capsized his wooden sailboat, bail out his boat which had filled up completely (no floatation) and was rolling over every time he tried to right it, by stabilizing him by coming alongside with our kayaks on either side.)
At 62lbs/28.1kg, the Cape Horn 17 is not a super light boat, but for the length it is very good. The glass model is only 3lbs lighter (and $1000 or so more expensive). This is just my first report on this boat. As I gain more experience, I will write more. Anyway, these are the first impressions from a happy owner of a new Cape Horn 17. I would love to hear from others who have this boat too. (I rate it 9 because I don't know enough about the boat yet (in different weather for example, to rate it a 10.)
100,000+ people can't be wrong!
The Paddling.net Newsletter is a must if you like to canoe or kayak! Each week it is packed with great articles, photos, product reviews, and special features. Better yet, we promise not to sell your email address to anyone; that's right ZERO spam! Sign up today and find out what you've been missing!