WS Zephyr 160 - good boat for play/rock gardening?

a_c

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Joined
Dec 23, 2014
Messages
108
Location
Victoria, BC
I'm looking for a plastic boat for banging around on day paddles and rock gardening, and I've heard from a few folks that the WS Zephyr is a decent choice. I took one out for a test paddle last week and was, in a word, underwhelmed, specifically around its (lack of) responsiveness and turning ability. HOWEVER, when I brought the boat back to the rental shed and flipped it over, I noticed that even with the skeg lever pulled all the way 'in', the skeg was slightly deployed, like, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. So now I'm wondering, how much (if at all?) did this affect how the boat performed on my test paddle and contribute to my less-than-favourable impression?

Does anyone have any experience with these boats? I'm looking at the 16 ft version, not the smaller one. For comparison, I paddle a Valley Avocet on day paddles, and find it reasonably responsive; my gf just bought a new plastic Valley Sirona, and when I tried that I found it much more responsive than my Avocet.

If you have any recommendations for a responsive plastic play boat that's good for rock gardening, please chime in (I'm 6;2", so it must fit a taller paddler). As usual for these times there is a dearth of used boats on the market but there always seems to be a few Wilderness Systems Zephyrs kicking around, and now I'm wondering if I should give them another chance......help!
 
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mick_allen

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May 15, 2005
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I'm surprised. It seems wider and with more rocker than the Avocet and should be a fair bit more responsive. So I would guess something does not compute here. Possibly the skeg as it supposedly will to retract fully. Speed logically would be less.
On the face of it, I would guess the Zephyr would be more appropriate for larger pple. Maybe try again using some duct tape or a wedge to hold the skeg up?

Zephyr160-sidetop.jpg
 

Peter-CKM

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Joined
Dec 1, 2011
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Location
San Francisco, CA
I don't think the skeg being slightly deployed would impact much.

Define "responsive". Quick acceleration? Manueveability?

For 16' booats, your Avocet (in plastic) would be considered a decent boat for the class in rock gardening.

Day touring boats are more common as sea kayaks for rock gardening. Some standard ones for larger paddlers
Dagger Alchemy 14L
Dagger Stratos 14.5L
P&H Delphin 155
 

red kite

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Joined
Feb 1, 2009
Messages
175
Location
comox valley
I don't think the skeg being slightly deployed would impact much.

And, as long as the cable isn't kinked, it should be an easy fix by moving the slider knob a bit and/or shortening the cable slightly at the slider end.
There are several iterations of skeg systems on the Wildy skeg boats, some are easier to trouble shoot than others. Depending on the age of the kayak it might be worthwhile checking (and potentially improving) its field repairability before relying on it on a longer trip in a remote area.

For 16' booats, your Avocet (in plastic) would be considered a decent boat for the class in rock gardening.
This... Plus, there's a chance that the Valley hatch covers provide a more watertight seal than the occasional ones on some poly Zephyrs.


Also: Is the comparison side by side, same load in the same conditions?
 

a_c

Paddler
Joined
Dec 23, 2014
Messages
108
Location
Victoria, BC
Thanks for the replies.
Define "responsive". Quick acceleration? Manueveability?
I was referring more to its maneuverability. It's a heavier plastic boat; I was expecting it be slower, and it was, but that wasn't the issue. It turned like a semi-trailer, even on a decent edge. My gf (who is a much more skilled paddler than me) tried it and voiced the same opinion. I heard people refer to it as a decent play boat, so I was surprised by my experience - hence my question on the slight skeg deployment affecting things.
For 16' booats, your Avocet (in plastic) would be considered a decent boat for the class in rock gardening.
I agree; I like my Avocet but its fiberglass and I'm not ready to feed it to the rocks. The Sirona is a worthy successor and a plastic one would be a great choice, but they are hard to come by and the 3k price tag for a new one is a bit steep.
Plus, there's a chance that the Valley hatch covers provide a more watertight seal than the occasional ones on some poly Zephyrs
Yes, the WS hatch covers didn't inspire confidence - I like the hard plastic 'shell' in the centre, but the rubber seems soft and thin compared to Valley lids, and after one roll there was a splash of water in all 3 compartments (to be fair, I didn't check beforehand, so the water could have been in there from the beginning).
Also: Is the comparison side by side, same load in the same conditions?
Yes.
 

BigandSmall

Paddler
Joined
Mar 2, 2012
Messages
363
Location
Northern BC (FSJ)
My 2 cents worth. I'm also 6'2, well I used to be close anyway. I've rented the Zephyr 160 a few times with the idea of purchasing one. I really liked the outfitting and how it paddled but I was just a little too heavy for it at 240lbs. I've also owned the Stratos L as suggested above by Peter and while I haven't done any rock gardening (other than trying to avoid them in the river) I will say it was substantially more maneuverable for me and more stable feeling than the Zephyr was. I ended up downsizing the Stratos since the Scorpio HV was much faster for me on flat water while still being plenty stable and maneuverable for my needs. I'm sure it would be different for a lighter weight paddler.
 
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