Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from owners

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by monkeyhead, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. monkeyhead

    monkeyhead New Member

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    I actually posted this a week or so ago in paddling.com (where someone suggested I also post it here) so if it looks familiar to some of you, that's why.

    I am close to buying a Sterling Grand Illusion. On the other website, which has user reviews, it had only one review and that person only gave it 3 stars (out of 5) due to fragility issues. To here Sterling tell it however, these are very robust boats, and I don't put much stock into any one review. I see that two of his other boats (I think its the Illusion and Reflection) on that site had all 5 star reviews and I would think the construction is more-or-less the same. Still, in case there is anyone here who has had a Grand long enough to feel they can comment on its durability, I would love to hear what you think.

    The other thing is that I had been planning on moving back down to a smaller boat (16ft range) from my Chatham 17, but the GI is a big boat (actually an inch or two shorter than my Chatham but beamier and maybe a bit less tapered). I am 200 lbs and 5'6". Several others have comment that this might be too big of a boat for me. Sterling saw me sit in it and recommended it over the Illusion due to its greater speed, and I suppose the performance is the performance irrespective of length (and I hear nothing but praise for its performance), so maybe I shouldn't worry about this but would be interested to here from anybody who is more-or-less my height/weight or less, to see how they feel about the fit and feel. Other responses to my post were that if it feels OK (and it does on land and flat water) go for the speed, and that paddler height and weight is perhaps useful but two different people with the same height and weight can have different sized hips and so on which is more important. I just don't want to find out that the boat is too high out of the water and I've got too much windage (my Chatham sits pretty low, but has other performance characteristics that I hope to lose in a new boat), for example. As I'm considering the carbon layup which would take another 10 lbs off the boat, it would potentially add to that problem. Again though, the fit was nice so far as I could tell sitting in the boat in the shop and, a few years earlier, on a calm lake. I'm hoping someone will write and say something like "I'm about your size and the boat performs superlatively." But all responses will be valued. The boats too pricey to risk a poor decision on my part.

    Thanks for any input
     
  2. chodups

    chodups Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    monkeyhead,

    I'm 5'9" and ~200 pounds. I have owned an Illusion for 5 years and my trip partner paddles a Grand Illusion. I use the Illusion as a day boat. I have time in both.

    The GI feels like a really large boat when I sit in it. Big cockpit opening, tons of foot space, etc. however, it is quite a bit lighter handling than my Illusion, even with 3-4 weeks of camping gear aboard. Extraordinarily comfortable boat in sketchy water. Dave got rid of his Romany and his Explorer to get the GI and it has more than met his needs of both. He has paddled the GI on the outer coast from Prince Rupert to Tofino and had opportunity to break it if it was fragile.

    Hopefully dvfrggr will see this thread and chime in.
     
  3. dr_penner

    dr_penner Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    I already responded in the other forum. I'm 6'2" 220 lbs and own a GI. I would be very surprised if the GI was a good fit for someone 8 inches shorter than me. Mind you, Sterling Donalson can custom fit it by lowering the deck and coaming if you ask for it. Is it perhaps possible for you to visit the shop and get another test fitting? That is always what reassures me the most before laying down the dollars. Or maybe a store that carries them?

    As to robust or not, I can say that I've met some experts who use them: the Hurricane Riders and one of the SKILS instructors. Without understating it, they beat the crap out of their boats and come back raving about them.

    KP
     
  4. semdoug

    semdoug Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    Monkeyhead,

    I do not own either boat but have a couple of follow up questions and a relevant comment.

    What performance characteristics about your Chatham are you hoping will be better with the GI or Illusion?

    What will be your primary use of the new kayak? Day paddles, short overnighters, or extended trips, etc.
    The overall weight, you and gear, may be the better determining factor verse solely paddler weight.

    Your post reads that maybe you are fairly close to Sterling's shop, is this true? I ask this because when I was buying my Ice Kap I was on the fence between it and the Illusion. Sterling let me take both boats to a lake about 5 miles from the shop near Lynden. I chose a windy day. Seeing how both handled in the wind clinched the deal. While it may have been extra trouble and time, it was a far superior experience than relying on reviews and comments from others. After all, roughly $6500 is on the table! I should note, I was looking for a light weight day boat.

    Hope this helps
     
  5. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    It would be rare for a commercial builder to say otherwise!

    Also, a 'pro' may actually be less abusive to his/her boat than a less expert paddler - they don't bang into rocks unintentionally or end up with their boats awash and piling on to the beach.
     
  6. monkeyhead

    monkeyhead New Member

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    I was in the shop a couple of weeks ago and back in Atlanta now. I asked Sterling pointedly as to what cut I should get. I sat in the boat and he looked at where my elbows were, thought they were clearing the deck nicely when I pretend paddled, and recommended the normal cut. As I have volume to spare, even for a week long trip, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to shave an inch off and might help in terms of windage.
     
  7. monkeyhead

    monkeyhead New Member

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    I find the Chatham a bit slow to turn after I side surf, and am trying to get pointed back into the waves. Also, when doing leaned/edged turns in rougher water, I feel too nervous about misjudging the trip point. Not sure how much of that is me and how much is the boat. I feel like the primary stability is a bit too high perhaps, so I have to really use my weight to push it into a good lean and then lose the finesse I might otherwise have which is OK on flat water, but not so good in rougher stuff. Also, although I generally feel quite comfortable in my Chatham in the conditions I am in 95% of the time, there have been situations I have avoided because I didn't feel comfortable enough. I have been paddling 30 years but only in 3 boats (Sealution II, Chesapeake Light Craft 16, Chatham) so still learning what's possible with different boat designs. From what I hear, the Sterling boats just dance in the heavy stuff and are remarkably agile while still having very decent speed (the Grand Illusion especially). I wished I had more opportunity to paddle the GI in less than perfect weather but no one has them anywhere near I live. I test paddled one on a calm lake about 3 years ago, and sat in one in the shop and spent a couple of hours talking to Sterling last week. Most of my paddles are day paddles but very infrequently I'll do a multi-day camping trip. That might suggest I get a 16 footer but I have a great deal of fidelity to my boats and am not temperamentally suited to having both a day boat and an expedition boat (the Chatham 17 has actually worked out pretty well for me in that it is pretty multi-purpose).
     
  8. dvfrggr

    dvfrggr Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    Monkeyhead,
    I'm 6' 2" 205 lbs and purchased my GI in 2013, like you i was looking for a boat primarily for day paddles with the annual 2-3 week trips and i found that with the GI :) I sold my NDK Explorer, NDK Posideon and NDK Romany which are all excellent boats but not the all purpose boat i was looking for.
    As for durability I can't speak of rock gardening but you should have no fear of the boat not handling being pummeled on the beach and with waves pounding me into the sand as i kept attempting to roll only to discover to stand up in just over knee high water :(, took 2 days to get all the sand cleaned out of my ears :)
    As for handling i had a test boat for a week and had the chance to paddle the GI dry in calm waters, 25 kts max wind with 2.5 '-3' waves and was very pleased with how comfortable i was and then loaded the boat with my 3 week trip weight on a 1' chop day.
    That is what finalized the deal. No more thoughts of paddling a over weight pig and just waiting till the last few days of the trip and almost out water before your set free...... I love taking pictures during the paddle and in rough water, hands off the paddle, it's really comfortable and stress free compared to the Explorer which is a great boat in rough water. The only conditions i would choose a Explorer over the GI would be if i knew i would be spending hours and hours of 20+ kt winds and the seas that come with that, I find i use more effort in the GI in those conditions on a long haul upwind or downwind, I really don't set off the beach with those conditions in mind.
    Also it took me a short while to get used to how loose the bow is on the GI, on a straight run i always use the skeg to reduce the swing back and forth. My take it's a small price to pay for a fully loaded boat that can perform a 180 degree turn with one bow rudder sweep, keep up with your partners paddling backwards to chill the boredom of a long haul or whipping out the camera when others are focusing on their stroke.
    The GI has been a good boat to me. Dave R
     
  9. semdoug

    semdoug Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    I'm not so sure that cutting the deck down an inch is going to help with your windage concern.

    Three kayaks in 30 years, sad very sad :shock: :)
     
  10. dvfrggr

    dvfrggr Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    Monkeyhead, I agree with semdoug and would talk to Sterling about your windage concerns and possibly lowering the deck down, I can't explain the effect wind has on the GI design but will say the boat is very neutral and would expect Sterling would go into all the details of why.
    In high winds i find just having to pay close attention to/make corrective strokes more often then say an Explorer where the bow locks in and it's easy to adjust the skeg to just plow ahead or downwind with fewer corrections in any wind direction.
    Dave R
     
  11. monkeyhead

    monkeyhead New Member

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    I'm very close to my kayaks. They're almost like wives. Too many? I actually feel like a serial polygamist.
     
  12. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    Dave:
    Does your Grand Illusion have a 'skeel' (skeg just aft of the cockpit) ?
     
  13. dvfrggr

    dvfrggr Paddler

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    Re: Considering a Grand Illusion but could use input from ow

    Yes, and because of the GI design and skeg location the effect of the skeg and my use of it is completely different then other skeged boats i have paddled.
    In my NDK skeged boats i could use edging or varying degrees of skeg deployment to hold course in different wind directions and strengths. The GI with or without the skeg, it's wind neutral, so as the wind direction changes or speed picks up or down the thought of raising or lowering the skeg never comes into play. I find i use the skeg just to reduce the bow swing on a straight run and always when i'm following a heading on the compass.
    Dave R
     
  14. NWimport

    NWimport Paddler

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    I'm assuming from the post dates that your decision has been made. That being said, I just bought a GI and love it. My WS Tempest touring boat and my NDK Romany Excel are now for sale as the GI does everything so damned well. I am a firm believer in no more boat than needed so am quite surprised Sterling recommended this boat given your size. I'm 6'1" 235 and this boat fits me well. My wife bought the Illusion which was tight for me but I could get in it. The boats are like nothing else on the market.
     
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