Challenging the stereotype of what kind of kayaks you can make out of heat-moulded plastic, Delta Kayaks embodies all the ambition of a rock star stretching to compose a symphony. This company’s not stopping at the usual plastic rec and light-touring kayaks, no way. Its fleet includes a greenland-style performer, a 20-foot tandem, and even this—a true expedition-worthy long boat.

SPECS
length: 18 ft 6 in (5.6 m)
width: 23.5 in (59 cm)
depth: 12.25 in (31 cm)
cockpit: 18 x 32.5 in (46 x 83 cm)
weight: 57 lbs (25.9 kg)
volume: 121.9 gal (461.4 l)
dry storage: 67.6 gal (256.2 l)
MSRP:  $2,750 Cdn

Reminiscent of fibreglass stalwarts like the Current Designs expedition and Seaward Quest, only wider, the eighteen5 Sport is the station wagon of the Delta fleet, a true cargo hauler with a stratospheric 256 litres of dry storage—the deeper eighteen5 Expedition has 24 litres more and fits larger paddlers. either boat will carry enough to paddle for a whole season without resupply.

There are at least two reasons why nobody has built such a long single kayak out of thermoformed plastic until now. The first we’ll get into later. The second is that thermoform is more flexible than other materials, so it’s harder to mould longer designs.

To overcome this, Delta has added a stiffener to the inner hull, an arched piece of plastic that extends along the keel from the bow hatch to the stern hatch. When we slammed the eighteen5 into large, steep wind waves, slight vibrations ran from our bums through to our neoprene-clad toes, but the stiffener kept the boat intact.

The convenient, oversized hatches were perfectly dry. We did notice some leakage around the seam of the rear bulkhead, allowing water to enter from the cockpit. however, Delta Kayaks says this leak has been eliminated in newer versions by adding a tighter-fitting bulkhead and modifications to the gluing.

The eighteen5 has a very comfortable cockpit with a sliding, fore-aft adjustable seat. The cruising speed is decent for a boat of its length. Performance is nonetheless nimble; it’s got quite a bit of rocker and it’ll about-face on an aggressive tilt much faster than you can say “Delta has tested its plastic to withstand re- peated hammer blows.”

all this capacity and performance comes in a beautifully finished package with the high- gloss appearance of gel coat and standard features you won’t find on boats from other companies—recessed foam grab handles, divots in the deck to make it easy to grab the bungies, paddle float straps, and more.

Which brings us to the second reason that nobody has built boats like this before: because it’s unknown if anybody will buy them. The mass market wants plastic rec boats while expedition paddlers—relatively few in number from the start—have always gravitated to pricey composites like bikers to leather. however, with expedition capacity, great touring performance and good looks at an attractive price, the eighteen5 may be one to break the mould.

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