Normally I would be very happy with the beautiful weather today: sunny and a SW-2bft-wind.
For test-paddling the Epic 18XS more wind would have been nice.
However the paddle-day was planned so we took of at DenOever for a trip to Oudeschild. Not following the tidal stream but traversing two 2,5 knot streams.
The first leg stream was from the side and the wind from behind. To keep course during this leg, I had to use the rudder very frequently because the kayak wandered of course. It could however well be that this was due to the circumstances because my paddling mate in en Mariner encountered the same. Nevertheless I mention this because it has an effect on the steering: Although the rudder worked very well and very direct, the frequent operation made the feet tired and a bit cramped when the knees are tucked under the deck. This has to do with the difference in angle between feet and the ruder-operation-flaps. May be, as a suggestion, these flaps should have the same angle as the feet.
When the knees are not tucked under deck everything is OK; logical because the angles of feet and flaps are the same in that situation.
Almost at our destination we traversed a tidal stream at its full strength of 2,5 knots: paddling into the stream under an angle the water was very disturbed. The stability of the 18XS was very pleasant in these 40cm waves and stream.
Traversing the stream we used the transito-technique keeping 2 landmarks in line. The rudder of the 18XS was a very pleasant tool because it was possible with it to maintain the course very accurate; important because it prevents being swept away in the strong current.
The last leg led us in a straight line back to Den Oever. Now I locked the rudder by retracting the fin. In the light wind the kayak weathercocks very slightly: and it was easy enough to compensate with edging and sweepstrokes. It must be mentioned that my paddling mate had the same experience in his mariner.
Playing around with my camera at a certain moment almost washed me against a buoy. At the latest moment I discovered this and had to act immediately. Thanks to the great maneuverability (rudder locked) of the kayak I "survived" by a backwards traverse and sweepstroke. Like you do on whitewater.
Today made very clear that the 18XS is two kayaks in one actually.
With the rudder locked and fin retracted, a lively, fast responding kayak occurs.
While with the fin down and using the rudder, a stable, stiff tracking kayak is the result. (A comic note is that I sometimes forgot that small corrections are also to be made with the rudder and that I tried using the paddle: that does not work very well. When the rudder is operational, you have to use it)
I liked "both" kayaks and both ways of paddling.